Ghosts; many have had experiences with them over thousands of years. Ghosts certainly aren’t a new fad.
But what are ghosts? Straight up, there are only theories to explain the thousands upon thousands of documented experiences that people around the world have had since the beginning of recorded history.
Ghosts and hauntings seem to be a relatively common part of the human experience. There appears to be several types of ghosts or hauntings, and more than one theory might be needed to explain them all.
DEAD PEOPLE – This is the most common theory regarding ghosts. The traditional view of ghosts is that they are the spirits of dead people that for some reason are stuck between this plane of existence and the next, often as a result of some tragedy or trauma. Many ghost hunters and psychics believe that such earth-bound spirits don’t know they are dead.
One common example of this type of manifestation is when an individual suddenly becomes aware of the death of a loved one through one or more senses. This type of occurrence is often visual, but may just be a sudden “feeling” as if relayed telepathically, or may even come in the form of a vivid dream. Typically, this type of manifestation relays important information to the observer.
Veteran ghost hunter Hans Holzer wrote, “A ghost is a human being who has passed out of the physical body, usually in a traumatic state and is not aware usually of his true condition. We are all spirits encased in a physical body. At the time of passing, our spirit body continues into the next dimension. A ghost, on the other hand, due to trauma, is stuck in our physical world and needs to be released to go on.”
We know from science that everything is composed of energy. Our thoughts, feelings, sensations, experiences, and indeed our very consciousness, are possibly all forms of energy also. The theory is that when the physical body dies, this energy continues on in some form and can be tapped by living persons sensitive enough to perceive it.
Animals often seem to be quite sensitive to this type of energy, and many very reliable reports of cats and dogs avoiding certain rooms within the home, chasing or following with their eyes, an unseen prey. Some even sitting contently as if being stroked and petted have been recorded throughout history – another indication that this type of phenomena could be somewhat ‘intelligent’ or even interactive.
NOISE REDUCTION METHOD – This is based on the principle that a subject/participant is more receptive to phenomena if sensory awareness is kept to a minimum. If one sense is dulled or restricted, for example; eyesight, it will heighten awareness of the environment through the remaining senses. The team uses this technique by conducting sensory deprivation experiments and records its results both experientially and with AV recording equipment.
A Ganzfeld experiment (from the German for “entire field”) is a one of the more recent techniques used in parapsychology to test people for extrasensory perception (ESP).
The technique can also be used to help induce hallucinations and sensory distortions, which are much more likely to occur in the absence of clearly defined sensory experiences.
Consistent, independent replication of Ganzfeld experiments has not yet been achieved.
In a typical Ganzfeld experiment, a “receiver” is placed in a room relaxing in a comfortable chair with halved ping-pong balls over the eyes, having a red light shone on them. The receiver also wears a set of headphones through which white or pink noise (static) is played. The receiver is in this state of mild sensory deprivation for half an hour.
During this time, a “sender” observes a randomly chosen target and tries to mentally send this information to the receiver. The receiver speaks out loud during the thirty minutes, describing what he or she can see. This is recorded by the experimenter (who is blind to the target) either by recording on to tape, or by taking notes, and is used to help the receiver during the judging procedure.
In the judging procedure, the receiver is taken out of the Ganzfeld state and given a set of possible targets, from which they select one which most resembled the images they witnessed. Most commonly there are three decoys along with the target, giving an expected rate of 25%, by chance, over several dozens of trials.
STONE TAPE THEORY – This is often referred to by paranormal teams as a ‘Residual Haunting’. The Stone Tape theory is the speculation that ghosts and hauntings are analogous to tape recordings, and that emotional or traumatic events can somehow be “stored” in rock and other materials and “replayed” under certain conditions. The idea was first proposed by British archaeologist turned parapsychologist Thomas Charles Lethbridge in 1961. Lethbridge believed ghosts were not spirits but simply non-interactive recordings similar to a movie. In 1972, the idea was popularized in a Christmas ghost story called The Stone Tape, produced by the BBC
The implication is that any person who experiences an event, especially an intense highly charged one, can theoretically transfer energy to a building or object associated with the incident and in effect record it, resulting in the event playing over and over again like a video clip. To give you an idea of how this works, imagine that a person, say a nurse or a maid, has walked up and down a corridor at the same time every day for a number of years. This experience could somehow be captured or imprinted in the environment and viewed years later by the likes of us. It could be mundane event or a significant one (like a murder or suicide), and it could have happened a century ago or just last week. Some ghosts appear to be mere recordings on the environment in which they once existed; a soldier is seen on repeated occasions staring out a window at a house where he once stood guard; audience laughter and applause heard in an abandoned theatre; a dead child’s laughter is heard echoing in a hallway where she often played. There are even cases of ghost cars, ships and trains that can still be heard and sometimes seen, even though they are long gone. This type of ‘haunting’ cannot be interacted with merely witnessed or so the theory goes. Their appearance and actions are always the same.
WHITE NOISE THEORY – Essentially tuning out your radio/TV set allowing just white noise and urging spirit to use this as a means of communication. The belief is that spirit use electrical appliances to talk to us and can manipulate these things and can exist in the white noise.
