Why people think they see ghosts

If you believe the dead can return to haunt
the living, you’re not alone. According to one poll, 45% of Americans believe
in ghosts and 28% claim to actually have seen a ghost. They show up in our movies, I see dead people. books, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony music videos. As far back as we can trace human life,
there’s evidence that almost every culture has expressed curiosity about what comes after. Many people believe in them, but is there actually any proof that ghosts
exist? I went to Buffalo, New York, to talk to Joe
Nickell, a paranormal investigator who’s been trying
to answer that question for almost 50 years. I’m the world’s only full-time, salaried,
professional, science-based paranormal investigator. I’m looking to explain a case, not debunk
it, not promote it. Explain it. Nickell is a true renaissance man, drawing from a wide variety of disciplines
for his cases. I mean, at one time or another I’ve used
linguistic analysis, I’ve used blood pattern analysis, psychological insights. Nearly anything could be used
if it would illuminate a particular case. So in the hundreds of cases in his
half-century of investigation, has he ever found anything that would
make him believe in ghosts? Not only have I never found a single case
that I thought was proof of a ghost, neither has science. Not a single ghost or haunting has been
authenticated by science. Part of what makes it difficult to investigate
is all the different ways people have defined “ghosts.” Books flying off a shelf? Orbs in photos? Mysterious footsteps in the attic? Patrick Swayze seductively helping
you throw a vase? Definitely ghost. All of the would-be evidence that
ghosts exist consists of ambiguous photographs, videos, The next day, his HDTV literally begins
rocking violently from side to side all by itself. and first hand accounts, Even if it’s during the day, there’s this
eerie feeling that you get that there’s someone there. which, while fun and spooky, are not
exactly scientific proof. Ghost hunters often use gadgets such as
EMF meters, a tool that measure electromagnetic fields,
which ghosts can supposably manipulate. But nobody’s been able to explain exactly
what the link is, and most scientists are pretty skeptical of
this stuff. So there might not be any empirical, scientific
evidence that shows that ghosts exist, but that doesn’t actually mean that you’re
crazy if you think you see one. One is infrasound, a sound that falls below the audible 20Hz
frequency. Infrasound can be produced by many things,
including or certain machinery like engines or fans. Researchers have hypothesized that exposure
to infrasound can induce feeling of depression, chills, and the sense that somebody’s presence
is near you. The sound can even cause visual hallucinations. At the frequency of 18Hz, it resonates with
the structure of the human eyeball. And if you have a sound that resonates with
something material, it will make the material vibrate at that frequency. And when that happens to you, your eye
begins to see things that are in fact not there. Swiss scientists have also been able to
simulate a ghost in a lab. They made a robot that mimics the movement
of the subject’s hands with a mechanical arm that touches your back,
but with a slight delay. When you delay the movement, it creates
an unmistakable sensation for subjects that there’s a ghostly presence in the room. This time it really felt like I was playing
with somebody, something. So it wasn’t myself that was poking me in
the back, but it was as if I was playing with an animal,
a monkey, that was poking me in the back or something like that. While most ghost sightings can’t be written
off as a robot poking your back, this experiment does highlight how
manipulating certain parts of your brain can produce what researcher Olaf Blanke calls which can easily be misconstrued as a
ghostly presence. Sometimes even just a person’s state of
consciousness can make them feel or see presences. We can actually have people see ghosts, and those tend to be waking dreams that
occur in the twilight between being fully asleep and
fully awake. These kind of waking dreams can also
be called sleep paralysis, which about 8% of people experience at
some point in their lifetime. You feel like you’re awake, but you’re
unable to move your body, and it’s often accompanied by terrifying
visuals like shadows, people, or even monsters, which, if you didn’t know what was happening,
would be easy to confuse for having seen a ghost. Another possible explanation for ghostly sightings
is grief. One study found that up to 60% of people
that lose a spouse claim to see or hear their dead loved ones. In his book about hallucinations, neurologist
Oliver Sacks said that seeing the face of a deceased loved one can actually
help you cope with your grief. This sort of hallucination is not frightening; it’s often very comforting. It seems to be part of the mourning process. A sudden hole has been left in one’s life,
and this helps it to heal over. There is no question that most of the paranormal
promotes something very positive. There are a few exceptions,
but all have to do with our hopes and our fears. We’re hopeful that ghosts exist because
then we don’t really die. Our loved ones are not gone from us;
they are real and alive. I remember when my grandmother died and
how much I did not want that to be the case. But the ghost idea, the idea that we just
get up out of our bodies and continue on, is powerful. Because who doesn’t have an instance in
which he or she would say, I just wish I could’ve told my mother this
one thing. Or I wish my father knew I wasn’t really
mad at him that time. So ghosts may not actually exist, but that doesn’t mean that you might
not see one.

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