(Investigator 122, 2008 September)

I think a lot about religion, god, God and cosmology. I have come to label myself as a "post-nihilistic existentialist skeptic". That is where you start with nothing, build by experience and kick out the loose bricks -- what-ever is left is what you subscribe to. That leaves me comfortably in the atheist camp, accept for one thing: I saw a ghost.

I could easily dismiss that as a hypnogogic hallucination except that it was independently corroborated by two people. This is what happened:

I was living in a rented house and had got out of bed in the early hours to get a drink of water; on my way back to bed I saw the "ghost" in the hallway by the toilet door. It was a purple and violet thing like a head and torso but very indistinct. I recall thinking 'there's a ghost' and not actually believing it as I walked straight through it and went back to bed and sleep.

I had forgotten about it until later the next day when my family was in the midst of a discussion about who was the most rational, sensible person at the table. I was about to tell them that I was totally rational and did not even believe in ghosts when I remembered seeing it.

In the ensuing discussion others at the table said they had heard noises and felt the hair stand up on their heads. I could have passed that off as unrelated but when my wife went to pay the rent later that week she jokingly suggested that we should have a discount because of the ghost.

A person in the office over-heard her and asked if we lived at Reynolds St., which was correct. She said that she had seen a ghost there several times whilst doing rent inspections and that it was in the hallway by the toilet door. She thought it was a woman about 160 cm tall.

Sometime after moving to a different house, a man whom I knew only well enough to say g'day to asked me if I had lived in the house in Reynolds St. I confirmed it and he asked if I thought there might have been a ghost in it -- he is a very solid practical person, plumber by trade, and was quite hesitant and a little embarrassed to be asking but when I said yes he became much more open and said that it had become very active in that part of the house and things were falling off shelves in an unoccupied room.

I can't prove it, I can't measure it, I can't repeat it, I can't read anything about it that isn't steeped in nonsense (the Jehovah's witnesses reckon its an evil spirit but then they reckon we're all descended from Noah so I don't give them much credence) and it doesn't fit at all well into my theory of everything.
I can't just write it off because it was too well corroborated, so it just hangs around and nags me -- not the ghost, just the possible existence of it.

Any clues, hard evidence, anything I can bang a nail into would be appreciated.

Roger Paine
Graphic Designer and sometime fine artist

Regarding Paine's Ghost (#122)

(Investigator 124, 2009 January)

First, a warm welcome to Roger Paine! It's refreshing to have a new skeptical writer offering such an interesting dilemma: an atheist who's seen a ghost, one corroborated by others in his home town of Busselton, WA.

Roger has not in fact seen a ghost, but he believes that he has. There are ghost towns (Leonora and Gwalia), Busselton ghost tours/trail (part of Australia's premier industry, tourism), ghost writers, and even a near-by ghost ship, HMS Swan. They actually exist, but what Roger 'saw' doesn't.

If I'm wrong, we can make available the evidence and perhaps win $100,000 from the Australian Skeptics, once they're convinced, and I'll put in for the spotter's fee of $10,000! This money has been on offer for about 15 years to anyone able to pass the strict protocols established regarding any supernatural phenomenon. As yet, no one has, and I'm betting no-one will.

You mention "hypnogogic hallucination" and "getting up in the early hours to get a drink" which is a hint that such a process occurred. I suggest that you make contact with the WA branch of Australian Skeptics and present your case.

A useful antidote would be to read the articles of the new editor of Australian skeptic, Karen Stollznow, an indefatigable visitor to supposedly haunted places, seances, ghost-less ghost hunts and paranormal (non) events in America. All dead-pan but hilarious reporting of those who think that the X-Files is a documentary, routinely loud on promises but mouse-like on delivery.

Roger, please write again, giving a little more detail on that "purple and violet thing", and, since you and your wife Wendy are talented artists, please send The Investigator a drawing. Remember, if there isn't yet an explanation, the default 'it must therefore be a ghost' doesn't take you very far. Beware of coincidental/anecdotal "corroboration": keep an open "existentialist" mind on that restless Reynolds  St.  non - entity!