The Non-Existent Upstairs Neighbors

Well. Friday night I went over to my buddy A's house. You might remember A and his house from The Video Game Incident. After the day's small-talk had come to an end, A proceeded to tell me about the latest set of strange occurrences at his house.

Apparently, A and his girlfriend L were watching television the night before, when A began hearing what sounded like footsteps going to and fro (they both later described it as "pacing") in the upstairs house. You see, A's house is a double-decker, with the top level fully furnished but unoccupied, except for occasional use by family members visiting the City. I myself have been upstairs a few times, and have never really noticed anything strange, at least nothing worth commenting on, save for a weird kind of "thickness" in the air surrounding the dining table. I would describe it as if the air were heavier, or misty, but not necessarily visibly.

A informed me that he first heard the footsteps around 10:00pm. He described them as so persuasive I immediately asked if he'd been drinking, to which he replied he'd not had so much as a drop. He then explained that he tolerated the footsteps for a "few hours," hoping that L would also hear them and comment, which — claims of a mutual auditory hallucination temporarily cast aside — would confirm at least that what A was hearing was in fact objective, and not subjective.

L never asked A anything, so finally, A broke down and asked L if "she heard that." L replied, "Heard what," and then A turned the TV off. L was easily able to agree with A that yes, she also heard what sounded unmistakably like footsteps pacing back-and-forth, starting and stopping, in the house above. 

Now, for those skeptics like jim from reason vs. apologetics, yes — I realize it's possible that A and L are both lying — again — or coloring their experiences with bias. It's too easy to simply dismiss people on behalf of the fact that lying and bias are possible, and I'm no fan of arguing that something should be accepted simply because it's possible.

Here's something that may or may not be coincidental: as I was leaving, I had a passing feeling that if there was a presence their, perhaps it didn't like our curiosity. I came home and was about to type this up even though it was 3:00 am, and I decided to make some refried beans with crushed Cheez-It's for a late-night snack. The can opener failed to make a clean incision along the circumference of the can, so in my brilliance, I attempted to assist with my digits, which resulted in a rather deep cut (a good quarter-inch deep) to the tip of my thumb, that it probably could've used a stitch or two. I didn't want to get them, or pay money to get them, or wake my carrying fiancé out of her beauty sleep to drive me to general hospital — which for reasons I've described here — I've vowed to never voluntarily set foot in again. So, I iced my thumb until it stopped bleeding profusely, pushed the cut back together, and applied Krazy Glue liberally to the surface. Voila! All good and typing again. It was weird though, not being able to feel the space bar when I hit it for a day or two.

But back to the story. A is no irrationalist dummy. Aside from one of my best friends who's never showed even a hint of being dishonest about anything, he's a grounded guy with a college education that includes subjects from astronomy to genetic anthropology. L's no dummy, either. She's constantly reading books, thinks things through, doesn't come to knee-jerk conclusions, is a non-dogmatic person. A and L were so persuaded by these sounds that A actually considered the possibility of an intruder, and went upstairs "with an open knife" — twice.

Now, would I be justified in claiming the source of the spook phenomena at A's house had something to do with my cut? Certainly not. However, would I be justified in claiming that A's house consistently hosts incidents that are consistent with what we'd expect if my immaterial consciousness hypothesis — or any variant of it that denies the cerebro-centric view of consciousness in favor of a psycho-centric one — were true?

13 Comments

  1. Lifeguard says:

    Let’s say I go out one night and drink Jack on the rocks until I fall down drunk. The next night I go out and drink Ketel One on the rocks until I fall down drunk. The third night I go out and drink Bacardi on the rocks, and, yet again, I fall down drunk at the end of the night.
    Would I be justified in claiming that getting intoxicated every time I drank a beverage with ice in it is consistent with what we’d expect if an “ice causes intoxication” hypothesis— were true?
    Even if I later discovered through drinking each of those beverages straight in the future, wouldn’t I still be at least JUSTIFIED in claiming that the results I got those three nights are CONSISTENT with the ice hypothesis?

