What causes ghostly experiences?
Are ghosts real?
Why do certain people report numerous ghostly encounters and others none?
For centuries these questions have intrigued, puzzled, and bedeviled science, skeptics, and even believers. Based on cutting-edge research and new theories, The Ghost Studies provides insight into some of life's greatest mysteries.
This fascinating book is far more than a compilation of ghost stories. The Ghost Studies provides scientific explanations for paranormal occurrences, including:
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON GHOSTS
"My father had passed away quietly in the hospital around 3 p.m. that day. We had a very special relationship and I definitely considered myself a 'daddy's girl.' His passing was a shock to the whole family. Overwhelmed with sadness, worry, and fear, I laid down on the couch as soon as I got home that evening. It must have been around 8 p.m. when my encounter occurred. While lying on the couch, an overwhelming sense of comfort overcame me. As I sat up, I saw an image of my father. I wasn't scared, just shocked. He walked toward me and whispered, 'Don't be sad.' He then rubbed my shoulders, which is what he would do to ease my sadness when I was a teenager. The encounter made me smile even though it only lasted seconds and then he slowly faded away."
Fascinating, intriguing, and downright awesome, this experience is an example of a common first-hand account of a ghostly encounter. To connect directly with a person who had been such an integral part of one's life is the definition of a life-changing event that transcends what science and humanity can explain with mere words.
Millions of baffling ghostly encounters are reported each year all over the world among individuals from all walks of life. With so many ghostly experiences, there are few answers — perhaps because we are not asking the right questions.
The paranormal is a difficult area to study in a logical, scientific way, as paranormal experiences are usually erratic, episodic, poorly documented and reported, random, and not repeatable on demand. These characteristics are everything that the scientific method deems irrelevant. On the other hand, it is naive to believe whole-heartedly and without exception in the scientific method. In my view, the assumption that all of life's mysteries can be answered through methods or protocols is a falsehood.
Throw all your stereotypes and conceptions about ghosts out the window! Pretend that you have never read a book about ghost stories, watched a ghost-themed movie or a ghost-hunting TV series, and start with an open mind. Only by looking at these apparitions, hauntings, and ghostly phenomena in a new light, based on new science, can we fully understand them. The telephone has certainly changed since the 1800s; maybe it's time we also redefine what a ghost really is.
Fasten your seatbelt, check the gauges, and make sure you have enough fuel (coffee, tea, or something stronger) because you are going to be my copilot on a journey of exploration into ghostly encounters. Through numerous cases of reported ghostly experiences, you are going to be presented with concepts that will change your beliefs about ghosts forever.
Ghosts and ghostly experiences have remained a topic of great interest and debate for well over 100 years. Throughout the course of this book, a concise and encompassing theory will be presented to explain ghostly experiences such as apparitions of recently deceased family members, hauntings, and communications from the dead, which have baffled man (and woman) for hundreds of years.
Despite excellent work and investigations into ghosts, researchers examining the origins of these ghostly experiences have not fully explored the importance of certain similarities among all ghostly encounters. These similarities have led to simple, fresh, and exciting theories on ghosts.
Before we dive into my thoughts and theories on ghostly encounters, I think it's a good idea to review previous research and theories into ghostly experiences.
Popular Ghost Theories
If you are reading this book, it means that you have some interest in ghosts or the paranormal, which most likely means you're awesome and open-minded. Congratulations on this accomplishment! It is also highly likely that this is not the first book you've read on the paranormal; therefore, some of the theories on ghosts discussed in this section might be a review or refresher. However, I encourage you to continue reading as some of the theories discussed form a basis for later chapters.
Before we proceed, I want to clarify some terms. Throughout the book, I will use the terms "ghostly encounters," "haunt-type phenomena," or "ghostly experiences." These terms are essentially interchangeable and refer to experiences or commonly reported phenomena associated with ghosts, spirits, and haunted locations such as visual apparitions, sense of a presence, auditory phenomena, dizziness/headache, objects moving, overwhelming feelings/emotions, unexplainable weakness of body parts, muscle pain, overwhelming fatigue, skin irritation, tactile phenomena, unusual lights/energy, change in temperature, tingling/burning sensation, nausea, unexplained pressure, or other. A ghostly encounter does not mean unequivocally that the witness saw an apparition. A ghostly encounter could be a sensed presence, a person feeling as if they were touched, or a sudden an unexpected change in temperature.
I'm going to start with some theories about ghosts from steadfast believers. Paranormal investigators are passionate, and this is evident in the number of websites, Internet radio shows, and conventions dedicated to the paranormal. To be honest, these theories are a lot more entertaining than mainstream science's views on ghostly experiences, which will be discussed in Chapter 10.
Everyone has heard a ghost story, and many people have actually toured a house or location that is allegedly haunted. I grew up outside of Youngstown, Ohio, and as a teenager there were several stories about a location called "Zombieland." The stories about Zombieland had been around before my generation, and I'm sure teenagers in the area are still visiting that location. As teens, we would all pile up in a car and drive out to Zombieland on Friday or Saturday night.
