No, proof is there to support that fact. In fact people are confused about so many things in ghost. Can they go through materials? Are they invisible to us? It all just speculation. With Internet and apps like photoshop, anything is possible to show these days. So that creates the confusion. Then there is this American TV show called ‘Ghost hunter’ and his many copy cats and spin offs – only added fuel to the fire. People have huge misconception about energy that exists in people’s bodies. In reality, things are way more complex. For example, when a person dies there is no energy is relised from the body. According to the physics, energy is always transformed into other kinds of energy like friction – heat – sound – light etc. So there is no chance that some kind of energy that is moving around from place to place and hunting people. That is just people’s fear and insecurities and even if some mystery out there that is yet to be discovered then this whole ghost theory is far too simple to be real. Actually, because it is complex and completely different from ghost theory, that is why it is yet to be discovered and that is if there is something like that is out there. That is a big if.
Anyway the following are the examples of recent studies by the scientists –
6 Scientific Explanations for Ghosts
OCTOBER 26, 2015
A surprising number of people believe in ghosts. A 2014 UK surveyfound that 52 percent of participants believed in the supernatural. A 2015 survey by Chapman University found that more than 40 percent of Americans believe places can be haunted by spirits. However, there may be a more scientific basis to things that go bump in the night than a restless afterlife.
Here are six logical explanations for that ghostly presence in your house:
1. ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS
For decades, a Canadian neuroscientist named Michael Persinger has been studying the effects of electromagnetic fields on people’s perceptions of ghosts, hypothesizing that pulsed magnetic fields, imperceptible on a conscious level, can make people feel as if there is a “presence” in the room with them by causing unusual activity patterns in the brain’s temporal lobes. Persinger has studied people in his lab wearing a so-called “God Helmet,” finding that certain patterns of weak magnetic fields over someone’s head for 15 to 30 minutes can create the perception that there’s an invisible presence in the room.
Some subsequent research has pushed back on this theory, arguing that people were responding to the suggestion that they would feel a ghostly presence, rather than to the electromagnetic field. However, Persinger counters that this experiment followed very different protocols than his own research. Other scientists have also found that environments that have a reputation for being haunted often feature unusual magnetic fields.
Infrasound is sound at levels so low humans can’t hear it (though other animals, like elephants, can). Low frequency vibrations can cause distinct physiological discomfort. Scientists studying the effects of wind turbines and traffic noise near residences have found that low-frequency noise can cause disorientation, feelings of panic, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and other effects that could easily be associated with being visited by a ghost [PDF]. For instance, in a 1998 paper on natural causes of hauntings [PDF], engineer Vic Tandy describes working for a medical equipment manufacturer, whose labs included a reportedly haunted room. Whenever Tandy worked in this particular lab, he felt depressed and uncomfortable, often hearing and seeing odd things—including an apparition that definitely looked like a ghost. Eventually, he discovered that the room was home to an 19 Hz standing wave coming from a fan, which was sending out the inaudible vibrations that caused the disorienting effects. Further studiesalso show links between infrasound and bizarre sensations like getting chills down the spine or feeling uneasy.
Shane Rogers, an engineering professor at Clarkson University, has spent the past few months touring reportedly haunted locations looking for not-so-paranormal activity: mold growth. Preliminary research indicates that some molds can cause symptoms that sound pretty ghostly—like irrational fear and dementia. “I’ve watched a lot of ghost shows,” he tells mental_floss, and began to wonder “if there’s some kind of link there, where we might be able to explain why people are having these feelings.” So far in the data collection process, “it’s hard to say whether that’s a contributing factor or not, but anecdotally we are seeing these [toxic molds] exist in places that are haunted.”
4. CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
In 1921, a doctor named W.H. Wilmer published an odd story about a haunted house in the medical journal the American Journal of Ophthalmology. The family who lived in this haunted residence, called the H family in the medical literature, began experiencing weird phenomena when they moved into an old house—hearing furniture moving around and strange voices in the night, feeling the presence of invisible specters. They report being held down in bed by ghosts, feeling weak, and more. As it turned out, a faulty furnace was filling their house with carbon monoxide, causing aural and visual hallucinations. The furnace was fixed, and the H family went back to their lives, sans ghosts.