  2. Dominic Saltarelli says:

    My only quibble is trying to actually define what we would expect if the immaterial consciousness theory were true such that the occurrences at this haunted house were consistent with it. It’s painfully open-ended. And besides, we’re talking about distinctly physical phenomenon here. Tangible sounds and sensations. Not exactly immaterial. I’m heavily leaning towards there being something freaky-deaky about the house itself rather than any sort of occupant.

  3. cl says:

    Lifeguard,
    [META] So, not interested in the thing with jim? Come on man, jump in the fray! [/META]

    Would I be justified in claiming that getting intoxicated every time I drank a beverage with ice in it is consistent with what we’d expect if an “ice causes intoxication” hypothesis— were true?

    Previous to the discovery that alcohol caused intoxication, yes.

    Even if I later discovered through drinking each of those beverages straight in the future, wouldn’t I still be at least JUSTIFIED in claiming that the results I got those three nights are CONSISTENT with the ice hypothesis?

    You’d be justified to say the results you got that night were consistent with the ice hypothesis, but I think that may have been what you meant to say. Was it? Or are you asking if one is still justified to say the evidence is consistent with the ice hypothesis despite the knowledge that alcohol causes intoxication?
    Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on the discovery of “cathode rays,” which will examine this type of difficulty in more detail.
    Dominic,

    My only quibble is trying to actually define what we would expect if the immaterial consciousness theory were true such that the occurrences at this haunted house were consistent with it.

    I’m sympathetic to that quibble. It’s valid. I’m working on a definition along with some predictions that I’ll unleash before delving much deeper into real-world examples.

    ..we’re talking about distinctly physical phenomenon here. Tangible sounds and sensations. Not exactly immaterial.

    We’re talking about distinctly physical effects, which say nothing conclusive about the nature of the source.

    I’m heavily leaning towards there being something freaky-deaky about the house itself rather than any sort of occupant.

    Why can’t it be both? Wouldn’t an immaterial occupant be freaky-deaky? And like what? What besides an immaterial occupant might you suggest?
    I’ve not drawn any positive conclusions about the house yet. The only thing I can say with certainty is that the natural gravity hypothesis, and nal’s convection hypothesis, both fail to account for the evidence in the video game incident. I’m at a complete loss to currently explain the footstep sounds.
    Consider these posts about A‘s house introductory. I want to go deeper into the case, and do some research on the previous owners of the house. Wait until you hear about the painted word “ROY” that seemed to just appear in the garage out of nowhere; even I’m skeptical of that one, and if jim’s to be believed, I’m a superstitious liar!!!

  4. Lifeguard says:

    1) “So, not interested in the thing with jim? Come on man, jump in the fray!”
    Not really. I’m a little busy these days, so I’m budgeting my time to the posts that really grab my attention.
    2) “You’d be justified to say the results you got that night were consistent with the ice hypothesis, but I think that may have been what you meant to say. Was it? Or are you asking if one is still justified to say the evidence is consistent with the ice hypothesis despite the knowledge that alcohol causes intoxication?”
    Not exactly. The discovery that alcohol causes intoxication is not inconsistent with the ice hypothesis, because the finding is still consistent with the idea that ice is a co-intoxicant. That would hold until I simply consumed an ice cube and discovered that I did not get drunk. Until that time, all results could still be consistent with the ice hypothesis, but I get your point.
    Since writing that last post, I realized that I could have used a more effective hypothesis in my example than ice. Let’s try this:
    Aren’t ALL of these findings consistent with the hypothesis that consuming alcohol allows an invisible being to take control of my immaterial mind and cause me to become intoxicated? Is there any amount of physiological evidence you could present that would be inconsistent with that hypothesis?
    More importantly, wouldn’t that concern you about the validity or usefulness of the hypothesis?

  5. cl says:

    I’m a little busy these days, so I’m budgeting my time to the posts that really grab my attention.

    I figured as much. I realize me and jim’s little squabble just doesn’t hold interest to some people. As for me, I just wanted to know who power commenters thought was right and why, and that’s why I called on them. Group accountability. I bet if you and Dominic both thought jim was off his rocker and said so, he’d listen. I know I would.
    Still, I think even ten minutes worth of your logic could have a positive impact on things. But I realize the inherent disinterest, and agree that it’s pretty much justified. I’d go to bat for anyone in the interest of clarity, but I fully understand why you and Dominic avoided this one. No biggie. D went to bat so at least we had one opinion from the atheist side. Bravo to her.

