A Ghostly Presence

Walking through New York City’s Chelsea Market Wednesday evening, it was hard not to notice the macabre graveyard scenery, hanging ghosts, and appendages crawling out of the walls. There was even an installed pipe coming out of the ceiling that had a torrent of “red water” falling into a sinkhole with zombie mannequins creeping out. It was entertaining, to say the least, and visitors were loving it.

But what is it about Halloween that gets people so worked up? Surely, it can’t be just the candy—that can be found on store shelves all year round. For a brief moment, the month of October allows us to unearth our fascination with morbid ideas such as vampires, haunted houses, and ghosts. Beyond the grisly decorations, there are varying superstitions about apparitions and the otherworldly in cultures throughout the world; but how do we explain the unintentional occurrences that spook us into believing in ghosts?

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

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Brain Oddities: Foreign Accent Syndrome

Brain oddities

Something about speaking a foreign language or having a mysterious accent always gives you cool points. I can’t speak for women in other countries, but I think I can speak for a majority of American women, a man (or woman) with a nice South African or Italian accent is immediately more attractive.

FAS blog image

Madonna (Credit: David Shankbone)

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Brain Oddities: No Joke

Brain oddities

I never look forward to those awkward moments when I’m surrounded by friends or family and someone cracks a really inappropriate joke. The responses vary: some chuckle uncomfortably; others pretend they didn’t catch the incongruent punch line and quietly disperse; some confront the now alienated jokester: “You can’t say things like that!”

I tend to prefer a poor joke as opposed to an inappropriate one. At least then a polite laugh is a sufficient response. With a disorder known as Witzelsucht, you may not get that choice. Individuals who develop Witzelsucht pathologically tell poor and inappropriate jokes.

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Brain Oddities: No Pain No Gain

Brain oddities

By the age of 25, I had 10 nieces and nephews. As a babysitter and playmate, I have had the pleasure of watching these wonderful children grow up. At times, I have also had the responsibility of keeping them safe. And as any parent, or surrogate guardian knows, they will try almost anything. They are exploring their world—as they should!—but sometimes this seemingly reckless behavior is frightening. Take one serving of endless imagination, a splash of curiosity, and two servings of very little fear, and what do you have? A constant reminder that you need to clone yourself 10 times over to even begin to keep up. After all, they don’t fully understand danger and its consequences.

The good news: most parents have biology on their side, a built-in warning system. Take this classic example: If a child touches a hot stove, he or she will most likely only do it once!

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Brain Oddities: Left Neglect

Brain oddities

As a temporary New Yorker, I am experiencing firsthand the endless stimuli begging for attention on the streets of this great city. Take an imaginary stroll down the avenue of your choosing. Envision the crosswalks, cars, poles, pets, people, and tourists (yes, people and tourists are different obstacles) that you must dodge to get where you are going. Needless to say, the ability to pay attention is much more than a convenient attribute—it is, in fact, necessary for survival.

In our society, if you struggle to pay attention, we prod you to “focus!” If the problem persists, a doctor may diagnose you with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). ADD is far from a doomsday diagnosis, and with appropriate treatment it can be easily managed. But imagine if your inability to pay attention were so pervasive that you couldn’t attend to anything—anything at all—in one-half of your surroundings. This is the case for a small subset of the population suffering from hemispatial neglect, a disabling condition colloquially known as “left neglect.”

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