November 26, 2012
Did you know that 99% of ghosts turn out to be squirrels running around on the roof/in the attic/upstairs? Okay, maybe not always squirrels. Sometimes the "ghosts" are raccoons. Or cats. Or humans.
Do you believe in ghosts? If so, you are not alone. According to some polls, anywhere from 33%-50% of Americans say they believe in ghosts, and most of them claim to have had some sort of paranormal experience in their lives. That's a lot of people who feel that they have encountered spirits of the dead. Tales of hauntings and spectral apparitions have been around for millennia. As far back as humans have been able to communicate, they've been telling stories about eerie experiences and things that go bump in the night. People will talk of hearing distinct voices when they are sure no humans are present. They speak of experiencing "cold spots" in areas where the rest of the room or building is warm. People swear they see faces of deceased relatives or acquaintances in photographs...faces that weren't there when the picture was snapped. But is it true? I highly doubt it.
I am one of those who will go so far as to say, "There's no such thing as ghosts!" How can I make such a definitive statement? Facts. That's all it is, just facts. The fact that no one has provided conclusive evidence that ghosts exist is enough for me. Or, the fact that most every suspected ghost has turned out to be something else. I said "most" because there are still some things that have not been explained. But they also haven't been investigated under proper testing conditions. And just because something hasn't been proven NOT to be a ghost doesn't mean it IS a ghost. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
I bring this subject up because I was invited to be locked in overnight with the crew of a television show called Ghost Adventures, which airs on the Travel Channel. I was asked to be the skeptic on this particular episode, which doesn't typically happen. What I found out was that these guys take what they do very seriously and actually quite professionally. Their sensing equipment was state-of-the-art, and they did a good job of making sure they eliminated other potential factors that could make the vacuous, dark, and foreboding (at least at midnight) Union Station a spooky place ripe for ghost sightings.
Did we discover any ghosts? Well, no. At least nothing that convinced me. You'll have to watch the show to find out what I thought of the "voices" on the EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) monitor, the "cold spot" we encountered, and the figure that passed in front of a restaurant window.
As for all the believers, I know it will be very difficult to convince you that ghosts aren't real. I can encourage you to look at things with any open mind (but not so open your brain falls out!). I highly recommend looking at these things critically and logically. When someone insists, "I know what I saw! You can't convince them otherwise!" Remember that our own senses can play tricks on us, especially when conditions are right and that our memories are very flawed.
Why do we believe these things? Lots of theories and reasons are out there. Most of it has to do with our minds and how we look at the world. We are beautiful, complex creatures, and the idea of ghosts seems to affirm the concept of an afterlife, which if proven to be true brings a lot of comfort. I would also like to point out that I would love to be proven wrong, and empirical proof of the supernatural would one day be discovered in my lifetime. Wouldn't that be fantastic? The whole world as we know it would be changed. But my gut tells me there really isn't a "ghost" of a chance that will occur.
But if you really want to be a ghost hunter, there are some instructive books here at the Library as well as some ghost photo books that have some downright eerie pictures. For me, those photos are only proof of camera flaws, specks of dust, lighting problems, or shaky hands. Want some more scientific examination? Try Adventures in Paranormal Investigation by Joe Nickell. He is one of my favorite investigators and authors on the subject of ghosts. He also has many other good books as well as a great website.