    The discovery that alcohol causes intoxication is not inconsistent with the ice hypothesis,

    I disagree, but I’ll focus on the new hypothesis.

    Aren’t ALL of these findings consistent with the hypothesis that consuming alcohol allows an invisible being to take control of my immaterial mind and cause me to become intoxicated? Is there any amount of physiological evidence you could present that would be inconsistent with that hypothesis?

    Of course. This is where unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monsters come from, and why I think atheists that use them in arguments are “intellectually cheap”: ALL scientific findings ANYWHERE are consistent with pink unicorns and FSM’s, right?

    More importantly, wouldn’t that concern you about the validity or usefulness of the hypothesis?

    Validity? No, because the hypothesis’ validity is not affected by its blurriness. As for usefulness, yes, blurry hypotheses do concern me, and whenever we have them, we have to press further.
    But let me ask you: what motivated your closing question?

  6. Lifeguard says:

    Because I wonder if god or immaterial consciousness aren’t also consistent with ALL scientific findings ANYWHERE, and I think that calls into question the usefulness of such ideas.

  7. Scott says:

    Ever notice how people see/hear/’feel’ something creepy whenever anybody tells them that creepy stuff happens in that place?
    I mean, you go to your friends house and they basically tell you that there are ghosts living in the house and that supernatural things happen all the time. Then you start to notice creepy things happening. I mean, the creepy stuff could happen for two reasons: Reason first, there really is a ghost/entitiy haunting that building. Reason the second, being told that creepy, scary, spooky stuff happens in that location primes you to notice weird things you wouldn’t normally notice.
    As you originally stated, the cd’s flew/fell in a manner that was out of the ordinary, fair enough, I can’t really comment on that simply because I imagine that you would have to be there for the significance of it to have taken hold. But hearing what you assume to be footsteps and attributing them to a supernatural entity is going even further. The footsteps could have been A) The occupants of the house upstairs B) The real estate agent of the people who lived upstairs C) A theif robbing the place upstairs, the list could literally go forever. I mean it could have been a rat in the ceiling/floor space above their head!
    Also, I love your last comment Lifeguard.

  8. cl says:

    Lifeguard,

    ..I wonder if god or immaterial consciousness aren’t also consistent with ALL scientific findings ANYWHERE, and I think that calls into question the usefulness of such ideas.

    I don’t think they are at all, at least not IC which is what this post is tentatively about. Unless I’m missing something, this objection sounds more like a rhetorical question born of personal distaste for the IC idea than anything else.
    Scott,

    ..creepy stuff could happen for two reasons: Reason first, there really is a ghost/entitiy haunting that building. Reason the second, being told that creepy, scary, spooky stuff happens in that location primes you to notice weird things you wouldn’t normally notice.

    Of course. And in most cases, it’s probably a combination of both, or at least a genuine beginning or “first incident” that prompts a series of follow-up feelings and experiences.

    But hearing what you assume to be footsteps and attributing them to a supernatural entity is going even further. The footsteps could have been A) The occupants of the house upstairs B) The real estate agent of the people who lived upstairs C) A theif robbing the place upstairs, the list could literally go forever. I mean it could have been a rat in the ceiling/floor space above their head!

    But, none of your options A-C are plausible and each are readily refuted by the details given in the OP. There wasn’t anybody upstairs. There’s no real-estate agent, especially not one that would walk back and forth for hours yet seem to hide when A would go upstairs to investigate. Also, it’s a bit more than simply “hearing noise upstairs and concluding something supernatural.” I don’t know if the source of the odd phenomena at my buddy’s house is “supernatural” or not; all I know is that I’ve personally witnessed phenomena that are not explainable via appeal to known laws of objects and motion. Like you said, you’d have to be there, and I can respect that, but there’s difference between “some thumping noises” and yet another instance in a series of odd phenomena at the same location.
    As with the video game incident, I’d be interested in hearing attempted explanations that actually account for all the data.

