Friday, 30 January 2009

The Spirit on Ward C

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Ah, the modern hospital – a symbol of the power of the scientific method, of the triumph of rationalism over superstition. At least you'd think so:
HOSPITAL managers have called in an exorcist after shaken workers complained they are being terrified by a GHOST.

Spooked staff at Derby’s new Royal Hospital claimed a black-clad figure wearing a cloak was stalking wards and corridors.

Now chiefs at the £334million NHS site are to summon a local priest to see off the “spirit”.

Okay, so I know this report is from the Sun (although it's in the Telegraph too, and was apparently also mentioned on the Today programme) but I'm reminded of the credulity with which newspapers often approach stories like this (I recently read Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World, in which he constantly despairs at such credulity, seeing it as damaging and insulting to the public's intelligence). Take, for example, this line from the Sun report:

Experts said the spirit could be the ghost of a Roman soldier killed on the spot where the original hospital was built in the 1920s. Developers ignored protests and covered over part of one of Ancient Britain’s main Roman roads.
Experts? I know people like reading this nonsense, but at least approach it with a bit of sly scepticism. Although if we're talking credulity, this is nothing compared to the words of Debbie Butler, the hospital's senior manager – yes, senior manager – in an email to staff:
"I’m not sure how many of you are aware that some members of staff have reported seeing a ghost. I’m taking it seriously as the last thing I want is staff feeling uneasy at work. I don’t want to scare anyone any more than necessary, but felt it was best I made you all aware of the situation and what we are doing about it. I’ve spoken to the Trust’s chaplain and she is going to arrange for someone from the cathedral to exorcise the department."
Still, at least the Sun's "artist's impression" of the ghost shows that not everyone's taking this seriously. Update: And hats off to the Guardian for definitely not taking it seriously.

3 comments:

scottmaciver said...

But if it IS a roman ghost then it is unlikely to be christian....so what good will a catholic priest do...?

They need an Apollo & Zues worshipper to banish it to Hades.

Colin said...

If you're a manager faced with scared and superstitious staff should you a) stick to your guns and tell them to pull themselves together or b) humour them and call in the Holy Water brigade?

What I'm amused at is the suggestion that the ghost might be some ancient Roman ... because nobody else has ever died on the site of a _hospital_ ?

FishNChimps said...

A couple of weeks ago The Sun cried UFO Attack over a damaged wind turbine. There's a pattern developing here methinks.
According to a Boing Boing blog post a month or so ago, horror movies (particularly zombie features) increase during periods of political and economic trauma.
I wonder if an appetite for irrational woowoo credulity increases during recessions.