5. SOMEONE ELSE SAID IT WAS REAL.
In a 2014 study, Goldsmiths, University of London psychologists had participants watch a video of a “psychic” supposedly bending a metal key with his mind. In one condition, study subjects watched the video with a “participant” who was actually working with the researchers and professed to see the key bending. Those subjects were more likely to report that they saw the key bend than subjects who were paired with someone who asserted that the key didn’t bend or said nothing. “One person’s account can influence another person’s memory,” study co-author Christopher French tells mental_floss. If someone else confidently asserts that they saw the ghost, it might influence a fellow eye-witness to believe they saw it, too.
6. WE WANT TO BELIEVE.
“There is a motivational side to belief in ghosts,” French explains. “We all want to believe in life after death. The idea of our mortality is one we are not generally comfortable with.” Confirmation bias holds powerful sway over our perceptions. “We find it much easier to believe evidence for something we want to believe anyway,” he says.
How Urban Legends Like ‘The Licked Hand’ Are Born
OCTOBER 16, 2017
If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.
These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or “The Licked Hand” make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillistrecently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.
In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.
A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.
You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.
Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.
If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.
The Legend (and Truth) of the Voodoo Priestess Who Haunts a Louisiana Swamp
OCTOBER 14, 2017
The Manchac wetlands, about a half hour northwest of New Orleans, are thick with swamp ooze. In the summer the water is pea-green, covered in tiny leaves and crawling with insects that hide in the shadows of the ancient, ghost-gray cypress trees. The boaters who enter the swamps face two main threats, aside from sunstroke and dehydration: the alligators, who mostly lurk just out of view, and the broken logs that float through the muck, remnants of the days when the swamp was home to the now-abandoned logging town of Ruddock.
But some say that anyone entering the swamp should beware a more supernatural threat—the curse of local voodoo queen Julia Brown. Brown, sometimes also called Julie White or Julia Black, is described in local legend as a voodoo priestess who lived at the edge of the swamp and worked with residents of the town of Frenier. She was known for her charms and her curses, as well as for singing eerie songs with her guitar on her porch. One of the most memorable (and disturbing) went: “One day I’m going to die and take the whole town with me.”
Back when Brown was alive at the turn of the 20th century, the towns of Ruddock, Frenier, and Napton were prosperous settlements clustered on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, sustained by logging the centuries-old cypress trees and farming cabbages in the thick black soil. The railroad was the towns’ lifeline, bringing groceries from New Orleans and hauling away the logs and cabbages as far as Chicago. They had no roads, no doctors, and no electricity, but had managed to carve out cohesive and self-reliant communities.
That all changed on September 29, 1915, when a massive hurricane swept in from the Caribbean. In Frenier, where Julia lived, the storm surge rose 13 feet, and the winds howled at 125 miles an hour. Many of the townsfolk sought refuge in the railroad depot, which collapsed and killed 25 people. Altogether, close to 300 people in Louisiana died, with almost 60 in Frenier and Ruddock alone. When the storm cleared on October 1, Frenier, Ruddock, and Napton had been entirely destroyed—homes flattened, buildings demolished, and miles of railway tracks washed away. One of the few survivors later described how he’d clung to an upturned cypress tree and shut his ears against the screams of those drowning in the swamp.
The hurricane seemed to come out of nowhere. But if you listen to the guides who take tourists into the Manchac swamp, the storm was the result of the wrath of Julia Brown. Brown, they say, laid a curse on the town because she felt taken for granted—a curse that came true when the storm swept through on the day of her funeral and killed everyone around. On certain tours, the guides take people past a run-down swamp graveyard marked “1915”—it’s a prop, but a good place to tell people that Brown’s ghost still haunts the swamp, as do the souls of those who perished in the hurricane. The legend of Julia Brown has become the area’s most popular ghost story, spreading to paranormal shows and even Reddit, where some claim to have seen Brown cackling at the edge of the water.