  9. Steve Kang says:

    After reading this post, I myself am experiencing similar events. I live in Los Angeles, in an old house built way back in the early 30’s or 40’s. I live alone and I hear foot steps in my attic, in the hall way, and tapping/ thumping noises coming from the other rooms (mostly from the master bedroom). There were two counts in the summer when there was no air, no breeze and the back door closed on its own. Even with a strong breeze, the door wouldn’t shut close, it would have been pushed open by the wind. There was no explanation that I can think of on why and how the back door closed shut. I feel that my house could be haunted, definitely. I haven’t seen a ghost materialize, at least not yet, and I don’t want to see one. I feel a presence constantly, like someone is watching you from behind. Its a very disturbing feeling to look and no one is there, its very chilling every time. I ignored it for sometime, but now its getting annoying and quite freeky. Every time I hear the foot steps, taps, and thumps, I think it might be an intruder, so I check out the sound with my weapon drawn, every time. You can’t distinguish the sound to be some random “noise”. Where is this “noise” coming from then? Theres no mistake in the sounds of FOOT STEPS! TAPPING! THUMPING NOISES!!! If anyone is reading this and thinks I’m full of it, I invite you to come stay a few days and nites at my house and experience for youself – alone. I dare you, I dare all you doubters.

  10. cl says:

    Welcome to the trenches, Steve Kang!
    Your house sounds a lot like A’s house across the street. I’m glad you found this post: I remembered writing it after we talked yesterday, and was wondering if you’d seen it, or if you had, what you thought about it.

    Every time I hear the foot steps, taps, and thumps, I think it might be an intruder, so I check out the sound with my weapon drawn, every time.

    See, that’s just the thing: for every skeptic who refuses to believe in the paranormal until a team of scientists can repeatably reproduce ghosts, we have another person who experiences this stuff first hand.
    And – though any of them can correct me if I’m wrong – I believe most skeptics would have the same approach to your situation: they’ll say it’s not happening to them, there’s no way to prove, so there’s no reason for them to believe it. The problem I have with that approach is that it’s like a “get out of jail free” card which just lets the skeptic off the hook from having to explain it. Meanwhile, the people to whom these things happen are left on their own trying to explain something that they know beyond all reasonable doubt is real. When it comes to actually helping the people that live in these sorts of houses, “skepticism” or “atheism” doesn’t do them a damn bit of good.
    Two questions:
    1) I get the impression that you’ve already spent a lot of time trying, but can you think of a “rational” explanation that makes any sense here?
    2) Have these sorts of things ever happened at any other house you’ve lived in? In A’s case, this stuff’s happened at other houses he’s lived at, too.

  11. Steve Kang says:

    This is the only house that I consciously noticed the sounds. I’ve tried prayor, positive thinking, telling “it” to go away, that this is my space, my area and to respect that, I’ve put up make shift crucifixes. This house has negative vibrations. I don’t know the history of this house, but I can think of a few cases where marriages, friendships, careers and personal lives have turned for the worst. I don’t plan to stay in this house for very long.

  12. Steve Kang says:

    hi lifeguard,
    i read your comment and couldn’t help but to wonder what the “ice cubes” has to do with being intoxicated. the ice cubes do not make you or anyone intoxicated, its the liquor/alcohol/spirits that causes intoxication. unless i misunderstood your comment, the ice has nothing to do w/ any effects of intoxication. ice is there to chill the drink and to dilute and make the drink less strong as the ice melts. its ice dude.

  13. cl says:

    Steve Kang,
    Lifeguard hasn’t been around for a while, so he may or may not respond. When you say,

    i read your comment and couldn’t help but to wonder what the “ice cubes” has to do with being intoxicated.

    I *think* that’s exactly the point he’s trying to make: if we didn’t know that alcohol caused intoxication, we might mistakenly assume it was the ice cubes. I believe the purpose of his question was to show the difficulty we sometimes have in accurately assigning a cause to an effect. His concern is valid, and that’s why we have to do “the best science possible” when trying to apprehend these things. You’ve already taken steps in that direction by ruling out wind, intruders, etc. As someone who knows you, I know you have a rational foundation: IOW (in other words), you don’t just attribute every odd sound or breeze to be a ghost.
    Stick around; today’s post is going to be along these lines, but I won’t be able to post it until later this afternoon.

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