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Observations placeholder

TED talk: Carrie Poppy: A scientific approach to the paranormal



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


A description of the experience

TEDxVienna · Filmed October 2016 · 13:37

Carrie Poppy: A scientific approach to the paranormal


0:11 Eight years ago, I was haunted by an evil spirit.

0:19 I was 25 at the time, and I was living in a tiny house behind someone else's house in Los Angeles. It was this guest house, it had kind of been dilapidated, not taken care of for a long time. And one night, I was sitting there and I got this really spooky feeling, kind of the feeling like you're being watched. But no one was there except my two dogs, and they were just chewing their feet. And I looked around. No one was there. And I thought, OK, it's just my imagination. But the feeling just kept getting worse, and I started to feel this pressure in my chest, sort of like the feeling when you get bad news. But it started to sink lower and lower and almost hurt.

1:15 And over the course of that week, this feeling got worse and worse, and I started to become convinced that something was there in my little guest house, haunting me.

1:29 And I started to hear these sounds, this "whoosh," kind of whisper, like something passing through me. I called my best friend, Claire, and said, "I know this is going to sound crazy, but, um ... I think there's a ghost in my house, and I need to get rid of it." And she said — she's very open-minded — and she said, "I don't think you're crazy. I think you just need to do a cleansing ritual."

2:04 (Laughter)

2:06 "So get some sage and burn it, and tell it to go away."

2:14 So I said, "OK," and I went and I bought sage. I had never done this before, so I set the sage on fire, waved it about, and said, "Go away! This is my house! I live here. You don't live here!" But the feeling stayed. Nothing got better. And then I started to think, OK, well now this thing is probably just laughing at me, because it hasn't left, and I probably just look like this impotent, powerless thing that couldn't get it to go away.

2:47 So every day I'd come home and you guys, this feeling got so bad that — I mean, I'm laughing at it now — but I would sit there in bed and cry every night. And the feeling on my chest got worse and worse. It was physically painful. And I even went to a psychiatrist and tried to get her to prescribe me medicine, and she wouldn't just because I don't have schizophrenia, OK.

3:21 (Laughter) So finally I got on the internet, and I Googled "hauntings." And I came upon this forum of ghost hunters. But these were a special kind of ghost hunters — they were skeptics. They believed that every case of ghosts that they had investigated so far had been explained away by science. And I was like, "OK, smart guys, this is what's happening to me, and if you have an explanation for me, I would love to hear it."

3:54 And one of them said, "OK. Um, have you heard of carbon monoxide poisoning?"

4:03 And I said, "Yeah. Like, gas poisoning?"

4:11 Carbon monoxide poisoning is when you have a gas leak leaking into your home. I looked it up, and the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a pressure on your chest, auditory hallucinations — whoosh — and an unexplained feeling of dread. So that night, I called the gas company. I said, "I have an emergency. I need you to come out. I don't want to get into the story now, but I need you to come out."

4:44 (Laughter)

4:45 They came out. I said, "I suspect a gas leak." They brought their carbon monoxide detector, and the man said, "It's a really good thing that you called us tonight, because you could have been dead very soon."

5:00 Thirty-seven percent of Americans believe in haunted houses, and I wonder how many of them have been in one and how many of them have been in danger.

The source of the experience

Writers other

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Carbon monoxide poisoning