I ran into this 2010 Cracked article that I somehow missed. But I thought it was really cool and wanted to share.
This might possibly be one explanation – I’m not sufficiemntly familiar with the effects of infrasound on people – but it seems to me that finding one “cause” for ghosts is like attributing all UFO sightings to swamp gas.
Indeed, when weather balloons, thermal pockets, refraction and the light from Venus are also implicated.
Okay, Okay. But there are very few other scientific explanations for ghosts, are there? Yes, UFO’s have all the explanations listed and many more (cloud formations, jokers making crop circles).
But for ghosts, besides this explanation, all I’ve got is
[li]Mental problems (guilt, mourning) and illness, [/li][li]Cultural tendencies to “translate” all sorts of normal psychological issues into a framework of ghosts and spirits. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_witchcraft#Africa and http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=649350[/li][li]Neurotheology, the science of seeking neurological explanations for the very real “God experience” so many religious people experience. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurotheology[/li][/ul]
So for me, it is the last piece in the puzzle. It certainly explains how so many places are said to be haunted. The other phenomenons I listed explain ghosts as an attribute of the individual, and culture.
The comments on that are hilarious – angry “true believers” making assertions about scientists being prejudiced against ghosts.
To clarify myself:
Neurotheological experiments have proven (though not consistently) that the experience of “there is someone standing near me” even if there is no-one there, can be triggered with electrodes. The individual and the culture can interpret that feeling of a presence into (some sort of) God, a ghost, or just ignore the feeling. It is noteworthy that that feeling of “presence” is often felt as benign.
And the link I made with ghost and African witchcraft? The belief in witchcraft in Africa is very, very widespread and pervasive in Africa. In many ways, withcraft serves as religion and psychology.
Many common phenomenons the west defines as “psychological phenomenons” are “translated” into withcraft terms in Africa.
For instance, the need to reduce uncertainty, a need we feel just as much, we fill with insurance, fire-arms in the home, marriage and fidelity promises, denial, and plain old superstition.
Africans fill that need with witchcraft. If you feel you need good luck, you pay a witch doctor to make you a potion or charm.
If you have a streak of bad luck, it is because someone who is jealous of you, has paid a witch doctor to curse you. The common solution is to go to another withdoctor and pay more for a stronger counter charm.
All of these charms work through an army of invisible spirits, ghosts and “influences”. Hence the link with ghosts.
You’re not looking hard enough. For various ghosts and ghostly phenomena, I’ve seen:
1.) Outright hoaxes
2.) Noises due to unexpected machinery
3.) Movement due to vibrations
4.) Lights due to reflections/refractions/unexpected sources
5.) Hypnogogic illusions
Heck, even the guys trying to “sell” ghostly phenomena as real on those cable “ghost hunter” shows regularly turn up “rational” explanations for ghostly phenomena in an effort to make themselves look unbiased*
*I get “secondhand exposure” to ghosthunter shows, because my wife is a big fan. And mu daughter used to be.
I didn’t catch this part, how exactly do the ghosts make the infra-sound noises?
They operate heavy machinery. Or get Whoopi Goldberg to do it for them.
Don’t forget strong electromagnetic fields, man-made or natural. There have been quite a few studies that show those can cause all sorts of merry hell on humans who are sensitive to them.
Thanks, very interesting article.
I’ve seen it before, and I agree that it was rather interesting. I also agree that’s it’s probably not the only thing causing people to believe in ghosts. There’s a lot of stuff out there.
For example, my best friend from kindergarten believed ghosts existed because he saw the knob on his radio turn itself and change the volume. It’s something he couldn’t explain, so he assumed it must be a ghost. That’s all it takes–something you can’t explain.