Why People See Ghosts, According to Science

Scientists say there are explanations for
why people see ghosts. Can’t they leave ghosts alone? Believing in ghosts doesn’t hurt anyone, and
in some cases it actually helps people, and also it’s fun. But nooo, scientists can’t resist endlessly
telling us how wrong we are about why people see ghosts. If you’re a believer in the paranormal and
someone tells you that the place you’re about to enter is haunted, you’re more likely to
have a paranormal experience when you walk into that place. That makes sense. It makes so much sense, in fact, that we don’t
really need a study to tell us it’s true, but we got one anyway. In 1997, researchers put 22 people into a
creepy theater and told them to make observations. Half of the subjects were told the theater
was haunted, and the other half were told that it was under construction. Predictably, the half who thought they were
visiting a haunted theater were more likely to report intense perceptual experiences. So those results seem to suggest that paranormal
experiences happen mostly because people have been led to believe they might happen. In 2012, some researchers published a paper
called “Supernatural Agency: Individual Difference Predictors and Situational Correlates” which
suggested that people who have paranormal experiences tend to be more open to the idea
of spiritual experiences in general. It also found that people in threatening environments
are more prone to having non-religious paranormal experiences. In other words, instead of seeing an angel
or talking to God, a person experiencing environmental stress might see a shadow figure or a full-bodied
apparition. That research has been backed up by other
studies, including one that specifically looked at whether stress can cause women to report
paranormal experiences. This study looked at a group of women in a
town in central eastern Turkey, and determined that women who suffered trauma in childhood
or had post-traumatic stress disorder were more likely to say they’d experienced things
like possession, precognition, and extra-sensory perception. In 2006, a neurologist in Switzerland was
attempting to isolate the part of the brain responsible for a 23-year-old woman’s seizures
when he blundered into a strange phenomenon. When he applied current through a certain
part of her brain, she told him she sensed a mysterious, shadowy person standing behind
her. Even more creepy, the shadow person was mimicking
her every time she moved, he would move. Some scholars think that researchers were
simply stimulating the part of the brain that’s responsible for that creepy feeling you sometimes
get that you are being watched or followed by something that isn’t there. But wait, there’s more. Research using a device called “the God helmet,”
which sends magnetic signals to the wearer’s head, showed that a person can be artificially
induced to feel like there is a ghostly presence in the room. In other words, it’s literally all in your
head. You’ve almost certainly seen examples of this
sort of “proof” of the paranormal a photo of an otherwise innocuous person, place or
thing that contains eerie looking balls of light, also known as spirit orbs. Similar manifestations can be seen on your
favorite ghost hunting shows. The orbs that appear in photographs are usually
just specks of dust or pollen, insects, moisture in the air, or something on the camera’s lens. When the photographer engages the flash, these
things reflect the light and create the image of a large, creepy-looking ball of ectoplasm. The phenomena is actually exacerbated by modern
camera design the closer the flash is to the camera’s lens, the easier it will be for the
light to reflect off of particles in the air, and the more likely it is that the camera
will capture something that can be mistaken for a ghost. Paranormal investigators often talk about
“cold spots,” but haunted houses do tend to be old and old buildings do tend to be drafty. However, according to party-pooper scientists,
cold spots are probably a natural phenomenon. When researchers actually try to find a reason
for a temperature change, it can usually be traced to something like a chimney or a drafty
window. The sensation of a sudden drop in temperature
can also be related to a drop in humidity. Although it’s also been suggested that paranormal
experiences people have could have something to do with natural phenomena like magnetic
fields and lighting levels. Either way, it’s a lot less exciting than
ghosts. “So this place isn’t haunted?” “It rarely is. There’s usually some sort of rational explanation.” If you’ve ever fallen asleep in front of the
tv, you may have experienced a phenomenon known as “sleep paralysis.” When you experience sleep paralysis, you’ll
be deep in the REM dream state, but then you’ll half-wake and experience a sort of hybrid
state of consciousness, where you’re still experiencing dreamlike hallucinations. And just so the whole thing will be that much
more terrifying, you also won’t be able to move. Paralysis is actually necessary for safe REM
sleep it happens mostly so you won’t punch your spouse in the face while acting out your
fighting dreams. But when you experience it in a state of near-wakefulness,
it can be really scary. Add a few dream demons to the mix, and it
can feel like a genuine paranormal experience. Sleep paralysis is actually common about 8
percent of us will report experiencing it at least once and for some people, it’s a
regular thing. But those feelings of a ghost at the end of
the bed are just a feature of sleep paralysis, they aren’t really paranormal visitations. Similar to sleep paralysis, exploding head
syndrome is a condition that happens to you while you’re sleeping. The experience usually goes like this: You’re
nodding off and suddenly you could swear you just heard a massive explosion or a huge crash
somewhere in your house. So what’s the deal? Maybe you’re hearing the paranormal echoes
of something terrible that happened in the distant past? Or maybe it’s just exploding head syndrome. You may have actually experienced this phenomenon,
