What is the Nature of Ghosts? Some Alternative Theories

Discussion in 'Parapsychology' started by nivek, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

    What is the Nature of Ghosts? Some Alternative Theories

    The most traditional idea, and the one most pervasive among most people, is the idea that ghosts are the spirits of the dead, that the soul has somehow transcended the death of the physical body to continue on to inhabit our realm for reasons unknown.

    In this view, ghosts are basically us, just living on into the afterlife while tethered to the world of the living for reasons we cannot comprehend. Maybe they are unwilling to “move on,” or maybe it is that some tragedy or unfulfilled goal has fueled some power to linger on the physical plane. When people think of ghosts, this is perhaps the most common vision that many will have, and how most people would probably define them, that they are our lost dead.

    One of the interesting conundrums about this particularly prevalent idea, other than the fact there is no proof at all that anything survives us after death, is that there are innumerable religions, faiths, each with ideas on the afterlife as varied as the cultures who believe them. In some there is a form of Heaven or some form of Hell, some new realm away from the we are in now, while in others we are reincarnated or even become one with the universe.

    There is often little mention, if any, of wandering spirits loitering about Earth and interacting with it, or details on what those spirits should be like. There is also the oddity that despite all of these different ideas on death and the afterlife, regardless of the differences ghostly phenomena are often remarkably similar across the spectrum in many ways, so what are we to make of this? Is there any chance that ghosts are not the spirits of the living at all, and if not what could they be?


    One alternative idea to the theory of ghosts as the spirits of the dead involves the concept that these are not independent entities at all, but rather a sort of echo of what once was. Commonly referred to as “residual hauntings,” the basic idea is that for some reason past events have been imprinted upon the building or the landscape and are merely playing back like images on camera film, or sounds on an audiotape, residual memories of a time lost. In this theory, what we see are not spirits in the traditional sense at all, but more like watching a video, with the film being the area around it.

    This theory is especially applied to those cases wherein the apparitions seem to mindlessly repeat the same series of actions over and over again, perhaps for all eternity, and do not seem to realize that they are being watched or that they are dead, no more than an image on film “knows” it is being looked at. Why and how these particular past events should have been transplanted onto the landscape, as well as how they are played back, are unknown, but there has been speculation.

    For instance, it has been postulated that death, pain, suffering, tragedy, and other events involving strong emotions might somehow stain the location, imprint upon it, and cause these incidents to be replayed, and this fits in with hauntings often occurring at places where something terrible has happened. There is also the idea that the composition of the surrounding soil or rocks itself may have some part to play in these residual hauntings.

    Are ghosts perhaps, at least in some cases, merely history playing back on an endless loop?

    Another intriguing theory is that ghosts do not come from the outside world at all, but rather from within. In this line of reasoning, ghosts are not a product of supernatural energy or strange forces of nature, but are rather extensions of the mind reaching out through little understood psychic powers, creating seemingly real constructs projected onto the physical world solely through the power of the subconscious mind. These thought forms are often referred to as tulpas, and can even be generated by people who are not even aware that they are doing it, the forms often appearing to materialize or vanish at will, depending on the mental state of the individual or individuals projecting them.


    An interesting historical example of a ghost as a tulpa occurred in the 1960s, when a paranormal researcher by the name of Hanz Holzer was looking into a series of hauntings in the building at 12 Gay Street, in New York City, which involved an apparition most commonly described as a tall gentleman dressed in black formal clothing and with a top hat, black cape, and cane. This phantom was said to walk about the darkened premises and surrounding area at night startling people only to disappear, Holzer would go on to publish the case in his 1966 paranormal book Yankee Ghosts, and this is where things get rather bizarre indeed.

    According to an author named Walter B. Gibson, he had lived in that very same building not long before Holzer began his investigation. Gibson claimed that he had been living there in order to do research for an installment for his series of novels starring a Batman-like crime fighter called The Shadow. So absorbed was he in his writing and in envisioning The Shadow roaming about the streets and the premises that he would often even hallucinate his character, who just happened to wield a cane and wear formal evening clothes, a cape, and a top hat.

    The author likely would have attributed this to pure tiredness and obsession with his character if he had not happened to read Holzer’s book. He was immediately taken aback by the similarities between the ghost and his character, as well as the fact that the sightings were taking place in the exact same place he had lived while writing his novel at around the same time, and he became convinced that what had been seen was an actual projection of his character from his mind, which had somehow been transferred into reality.

    Related to the idea of these thought forms materializing into reality from the mind are mental powers running amok in other ways. For instance, it is believed even among many paranormal researchers that some poltergeist infestations could be caused by psychokinetic energy, that is, the mind reaching out to touch the physical world, unleashed to cause disturbances such as moving objects or anomalous noises.