After I visited the swamp earlier this year and heard Julia Brown’s story, I got curious about separating fact from fiction. It turns out Julia Brown was a real person: Census records suggest she was born Julia Bernard in Louisiana around 1845, then married a laborer named Celestin Brown in 1880. About 20 years later, the federal government gave her husband a 40-acre homestead plot to farm, property that likely passed on to Julia after her husband’s death around 1914.
Official census and property records don’t make any mention of Brown’s voodoo work, but that’s not especially surprising. A modern New Orleans voodoo priestess, Bloody Mary, told Mental Floss she has found references to a voodoo priestess or queen by the name of Brown who worked in New Orleans around the 1860s before moving out to Frenier. Mary notes that because the towns had no doctors, Brown likely served as the local healer (or traiteur, a folk healer in Louisiana tradition) and midwife, using whatever knowledge and materials she could find to care for local residents.
Brown’s song is documented, too. An oral history account from long-time area resident Helen Schlosser Burgrecords that “Aunt Julia Brown … always sat on her front porch and played her guitar and sang songs that she would make up. The words to one of the songs she sang said that one day, she would die and everything would die with her.”
There’s even one newspaper account from 1915 that describes Brown’s funeral on the day of the storm. In the words of the New Orleans Times-Picayune from October 2, 1915 (warning: offensive language ahead):
Many pranks were played by wind and tide. Negroes had gathered for miles around to attend the funeral of ‘Aunt’ Julia Brown, an old negress who was well known in that section, and was a big property owner. The funeral was scheduled … and ‘Aunt’ Julia had been placed in her casket and the casket in turn had been placed in the customary wooden box and sealed. At 4 o’clock, however, the storm had become so violent that the negroes left the house in a stampede, abandoning the corpse. The corpse was found Thursday and so was the wooden box, but the casket never has been found.
Bloody Mary, however, doesn’t think Brown laid any kind of curse on the town. “Voodoo isn’t as much about curses as it is about healing,” she says. The locals she has spoken to remember Julia as a beloved local healer, not a revengeful type. In fact, Mary suggests that Julia’s song may have been more warning to the townsfolk than a curse against them. Perhaps Brown even tried to perform an anti-storm ritual and was unable to stop the hurricane before it was too late. Whatever she did, Mary says, it wasn’t out of malevolence. And if she’s still in the swamp, you have less to fear from her than from the alligators.
There’s a fascinating psychological reason behind your belief in ghosts
Oct. 23, 2015, 2:55 PM 37,607
Halloween is a time to celebrate ghosts, vampires, and everything supernatural.
But if you truly believe in ghosts, you’re not alone.
According to a Gallup survey from 2005, about three out of four Americans harbor at least one paranormal belief. More than a third of people surveyed also said they believed in ghosts or spirits returning from the dead. Another 37% reported believing in haunted houses, and a whopping 41% in extrasensory perception (ESP).
But just what makes us susceptible to these beliefs, despite an utter lack of evidence that they’re real?
It’s how our brains are wired
Part of the reason many of us believe in ghosts simply comes down to the way our brains work, Barry Markovsky, a sociologist at the University of South Carolina, told Business Insider.
The human mind seeks patterns to make sense of ambiguous information. “Ghosts are almost always seen under ambiguous circumstances – such as in poor lighting, or when we’re just waking up or falling asleep, when our senses are not at their peak function,” Markovsky said.
People who believe in ghosts are often in situations where they’re expecting to see them, such as in a “haunted” house, Markovsky added. In other words, if you’re looking for something, you’re more likely to find it.
“Humans are hardwired to seek out explanations for what happens around us,” Radford adds.
It’s related to belief in life after death
A wide variety of supernatural beliefs exist in different cultures, but ghosts are by far the most common one, Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and author of “Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries,” told Business Insider.
