Is there a logical explanation for a toy that flies off dresser after my only child's suicide? I have been an atheist for 10 years and highly skeptical of any possibility of life after death and all things "woo." My only child died by suicide recently and it's a horrible heartache. A friend gave me a plush toy kangaroo with a baby in its pouch for a condolence gift; which of course, symbolizes a mother and child. Quite a few times since then, my boyfriend and I have literally seen this toy move horizontally off the dresser and onto the floor. Sometimes, he's seen it when I've been out of the room and sometimes, I have when he's been out of the room. There hasn't been any breeze in the room or anything touching the dresser. Do you have any logical explanation for this? Please respond if you can. Thank you.
First I have to say how sorry I am for your loss. I can't imagine losing a child to suicide, let alone an only child. My deepest sympathies.
Let's start by clearly stating the implied alternative hypothesis here. At the most generic level, we can hypothesize that the known laws of physics are being broken by some supernatural force related to your son's death. More specifically, we might create a narrative to make the hypothesis more emotionally appealing, such as your son is trying to communicate with you from the afterlife out of love. If this idea brought you comfort, I would generally leave it alone, but we have no more reason to assume that if this were a supernatural act, that it would indicate a pleasurable and loving gesture, or one of agony and suffering. If you keep that it mind, the power of the emotional appeal should wane and you should be able to approach this as logically as possible.
Our memories can easily be tainted by our emotional states. I imagine that your situation has resulted in sleepless nights, high levels of stress, and emotional turmoil, all of which have been known to contribute to fabricated memories and interpretations of situations that are not in line with reality. However, you stated that this event has happened more than once, and witnessed by a third party (your boyfriend). To cover all bases here, I would question your boyfriend's motives. If your boyfriend is a kind person who feels that you get comfort from the idea that your son is trying to communicate you from beyond, his confirmation of the event might be more of a way to make you feel better, especially if he is less skeptical than you about the afterlife.
Again, because this appears to be a repeatable phenomenon (repeatable at least in the sense that it does seem to repeat even though you cannot repeat it at will), you might want to conduct a few tests. First, replace the kangaroo that has special significance with a similar toy that has a similar weight and surface area, but with no emotional significance. For example, if the toy is a Beanie Baby, get another Beanie Baby, perhaps a dragon, and put it right where the kangaroo was. If the dragon "flies off" the shelf as well (perhaps when watching a movie with a lot of bass) then it is very likely the event is not breaking any known laws of physics, but the horizontal motion is more of an optical illusion. At the same time, you can place the kangaroo on another surface and see if anything strange happens. Again, if not, the chances are something completely natural is going on. Another test is to place a tennis ball next to kangaroo where the ball is placed in such a way that if the kangaroo moved but the ball didn't, it would indicate something strange. If something strange is still happening, then start writing down everything you observe when the event occurs. One of the rules of magic is distraction. The magician distracts his audience by redirecting their focus off of the hand that pulls the card from the sleeve. In your case, the distraction is the kangaroo flying off the shelf. Start paying close attention to everything else in the room. Like I suggested, noise vibrations can easily cause large objects to move as you describe.
Finally, if you still are convinced something supernatural is going on, invest in a surveillance camera and keep it pointed at the kangaroo. Post your videos online and document everything. If you have found something, you could be the recipient of the JREF $1,000,000 prize (the prize offered by the James Randi foundation for providing convincing evidence of anything paranormal). A few words of caution: Be very skeptical of "mediums" who contact you offering to communicate with your son for money.
There is nothing like the death of a loved one to bring even the most level-headed skeptic into the world of woo. Remember that the unexplained does not mean the supernatural; it simply means more investigation is needed to understand what is happening. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks scientifically and supernatural hypotheses are easier to accept and understand than the complicated worlds of psychology and physics. However, you seem like a person who is interested in the real explanation even if it requires extra work. Keep testing and keep us updated!
Update: Thursday, Aug 06, 2015 05:54 AM
Thank you again for your quick, thoughtful response. I have followed some of your suggestions. Namely; I replaced the kangaroo toy with a toy that has no emotional significance to me and put it in the same spot where the kangaroo formerly seemed to fly off the dresser. The new toy has a somewhat different shape and size (it is smaller), since it was the only one I could find that was at least somewhat similar. Neither my boyfriend nor myself have seen this toy leave the dresser.
Also, I placed the kangaroo toy in a different place. We haven't witnessed any movement of the kangaroo from its new location, either.
I guess the significance of this is that there was probably some other natural, physical force that made the kangaroo appear to fly off the dresser in its first location (as opposed to my son somehow moving it from an afterlife, and I don't think there is an afterlife), though I don't really know what that was, possibly vibration of some sort as you had mentioned. If you have anything to add to this, I'd like to hear from you, though I'm not sure what could be added.
It seems like it could have been something I was imagining, due to wishful thinking, yet I did see it appear to move on its own several times. People who have strong desires and/or strong beliefs seem to be the ones who most frequently experience "paranormal" activities, though I don't know how my mind could have produced the apparent movement of the kangaroo in the first place. If somehow I was making it "fly," that could indicate some type of telekinesis. Woo!
Update: Thursday, Aug 06, 2015 03:15 PM
Dear Dr. Bo,
Thank you again for your posting of my experiences of Roo's "flights" and for all your efforts in giving me ideas and helping me understand what's been going on. Please feel free to post this subsequent update as well. (I still prefer that my name not be mentioned.)
This morning, I placed the other, smaller plush toy (instead of a tennis ball) next to Roo. (Roo is my name for the kangaroo toy). Lo and behold, Roo fell down on her own! I showed my boyfriend what had happened and he solved the mystery then and there. He is a very scientifically-minded person and a science fiction writer, as well. He noted that Roo seemed to "want to" tuck her right foot under her left foot, since the fabric she is constructed from seems to stretch tighter on one side than the other side where her legs are. Therefore, her legs were naturally positioned in such a way that gravity would make her position unstable and allow her to easily fall from the slightest nearby movement or vibration. Also, Roo was leaning up against an object in the other place I set her while conducting tests, so that is why we didn't notice any movement from that location.
While Roo's movements made me intensely wish that there was an afterlife where I could re-unite with my son again in a very loving way, I find science and the results of my tests to be much more credible. To my knowledge, science has not confirmed or replicated any experiences in anything "paranormal". That is not to say that science knows everything and that such experiences are impossible or that they may not be confirmed in the future; it is a vast and mysterious universe. However, the idea of the survival of consciousness after death when there is no body and no brain to function, seems like an idea that is extremely unlikely at best.
Thank you again, Dr. Bo.
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