UFOs to Psychics: Thinking about Weird Things


An exploration of a range of ‘weird’ beliefs and experiences, from alien abduction and angels to conspiracy theories and miraculous cures.

What psychological mechanisms are involved in generating such beliefs? Is the scientific community justifiably skeptical about such beliefs, or are scientists for the most part just closed-minded naysayers? Doesn’t the fact that so many people report such experiences give them at least some credibility? How should we assess the evidence when it comes to belief in the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and so on? What even counts as good evidence?

One session, led by Deborah Hyde, anthropologist and former editor of The Skeptic magazine, will focus in particular on poltergeist activity (perhaps listen to The Battersea Poltergeist on BBC Sounds for more information).

The other sessions approach weird beliefs from the perspective of psychology (Prof. Chris French) and philosophy and critical thinking (Stephen Law), and provide both numerous illustrations and principles for assessing them.

This couse will close for enrolment 2 days prior to the start date

Programme details


The Science of Weird Beliefs and Experiences
Chris French


When the Spirit Moves You: The Strange History of the Poltergeist
Deborah Hyde

Lunch break

Critical Thinking and Weird Beliefs
Stephen Law


Chris French, Deborah Hyde, Stephen Law

Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition fee (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (three courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Prof Chris French


Chris French is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. His most recent book is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

Ms Deborah Hyde


Deborah Hyde is a former editor of The Skeptic and is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. She writes and lectures about belief in the malign supernatural, with special regard to the folklore, psychology and sociology behind belief.

Dr Stephen Law

Speaker and Director of Studies

Stephen Law is a Departmental Lecturer in Philosophy and Director of the Certificate of Higher Education at OUDCE. His research focuses on the philosophy of mind, language, metaphysics and on philosophy of religion. He also writes many accessible online articles and edits the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK: Philosophy for Everyone.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.