Chinese whispers are also known as the telephone game. Chinese whispers refer to a sequence of repetitions of a story. Each time the repetition differs slightly from the original so by the time you get to the very last telling, it does not bear in resemblance to the original story. It makes me think of the phrase 'Purple Monkey Dishwasher'. It is a term made famous by the Simpsons. Bart was trying to spread a rumour saying "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute". By the time it gets to the front of the crowd, the message is "Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute Purple Monkey Dishwasher": It has become part of an urban dictionary which indicates when you hear the phrase purple monkey dishwasher, it is either comic relief or that you need to be wary where the information is coming from. When I compare this to paranormal storytelling, one has to wonder how accurate the information you are hearing is correct, especially when it is told through a long line of people.
Quite often when someone has a paranormal experience, you tell your fellow investigators about it. I mean who better to understand what you have just experienced than a fellow investigator? It is usually not long after the event that you are high on adrenaline and you are excited. You may have not had a chance to sit and think about what has just happened. I know when something happens to me, while I do question things, it isn't until the excitement dies down that I start putting my rational hat on and really think about what has happened and what it could be. In my excitement of telling my colleagues about what is happening, am I slightly embellishing the facts? Was a simple knock now a loud bang? Was a strange feeling suddenly a burst of anxiety? There are many ways that you can subtly embellish a story and not even realize it. As you retell the story more and more, a small detail can change slightly. Much like in a game of Chinese whispers, if you compare your story a few weeks later to what it was originally, is it exactly the same? Our memory also tends to believe these embellishments. We know about false memories and what they can do to our perception of past events. While we may unknowingly begin embellishing our stories, are we also believing these embellishments?
You also have to be skeptical about an account that has happened to someone that another person is telling you. Perhaps they heard the story from a friend? Maybe I have heard a story from another investigator and am telling you what happened. Maybe it has gone through about 5 or 6 people before you have heard it. Do you trust that all of the information is correct? I am not saying that people are purposely changing a story because I don't believe that is what happens at all. I believe the person thinks they are telling the story correctly, however as Chinese whispers teach us, this information is not reliable. Sometimes a person has told a story so many times, they begin to believe it happened to them instead. It is not them stealing your story, their brain has created a false memory of this experience happening first hand to them, when in reality there may not have even been there.
One thing that is especially important to note is that investigators and researchers such as myself will often talk about paranormal theories. It is important to understand that the way we present this can be influenced by what we believe and how we research. There is so much information out there that sometimes it can be really hard to know what to believe. While I may talk to you about a certain paranormal theory, it is MY interpretation of it. If someone else reads this and then explains it to someone else, it may be slightly changed to match that person's beliefs or coincide with their own research and experiences. Suddenly there is a bunch of information out that there differs a little bit and you don't know what you are to believe.
So what do we do? This is why I encourage you to do your own research. Ask your own questions and don't accept everything at face value. Take paranormal experiences that people have told you with a grain of salt. If it is just talking about something that happened, that's a cool experience. If it is something that will potentially influence your investigation such as being a hot spot for activity, don't let this influence your investigation too much. Just because something happened to this person also doesn't mean that it will happen again or happen to you. Stories are stories. At the end of the day you are investigating in your own style based on what you believe and your experiences. Take onboard information and it can guide you, but always check your sources. When I publish an article, I usually cross-reference about 4 or 5 sources on each fact to ensure there is some consistency to the information I am presenting. If there is a difference, I have to start over because it means something I am looking at is not entirely correct. Its a long process. I do try to present things and opinions from all different angles and it is up to you on how to interpret it and decide what you think or feel about it. This is what is great about our field. We all have different opinions, experiences and beliefs. When we work together, we can have some great conversations that can encourage ideas and this is how we should move forward. I may not agree with something someone believes, but we are all working toward the same goal.
Chinese Whispers can also have a not so nice side. Just like in high school, the paranormal field is filled with gossip. I know I have heard many things about other teams or investigators from disgruntled sources and people have heard things about me too. The stories go from person to person and suddenly this person is purple monkey dishwasher. Don't believe everything you hear and don't let someone else's opinion of a person or team stop you from following them or interacting with them. As much as people have fought for para unity to exist, it doesn't. There are always going to be people that don't like each other or just don't get along. We don't always gel with people we meet and that is OK. It can be we have a biased opinion of them, but it is important to not get caught up in all the gossip and don't get involved in spreading these games of Chinese whispers. You don't know the true origins of someone's beef with another person. It could be something that happened or it could be a misunderstanding. It could be fueled by jealousy or it could even be fueled by a game of Chinese whispers where they have heard something. It is hard enough being a paranormal researcher without worrying about all the bitchiness and politics that goes with it.
The moral of the story, check all of your sources and when in doubt remember ..... purple monkey dishwasher.
Don't forget to follow the Facebook page for regular updates
Join the mailing list to receive weekly updates of NEW articles. Never miss an article again!
Buy the latest and past issues Haunted Magazine
Check out the books written by LLIFS