Despite many thousands of reports of apparitions since the beginning of history, the evidence for the paranormal remains very sketchy. It is not too hard to see why this is, and why sceptics remain to be convinced; the main reason is a lack of tangible, tabulated evidence.Ghosts stories are almost purely anecdotal, and seem to be very personal experiences. They also mostly seem to focus on trivial, mundane events, which is remarkable when we are often told that ghosts are imprints of violent etc. behaviour committed in the past and this somehow becomes imprinted upon the environment.We can only presume that many people have died from the mundane, for instance how many times have you read a ghost story where afigure is seen in the middle of the night, walk across the room to the window and vanish?
We all seem
to love a good ghost story, but they are sources of frustration.
little time has been spent trying to understand the nature of ghosts-
why do we see them? and what are they? In an era of dwindling science
grants and the lack of objective enthusiasm by scientists (particularly
in the field of spontaneous cases in parapsychology), sadly, this is
one status quo that will be maintained. The burden of providing proof
lies with the amateur and his trusty range of secondhand, or
Tantalising pieces of
experimental evidence and observations have given us a few clues, but,
to quote one drama serial, "a ghost is a mass of data waiting for a
correct interpretation". It is fair to mention another quote (which I
hope Iwill report reasonably accurately): "In the world of
parapsychology, we not only await an Einstein, but an Aristotle." An
excellent comment indeed on crude knowledge that we have into
understanding the nature of ghosts.
For the sake of discussion,
let us assume that you do believe in ghosts, either by faith, religious
or otherwise, or by actually seeing one. You do not need convincing.
Now, do ghosts occur "all in the mind" as many critics have cruelly
suggested, or do they occur in the environment? Hopefully, in the
discussion that follows, you will be intrigued as I am and will
hopefully want to learn more of these elusive apparitions.
Those who dismiss ghosts as
being a figment of the mind have one compelling piece of evidence on
their side: the seeming lack of interplay between spirits and their
environment: on the whole, they do not move thingsaround......
Belief that spirits of the dead exist and can appear to the living is both
ancient and widespread, yet the actual study of ghostly phenomena has largely
been lacking. So-called "investigation" has ranged from mere collecting of
ghost tales to the use of "psychic" impressions to a pseudoscientific reliance
on technology applied in a questionable fashion. Real science has largely been
What passed for investigation in earlier times is illustrated by a "true"
ghost story related by Pliny the Younger (ca. 100 a.d.). It has been "regarded
as the first investigated ghost story" (Finucane 2001). A hearsay tale,
already a century old when Pliny told it, it involved a house in Athens
haunted by the specter of an emaciated, fettered man. It rattled its chains at
night and brought disease and death to visitors. Undaunted, however, a stoic
philosopher named Athenodorus bought the house, tried first to ignore the
beckoning phantom, then calmly followed it into the garden where it vanished.
The next day he had local officials dig at the site where they found a
skeleton in rusty chains. After a proper burial which appeased the ghost, the
But Pliny's tale is as suspect as it is dated, with its motifs of clanking
chains, malevolent atmosphere, and ritual appeasement. Over time, people's
notions of ghosts and hauntings have continually changed. According to R.C.
Finucane, in his Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts (1984,
223):Each epoch has perceived its specters according to specific sets of
expectations; as these change so too do the specters. From this point of view
it is clear that the suffering souls of purgatoryin the days of Aquinas, the
shades of a murdered mistress in Charles II's era, and the silent grey ladies
of Victoria's reign represent not beings of that other world, but of this. Even in a given era, ghosts seem to behave according to individual
expectations, being as likely to walk through a wall as to knock on a door
before entering (Finucane 1984, 223)...
One reason why we believe in the reality of certain things, such as life after death, hunches, prophecies, fortune-telling, is that we want to believe in them; but it is not the only reason. There can be very few people who have not had some kind of "odd" experience.To anyone who has studied parapsychology the description of most of these oddities is, quite frankly, as boring as the usual account of somebody's last night's dream. One sympathizes with the celebrated reply of Archbishop Temple to the curate. "My aunt," said the curate, "was going to travel on that train which had the accident with every passenger killed, but she changed her mind at the last moment and put off herjourney.Don't you think, Your Grace, that that was an example of the working of a beneficent Providence?" "Don't know," replied the Archbishop.
"Never knew your aunt."
wants to find out the truth about psychical phenomena must begin by
seeing why the usual stories are almost always worthless. Let us look
at a few of them.
When the wife says to her
husband, "Why, dear, I was just going to say the same thing!" are we at
once to suppose that we have found a case of thought transference?
No. Husbands and wives who
have lived together for some years have a large common fund of
experience, of feelings, of interests. Something in the environment
produces the same reaction in both, and one speaks first. That
explanation is the simplest and will cover almost all cases; and itis
often a pleasant and even profitable experiment for both husband and
wife to examine the chain of unspoken thoughts which finally led to the
spoken one. Often the chains begin far apart until at last a common
link of past experience brings them together.
On the other hand, we must
not make the mistake of insisting that the simple explanation must
always be sufficient. There may be the thousandth or the millionth
occasion when a more complicated explanation is needed. There may be
one day a flash of telepathy between husband and wife, and we must be
careful not to miss it, just as we must be careful not to drag in
telepathy where there is no need for it.
The ardent lover sits down
and writes to his girl: "Darling I dreamed of you only last night and
here this morning is a letter from you!" Telepathy? Perhaps; perhaps
not. How often does hedream......
The Universal movie White Noise was released in January 2005 in the UK.It concerns the still little known paranormal occurrence of EVP, or electronic voice phenomena, in which discarnate voices are captured, at least for the purposes of the film, through the medium of ‘white noise’, the soft, swishing sound that one finds – or could find before the airwaves filled up – at an inter-frequency position on the radio, or on the static-filled screen of a detuned television where distorted, ghostly faces sometimes appear.In the film, Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, whose wife Linda suffers a sudden, mysterious death.
Later, Jonathan is contacted by a man who claims tobe receiving and
recording messages from the dead, including some from Linda herself.
Initially sceptical, Jonathan soon becomes obsessed by his need to
communicate with Linda and starts making his own EVP recordings.
usual in Hollywood treatments of paranormal phenomena like EVP, there
is a dark side: some of the messages appear to be premonitions from
beyond, and before long it is clear that meddling with such matters may
be a dangerous business – and that we might end up experiencing more
than just messages from departed loved ones. As the trailer has it (cue
deep, gravelly voice): “If they can come through… who else can come
through?” While the film’s
treatment of EVP is not all sensationalism and spookiness, the horror
movie approach (as well as the ads on the sides of buses shrieking:
“They want to get hold of you!”) may serve to scare some people off the
subject, orperhaps convince them that EVP as a phenomenon was ‘made in
the USA’ like Coca Cola and gas-guzzling cars. This, of course, is not
The Prehistory of EVP
In the 30 October 1920 issue of Scientific American, Thomas Alva Edison
(below), America’s most celebrated inventor – whose track record
included electric light, the phonograph and moving pictures – wrote as
“If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical and
scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect and other
faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this Earth. Therefore, if
personality exists after what we call death, it is reasonable to
conclude that those who leave this Earth would like to communicate with
those they have left here… I am inclined to believe that our
personality hereafter will be able to affect matter. If thisreasoning