There are other hypotheses to explain ghosts, and as more people become inspired or interested in paranormal research, the theories and ideas multiply. More questions are asked, people start thinking more openly, discussion takes place and ideas are exchanged. Experimentation, observation and analysis follows. Various external stimuli such as subsonic sound waves and high-intensity electromagnetic fields at certain frequencies can cause hallucinatory experiences that are indistinguishable from reality. but, even without a runaway imagination or symptoms of mental illness, ghosts can be also be just in your head, (not part of any external reality). Perhaps ghosts and ghostly activities are extensions of the subconscious, either yours or someone else’s – nothing more than a phenomenon of human consciousness. This is a view held by some people in the paranormal field as well as by many sceptics of the paranormal.
Or maybe ghosts occur within a kind of collective consciousness shared by the entire human race. Science has yet to fully understand the powers of the human mind, but new thinking stemming from Quantum Theory suggests the concept of the collective consciousness is worth revisiting and may even be explainable by science. Who knows what kinds of crazy things we all might be projecting into the world? Explanations such as ghosts being simply the creation of an overactive mind, hallucinations, carbon monoxide poisoning, exposure to low sound frequencies or high energy fields, etc, may be correct; but we are seeing too many pieces of the puzzle come together that cannot be explained away in total by the various sceptical theories. You only need a small number of examples, maybe even just one example that strongly resists natural explanation to show that there really is something to the existence of ghosts.
Many different theories regarding how naturally-occurring elements may interact to allow for paranormal phenomena have been offered, and include exotic theories ranging from energy emitted from Earth, ley lines, natural geologic fault lines creating bursts of energy, or some kind of natural vibration or Earth harmonic.
The sceptics’ point of view – if they are willing to admit there is anything to haunting experiences at all – is that ghosts are all in our minds, or are products of our own minds. Ghosts, they say, are a psychological phenomenon: we see them because we expect to or want to see them.
A grieving widow sees her dead husband because she needs to; she needs the comfort of knowing that he is alright and happy in the next world. Her mind produces the experience to help itself cope with the stress of the loss.
Since we know so little about the power and capacity of our own minds, it’s possible that they can even produce physical manifestations, such as apparitions and noises – projections that even others may be able to see and hear. But they are not “real” in any sense, say the sceptics, just the conjurings of powerful imaginations. The physician John Ferriar wrote an essay towards a theory of apparitions in 1813 in which he argued that sightings of ghosts were the result of optical illusions.
Limitations of human perception and ordinary physical explanations can account for ghost sightings; for example, air pressure changes in a home causing doors to slam, or lights from a passing car reflected through a window at night.
Pareidolia, an innate tendency to recognise patterns in random perceptions, is what some sceptics believe causes people to believe that they have ‘seen ghosts’.
Reports of ghosts “seen out of the corner of the eye” may be accounted for by the sensitivity of human peripheral vision. According to Nickell, peripheral vision can easily mislead, especially late at night when the brain is tired and more likely to misinterpret sights and sounds.
According to research in anomalistic psychology, visions of ghosts may arise from hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations (“waking dreams” which are experienced in the transitional states to and from sleep). A study of two experiments into alleged hauntings (Wiseman et al. 2003) concluded that “that people consistently report unusual experiences in ‘haunted’ areas because of environmental factors, which may differ across locations.”
Some of these factors included “the variance of local magnetic fields, size of location and lighting level stimuli of which witnesses may not be consciously aware”.
Carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause changes in perception of the visual and auditory systems, was speculated upon as a possible explanation for haunted houses as early as 1921.
At this point in my life, I can say that I’ve seen enough, heard enough, felt enough and read enough to know with confidence that ghosts really do exist. I have now transcended the age-old question, do ghosts exist? Yes, they do. The hard part of the journey is determining what in fact they are. What are people seeing, feeling, hearing and interacting with?
I firmly reject the notion that everyone who makes a claim of having experienced a ghost is lying, crazy, deluded, under the influence of some substance, or is misinterpreting things. Sure, some people’s claims can be rejected for one or more of these reasons, but certainly not all. That’s just not rational thinking. It is dismissive and shallow thinking from those that don’t really want to know the answers. Human arrogance and complacency says we already know all there is to know about our planet and everything that surrounds it. Everything outside that thinking is just fantasy and fiction.
Are there such things as ghosts? The phenomena of ghosts and hauntings are very real experiences for those that have had them. It is their true cause and nature that is the ongoing mystery. Whether it’s all in our heads, a mental ‘glitch’, unusual planet-made geo activity, interdimensional travellers, aliens, pareidolia, mass hallucination, or, the search has taken new directions and angles. Now we work toward understanding ‘them’, whatever they might be. Why and how do they exist? Can we help them? Or can they help us?
There might even be one simple explanation, one that is so simple and obvious that the world’s population just hasn’t recognised it. Perhaps it’s a matter of opening our minds a little wider, or using our intellects in a different way. Perhaps if we really looked, we’d see them. Or are we all just mad? [Crazy in the head?]