Most of the time, we would never get out of the car; however, every once in a while, one of our peers, in an effort to impress, would venture into the most haunted areas. Zombieland is not one location or house, but rather a half mile or so of land in a secluded, wooded area. In the area is a bridge, called "Troll Bridge," where a teen committed suicide. It is reported that if someone writes an individual's name on the bridge, the "bridge people" will rise up and kill that person.
Another story revolves around the "blood house," which is where a witch used to live. It is said that she steals and murders children and buries them in the front yard. The final story involves the "green man" who haunts the roads. Supposedly, he was electrocuted while working and died, which is why he glows green.
I never gave much thought to these stories when I was in high school; however, looking back at the mixture of history, folklore, and paranormal phenomena surrounding this location, I now find it to be fascinating. As you are reading, chances are you might be thinking about a local house or building that everyone in your town said was haunted. We've all heard about haunted houses; however, very rarely do we ever sit down and think to ourselves, What are ghosts? What causes ghosts? Why is this house haunted and the one next door not? People die every day, so shouldn't we be overwhelmed by ghosts?
A good place to start in an effort to answer these questions would be theories and thoughts which define ghosts. If you asked 100 people to define "ghost," the general consensus would most likely be that ghosts are simply the spirits or souls of those who have died. This is a pretty common belief among those who believe in ghosts. Inherent in this thought is the idea that humans have a soul and that our thoughts, personality, interests, memories, and dislikes are not biologically based and can live on after our physical body dies. This goes against modern science, especially neuropsychology, which is pretty confident that our personal identity and behaviors are the result of nerve cells, molecules, and other brain processes. This neuropsychological view is disliked by many people as it paints humans as robots and our emotions and identity as being the result of our circuitry. Most disturbing for many is the fatality of neuropsychology's view on death, which is simply that the machine stops working, similar to a TV, and with death that individual's personal identity ceases to exist in any dimension. That's pretty depressing, huh?
Individuals who are religious or spiritual view the soul as the invisible, incorporeal essence of a person, which survives death. Common Catholic beliefs are that at death, one's soul leaves the physical body and enters into heaven or hell. Many other religions also have beliefs regarding the soul, such as reincarnation, which is essentially the transfer of the soul from one individual being to another.
Spiritualist and Pop-Culture View
James Van Praagh is a medium and psychic who claims to have the ability to speak with the deceased. He believes that after the soul leaves the physical body, it moves into a realm between Earth and the next closest dimension. He believes that this realm is where spirits make a decision whether to remain earthbound or cross into the light. Van Praagh believes that ghosts and hauntings are the result of earthbound spirits. My first thought was, Why would anyone choose to stay on Earth rather than cross into the light?
Earthbound spirits, according to Van Praagh, stay close to Earth due to unfinished business, being scared of the light, a desire to stay to watch over family and friends, or simply because they are confused or unaware of what is going on and what direction they should take. Many mediums and psychics see themselves as "ghost psychologists" in that they work with the ghost to determine their issue and help them cross into the light. Van Praagh's views are probably the most common theory held by believers in ghosts or life after death, which is commonly called the Spiritualist view. This view is based on the Spiritualism movement of the mid-1800s. Van Praagh did not originate this theory, as it has been the common hypothesis of ghost hunters, psychics, and paranormal enthusiasts for more than 100 years.
The idea of hanging around to complete unfinished business or to keep an eye on things is almost part of our culture. Many popular TV shows, movies, and documentaries often use this premise. The idea is that there is a reason for the haunting and once that reason is discovered, the ghost, or disembodied soul, can move on. The TV show Ghost Whisperer, which Van Praagh produced, has a similar theme in almost every episode, which involves the medium gaining information from the ghost, then working with the ghost to help them find peace and cross over.
Popular Paranormal Investigator Views
A common belief among paranormal enthusiasts is that there are two types of hauntings: active/intelligent hauntings and residual hauntings. The examples discussed previously regarding a ghost with a soul and a purpose would be considered an active or intelligent haunting. In these types of hauntings, the ghosts have a conscious and are aware of their surroundings and actions. These ghosts are not confined to an area, have the ability to interact with witnesses and objects, and are not time- or routine-specific in their movements.
"My wife had passed away unexpectedly over the summer. While it's been difficult, I've managed to care for the house myself. As Halloween approached, I was putting up decorations as the kids in the neighborhood love trick or treating. My wife and I had bought a plastic pumpkin together when we first got married 20 years ago. We had placed this pumpkin in our window every Halloween. I searched the house for days looking for that pumpkin till I finally gave up. A few days after giving up, I was walking down the staircase and was shocked to see my wife standing at the bottom. She smiled and whispered, 'Check behind the workbench' and then vanished. I began to weep uncontrollably and rushed out to the garage. A huge smile came across my face as the plastic pumpkin was lying behind the workbench. It must have fallen off the top shelf."