but the name for it is still pretty new. It was coined by a neurologist named JMS Pearce,
who seems to think it’s caused by a sort of syncing error in the brain. As you’re drifting off to sleep, your body
starts shutting down things like muscles, eyes, and ears. When you suddenly hear a phantom “bang” during
this process, it might be because the part of your brain that’s in charge of shutting
down all those functions gets a little mixed up. Instead of shutting down all the auditory
neurons, it just fires them all at once instead. People who have lost close family members
often report having paranormal experiences, especially in those early stages of grief. These could include vivid dreams of being
visited by their deceased loved one, or feelings of being watched over, or even fleeting images
of the person who died. According to the BBC, science thinks it can
explain these experiences by calling them “coping strategies” of the grieving brain. The theory is that it’s easier to accept the
passing of a loved one if you think that person still exists in some form, than it is it to
just believe that the person is gone forever. So the brain invents these spiritual encounters
with the deceased person as a way of easing those feelings of grief. “Why would I want to see my Carl like that?” “Because it’s better than never seeing him
again.” If your once-peaceful house suddenly seems
to be haunted, it might not necessarily be a ghost, and it might not be you, either. In fact, it could potentially be something
really lethal, like a malfunctioning furnace. So before you call an exorcist, make sure
your carbon monoxide alarms are working and if they’re not, get out and don’t return until
your utility company says its safe to. In the 1920s, the Journal of Ophthalmology
documented the strange case of a couple who believed they were living in a haunted house. The woman reported hearing footsteps and the
sound of someone pushing furniture around, even though there was no one else there. She also felt like she was being followed
around the house, and at one point she woke to see two apparitions at the foot of her
bed. The couple spoke to doctors but it wasn’t
until they had experts look at the house that they discovered the real cause of the haunting:
A carbon monoxide leak in the furnace, which was bad enough to cause hallucinations but
not quite bad enough to cause death. So if you’ve ever wondered if ghosts can kill,
yes they can. Or at least, the carbon monoxide that makes
you hallucinate ghosts can certainly kill you. If you haven’t changed the batteries in your
CO alarm in a while, now would be a good time to do that. So your house is clearly haunted and you’ve
already swapped out your CO alarm batteries and then you tossed your CO alarm and got
a new one and ghosts are still throwing your stuff around and hoovering creepily in doorways. Well, it might still be poison-induced hallucinations,
just a different kind of poison. Some researchers think there may be a link
between the mold that tends to grow in dark, creepy places and the paranormal experiences
people say they have in those places. This is of particular interest to Shane Rogers,
who is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson University. He cites a 2009 study which showed that certain
types of mold can cause problems like delirium, movement disorders, and issues with balance
and coordination. From there, it’s not a huge leap to think
that maybe mold could also cause the sorts of hallucinations that make people think they’re
seeing ghosts. So in 2015, Rogers and a team of researchers
set out to find out if their hunch might be correct. That’s been a few years ago now, and we’re
still waiting patiently for the results of Rogers’ research. If you’re starting to think that some of these
scientific explanations sound only slightly less outlandish than “it’s a spirit trapped
on the corporeal plane,” here’s another theory that seems a bit out there. According to ProSoundWeb, ghosts could be
low frequency illusions caused by “standing waves.” In basic terms, it’s when low-frequency sound
creates a ghostly apparition. So how does that happen, exactly? Well, the author of the article had an experience
involving a fencing sword and a fan — the fan was emitting a low-frequency sound that
made the sword vibrate, and was evidently also making him feel like he was being watched. Even stranger, he also saw an apparition. Infrasound, which is sound below the normal
range that humans can hear, can cause physical and emotional sensations like feelings of
dread. It isn’t just fans that create infrasound,
it’s also things like ocean waves, vibrating pipes, and even some animals like whales and
elephants. When the sound happens at just the right frequency,
it can also make the eyes vibrate, which explains why some people who are experiencing infrasound
believe they’ve literally seen a ghost. “I see dead people.” If you don’t believe any of those other scientific
explanations for the existence of ghosts, here’s one that’s pretty hard to deny: It’s
just fun to believe in ghosts. It’s fun in the same way that a roller coaster
or a horror movie is fun. We like to be scared, and because we’re fundamentally
attached to the idea that ghosts are real, that makes it hard for us to accept scientific
logic. Belief in ghosts also serves another purpose
it helps us confront our own mortality. The presence of spirits in a house or an old
hotel does more than just satisfy that sense of fun, it also helps us cling to the notion
that there’s something after death. A belief in ghosts makes us feel like we can
glimpse an afterlife that we’re all a little afraid might not actually exist. Even if you look at all these potential scientific
explanations for ghostly experiences as a whole, they can’t possibly explain away every
single paranormal experience that’s ever happened anywhere on Earth. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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