Throughout the years, the most common question I have been asked is 'What is a Ghost?', and often my reply is not a straight forward one. A 'ghost' can be interpreted as so many different things. For those that are devout, a ghost is simply thought of as a holy spirit that is a son of God, The Father and to have a body of spirit. The third person of the Trinity. During medieval times, ghosts were often thought to be spirits that brought warning of death or disaster as well as apparitions thought to be closely associated with the Devil and demonic forces.
During the early 1900s a ghost was often thought to be a spiritual manifestation which resembled misty or smokey transparent figures, sometimes seen to be cowelled or even with a white sheet over them. This of course was just a fashionable interetation of a ghost which helped support the belief in many fake photographs of the time.
During the 1940's and 50's television once again managed to fashion a visual interpretation of a ghost as a white sheet covered phantom which was introduced to childrens cartoons and the odd spooky movie. This fashion was probably due to the difficulty of how to visually interpret a ghost on screen using simple methods of filming. As we head into more recent times ghostly apparitions were to take on a much wider range, such as floating figures, phantom hounds and even on occasion solid looking as if they were a real person.
Early paranormal investigators thought that such experiences were spiritual and such debates brought about many spiritual groups that would often gather in hope of obtaining spiritual communication and the sighting of a ghostly manifistation. It was also thought that all living things that are thought to have a soul could in someway return as a ghostly interpretation of their living selves. This was quickly dismissed due to the many reported sightings of ghost ships, trains, horse drawn coaches and even phantom bombers.
Today, a sighting of a 'Ghost' could in fact be almost anything. Psychologists will argue that reported incidents are simply psychological in nature, be it a crisis apparition, which is thought to be a visual / audible hallucination at the time of grief. It is written and speculated that a person who is traumatised through grief can experience such a hallucination. There are also those who hallucinate during hypnogogia, a state between wake and sleep. In fact there are many reasons why a person may have a hallucination, be it drug induced through medication, sleep deprivation, psychological disorders, deseases of the eye, lack of hydration, so on and so on. Its surprising considering that there are so many rational explanations, why anyone would even believe ghosts are real.
But that's exactly it! In many cases, its often down to what the witnesses believe. During a controlled experiment carried out by SEP - The Scientific Establishment of Parapsychology, several students were asked to stay over in a haunted house. The students were given prior knowledge of paranormal events that had taken place there and the expectation of witnessing an apparition. Over a period of five hours students reported seeing a dark figure, a shadowy apparition, and a sighting of an old man. In fact, some of them even reported the sensation of being touched. Of course, the location was not haunted nor had anything ever been reported there. The experiment was to examine how our perceptions can be altered.
So..., if you think there's a ghost, you could in fact convince yourself you have seen or felt one. Coming from a parapsychological background, I would have to agree with the psychologists that many sightings of ghosts could be down to our own psychology and perception.
But!.... and this is a Big But! What about those that have shared experiences, when three or four people report having the same experience? What about some of the video and photographic evidence people have provided? What about those rare cases where there is psysiological evidence? No matter how much you read, no matter how many times you interview people. It all boils down to what you believe.
There does seem to be good evidence against and in support of such ghostly sightings be them psychological or a real genuine phenomenon!
Steve Mera BSc.