Do Ghosts Exist?

How do we explain away ‘Ghost’ phenomenon, and poltergeists?

We’ll worry about explaining them after we observe them. Not the other way round.

To be fair plenty of people have observed ghosts, many hundreds of thousands. Some have even filmed them. Ghosts are explained (not simply explained away) differently for each observation.

In some cases the observation simply isn’t reliable, it’s nothing more than anecdote, and anecdote doesn’t really require any explanation. If it did we would be trying to explain why Blacks are stupid and lazy and why the Erath is flat.

In many other cases they can be readily explained as everyday objects believed to be ghosts. There was a case last year where someone in England caught a ghost on a security video. The ghost was simply someone in a suit. IN other cases ghosts have been double exposures or shadows in just the right place or simply someone walking past the window.

And of course man other ghosts can be described by hallucination, waking dreams and overactive imaginations.

There is no one explanation for ghosts any more than there is one explanation for pixies, bigfoot and spaceships. All those things are widely ingrained ‘paranormal’ concepts that people will use to explain anything they don’t understand.

The fact is that nobody has produced any halfway compelling evidence that ghosts really exist so the explanations are all prosaic.

You may wish to be slightly more specific, Ryan_Liam. There are dozens of different phenomena which are commonly attributed to ghosts, spirits, haunts, souls, spiritual energy, poltergeists, and the like; evidence presented in favor of the notion of ghosts, et al, is often in the form of creepy/eerie feelings, chills, unusual sightings, strange glows depicted in photographs that the photographer claims were not visible to the naked eye, stories of items levitating or being moved when it is believed no corporeal human agency could have been responsible, stories relating images retained during traumatic (often called “near-death”) experiences, and so on.

I don’t know of anybody who uses science to “explain away” all ghosts on the grounds that ghosts are patently and inherently impossible, given the range of phenomena above. I do know of people who, with a scoff, dismiss the assumption that “it’s a ghost so we can’t measure it”—our understanding of the universe is that things are made of matter or energy of various types, which have predictable properties (radiating energy, producing magnetic and gravitational fields, etc). Some skeptics doubt there is any need to imagine magically unmeasureable “ghost matter” in order to justify the existence of ghosts.

On the other apparitional pseudotentacular appendage, I do know people who attempt to build proof in two directions, to wit: “I believe near-death experiences are real, therefore the ghost in my closet must also be real. And since I have just proved the ghost in my closet is real, my near-death experience is real also.” Some ghost proponents even claim that ghosts cannot be seen by skeptics, which raises the very good question in my mind of how one is to measure what one cannot, by design, detect.

In any case, I would try to “explain away” (your words—I would prefer to simply analyze the possibilities) a ghost by examining a particular case on its merits. The “ghost” in Three Men and a Baby, for instance, can be easily explained.

Oh ho, say the ghost proponents. Simply because that ghost story has a true explanation doesn’t disprove all the other ghost stories.

True enough. It is, however, not very scientific to presume ghosts to exist until each instance is specifically debunked. And when your 4,999th lens flare/camera strap/funny shadow has been adequately explained, why cling to the 5000th and insist it is the real McCoy?

By all means, Ryan_Liam, toss some evidence this way and we can talk about what it means.

I have no evidence as such, I just watched a program about how a man got nearly hung by a ghost in a haunted attic.

Ask James Randi.


Such things are like a monster under a child’s bed, figments of the imagination!

I think this one’s going to get moved to Great Debates…

What is a ghost? I think you need to define that first.

If a ghost is a conscious entity that is non-corporeal, yes, they exist.

I experienced an “attack” upon me by two ghosts in Greenwich, CT. Of which I had no previous knowledge, yet was confirmed for me afterward that the room was “haunted.” Anecdotal, yes, but this is GQ and not GD (yet).

Check the full story here

So, now what?

People see a lot of things. They see UFO’s, ghosts, and more mundane things that simpley aren’t there. But maybe I’m just bitter cause I took more than my fair share of LSD and never had a single visual hallucenation. :frowning:

Opinion, not established fact. No one has come forward and said, “Yes, that’s me in my suit.”

This is heading for GD, I believe. The GQ answer is no. The GD answer is no, and anecdotes are not evidence.

An interesting book on the subject is Entities, by Joe Nickell. When the evidence is analyzed, it’s pretty apparent that most poltergeists, at least, are no more than naughty children putting one over on credulous adults.

[ul][li]Wishful thinking[]Ignorance[]Media which entertains rather than informs[*]The need some people have to believe the irrational[/ul]Mostly wishful thinking and bad photography.[/li]
Skepdic entry on Ghosts.

