Do you believe in ghosts? Yes? You are not alone. Ghosts are among the most widely believed paranormal phenomenon, and many cultures worldwide believe in spirits surviving death to live on in another realm.
Sometimes called an apparition, haunt, phantom, poltergeist, shade, specter, spirit, spook, or wraith, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to living beings. Spiritualists believe that a person’s personality traits – such as ego and intellect – carry on in another plane of existence after death. This is what is commonly referred to when talking about ghosts. Descriptions of ghosts vary from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible nebulous shapes, to realistic, lifelike visions.
A number of surveys conducted in recent years have shown that a considerable percentage of the population believes in ghosts. A 2013 Harris Poll found that 43 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, while a 2013 poll carried out in the United Kingdom found that the percentage of respondents saying they believed in ghosts was similarly high – 52 percent.
Ghosts are normally described as singular, human-like essences, though sightings of ghostly armies and the ghosts of animals rather than humans have also been recorded. These sightings are believed to haunt particular locations, objects, or people they were linked to in life.
Belief in the afterlife, as well as manifestations of the spirits of the dead are widespread, and date back to pre-literate cultures. Many people who believe in the afterlife take comfort in knowing there is a place where they can be with their family and loved ones after death.
Many factors can influence whether a person becomes a ghost:
- What that person has done during his or her life – ghosts often have unfulfilled goals or dreams, or emotions such as resentment or guilt. They may remain behind because they did not accomplish what they wanted and seek to influence the living to try and reach some sort of satisfaction. However, many ghosts can go centuries without achieving their goal
- Personality and emotions – those who become ghosts are often angry, sad or emotional, and are not able to move on from disappointments or heartbreaks
- Manner of death – most ghosts experienced unnatural, sudden deaths, such as murder or a freak accident
- Lack of religious service – ghosts can haunt the living if their death was unrecognized or unacknowledged. If the person did not have a proper burial, he or she can feel trapped on this plane
Excessive worldly desires and constantly thinking ill about others may culminate in a person becoming a ghost. This is also dependent on how much the trait is ingrained and how often it has manifested. The basic rule is that negative personalities attract negativity and are fueled by ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.) with or without their knowledge.
People have tried to communicate with spirits for hundreds of years. It was once fashionable in Victorian England for upper-class ladies to hold séances in their parlors. Ghost clubs dedicated to searching for ghostly evidence were formed at prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, and the Society for Psychical Research was established in 1882. Eleanor Sidgwick was an investigator, and later president, of that group, and is considered to be the original female ghostbuster. In America during the late 1800s, many psychic mediums claimed to speak to the dead, but were later exposed as frauds by skeptical investigators such as Harry Houdini.
Today, paranormal investigators use several creative methods to detect the presence of spirits. These often include psychics. Nearly all paranormal investigators claim to be scientific, and most portray that image because they use high-tech equipment such as Electromagnetic Field (EMF) detectors, ion detectors, infrared cameras and highly sensitive microphones. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) are sounds found on electronic recordings from voice recorders that are interpreted as spirit voices that have been either unintentionally recorded or intentionally requested and recorded.
Some investigators take photographs of places they think are haunted. When examining the photos, you can sometimes see little balls of light, or “orbs.” These are not visible to the human eye when the shutter is depressed, but are evident in pictures. It is believed that these orbs are spirits. I will be looking at these and other methods of contacting the dead in a separate feature.
Seeing a ghost is a rare occurrence, but people who have come into contact with them report feeling sensations such as unexplained cold or dampness, or a sense of dread or sadness. Many people have seen shadows or shapes out of the corner of their eye, only to have them disappear when they turn to look. You may be one of those people who are not afraid of such a paranormal experience, but did you ever stop to wonder what kind of ghostly apparition you encountered?
There are many different kinds of ghosts, but the four main common types of hauntings – residual, intelligent, poltergeist and demonic – can be quite different and each type will be covered in separate features.
Click HERE for Part Two of “The Haunted Pen’s Guide to Ghosts” which is a list (with definitions) of supernatural phenomena that exist.