    As with some cases of tulpas, these outbursts can strike out even without the knowledge of the person producing them, but they usually follow some general tendencies, for instance in most cases, psychokinetic poltergeist activity originates with younger individuals, and is most likely linked to some inner turmoil, stress, or emotional strife. This sort of ghostly activity is typically not confined to any one location, as it is tethered to a person or persons, and it could be a possible explanation of “hauntings” that follow a family from place to place.


    Even more outlandish than any of those theories is the idea that ghostly phenomena come from neither our physical or mental worlds, but rather a whole other realm beyond ours entirely. The idea has to do with the concept of multiple dimensions, parallel realities beyond our own that may bump up against ours and may even allow us to travel between them.

    This idea is dependent on the theory that rather than just one reality or physical universe as we know it, there is “multiverse” of many other, possibly even infinite other universes that all lie side by side with each other, but which are generally imperceptible to us. If this is so, then the reasoning is that inhabitants of these parallel dimension may bleed over into ours or even intentionally break through the mysterious veil that separates us from time to time.

    The researcher and author John Keel, as well as UFOlogist Jacques Vallée, were among the first in the paranormal world to suggest the link between multiple dimensions and paranormal phenomena when they theorized that UFOs and their occupants may not be from other faraway planets, but rather from parallel dimensions next to our own, beings that he termed “ultra-terrestrials.” This basic concept would later be expanded to include a possible explanation for all manner of paranormal phenomena, from strange entities, to ghosts, demons, and even cryptids or out of place animals. In this case, these phenomena are proposed as being caused by the denizens of these other universes bursting forth into our own, intentionally or otherwise.

    With ghostly phenomena this interdimensional angle could go down a few different ways. It could be that these entities are somehow becoming temporarily entangled with our reality, where they are sighted and even interact with our physical world before vanishing back to their own, which could very well be seen as ghosts or phantoms by witnesses. Or it could be that these are basically those ultra-terrestrials Keel spoke of, dimensional travelers coming to visit us for reasons unknown, but in this case rather than coming down in spaceships or UFOs they are appearing as ghosts, wraiths, and specters. It has even been theorized that aliens, ghosts, and other strange entities might all be basically the same thing, merely appearing differently to different individuals depending on witness expectations. So, if they think they are being abducted by aliens, that is what the entities appear as, whereas in a spooky old house they may appear as ghosts because that is what the witness is keyed up for.


    With apparitions of recognizable people or those who have died, this could also be indicative of other parallel dimensions that are nearly identical to ours, but a bit different. One of the theories of the multiverse is that there may very well be countless versions of our own dimension, with many of them almost the same but with some subtle or profound differences. For instance, there could be a reality where you wore a red shirt today instead of blue, where you made different choices, have a different job, or where you don’t even exist.

    Maybe in one reality a different team won the World Series, the Beatles never broke up, or one where dinosaurs never went extinct. Maybe a person who died in your own universe didn’t die in that one, but yet still inhabits the same place, where they go about life overlaid on this version of reality where they died. It this case, it is speculated, they might sort of overflow into our dimension from time to become visible for short durations or with a somewhat intangible or unearthly quality, only to fade away, making us think we’ve seen someone’s spirit rather than just a version of them from a different timeline.

    These have so far been ideas that are far from proven and remain mostly in the realm of conjecture and speculation, so what of other, more scientifically grounded explanations for ghosts? One popular theory in recent times has been that ghosts and similar entities could have their basis in naturally occurring phenomena rather than the supernatural, and that the main culprit could be what are known as ultra-low frequency soundwaves, or infrasound. These are sounds that register just below the threshold of human hearing, but which our bodies sense and are affected by all the same.

    Infrasound is known to create a wide range of physical and mental effects, including disorientation, dizziness, shortness of breath, faintness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and nausea, as well as emotional and mental effects including fear, sorrow, panic, and anxiety, and also effects on perception, like both aural and visual hallucinations, and since the one being affected cannot actually hear what is causing the disturbances, it could very well seem like the work of supernatural beings.

    Infrasound is actually quite common in nature as well, created by all manner of physical forces such as earthquakes, volcanoes, waves crashing upon rocks, wind, rain, and thunder, so perhaps the ghosts are really all in our head, the result of natural forces that we can’t hear.

    There is also the idea that our minds can play tricks on our perceptions in other ways as well. One good example would be some studies that show that electrical stimulation of certain areas of the brain can create a profound sense of other entities nearby or of “shadow people” lurking about taunting us. There was once interesting case illustrating this in action that was published in the journal Nature, which was carried out by researchers from University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, and described the case of an epilepsy patient who witnessed a separate entity in the room with her when a region of the brain known as the temporoparietal junction was stimulated.