Part of the reason for this is that believing in ghosts may be related to a belief in the afterlife, a tenet of most major religions.Believing in the supernatural also has its roots in our desire to have control over our world, Radford explained. After all, a world where random things happen is a scary one.
Another Gallup poll found that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of people surveyed believed in witchcraft, and those who did tended to rate themselves as less happy than nonbelievers. And a 2008 study found that lonely people are more likely to believe in the supernatural.
Some seek the thrill of it
Of course, another reason people believe in ghosts is the same reason that people like to watch scary movies or play Bloody Mary in girls’ bathrooms: for the thrill of it.
There’s a word for buying into these scary stories: legend-tripping. Basically, people do this because they know they’re not in any real danger, Radford said.
But there’s a contradiction at the heart of our belief in ghosts. One the one hand, there’s the idea that ghosts are scary and wish to do us harm, but on the other, there are people who go looking for ghosts.
Many ghost hunters see themselves as “traffic cops for the afterlife,” Radford said. Instead of believing ghosts to be evil, they think of them as spirits that have simply gotten lost on the way to the hereafter.
As Radford put it, “If you’re genuinely terrified of ghosts and think they could kill you, why the [heck] would you go looking for them?”
Of course, movies and TV shows about ghost-hunting, which are often presented with very little skepticism, aren’t helpful.
It’s all good fun, but as Radford said, “Don’t believe everything you see on TV!”
Psychology: The truth about the paranormal
In the 21st Century, why do so many people still believe in the paranormal? David Robson discovers that there’s good reason we hold superstitions – and a few surprising benefits
31 October 2014
Soon after World War II, Winston Churchill was visiting the White House when he is said to have had an uncanny experience. Having had a long bath with a Scotch and cigar, he reportedly walked into the adjoining bedroom – only to be met by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Unflappable, even while completely naked, Churchill apparently announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.
His supposed contact with the supernatural puts Churchill in illustrious company. Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums, while Alan Turing believed in telepathy. Three men who were all known for their razor-sharp thinking, yet couldn’t stop themselves from believing in the impossible. You may well join them. According to recent surveys, as many as three quarters of Americans believe in the paranormal, in some form, while nearly one in five claim to have actually seen a ghost.
Intrigued by these persistent beliefs, psychologists have started to look at why some of us can’t shake off old superstitions and folk-lore. Their findings may suggest some hidden virtues to believing in the paranormal. At the very least, it should cause you to question whether you hold more insidious beliefs about the world.
Some paranormal experiences are easily explainable, based on faulty activity in the brain. Reports of poltergeists invisibly moving objects seem to be consistent with damage to certain regions of the right hemisphere that are responsible for visual processing; certain forms of epilepsy, meanwhile, can cause the spooky feeling that a presence is stalking you close by – perhaps underlying accounts of faceless “shadow people” lurking in the surroundings.
Out-of-body experiences, meanwhile, are now accepted neurological phenomena, while certain visual illusions could confound the healthy brain and create mythical beings. For example, one young Italian psychologist looked in the mirror one morning to find a grizzled old man staring back at him. His later experiments confirmed that the illusion is surprisingly common when you look at your reflection in the half light, perhaps because the brain struggles to construct the contours of your face, so it begins to try to fill in the missing information – even if that leads to the appearance of skulls, old hags or hideous animals.
So any combination of exhaustion, drugs, alcohol, and tricks of the light could contribute to single, isolated sightings, like that reported by Churchill. But what about the experiences of people like Conan Doyle, who seemed to see other-worldly actions on a day-to-day basis?
Psychologists studying religion have long suspected that a belief in the paranormal can be a kind of shield from the even harsher truths of the world. The idea is that when something unexpected happens – a death, natural disaster, or job loss – the brain scrambles around for answers, looking for meaning in the chaos. “It’s such an aversive state that if it can’t gain control objectively, we will get it by perceiving more structures around us, even if they don’t exist,” says Jennifer Whitson at the University of Texas, who studies pattern perception, and judgment and decision making. Even simply asking people to remember a time when they felt out of control, can make people see illusory forces at work, she has found. That included seeing patterns in the random movements of the stock market, for example, but it could also manifest itself by linking two unconnected events, such as the belief that “knocking on wood” for good luck would improve your chances in a job interview.
