(Submitted by reader Jason Pope)
I was in college in 2000 or 2001, living in a house with four friends. We were in the basement one day watching TV as we would do more often that I care to admit. I had the remote control and, as I often did, I would flip through channels at a pretty good clip. I would assess whether a show was interesting or not in a second or less before flipping to the next channel; a practice which infuriates many people (my wife/former room mate included).
Here is where the oddity occurs. At one point I flipped past a channel when, for reasons unknown to me, I thought I had recognized actor Kyle MacLachlan talking to somebody. Before changing channels again, I said out loud to my friends, “Is that Twin Peaks?” referring to the TV or movie starring Kyle MacLachlan.
I immediately returned to that channel with the same rapidity as I had skipped it. As soon as I settled on that channel, the character portrayed by Kyle MacLachlan without hesitation said on screen, “Yes, it is” as if answering my previous question.
Though I know he was not talking to me, the fact that I had asked such a specific question, out loud, and immediately been answered correctly by the onscreen character from a strange TV show was bizarre. With that I turned the TV off and told my friends I was going to bed.
My own thought on this is that it chiefly suffers from confirmation bias or selective recall. I have probably flipped through thousands upon thousands of channels and asked myself the exact same type of questions. However, I only remember this occurrence because of the peculiar dialogue. In addition, it sadly might also be a product of the law of large numbers, with dialogue that was not perfectly responsive being ignored or forgotten. Way too much TV. :(
[EDITOR: I'd vote for the Law of Large Numbers. Channel surfing is a direct result of the feeling that there are 57 channels, and there's nothing on, to paraphrase The Boss. The sane response was to turn the thing off and get some sleep, or listen to a podcast, instead of believing it was possible to have a dialogue with the TV set :-) - Wendy]
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 187. Take a look and leave your comments below.
This a great story and I have to concur with the editor’s note by Wendy Hughes. It is more than simply a large number of channels available, although channel surfing is hard if you only have three. But if you surf through channels the way the author describes on a regular basis, you are bound to have an experience like this. I am actually surprised that the author does not have several stories just like it.
And as these things often do, it sparked a clear memory I have of a similar incident, so rather than a useless analysis, I’ll just add to the drama.
When I was in grade school, the teacher was reading to us for the first time. The story was a little bit creepy and she lowered her voice in a creepy manner to make it more dramatic. She read, “Slowly, the door creaked open and I heard footsteps approaching.”
Just then, the door to the classroom creaked open quite slowly and the principal tiptoed into the classroom.
I think we were all surprised that nobody screamed. The teacher was just as stunned as the rest of us and we had a great laugh about it afterward.