A Skeptic’s “Ghost” Story

Young Ted on Bed

This is a true story from when I was 16 years old, animated for your pleasure — but mostly animated for my pleasure.

It’s a story I’ve told many times — perhaps at the expense of my own credibility.

A Skeptic's "Ghost" Story - Ted Johnson

In retrospect, I’m kind of proud of the semi-rational way I investigated the phenomenon.

I still believed in God and ghosts when I was 16. But by then I had already rejected astrology, witches, and Santa Claus. My positions were still iffy on virgin births, psychics, extrasensory perception, and giving a shit about entertainers.

In my approach that night, I can see hints that I would eventually embrace scientific skepticism.

But I wouldn’t call the method I used that night scientific. My motive was not to make observations, hypothesize what the phenomenon was, and then test the hypothesis, etc. etc. (i.e. The Scientific Method).

Hell no. I was motivated to convince myself that the thing I had seen was not a ghost. And my initial efforts failed.

I don’t know the story behind the crib; if a baby ever died in the crib or anything else about it. I don’t know if anyone of any age had ever died in that house at that point. Maybe. I could have asked my grandparents. But I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t mention it to them at all.

That kind of inquiry would have presumed the existence of ghosts. Not only are ghosts not proven to exist, there is no precise scientific definition for what a ghost even is. But that’s not why I didn’t ask. As I said: I believed in ghosts; I didn’t want any evidence affirming a ghost hypothesis. By sleeping with the light on and blocking the side of the crib I suppressed further observations of the phenomenon.

I commited scientific misconduct.

A true scientist would have:

  1. Turned off all the lights again
  2. Walked right up to the crib
  3. Taken a closer look

Yeah… There’s no way in hell—and I still believed in hell—that 16-year-old me was going to do that. It didn’t even cross my mind.

And now the opportunity has gone. I regret that.

Look! I’m an animator!

I did this in my spare time on my Android tablet using FlipaClip. This is the most ambitious animation I’ve done so far.

I’d like to do this more often, but it was pretty time consuming. There are worse ways to spend my spare moments.

I have a few more stories I’d like to tell this way. Maybe I can do two or three per year. We’ll see.


  1. Scot Campbell Reply
    February 18, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    Hi Ted. I thought I’d share an experience I once had. I was about 17 years old and was out shooting up bottles and such with a friend in an old gravel pit just out side of Edmonton. It was getting late and the light was fading so we decided to leave. As we were walking toward our car we were suddenly bathed in an eerie green light. I looked up and saw the source: a round disc directly above us. There was no noise and it was impossible to tell how close or far the source was from us. I looked at my friend and said “Are you seeing this?” He said he was. He looked about as creeped out as I was. We both picked up the pace. As we neared the car and were about to get in I glanced up one more time. Just then the light shifted sideways. It was as if we had been looking at the end of a glowing rod, which now tipped revealing its shape. As it tipped it also spread out into more of a curtain of light. Then I recognized it. It was the northern lights!

    If we had arrived at the care just 10 seconds earlier I wouldn’t have learned the cause and would probably swear to this day that I had seen a UFO.

    I suspect that if you had shut off the light and seen the object again you would have found the cause and slept well. Or possibly been attacked and dragged to the nether regions of hell. 🙂

  2. Steve Reply
    February 19, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Love it.
    Around 0:20 it looks like something teenage boys do, so I think you were on your way to blind and thus your eyes were damaged.

  3. Aunt Bev Reply
    February 20, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    It was the ghost from.the coal bin in the basement! I knew he crept around the basement but he.must have floated upstairs to check you out! Scary!!!!

  4. Chuck Reply
    February 22, 2019 at 2:14 am

    Hey Ted,
    Your animation tells a story without the audio. It’s that good. And maybe even more interesting to me in that form!
    Keep me in the loop when you post. Be well.

  5. […] This guy (above) had about a half-second cameo in my video about the Skeptic’s “Ghost” Story. […]

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