How Exactly Do Ghosts Harm People?

OK assuming ghosts exist, we all know from watching “Caspar” cartoons, people are afraid of them, but why? What does a ghost do to instill such fear in a person? Do they throw stuff at them? It seem like ghosts don’t have a lot of power. They can walk through walls and such, but how would they harm people?

They can scare the piss out of you causing permanent psychological damage and possible a heart or panic attack if you are prone to that sort of thing. The psychological and emotional damage is probably the most likely scenario. I don’t actually believe in ghosts anymore but I am constantly on guard against them in case I am wrong.

Knowledge of the laws of physics proved to me that they can’t exist but lots of people claim to have seen them and some aren’t lying in a way. There are a few brain phenomena including hallucinations, drugs, sleep deprivation, optical illusions, and sleep paralysis that make them seem as real as the floor you are standing on for some people.

I learned a long time ago that when I was scared of ghosts to always default to a rational explanation. Now, that rational explanation may be a man hiding under your bed with a knife but at least he is real and can be dealt with. Ghosts can just screw with you if they wanted to but they can’t hurt you physically at least not directly. The flip side is that you can’t hurt them directly either which is why they are so annoying.

I think Shagnasty nailed it, but I will throw my two cents in anyway.

I don’t believe in ghosts (as such) that is, I don’t believe “ghosts” are dead people or spirits of dead people or anything like that. And yet one of my most expensive hobbies is ghost hunting. :wink: Go figure. I am still kind of hoping to one day be proven wrong I guess.

Anyway, here is my take on it. Ghosts represent the unknown. Can they hurt you? Probably not, but you just never know for sure. :wink: A poltergeist could maybe drop something on your head I guess, or they could maybe manipulate your environment to cause you to hurt yourself. Either way even though ghosts cannot hurt you, there is always that underlying thought of, “but maybe they can”. Then of course there are the psychological aspects- certainly even a ghost that doesn’t exist could cause anxiety, paranoia, possibly insanity…

Added to that, we just don’t know…and a lot of fears can be pared down to a basic fear of the unknown. I don’t think fear of ghosts is so different. Ghosts may not cause harm but they could cause potential harm.

I think some fears are built in. When a mouse ran by my feet last year, I shrieked like a cartoon elephant even though I am not afraid of mice when they’re standing still, and I do know that they’re harmless (hantavirus aside). FWIW, I remember seeing a video clip – from Mythbusters, perhaps – showing that elephants do, indeed, get upset at the sudden appearance of a mouse. I suspect the element of surprise is a big part of it. Ditto for ghosts.

Regarding the *harm *ghosts can do, don’t some ghost stories involve ghosts tricking people into doing things which could kill them – like walking off cliffs, for example?

To quote Ray Stevens: “The dead can’t hurt you, but what they leave behind can sure make you hurt yourself”.

It’s not so much that ghosts harm people as peoples’ fear of ghosts causes them to panic, resulting in hazardous/stupid actions immediately after the panic sets in.

I am an agnostic which is why it is weird for me to write this, but I saw ghostly activity when I was young–not a ghost, but things being tossed in a room that contained only me, and I was just lying in bed–and it is scary. I was scared because the books were coming off the shelf one by one and being dropped onto the floor by something. Something not me. Something I couldn’t see.

That’s scary.

If someone can come up with a logical explanation for it, I’d be happy to read it.


Isn’t it more of a fear of death or rather a unreasoning fear of something that came back from beyond that supposedly final barrier?
“My god your dead, you can’t be here!.”

I was going to say they scare the sheet out of you.

Traditionally the appearence of ghosts was an evil omen. At best it meant that you were being warned, at worst they were harbingers of catastrophe and death. In some traditions ghosts are semi-vampiric: they steal the life and health of the living, or urge the living to follow them into an otherworldly realm.

Were the books still on the floor in the morning? Did you have to pick them up and put them back? Or were they miraculously back on the shelves?

