“Decide for Yourself:” Dr. Robbins helps students explore paranormal activity

Elizabeth Worthington, Staff Writer

In the spirit of Halloween, Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences Rich Robbins presented a talk entitled “Ghosts & Hauntings: Decide for Yourself” on Oct. 26 in Trout Auditorium. The presentation focused on arguments for and against a belief in the supernatural, citing evidence of paranormal activity while also highlighting possible natural explanations for these occurrences.

Growing up with a belief in ghosts led Robbins to develop an interest in paranormal activity, which he eventually tied to his academic interest in psychology. Robbins attributes his initial interest in parapsychology, a science concerned with the investigation of paranormal, supernatural, and psychic phenomena, to his childhood experiences.

Robbins grew up outside of Bloomsburg, Pa. in a house across from a cemetery. Local legend has it that his house was haunted by a grave robber who hung himself in the basement after being pursued by the police. Robbins cited memories of strange things happening in his house throughout his childhood that he and his family attributed to a ghost named George: furniture moving around in the middle of the night, chain locks unlocking themselves, audible voices, and even his mother’s claim of having sighted an apparition.

Robbins began the presentation with the disclaimer that he did not necessarily believe in all the paranormal activity and evidence for ghosts and hauntings that he was going to present. He stated that he would be presenting both sides of the argument concerning the existence of ghosts. Robbins encouraged audience members to keep an open mind throughout the presentation; he informed those in attendance that they were to think critically and decide for themselves whether or not they believed in ghosts based on the evidence and the possible alternative explanations.

Robbins asked the audience members to raise their hands if they had ever experienced a ghost or a haunting or knew someone who had. Nearly everyone raised a hand, supporting Robbins’ claim that ghosts and hauntings “seem to be a relatively common part of the human experience.”

Robbins pointed to the media as an unfortunate source of misinformation and misrepresentation for paranormal activity. He cited evidence of paranormal activity in  forms such as photographs, stories, and incidences of the electronic voice phenomenon, which are human-sounding voices heard from an unknown source and often thought to be the voices of spirits.

Robbins offered possible alternative explanations for these events and reminded the audience to resist being swayed by popular culture and the media’s occasionally exaggerated reports of paranormal activity.

“I’m not saying ghosts aren’t real; I’m just saying these are possible explanations for why people experience the things they experience,” Robbins said.

By presenting both sides of the argument, Robbins provided the audience with a framework that allowed each attendee to individually decide  if ghosts and hauntings are legitimate occurrences or if they can instead be attributed to natural and scientific causes.

“We think we know everything as humans but we don’t know everything our mind can do,” Robbins said.

Robbins pointed out some local “hot” spots where paranormal activity has been reported, including places in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Selinsgrove, Bloomsburg University, and even the Packwood House Museum located in downtown Lewisburg. Students might be surprised, and perhaps frightened, to learn that the University’s own Hunt Hall and Roberts Hall have both had many reports of ghosts and hauntings.

“Before you accept any explanation, keep all of what you read, saw, and heard here in mind,” Robbins said.

“It was a lot more credible than we were expecting,” Katelyn Kempf ’18 and Emma Roberts ’18 said.

“I don’t know if I believe in ghosts because my way of thinking is mostly based on science and logic, but who knows? There are many things unexplained by science,” Erika Mandt ’18 said.

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