r/paranormal and psychogeography

Jul 30, 2023  │  m. Jul 30, 2023 by manuhortet  │  #psychogeography  

When discussing guilty pleasures, I normally point at how often I browse r/paranormal and similar subreddits. For the uninitiated, the content in these online spaces is usually extreme in its claims - think encounters with ghosts, invoking demons, over-the-top stuff like that. I would identify myself as completely skeptical on all this, and have been wondering what is it then that I find appealing about the content.

What I have come to believe, is that in navigating these irrational or dysfunctional views on reality, my ideas on where the limits of a functional view are become refined. Notice the limits I refer to are not strictly noetic, but mainly behavioral. That is, the functional limits concern the more visceral, less refined patterns people exhibit when their experiences exceed their capacity to rationalize against reality.

We can simplify the notion by changing the subject for a being with less rational capacity than a human, something that does depend more on the irrational and pre-rational mechanisms. Imagine some sort of monkey, for instance, that freaks out when exposed to harmless noises in a dark environment. This behavior may have an evolutionary explanation, but it lacks functionality in the environment proposed for the experiment. Back to humans, it would be useful to identify where the functional limits of this kind of natural behaviors are for us, or simply which ones we are failing to identify as problematic against our rationality. By observing the situations that lead people to incorporate irrationality into their narratives and explanations, one can explore the spectrum of these behavioral patterns

An adjacent topic I am also ruminating these days, is the role of psychogeography in these behavioral patterns and its consequent narratives. I have noticed that people sharing their paranormal experiences are very prone to highlight, or even focus on, the physical space in which the experience took place. This happens in an exaggerated manner many times. As an example, a comment in a “Have you ever met a person who didn’t feel human?” thread in r/paranormal, from today:

I am a life long, since birth New Orleans native. I still live here, with that being said I’ve seen a lot of strange people. […] I worked a couple years as a bar tender on Bourbon street and would meet all kinds of characters, some scary, some not. Well id say about 15 years ago now, I was dating a guy who played saxophone in a brass band on Frenchman street ( if you don’t know it’s like bourbon but more live music, less obnoxious drunk assholes and more locals hang there) anyways, after leaving one of his gigs together, we started to walk back to his car which was parked probably 6 blocks away (french quarter parking is horrible). […]

This observation, although anecdotal, would reinforce the idea of physical spaces acting as an achor to reality when recollecting an experience. I would add that here it is exagerated because of the other classic anchor, the self, being questioned by the nature of the claims. This consideration raises a relevant question. If the anchor role of physical spaces in our recollection mechanism gains relevance when building this sort of irrational narratives, can we assume it is a deeper construct, and not a consequent of rationality? Do we instinctively recognize that the reality attached to physical space is less debatable than the one attached to our experience?