Ghosts, ghouls, phantoms, spectres, apparitions – whatever you want to call them, nobody really has any idea what they are and what they consist of. More importantly, if you hear anyone tell you otherwise, they almost certainly don’t know what they are talking about or are trying to sell you something.
Let’s cut to the chase and start with my thoughts. Unlike others, I have never, not in any investigation, witnessed a ghost or been able to capture video evidence of one. I also remain thoroughly unconvinced of the vast majority of videos or photographs which are endlessly shown across all forms of social media. The vast majority have either been captured with a camera seemingly made out of bits of cellotape with a resolution no clearer than my eyesight after a heavy drinking session or they fall into that other category called: ‘It’s not a ghost, you’re just a messy cow’. By which I mean, the ‘ghost’ has been captured by mistaking dirty smears on a window or mirror for a face (known as pareidolia) or alternatively, there persists the belief that orbs have been captured in a room flying around in all directions and their home is seemingly rife with paranormal activity. Hint: You don’t need an exorcist, you need a vacuum cleaner.
Do this mean therefore that I don’t believe in ghosts? Well, no. I firmly believe that something is most definitely going on. If you just scratch the surface and tentatively ask friends, family or colleagues whether they have ever seen a ghost, I can bet you any money at least one of them will be able to recall an incident in which they or a member of their family have witnessed a ghost. Many years ago, an ex-girlfriend of mine told me that one day, whilst she was ironing her laundry at the foot of her stairs, she realised that her grandmother, who had been dead many years before, was watching her from the top of the stairs looking down with a slight smile on her face. Although she obviously knew that her grandmother had passed on, she remembers feeling comforted rather than scared and on asking how long the ghost of her grandmother had stayed like that, my girlfriend replied quite matter of factly, “Oh about 40-45 minutes. Then she simply disappeared.” I find accounts like that quite staggering, not least due to the shear length of time the ghost apparently remained there for.
Last year, a notable physicist, Professor Brian Cox, whilst talking on a radio show on BBC Radio 4 said:
If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That’s almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies.
When pressed on whether he had just asserted that the LHC had disproved the existence of ghosts, he simply replied “Yes”.
Who am I to disagree with the Large Hadron Collider! Science has proved therefore that ghosts should not exist. Others would quite reasonably amend that statement to ‘Science has proved, unquestionably, that ghosts do not exist.’ Full stop. End of. We might as well pack up our notebooks, video cameras or any other gadget and go home. Spend your time doing something more worthwhile like going to bed instead of grubbing about in the dark, calling out like a madman to thin air (if that’s your thing).
But there still leaves that one burning question. If ghosts do not exist, what exactly are people witnessing? Can every example be simply be put down to mistaken identity? Or hallucinations? Or merely the result of over-tiredness and fatigue? Should we go around like Ebeneezer Scrooge from ‘The Christmas Carol’ declaring: “You may be an undigested bit of beef….there’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
The answer is a not a simple one. It never is with the paranormal! There is plenty of evidence to suggest that your brain is more than capable of causing hallucinations created by such factors as high EMF levels in an environment. Neither should we dismiss the power of suggestion to determine the likelihood of whether we see, or think we see, the ghost of person in a location. Quite simply, if you know that the ghost of a nun is said to haunt a location, your need or desire to witness such an apparition might lead you to believe that a perfectly natural shadow could possibly be in the shape of a habit. Voilà. Ghost nun.
But this is rather simplistic. It does not readily explain how some have been approached by people, looking as alive as you or I, only to discover that they had died weeks before. Neither does it explain those examples where more than one person have witnessed the same ghost at the same time in the same location.
I believe that the majority of reports of ghosts can be put down to many of the factors I have briefly mentioned above. This means therefore, that the single most important aspect of any paranormal investigation should not be setting out to capture a ghost on video but actually, to interview people who have witnessed a supposed sighting of a ghost. Only then can you begin to judge whether the sighting was credible or whether other circumstances might have been at play that might explain how the ‘ghost’ might have been created. Too many paranormal investigators visit locations on the back of heresay, myth or accounts of people who themselves have been a long time dead. Ghost stories by their very nature, are added to over time by a person’s own imagination or in their retelling to other, interested parties.
So are ghosts real? Perhaps when I am able to witness a ghost for myself, captured on camera and witnessed by others alongside me, I might be more convinced. Until then, I will have to reserve judgement.