A story teaser … and an epistemological teaser

BURRILLVILLE, Rhode Island — Last night I joined Norma Sutcliffe to speak about an alleged haunting in a remote Rhode Island town.  We filled the room at the old Sweeney School after the meeting of the Burrillville Historical and Preservation Society.

Norma is an owner of the house that is supposedly haunted. Ever since the movie The Conjuring came out, she’s been besieged by some of the most obnoxious kind of haunts you’d ever care to meet. They call themselves by various names, usually “paranormal investigators” or, in a slightly cleaned-up nod to a 1984 children’s movie, “ghost hunters.”

Together she and I presented a mountain of evidence that the Conjuring house is ghost- and demon-free, and that those who claim it has one or the other are either lying or deluded or, at best, misled by shoddy research.

I would estimate that about half the people there enjoyed the talk and appreciated our points of view. Some, I think, were neutral. And a small, vocal group could hardly wait to challenge rationality during the Q&A at the end.

In the days ahead I plan to lay out my research on the slandered Bathsheba Sherman, the demon-hunting Warrens, the troubled Perrons, and the sunny, distinctly unhaunted house above Round Top Pond. Meanwhile, I’ll leave my friends with something to chew on:

Belief is the enemy of an open mind.

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