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What Does Science Say About Ghosts?


Although there’s no scientific proof for the existence of supernatural phenomena like ghosts or demons, there are millions of people around the world who believe that paranormal forces do exists and much of even them claim to have experienced such phenomena in real life. A survey conducted by the YouGov in 2019 revealed that 4 out of every 10 people in U.S. believe that ghosts are real and a surprising survey from 2021 divulged that 45% of Canadians claim to have used an ouija board to summon ghosts at least once and 32 percent have consulted a psychic.

While there’s no proven form or machine by which someone can really recall supernatural forces (yes, not even ouija board), to some extent, science can logically explain, why people feel the presence of paranormal energy or beings around them.

Why would you encounter ghosts?

Based on laws of science as we know them, ghosts, demons, zombies, vampires & wandering spirits are just fiction. There’s no substantial evidence that suggests the existence of such supernatural phenomenon in the real world. However, there might be reasons based on science for why people feel they’ve had a paranormal experience.

The haunted 19 Hz frequency

In 1980s, British engineer Vic Tandy discovered that infra-sound (low frequency sound between 0.1 & 20 Hz that’s below the level of human hearing) is able to tamper with human senses and can result in feelings of disquiet & eerieness, similar to those reported-by people seeing ghostly figures. His findings came from his own personal experience of working in a lab that had a reputation for being haunted. Tandy-himself saw a greyish spirit. Looking around, he found an extractor fan emitting noise at a frequency of 19 Hertz and when it was turned-off, visions & feelings of discomfort disappeared.

Tandy did some more research on infra-sound and found that these waves are able of making humans & animals experience blurred vision, fear, giddiness & panic attacks, which may then be misinterpreted as a paranormal experience. After that, Tandy became something of a ghost hunter.

 In 2001, he claimed that infra-sound was even responsible for apparitions & feelings of dread felt in a spooky cellar near Coventry Cathedral, where many visitors had claimed to see a female ghost. Three years later, Tandy debunked paranormal beliefs associated with the haunted Warwick Castle of Warwickshire, England. At the end of both of these investigations, 19 Hertz infra-sound frequency was found to be the reason behind the occurrence of figures that appeared just like ghosts.

Disturbed mental health

Research published in journal Frontiers in Psychiatry highlights that anxiety, sleep deprivation, epilepsy and other types of neurological issues that can give rise to the fear of ghosts in an individual. Moreover, psychiatrists think that mentally ill cases are more likely to report paranormal activities around them in comparison to others, possibly as a result of suffering from an anxiety disorder.

A report reveals that about 30 percent of mental health patients report experiencing some other kind of paranormal phenomenon (like as seeing demons), at least once in their life-time during the night.

 External instigations

Psychoactive substances, like psilocybin & LSD, are able to alter brain functions, and can make a person feel like he or she is having a supernatural experience. Moreover, some bacteria, mold & fungus may also effectuate psychosis (a mental disorder that disturbs person’s capacity to perceive reality).

The rye ergot fungus suggested as the precipitating cause of Salem Witch Trials of 1692, in which many people were accused of being witches & executed. Victims of rye ergot can suffer from paranoia, hallucinations, spasms & stillborn children.

Other theories suggest that Earth’s geomagnetic field, solar flares and some other cosmic events may also affect human brain activity, however, no such theory has been experimentally proven thus far.

However, sometimes an idea or suggestion is also enough to trigger the visions of imaginary horrors around you. Research & psychological experiments indicate that visual & verbal suggestions can influence how people perceive the environment around them. For instance, if you’re staying in some random hotel for some days and one day a friend informs you that the hotel is haunted, there’s a possibility that from there you start to feel fear or even experience some paranormal happenings around you.

Researchers demonstrated that verbal suggestion could make people more likely to believe they’re seeing paranormal key bending, instead of sleight of hand and to be more confident that their viewing of psychic phenomena was reliable. Research also demonstrated that suggestion & misinformation can distort people’s memories of an event, causing them to believe misinformation.

Therefore, suggestions sometimes play a key role in shaping human perception and also make people believe in unrealistic things like ghosts.

Personal loss and loneliness

Canadian rock-singer Céline Dion, during an interview in 2016, said that she meets with the ghost of her late-husband. Similar claims made by some people around the world, who lose someone close-to-them. But do they actually see or hear their deceased loved ones? The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud observed this phenomenon during early 1900s and called it wishful psychosis, short- term “madness of the mind” during-which a person does not want to accept reality and starts hallucinating the presence of a dead person.

However, death of loved ones isn’t the only thing that can make you experience ghosts. Research explains that loneliness, attachment & childhood trauma are also factors that can lead individuals to believe they’ve seen ghosts & spirits.

Ghosts, angels or other imaginary characters may be created by human brain so as to cope with the feeling of loneliness & loss.

The undeniable contribution of popular culture

There’s an endless number of Hollywood blockbusters that insert themselves into viewers consciousness that can range from classic 1980s flick A Nightmare on Elm Street to Dracula & The Conjuring. After watching such movies & TV shows, many kids (& adults) do not want to sleep alone and they avoid visiting dark corners of their own house.

A study published in Global Mass Communication Review suggests that horror movies can lead to nightmares, phobias, anxiety, stress, escapism & different other psychological issues in young people. Continuous exposure to such types of content can also affect a person’s behavior and possibly even cause them to suffer from psychosis.

 Back in 2000, researcher Corrine Dalelio examined the rise in paranormal or pseudo-scientific television shows that occurred in 1990s, instances included Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X Files, Charmed and Touched by an Angel, along with movies like The Sixth Sense, The Craft and The Others. She found that proliferation of paranormal themes in popular culture correlated with beliefs in paranormal among general public.

People love to experience & explore horror through movies, Telly shows & books. Psychologists believe that horror movies & content may be good for OCD patients as they enable patients to confront & overcome their fears. However, at same time, mental health experts confirm that watching horror movies, especially binge-watching, can have adverse effects on mental health. This is partly because when watching a horror movie, body releases large-amount of adrenaline & other hormones that is what makes these movies exciting. This can lead to heightened-activity in the brain, excitement, anxiety, insomnia & even sleep deprivation which, in turn, can make people more suggestible.

So far, all these studies & research work indicate that consistent with science, only place where ghosts, ghouls & demons exist is simply in your head.

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