Do you believe in ghosts? The many thousands of reports from all over the world leave little
doubt that haunting experiences are quite real. But what causes them and why?
shows and documentaries sensationalizing them. You have probably seen rare photos of them
and have likely heard of first-hand ghostly encounters from friends and relatives. I receive dozens of
reports from readers every month. Perhaps you have even seen a ghost yourself.
But what are ghosts? I'll give you the answer straight out: No one knows for certain.
There are, however, many 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. And there appear to be
several types of ghosts or hauntings, and more than one theory may be needed to explain them all.
Here are a few.
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. 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."
Ghosts exist in a kind of limbo in which they haunt the scenes of their deaths or locations that were
pleasant to them in life. Very often, these types of ghosts are able to interact with the living. They
are, on some level, aware of the living and react to being seen on the occasions that they materialize.
Some psychics claim to be able to communicate with them. And when they do, they often try to help
these spirits to understand that they are dead and to move on to the next stage of their existence.
Residual Hauntings or Recordings
Some ghosts appear to be mere recordings on the environment in which they once existed. A civil war
soldier is seen on repeated occasions staring out a window at a house where he once stood guard. A
dead child's laughter is heard echoing in a hallway where she often played. There are even cases of
ghost cars and trains that can still be heard and sometimes seen, even though they are long gone.
These types of ghosts do not interact with or seem to be aware of the living. Their appearance and
actions are always the same. They are like spirit-level recordings - residual energies - that replay over
and over again.
"A traumatic moment in time leaves an indelible impression on the building or area," says Strange Nation
in "What Is a Ghost?," "replaying itself for eternity. This could be anything from a 'glimpse of the
past' - a recreation of some traumatic or emotion-laden event - to footsteps up and down a hallway."
What causes these recordings to be made and how and why they are played back is a mystery. "How
and why past events are recorded and replayed repetitiously is not understood,"Whatever the actual
mechanism, it apparently possesses longevity as the encore performances of a haunting can continue
for decades or longer. Generally, the haunting is a fragment or portion of an actual event."
These kinds of ghosts may be the most common. These spirits usually appear shortly after their deaths
to people close to them. They are aware of their deaths and can interact with the living. They most
often bring messages of comfort to their loved ones, to say that they are well and happy, and not to
grieve for them. These ghosts appear briefly and usually only once. It is as if they intentionally return
with their messages for the express purpose of helping the living cope with their loss.
"This category commonly involves one-time visits to someone with whom the apparition has close
emotional ties," Paranormal Investigations, call these ghosts "crisis apparitions." "Though the
encounter usually seems to be a type of farewell, sometimes important and useful information is
relayed to the 'viewer.' Though dying is the most common crisis, other life-threatening situations can
also trigger apparitional visits."
This type of haunting is the most feared by people because it has the greatest ability to affect our
physical world. Poltergeists are blamed for unexplained noises, such as wall-banging, rapping,
footsteps and even music. They take our possessions and hide them, only to return them later. They
turn on faucets, slam doors, turn lights on and off, and flush toilets. They throw things across rooms.
They have been known to pull on people's clothing or hair. The malevolent ones even slap and scratch
the living. It is because of these sometimes "mean-spirited" manifestations that poltergeists are
considered by some investigators to be demonic in nature.
Other investigators, however, believe that poltergeist activity is not caused by ghosts at all, but by
certain living people under stress. "During a poltergeist experience, in an attempt to relieve emotional
stress, unknowingly causes the physical disturbances using mental forces. The mental mechanism that
allows the poltergeist agent to unconsciously cause these physical disturbances is called psychokinesis."
The skeptics' point of view - if they are willing to admit there is anything to haunting experiences at all
- is that they are all in our minds, or are products of our own minds. Ghosts, they say, are psychological
phenomena: 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 skeptics, just the
conjurings of powerful imaginations.
Are there such things as ghosts? The phenomena of ghosts and hauntings are very real experiences. It
is their true cause and nature that is the ongoing mystery.