Anthropomorphism is another common way that we try to understand events, says Adam Waytz at Northwestern University in Illinois. So we might think that a spirit lies behind a storm or that a demon is causing us to get ill – rather than acknowledging that we have no control over the matter; and if a branch is tapping on your window, you might be more inclined to imagine that it is a ghost sending you a message. “We create beliefs in ghosts, because we don’t like believing that the universe is random,” says Waytz. Again, this seems to be more common when we feel less control over our lives.
Given these strange turns of the mind, might some people be naturally inclined to see hidden patterns and motives, and could this explain why they are more superstitious than others? It is a question that Tapani Riekki at the University of Helsinki in Finland has tried to answer for the last few years. He says that believers often welcome his research, since they genuinely can’t understand why others don’t share their worldview. “They say that ’I don’t see why other people don’t feel what I feel, or believe what I believe’,” he says.
Riekki recently asked sceptics and believers to view simple animations of moving shapes, while lying in a brain scanner. He found paranormal believers were more likely to see some kind of intention behind the movements – as if the shapes were playing a game of “tag”, say – and this was reflected in greater brain activity in the regions normally associated with “theory of mind” and understanding others’ motives. Riekki has also found that people who believe in the supernatural are more likely to see hidden faces in everyday photos – a finding confirmed by another team at the University of Amsterdam, who showed that paranormal believers are more likely to imagine that they had seen a walking figure in random light displays.
Added to this, Riekki has found that believers may have weaker cognitive “inhibition”, compared to sceptics. That’s the skill that allows you to quash unwanted thoughts, so perhaps we are all spooked by strange coincidences and patterns from time to time, but sceptics are better at pushing them aside. Riekki gives the example of someone who is thinking about their mother, only for her to call two minutes later. “Is it just that sceptics can laugh and say it is just coincidence, and then think of something else?” he wonders. Significantly, another paper reported that paranormal believers also tend to have greater confidence in their decisions, even when they are based on ambiguous information. So once they have latched onto the belief, you might be less likely to let it go.
Even so, most researchers agree that sceptics shouldn’t be too critical of people who harbour these beliefs. After all, one study has found that various superstitions can boost your performance in a range of skills. In one trial,bringing their favourite lucky charm into a memory test significantly improved subjects’ recall, since it seemed to increase their confidence in their own abilities. Another experiment tested the subjects’ golf putting ability. Telling them that they were using a “lucky” ball meant they were more likely to score than those simply using any old ball. Even something as simple as saying “break a leg” or “I’ll keep my fingers for you” improved the participants’ motor dexterity and their ability to solve anagrams.
And even if you think you are immune, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of suggestion. Michael Nees at the Lafayette College in Pennsylvania recently asked a group of students to listen to sound recordings from US ghost-hunting shows. Subtly priming the volunteers with the thought that they were involved in a paranormal study increased the number of voices they reported hearing in the fuzzy recordings – despite the fact that they mostly reported being sceptics. It seems that the merest expectation of hearing something spooky can set your mind whirring.
Whitson’s research, meanwhile, shows how easy it is for us all to imagine strange happenings when we feel unsettled. Her latest experiment found that even priming someone with a feeling of hope – normally considered a positive emotion – can still increase people’s belief in the supernatural, or conspiracy theories. The reason, she says, is that hope is still full of uncertainty; it makes you question the future, compared to a feeling like anger where you might be surer of your righteousness.
And if you tell yourself that you have reasoned yourself out of superstitions and ghost stories, you might still harbour other beliefs that are equally fanciful, she says. It could be a full blown conspiracy theory about the government, or just suspicions that your colleagues are ganging up on you, based on a few spurious comments.
We can perhaps see the brain’s ability to “spot” illusory patterns in the response to the Ebola epidemic – such as the emergence of folk remedies (including the belief that drinking salt water is a cure), fears in the West that it will spread through air travel, and theories that it was created by industrialised governments.
