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Who Is This Asshole Anyway?
An Introduction

“I am, indeed, an absolute materialist so far as actual belief goes: with not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism.”
– HP Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, 1925.

My name is Bruce and I'm an skeptic. Debunker. Nasty Noisy Negativist. Along with any other four-letter-word used in the paranormal community to describe people like me. Though often employed as pejoratives to dismiss without thought those who challenge claims of the paranormal, I wear them as a brand of pride. That is what I am, a skeptic, a critical-thinker (by definition, a skeptic is a critical-thinker; that isn't to say a believer is not a critical-thinker, far from it. But that is a subject for another column), and I see no shame in it.

That may be what I am but who am I?

I'm a single father, a fiction writer, an editor, bibliophile, an amateur HP Lovecraft scholar (that is the more formal term; fan-boy and cheerleader may be more appropriate), a student of history with a particular love of the Roman Empire and Assyriology, a DC Comics fan, an old horror movie buff, a '70s exploitation-film lover, a karaoke superstar, with a voice for radio and not all together bad looking in the facial area.

And once upon a time I was a believer.

For most of my life, in fact my earliest memory is my father reading to me from a children's book about Bigfoot while we sat in a pediatrician's waiting room. That initial exposure was transformative. There is not a time in my life I can recall not having a strong opinion on the paranormal. Belief defined me. In particular that of the extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFOs. It was what I was known for.

But over the past ten years I've gone from being believer to a skeptic. It was not a slow transition but an epiphany. I tired of being lied to. Too often the gate-keepers of the paranormal do not want us to look beyond the face-value of a claim. Because when you drill down, when you have all the facts, you see how much they have been exaggerated, misappropriated and mutilated. You see how much is built on a foundation of logical fallacy after logical fallacy.

That is not to say I have completely forsaken an interest in the paranormal. As a poster on the wall of a certain basement office in the J. Edgar Hoover building states, “I want to believe.” I still read the UFO research literature, listen to the podcasts and participate in the forums. I hope to find something that will justify and warrant my belief. But as a firm subscriber to Sagan's First Law, thus far I have found nothing but severe disappointment.

Do not take this as a mark of closed-mindedness. Despite my early declaration of being proud of the skeptic, debunker, and other assorted labels, being labeled closed-minded is not something I will abide. Belief and disbelief do not define open and closed minds. An open mind is that which is willing to examine evidence, accepting that found worthy, and adjusting one's beliefs accordingly.

In my short time involved with skepticism, I found it is a sorely misunderstood subject within the paranormal community. With The Paranormal Apostate, I hope to shed light on what skepticism is and why it is vital to our understanding of the paranormal. What qualifies me to comment on the paranormal, what in my admittedly geek-chic background makes me an expert? Nothing. But that is the same qualification that most self-styled paranormal experts have. I do not expect everyone to agree with everything I write in this column. But I do hope you will read it with an open-mind.

In closing, I will admit I am not quite the skeptic HP Lovecraft is. I recently heard that the true test of a skeptic is the ability to walk through the night-forest without being scared. I failed this test, and comically so, on a recent early-fall walk through a park at midnight. But that is a subject for another column.

Contact Bruce