Thanks to the overloading of vodcasts from Dragon*Con, I seem to have capped my Libsyn account temporarily. However, thanks to the wonderful patience and professionalism of Hayley Stevens, I do have a sneak-preview transcript of the start of the interview that will be appearing on the Token Skeptic podcast, episode Seventy-Nine!
When I’ve figured out the bandwidth issue, you can download Token Skeptic #79 – On Project Barnum – Interview With Hayley Stevens from the official Token Skeptic podcast site. In the meantime, check out all those pesky vodcasts and earlier episodes via subscribing to Token Skeptic on iTunes.
In addition, Hayley is presenting in October at the Edinburgh Skeptics, Bristol Skeptics and Westminster Skeptics – see her site for details.
Kylie Sturgess: So tell me about yourself. Why are you a skeptic?
Hayley Stevens: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, you mentioned my website Hayley is a Ghost, and that kind of gives a hint to the fact, I used to be, well, I still am in a sense a ghost-hunter. Only now I’m a ghost-hunter who doesn’t hunt for ghosts, but I used to be a ghost hunter who did. I believed in ghosts, and I believed in all sorts of associated strange things, and mediums, psychics, the other side and afterlife, and things like that.
Then at the age of 18 I started doing on-site investigations into hauntings and supposed ghost sightings and stuff. As I got older I started to doubt some things; I witnessed certain things being done by other people that made me think that something wasn’t quite right with what I believe here or what I’m being told is right by other people.
So, I started to do a lot of research into it and I realised that I was sort of, well, I was very wrong, and I became quite skeptical. And it, sort of spiraled from there. Rather than stopping what I was doing I have carried on with it, but from a different angle. So that’s what I do.
Sturgess: It could have been terribly disappointing to go through that and yet it seems to have empowered you to say, “Right, I’m going to correct some of the wrongs or try to make good of it”?
Stevens: Yeah. It was quite disappointing. But it wasn’t just like an instantaneous thing where suddenly one day I was like, “I no longer believe in ghosts.” It was kind of a drawn out process. I used to do things like table tipping, and séances. It was really crazy. So one day I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I wasn’t going to take part in those sorts of things. And then another day I would have decided, “Oh yeah, Actually I do believe that orb photos aren’t ghosts.” I gradually lost the belief.
In one way it was quite disappointing but in another way it opened my eyes up to something that was more interesting. And that was the way that our brains perceive things. And the believing brain, which, I think, is actually more fascinating than the idea that a ghost’s done it. I find it much more fascinating to enter a case now and to try and work out a logical cause for what being reported than just going in and going, “Let’s find a ghost. It must be a ghost.”
Sturgess: How did it help with interacting with other people? You would have been working alongside with those who believed and then suddenly things slowly begin to develop and change. You’ve even gone to conferences where you’ve had people question you and see you almost as the enemy…
Stevens: Oh, yes.
Sturgess: Yet you’ve been on their side. So you understand from their perspective as well…
Stevens: Yeah. I guess the thing that I really took from becoming more skeptical and losing my beliefs, I learned very quickly that just because you see things one way other people aren’t instantly going to agree with you. And that was probably very naive of me to think that, that that would happen. But there you go, it was a very big lesson. And because I decided I no longer wanted go into people’s houses and do séances, it suddenly occurred to me one day that it was very distasteful and wrong. And it didn’t work. I didn’t believe it worked anymore because I had learned better.
But the people that I investigated with, people that I had become friends with, they weren’t necessarily very accommodating to my beliefs. They were very spiritual people and some of them still are to this day. And they very much turned their back on me, which I can understand why they would, but I still feel disappointed they did.
I can understand why people’s beliefs are that way. I think it gives me insight into how easy it is to believe some things and do certain things, and believe that table tipping works. Because I’ve been there, I used to believe it worked. I used to sit there for hours at a table thinking a ghost was moving it. It sounds so silly but I understand why people think it works.
Project Barnum’s website is http://www.projectbarnum.co.uk – the official site for Hayley Stevens is http://hayleyisaghost.co.uk and she is a member of the Righteous Indignation podcast, at http://www.ripodcast.co.uk.