I’m not sure where to begin with this. My first instinct is to go with “I just watched a program about a 16 year old blonde who protects the world from Vampires” but that would be snide.

Even though the show you saw probably purported to be the gospel truth, I would take it with a huge pinch of salt.

When I see an article on the News at 10, complete with video footage about a man being hung by a ghost in a haunted attic I might start to reconsider my views, but only if the date isn’t April 1.

And anecdotes are somehow more acceptable in GQ than GD? News to me.

I read your story. That it happened to you in a supposedly haunted room is probably no more than coincidence. If it had happened to you and the room hadn’t been believed to be haunted previously, this would still have been a ghost story. If it hadn’t happened to you, nobody would ever have heard about you sleeping in a “haunted” room without seeing ghosts.

The rest is all pretty easily explained as dreams brought on by a half-waking state, or even just regular dreams. Your girlfriend seems to be the impressionable sort, so it’s not very strange that she’d have nightmares after you told her your story. It’s also well within the realms of probability that those nightmares would cease after you perform your “exorcism”.

Finally, I have trouble with the credibility of anyone who says they alter their “brainwave frequencies” to Alpha, Beta, Delta, Theta or Margarita.

Well, Demi was quite hot.

The vast majority of the time it’s hoaxters deliberately deceiving someone or it’s wishful thinking. Someone else mentioned that it’s like explaining away Bigfoot, UFO’s, or Santa Claus. If someone wants to believe something hard enough, nothing will dissuade them. “Pictures” are usually either defects ont he film or deliberate hoaxes, and I’ve seen some pretty poor quality hoaxes that people believed were real. There is a camp that believes that “ghosts” are manifestations of intense magnetic fields, causing hallucinations and telekensis in normal people. That’s all crap, of course.

Interesting story: I once saw a show investigating ghosts. The owner of a certain house believed it was haunted by ghosts. A couple of investigators who believed tha magnetic field theory were visiting with all of their intruments in hand. At one point the were outside. They were all stunned to see what appeared to be a lamp turning on and off in one of the rooms in the house. Sure enough, the ghost-believeing owner said it was a ghost, and the magnetism worshippers said they were getting spikes on their intruments! When they went inside, they found that the lightbulb was loose, which caused the flickering. So they were all full of it.

On the other hand… I actually LIVED in a “haunted” house with my family for several years. Things happened there that, frankly, defy any explanation I can think of and have never happened to us in any other environment. I’m not talking Amityville Horror (HOAX!), but seeing and hearing things that should not be heard or seen. I have no evidence other than my own and my family members’ memories, and can’t begin to speculate as to what was really going on. I also tend not to believe anyone else’s stories, since people are notorious liars. If I were you, I wouldn’t believe me either. :slight_smile:

According to a 2003 Harris poll, over half of Americans believe in ghosts. Not a ringing endorsement for majority rule, there.

I’m just waiting for a pile-on…

But I’ll add my two cents worth anyway. As many have said, there is no compelling evidence for ghosts. I’ve had some weird things happen to me which could conceivably make me believe in ghosts or the afterlife; however, it’s always important to realize that the human mind is extremely fertile ground for hallucinations, imaginings, etc. The things that happened to me really freaked me out, but I chalked them up to anecdotal evidence (even though they happened to me) because there was absolutely no way to scientifically prove that supernatural forces had been at work, and there is no way I could re-create the scenario and make it all happen again, so it probably wasn’t supernatural, and even if it was, it wouldn’t matter because I couldn’t prove it anyway.

However, I also think it’s unfair to make snide comments about the possibility of ghosts existing (i.e., “Oh, and the Lucky Charms leprechaun (sp?) is real! Har, har.”) - not everyone who believes in ghosts is a crackpot or a gullible idiot, and scientists haven’t yet proven that they don’t exist. But the burden of proof is still on the person making the assertion that they do exist, so until that happens, any “proof” that ghosts exist should be taken with not just a grain of salt, but an entire sea.

Some things that have been used to explain ghosts and supernatural phenomena include hallucinations, sleep paralysis, magnetism and low-level frequencies that people can’t hear, but can feel. The low-level frequencies are audible to dogs, which scientists assert is what makes them freak out on occasion, while at the same time you might feel your hair stand up on end or think you sense a presence near you. According to some scientists, the low-level frequency is caused by magnetism or some sort of gravitational earth force or sound that only animals can hear, but sensitive people can sense. (Please, someone, correct me if I’m remembering this stuff incorrectly.)

Anyway, there are lots of possible explanations for ghosts, and it seems that, because there are so many natural explanations, jumping to the supernatural is a big leap. But those are just my thoughts. I’m interested to see what other people think.