I totally disagree - to me, a ghost would provide confirmation that there is life after death, which would immediately fill me with an intense relief. If I saw a ghost, “the unknown” would become known. Chuck Palahniuk basically says this exact same thing in his novel Survivor, which is what inspired me to feel this way, though I can’t remember the specific words. It was something like how the narrator would love to see ghouls coming to get him - anything to give him the faintest glimmer of hope that there’s something beyond the finality of death.

What happens after death is not unknown. Consciousness is an emergent property of organic matter. When that organic matter dies, consciousness ceases. There is no mystery. Science has already answered this question. When you die, you rot. No consciousness survives or can survive. This is a demonstrable fact.

Saying that what happens to consciousness after death is “unknown,” is like saying it’s a mystery what happens to the light if a lightbulb gets broken.

Somehow, Dio, I suspect that of all the thread participants so far, actually, indubitably seeing Mr. Ghostie Man would drive you into the most intense fear and dread of all.

What if everything you know is wrong?

I think that’s where some of the fear comes from: dread of the Thing That Should Not Be.

As for relief that death is not final: what if instead you see evidence that some people do carry on . . . in a form that’s mindless, gibbering, quietly insane? Running up the same set of stairs every night with your head 'neath your arm, cluelessly rearranging the furniture, scribbling nonsense on the walls . . . forever . . .

I had a friend that believed in Voodoo. When it first came up I joked about it but his reaction to my jokes was sobering. He became somber and serious and scared looking. He was talking about zombies and telling stories about people he knew that were cursed.

I don’t believe in Voodoo but he definitely did.

Voodoo can’t hurt me, but if my friend thought he was cursed I could imagine him suffering a heart attack or something.

When I lived in West Africa, I knew people who seriously believed in tribal witchcraft and magic. That didn’t stop me from mocking them.

OK, “unknown” was the wrong word to use, but I think the point still stands about some people preferring the idea of life after death to the idea of simply ceasing to exist, in any form, forever.

I thought I saw a ghost once.

I was riding home one night on the turnpike on my motorcycle. It was 3 am and foggy and I was the only vehicle around. After a couple of minutes I suddenly noticed a dark shape in racing front of me. It took a few seconds to realize that it was my shadow on the fog from a truck coming up behind me.

For those seconds though I was perplexed. Not scared although fully on guard. Its a interesting feeling, not knowing what is real for a few seconds. I felt a bit foolish once I realized what was up.

When I suspect a ghost or whatever I get real alert. Same with UFOs.

I can’t imagine anything (ghostly) scaring me to death though.

Very good point! I guess maybe ghosts themselves are unknown would be a better phrasing of it then.

IF we assume ghosts exist (for the sake of the argument at hand) and if we also assume that ghosts are what they are traditionally believed to be, i.e. dead (or previously dead) people, then that would indeed be confirmation and would provide some known measure. But we still wouldn’t know how or why and what they could and couldn’t do, so there would still be some unknown quantity there to fear. They may be harmless or they may steal your life or lure you into unknown, unearthly realms. Not knowing which would certainly be cause for worry and I dare say, fear.

Now the explanation I want for the existence of ghosts that no one has ever been able to explain to my satisfaction is this: if ghosts are dead people (or spirits of people or energy that people left behind or whatever) then why are they wearing clothes? If I buy into the premise that dead people’s spirits can materialize in human(ish) form (ala reported ghost sightings) then am I supposed to believe that clothing can as well? And if it is just a matter of being able to appear in any form they wish, wearing whatever they wish then why would they always appear in what they were wearing when they died, what they were buried in, or the fashion of their lifetime? Are they cognizant enough to know that there are trespassers or that they need to do whatever they are doing, but not aware of fashion changing?:wink:

I agree. It’s an adrenaline rush unlike any other kind, I think. And I have phobias out the wazoo, so I know what negative adrenaline rushes feel like.