“It’s easy to think of yourself as the one holding the rational cards, but it’s wiser to understand that every one of us are going to be prone to those mistakes when we feel like we are lacking control,” says Whitson. “We should all be ready to evaluate our assumptions more thoughtfully.” As Churchill, Turing and Conan Doyle showed us, even the most astute minds can be given to fancy from time to time.
“We create beliefs because we don’t like believing that the universe is random”
10 Scientific Explanations For Ghostly Phenomena
SEPTEMBER 30, 2013
According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 37 percent of Americans believe in haunted houses, and according to a 2013 HuffPost/YouGov poll, 45 percent believe in ghosts. These are surprising numbers, but the next time you hear a spooky sound, don’t call the Ghostbusters—get a scientist instead. Behind every shadow, poltergeist, and disembodied voice, there’s a perfectly rational explanation.
10Electric Stimulation Of The Brain
Frightened witnesses all over the world have seen the shadow people. These dark beings are glimpsed out of the corner of the eye only to vanish when confronted. Many believe them to be demons, some think they’re astral bodies, and some say they’re time travelers, here for a second and gone. However, some researchers have a more shocking theory.
When Swiss scientists electrically stimulated an epileptic patient’s brain, things got really spooky. The patient reported a shadow person sitting behind her, copying her every move. When she sat up, it also sat up. When she bent forward and grabbed her knees, it reached around her body and held her. The doctors then told her to read a card, but the shadow person tried to take it out of her hand.
What happened was the scientists had stimulated the left temporoparietal junction, the part of the brain that defines the idea of self. By interfering with the area that helps us tell the difference between ourselves and others, the doctors screwed up the brain’s ability to understand its own body, thus leading to the creation of a copycat shadow person. Researchers are hoping this is the key to understanding why so many people, both schizophrenic and healthy, encounter shadow beings and other creatures like aliens.
The Spiritualist movement was pretty big in the 1840s and 1850s. It provided a way for people to talk to their dead loved ones. One method of communication was the Ouija board. Still popular today, the board was covered in letters, numbers, and simple words (like “yes” or “no”). People would then place their hands on a wooden piece called a planchette and ask the spirits a question. A ghost would respond by moving the planchette from letter to letter, spelling out a response (or unleashing Captain Howdy).
Another creepy method for interacting with spirits was table tilting. During a séance, people would gather round a table and place their hands on the tabletop. To everyone’s surprise, the table would start moving by itself. It might tilt up on one leg, levitate off the ground or scoot around the room.
Con men were definitely involved in some of these incidents, but were all these encounters frauds? Renowned physicist Michael Faraday wanted to find out. Through clever experimentation, Faraday discovered that the tables were often moving thanks to the ideomotor effect. This is when the power of suggestion causes our muscles to move unconsciously. People expected a table to move so they unintentionally moved it. A similar event took place in 1853 when four doctors held an experimental séance. When they secretly told half the participants the table would move to the right and half it would move left, the table didn’t budge. But when they told everyone it would move in one direction, the ideomotor effect struck again! This same principle applies to the Ouija board. It’s our own muscles that are doing the spelling, not the spirits.
After seeing a gray ghost near his desk, researcher Vic Tandy was worried his laboratory might be haunted. But the next day, Tandy made an interesting discovery. While preparing for a fencing match, Tandy placed his sword in a vise. He then noticed the blade was vibrating on its own. All of a sudden, everything clicked. He realized the force causing his sword to shake was the same force haunting his lab. Vic Tandy was dealing with infrasound.
Humans can hear sounds up to 20,000 Hertz, but we’re unable to detect anything lower than 20 Hz. These “silent” noises are called infrasound, and while we can’t hear them, we can feel them in the form of vibrations. Dr. Richard Wiseman says we can feel these waves, especially in our stomachs, and this can create either a positive feeling (such as awe) or a negative feeling (such as unease). In the right surroundings (see “creepy house”), this might create a sense of panic.
