Saturday, November 24, 2012
The phenomenon in question is called "horripilation," from the Latin pilus meaning hair and horrore meaning "to go POINK," or as it is commonly translated, to bristle. Thus "horripilation" is the go-poinkiness of hair. (The word "horror" to this day is applied to the appearance of chin whiskers in post-menopausal women.) The sensation of hair standing on end is a natural occurrence in humans and other mammals, and is a response to both fear and cold. Each hair follicle has a tiny adorable little muscle attached to it that contracts to erect the hair, and also causes the skin to bunch up at the site. If someone were repeatedly frightened enough to exercise the adorable little muscles, they might bulk up to the point of making the skin look like Velcro.
So our friend's reaction to his sister's conjuring of the name "Jimmy Joffa" is, essentially, a fear reaction. Most people are fascinated by extra-sensory perception, but also a little frightened of it. It appears to be a power that has no explanation, and is thus creepy. Similarly, a huge swath of people today are creeped out by any knowledge that appears to be gained through mysterious means, such as studying in science class.
When it comes to ESP, I do not scoff. I myself have had a number of such unexplainable experiences. One time I suddenly went cold all over, and my skin got clammy, and I was overcome, from the very core of my being, by the feeling that something very bad was about to happen. And sure enough, I threw up.