In this example, the apparition is directly interacting with the witness. Other examples of intelligent or active hauntings are when the ghost is interacting with the environment, such as moving furniture, closing doors, turning on faucets, or perhaps telling the witness to "get out" or "leave this house."
Residual hauntings occur at specific times, locations, and dates. For instance, a certain ghost appears every Christmas night and walks around the kitchen. In these hauntings, the ghost is not conscious and is more like a recording that is being replayed. These are not conscious souls, but rather a type of environmental imprint or video. The following is an example of a residual haunting.
In 1948, there was young man named Allen who worked at a sawmill just outside of a small town in Ohio. Allen was a hard worker, and he loved his routine. Allen would leave the mill everyday precisely at 7 p.m., when his shift ended. Allen would then walk four miles toward town and across the town's wooden covered bridge. On July 10th, Allen was running a little behind and he ended up getting to the bridge as it was getting dark out. As he was walking across the wooden bridge, a plank broke and Allen became trapped. Allen struggled and screamed for help, however, not a soul was around. A few moments passed and it was now completely dark outside. Allen continued to struggle to free himself as a car began to speed in his direction. Unable to move, Allen yelled as loud as he could; however, the driver never saw him. The next day the mill was concerned that Allen had not arrived to work. Police re-traced Allen's walk home and found his body in the shallow river below the bridge. The wooden bridge was torn down not long after Allen's death and replaced with a more conventional metal/steel bridge; however, every July 10th, police get several calls from concerned drivers stating that they saw a man in 1940s clothing lying on the floor of the bridge as they drove by him.
As you can see from the example, the ghost is not interacting, communicating, or moving objects in the environment. The phenomena is also only occurring on the bridge in which he was killed (location-specific) and the events are reported to only occur on July 10th at night (time-specific).
The theory on which residual hauntings is based was developed in the 1920s and is called place theory. Other terms, which are essentially the same idea, are stone tape theory and imprint theory. Place theory states that the environment can hold the memory of past events, which can be viewed, heard, tasted, smelled, or felt at a later time by a person with sufficient sensitivity to the information offered by the memory. In essence, experiencing a haunting would be similar to watching a DVD in that you see and hear events in front of you that were recorded in the past. No matter how many times you watch the DVD, the people and actions are always the same. Although there is no specific explanation or mechanism which explains how the environment could hold such events or recordings, the general belief is that there is an extreme amount of energy released during tragic events or deaths that is somehow burned into the environment. In the case of Allen, the tragic events of his death, in theory, were burned into the local environment, and if the conditions and times are right, others can view this recording of his death. This theory will be discussed in more detail in later chapters.
Wormholes, Portals, Quantum Physics, and Multiverse Theory
Quantum mechanics is the study of the smallest atoms and particles that make up our universe and is a subset of physics. Individuals in this field deal with complicated mathematical equations in an attempt to break down the universe and matter to its smallest pieces. In recent years, there has been some suggestion that quantum theories could help explain paranormal phenomena such as ghosts. It is difficult to pinpoint a person or research that provides a concise theory on how ghosts and quantum physics interact. That is a polite way of saying that the Internet and popular ghost-hunting books are filled with contradicting beliefs, views, and hypotheses on how this interaction occurs. The multiverse is the hypothetical set of finite and infinite possible universes, including the universe in which we live.
As Larry Flaxman and Marie D. Jones write:
Fundamentally, the various theories all point to the possibility of multiple realities and/or dimensions. In fact, scientists have postulated that space may actually be comprised of 11 dimensions. Although we can only perceive three spatial dimensions, is it possible that everything we brand as "paranormal" may in fact be "normal" in one or more of those other eight dimensions? If a ghostly apparition is indeed coming to us from another dimension or parallel universe, it might not be a dead person we are seeing at all, but a real live person whom we are merely glimpsing across the great divide of reality.
Another belief is that there are wormholes or portals, which are located at different locations throughout the world. These portals or doorways, under special conditions, allow ghosts to enter into our universe. A popular ghost hypothesis is that the location of portals, vortices, or wormholes are overlaps between parallel universes and, under certain conditions or environmental circumstances, paranormal phenomena occur.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Ghost Studies"
Copyright © 2017 Brandon Massullo.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A New Perspective on Ghosts,
Chapter 2: Energy, Electricity, and Apparitions,
Chapter 3: Finding Ghosts in and out of the Laboratory,
Chapter 4: Psychological Aspects of Ghostly Phenomena,
Chapter 5: Internal Energy and Bioenergetics,
Chapter 6: External Information Acquisition,
Chapter 7: Ghostly Ingredients Theory,
Chapter 8: New Perspectives on Haunted Locations,
Chapter 9: My Haunting Hypothesis,
Chapter 10: Not Everything Is Paranormal,
About the Author,