Infrasound can be produced by storms, wind, weather patterns, and even everyday appliances. Returning to Vic Tandy, after witnessing his wobbling sword, he learned that a new fan had been installed in his laboratory, and sure enough, it was issuing vibrations of about 19 Hz. Since our eyeballs have a resonant frequency around 20 Hz, the infrasound was vibrating Tandy’s eyeballs and creating images that weren’t really there. When Tandy turned off the fan, presto: no more ghost.
Similarly, Dr. Wiseman believes these vibrations are responsible for paranormal activity in “haunted” locations. For example, when investigating two underground sites, he discovered evidence of infrasound coming from the traffic overhead. Wiseman thinks this explains the ghostly figures and creepy footsteps in these areas, proving there’s nothing good about these vibrations.
What do witch doctors and Shirley MacLaine have in common? They’re all big into channeling! Channeling is one of mankind’s oldest attempts to reach the spirit world. The idea is to clear the mind, connect with some sort of cosmic consciousness and let a centuries-old spirit possess your body, which doesn’t sound creepy at all. The shamans of ancient religions were believed to channel the dead, TV psychic John Edward says he can speak to those who’ve crossed over, and medium J.Z. Knight claims she channels a spirit named Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old spirit from Atlantis. Obviously, there are quite a few frauds in the channeling community, but what about the people who sincerely believe in what they’re doing?
The answer is automatism, an “altered state of consciousness” where people say things and think things they’re not aware of. So when a psychic clears his mind, he starts searching for a friendly spirit guide. The spirit guide is supposed to enter his body and then provide secret knowledge about the universe. When the psychic clears his mind, random ideas and images start popping up in his head, and the medium assumes these thoughts are coming from another entity. However, these ideas are just coming from his mind. Our brains are capable of coming up with all kinds of crazy stuff without any conscious effort on our part. How many times has something inspired you out of the blue? How many times have you had totally bizarre nightmares or daydreams? That’s not the work of an otherworldly guide. That’s your brain, working overtime all the time.
You’re exploring a creepy, run-down mansion in the middle of the night when suddenly the air grows cold. However, if you take a few steps to the left or right, the temperature returns to normal. This is what parapsychologists call a cold spot. According to ghost hunters, a cold spot is a sign of paranormal activity. When a ghost has nothing better to do than appear out of thin air and scare people to death, it needs energy. So the ghost draws heat from its surroundings (including people) in order to manifest.
However, scientists have a much simpler (and much more boring) explanation. When skeptics investigate “haunted” houses, they usually find cool air entering the house through a chimney or window. But even if the room is sealed off, there’s still a perfectly rational explanation. Every object has its own temperature, and some surfaces are hotter than others. In an attempt to equalize the room temperature, the objects try to lose heat in a process called convection. This is where hot air rises, and cool air drops. Similarly, when dry air enters a humid room, the dry air sinks to the floor and the humid air rises to the ceiling. This swirling air will feel cool against a person’s skin, giving the impression of a cold spot. Next time you feel a ghostly presence, turn on the heater.
Ghost hunters have a love-hate relationship with orbs. These glowing balls of light are supposedly the spirits of people who’ve passed away, but haven’t quite passed on. Invisible to the eye, orbs can only be seen in photographs, and that’s where things get tricky. Skeptic Brian Dunning says when a dust speck or bug is too close to the camera, it will show up in the photo as a blurry, out-of-focus circle. And thanks to the camera flash, the orb will appear to be glowing and is thus mistaken for a ghost. Perfectly reasonable mistake, right?
Even most believers are pretty skeptical about orb photography. While she thinks some real photos exist, parapsychologist Pamela Heath points out several natural causes of orbs such as fine hairs, dirty or wet lenses, lens reflection, or movement during exposure. Many paranormal websites have stopped accepting these photos because they say there are just too many false ones. So thanks to a basic understanding of how technology works, orb photos seem to be giving up the ghost.
4Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In 1921, ophthalmologist William Wilmer published a bizarre paper in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. It told the story of the “H” family and their haunted house. Their hell home was plagued with the sounds of slamming doors, moving furniture and footsteps in empty rooms. One of the children felt something sitting on him while the other was attacked by a mysterious stranger. During the night, the woman of the house awoke to see a man and a woman standing at the foot of her bed, only to watch them vanish moments later. As the hauntings continued, the family grew tired and depressed, and then their plants started to die. It was then they discovered the faulty furnace. The furnace was supposed to send its fumes up the chimney, but instead the gas was pouring into the house. It turns out the family was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas, which makes it really hard to detect. It’s dangerous because our red blood cells absorb CO much easier than they do oxygen, and this oxygen deprivation leads to symptoms such as weakness, nausea, confusion, and eventually death. But before you kick the bucket, you might experience hallucinations, just like the “H” family. For example, in 2005, a woman called the authorities after seeing a spirit in her bathroom. It turned out the paranormal activity was due to her leaky water heater which was filling the house with CO. Bottom line: Stay away from carbon monoxide, folks, because one way or another, it’ll have you seeing ghosts.
In June 2013, over 3,000 workers went on strike at a garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh. They weren’t protesting against long working hours, and they weren’t demanding better wages. They wanted someone to do something about the ghost in the restroom. An angry spirit had attacked a worker in the lady’s room, causing everyone to panic. A riot ensued, and the police had to restore order. A similar event took place at a school in Patong, Phuket when 22 students were hospitalized after seeing the ghost of an old woman. But while the Bangladeshi factory owner ordered an exorcism, perhaps he should have called a counselor instead.
Both the workers and the students experienced a psychological phenomenon known as mass hysteria. These collective delusions occur when people are really stressed out, usually thanks to their oppressive environments (like a strict school or busy workplace). This pent-up stress then turns into physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, or violent spasms. Throw in religious and cultural beliefs, a relatively isolated environment and the always-busy rumor mill, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Other people will “catch” the same strange symptoms, they’ll spread like a disease, and panic ensues.
It’s interesting to note that very few of the 3,000 factory workers actually encountered the ghost. Even the woman who sparked the frenzy didn’t actually see anything. She got sick and just assumed it was the work of an evil spirit, but the suggestion was so powerful and the circumstances were so perfect that everyone freaked out. Fortunately, it didn’t end with human sacrifices or dogs and cats living together.
Unfortunately, real ghost hunters don’t carry proton packs. However, they do use tools such as the ion counter. The ion counter, well, counts ions. An ion is an atom with an uneven amount of protons and electrons. If an atom gains an electron, it becomes a negative ion, and if it loses an electron, it becomes positive.
Ghost hunters go crazy over ions because they supposedly show a paranormal presence. Some say a spirit’s presence interferes with the normal ion count in the atmosphere while others say ghosts draw upon ionic energy when they want to appear and scare people to death. However, ion counters are really pretty lousy when it comes to detecting ghosts. Ions are caused by all kinds of natural phenomena like weather, solar radiation, and radon gas. So it basically comes down to how someone interprets the evidence. Scientists see ions and think, “Natural.” Ghost hunters see ions and think, “Paranormal!”
Interestingly, both positive and negative ions can affect our moods. Negative ions can make us feel calm and relaxed while positive ions can give us headaches and make us feel lousy. This might explain why people who live in “haunted” houses describe feeling tired and tense, as well as having headaches.
Quantum mechanics is the study of the smallest types of matter, and it has led to some pretty awesome inventions. However, it can get pretty weird when physicists start talking about souls and ghosts. Take, for example, Dr. Stuart Hameroff and his physicist friend Roger Penrose. Hameroff and Penrose theorize that human consciousness comes from microtubules inside our brain cells, and these tubules are responsible for quantum processing (our souls basically). Hameroff and Penrose believe when people have a near-death experience, all that quantum information leaves the brain, yet continues to exist, which is why some people report out-of-body experiences and lights at the end of tunnels.
I hope this long answer clears the cloud.