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Stuff [Jul. 6th, 2012|12:43 am]
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Seen on Reddit: What is the creepiest thing one of your kids has said to you?

The thread is about 50% "kids say the darnedest things" and 50% "ohmigod everyone under the age of 12 is haunted." Seriously, read through as much of it as you can. Just not at night.

The really creepy stuff seems to be divided into three categories:

1. Kids who see shadowy/ghostly figures or hear hallucinatory voices, with or without external objective confirmation.
2. Kids who have, not a "belief" in reincarnation per se, but who accept it as so obvious it doesn't bear mentioning, with or without external objective confirmation.
3. Kids who remember being in the womb, with or without external objective confirmation.

(1) seems most common, to the point where I'm going to come out and say that I'm now convinced kids' brains are sufficiently poorly developed that even normal children seem to have experiences we would classify as very psychotic in adults. The hallucinatory voices are classic schizophrenic, the hallucinatory figures aren't as classic, but still seem generally in keeping with psychiatric or neurological patients. Seeing this sort of thing in sane people has reminded me just how weird it is as a failure mode for the human brain and how much I love psychiatry.

The external confirmation stories here are definitely the creepiest, especially the subgenre of "kids who see their grandparents' ghosts just after the grandparents die, but before they've been told the grandparents have died," or kids who after seeing ghosts are able to describe the features of grandparents they've never seen. Now if the grandparent was on their deathbed for a while, it's plausible they could detect changes in the parents' moods that suggest their death even if the parents are trying to hide it. And it's always possible that some of them saw photos of their grandparents and the parents just didn't remember it. But I know the feeling I get when I'm grasping at straws to try to justify something without really believing my justification, and I'm getting it now.

(2) is really interesting, especially how many children are convinced they're the reincarnation of a dead family member (usually the grandparent, leading to them comparing their parent's parenting to when they were the parent and their parent was the baby). It could just be that "What if I were the parent and you were the baby" is a natural fantasy, the same way presumably workers fantasize about being the boss - and maybe then kids forget it was a fantasy because they haven't learned to distinguish that from reality. And maybe their parents told them stories about trivial facts about relatives and then totally forgot doing so and now swear they didn't? Or something?

If we're going to go with this whole "kids tend to be reincarnations of dead relatives" thing, I'm pretty definitely the reincarnation of my paternal grandfather, who died about a year before I was born and whom I was named after. But I've never even been tempted to have fake memories of his life or anything.

(3) - here the kid who remembers consuming his unborn twin in full accordance with the ultrasound results was of course the creepiest. One of my cousins, around age 6, insisted to me that he remembered being in the womb, and I know other people who have told me they remember some improbably early things from when they were infants. I'm inclined to say this is scientifically unlikely, but usually when developmental psychologists say infants aren't capable of something they end out unpleasantly surprised.

I also constantly marvel at how unfair skeptics are, with their constant talk of how everybody's just being deceived by fraudulent mediums (media?) or confusing the occasional weird shadow seen out of the corner of the eye with a ghost. There are dozens of stories in this thread not explicable by infrasound or carbon monoxide poisoning or sleep paralysis or whatever the current explanation du jour is. Of course, they're all explicable by people on the Internet lying. Maybe the reason skeptics only attack the easy cases is that the easy cases are the ones that actually happen. Yeah, the cases on the Internet where no one's putting their reputation on the line or even has to prove that they have children can be arbitrarily airtight and fascinating. I don't want to believe this of my fellow Redditors and Netizens with proper grammar (obviously the ones in the online ghettos are liars) but it's a heck of a lot more likely than any other explanation I can think of at the moment.

But if everything we believe is wrong, and people really do have supernatural powers - well, one of my schizophrenic patients told me he could predict the future the other day. I politely asked him what my future was, and he told me that I would have to work very hard and have many challenges, but eventually I would become rich. This seems like an pretty safe prophecy to make to a student doctor, but if it's true, all the better.

(Dr. S asked the same question, and was informed he was going to be a missionary. I can only hope it's to one of those islands full of cannibals with very large cooking pots.)
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