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Everyday events leave us baffled

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I must confess that, when it comes to the investigation of allegedly paranormal phenomena, I prefer it when things are clear-cut – that is, when the evidence points clearly in one direction or the other.

Most events are patently the result by misattribution; that is, when the witnesses genuinely misinterpret something normal as something preternatural.

My instinct tells me that, bizarre though it was, there probably was a logical explanation, but I certainly can’t come up with it at the moment.

But then there are other times when the circumstances simply don’t lend themselves to any natural explanation at all.

But then there are those cases that seem to fall betwixt the stools, so to speak, and in which I don’t feel entirely comfortable leaning in one direction or the other.

Reader Colin Lawrence sent me the following account, which is a typical example of those “messy cases”.

Colin and his wife Vi were sitting on the sofa at home watching TV, when Colin suddenly looked down at his feet, both of which were planted firmly on the floor.

Before he could say anything, Vi exclaimed, “Hey, can you feel that heat?”

Both of them stated that the floor beneath their feet suddenly became extremely hot – to such an extent, in fact, that they had to lift them up onto the sofa.

Colin bent down and placed his hand on the floor, and said the heat was so intense that he was seriously considering phoning the fire service.

But then, in a matter of seconds, the heat dissipated and the floor returned to its normal temperature.

“It was very strange”, he said. “I don’t believe in the paranormal or anything like that, but to this day I can’t explain what caused that to happen.”

And nor can I. My instinct tells me that, bizarre though it was, there probably was a logical explanation, but I certainly can’t come up with it at the moment.

It’s not just the source of the heat – their house had concrete flooring and there were no water pipes running through it – but the speed at which it appeared and disappeared.

I just can’t think of any natural process which would cause concrete to heat up so rapidly, and then cool down again just as quickly.

Another case a colleague and I investigated in Sunderland was almost as baffling.

The householder told us that a variety of bizarre phenomena had been taking place, but the one which puzzled her the most was a fine layer of moisture which covered her wooden flooring in the lounge.

The layer was so thin it was almost invisible, but when my colleague and I ran our fingers across the floor you could distinctly feel the moisture.

Now there are a number of very common (and distinctly mundane) explanations for this.

The obvious one is simply condensation. However, there were a few puzzling things that didn’t quite add up. There was no other condensation anywhere else in the room – even on the windows – and even opening them wide didn’t help.

However, the most baffling thing was this; the householder told us that if she left the room for no more than a minute the moisture would have completely disappeared on her return.

I was sceptical about this, but we decided to put it to the test. The three of us left the room and went into the hallway.

After precisely two minutes we returned and – sure enough – the floor was completely dry.

Like the heat which suddenly presented itself in the home of Colin and Vi, it seemed to have evaporated with astonishing speed. And why only when we left the room?

A heating specialist we consulted suggested that the moisture could have been caused by human exhalation – in other words, our breath.

However, even he couldn’t understand how it could have disappeared so quickly. We never did figure that one out, although, oddly, the householder rang several days later to say the phenomenon seemed to have stopped completely.

This was unfortunate in a way, as it prevented us from carrying out a more thorough investigation which might just have provided a rational explanation.

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