    The woman apparently perceived this shadow figure as a very real autonomous entity separate from herself, rather than just a hallucination, and she often complained that the entity would touch her or embrace her. In some experiments this shadow person was described as interfering with her tasks, such as trying to pull cards out of her hands or distracting her in other ways. This strange phenomenon likely has to do with a crossing of the wires in this part of the brain, which distinguishes oneself from others, and one researcher in the study would say of the patient and the study:

    Similarly, ghostly phenomena could be the result of a range of optical illusions or hallucinations that emerge for a myriad of reasons. Psychological circumstances, stress, sleep deprivation, sleep paralysis, hypnagogia, or when a person is in a dream-like state halfway between sleep and waking, schizophrenia, drugs, side effects of medication, these can all combine with trigger visual cues such as a spooky locale to perhaps produce the perception of paranormal phenomena.

    The phenomenon known as pareidolia, wherein the human brain tries to make sense of random patterns by giving them a recognizable identity, could also play a role, in that something half glimpsed in one’s peripheral vision could be misconstrued as something more supernatural in nature. Combined with an over active imagination, visual cues, and an expectation to see something strange, all of these things could possibly contribute to experiences of ghostly phenomena when in fact there is nothing really there at all. Is it possible that ghosts are just all in our head?

    In the end it is perhaps impossible to explain the full range of ghostly phenomena with any one of these factors. Ghosts seem to be an area of the paranormal that is a lot more varied, nuanced, and complicated than it may at first seem, to the extent that to call something a “ghost” might be considered akin to calling a “dog” a “vertebrate.”

    The permutations and possible descriptions are vast. There are many factors at play here, all equally strange and all intertwined to the point that they may never be unraveled. What we can be sure of is that people since time unremembered have experienced ghostly phenomena, beyond the scope of mere tall tales and hoaxes, and something truly odd is going on, whatever that may be.

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    SOUL-DRIFTER Life Long Researcher

    Like so many other subjects of the strange and unusual. The diversity of reports of ghosts and their manifestations suggests strongly a mixed bag of explanations.
    Some are simply the spirits of those that have passed on.
    Some may be the result of an imprint onto the environment that replays itself at certain times.
    Some may be entities from a parallel universe not fully in phase.
    Others may be the spirit of those experiencing an Astral projection. I have read of a few than can be seen when they are away.
    Others still may be the psychic projection of the living, a subconscious thought-form in a sense.
    And there are other possibilities as well...

    Naturally science is bent on explaining away any and all reports. However some of their ideas(as mentioned above) may very well fit SOME cases.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. humanoidlord

    humanoidlord ce3 researcher

    cosmic trickster manifestation, as always
  4. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

    Hardly, more likely entities from non-physical dimensions...

  5. humanoidlord

    humanoidlord ce3 researcher

    well its my theory....
  6. wwkirk

    wwkirk Celestial

    Paul Eno, co-host of Behind the Paranormal, argues that ghosts are life forms that co-exist within different sectors of the multiverse.

    What Are Ghosts?
    "There are two tendencies of parasitical entities that my audiences find very frightening, and I don't blame them. One is that some parasites tend to be what I can only describe as 'pack hunters.' They work together to prey upon certain people or families, sometimes following them for generations. Other parasites are quieter, actually cultivating individuals or groups of people for their 'food' value.
    We as a species are quite literally being 'farmed.'"

    -Paul F. Eno

    (Most of this interview dates to 2005, before Paul & Ben went on the air.)

    Q. Your background as a professional journalist implies that you ought to be hard-headed, not one to believe in things without proof. Do you really believe in ghosts?

    Eno: Yes, I do, but they aren't the ghosts of the Victorian séance room that most "believers" accept. I have a very different opinion about what ghosts are, but they are very real nonetheless. As a matter of fact, I believe that ghost experiences have crucial lessons to teach us about ourselves, the nature of the universe and our own futures.

    Q. All right, then, what are ghosts?

    Eno: Certainly many "ghosts" -- even the most frightening ones -- can have very unexciting causes. For one thing, it's recently been discovered that very low frequency sound waves, or "standing waves," trapped in a building can cause many of the phenomena associated with ghosts. These are inaudible to humans but not to many animals. In humans, they can cause feelings of cold, nervousness, "hair standing up on the back of the neck," minor poltergeist activity and even your basic apparition.

    I can easily imagine that some or all of these phenomena can take place outside as well, given the right environmental circumstances.
    If this and all other explanations fail, however, my experience has been that there are three basic phenomena that can be called "real" ghosts: time displacements, parasitic entities and what are traditionally known as "visitation apparitions."

    In my opinion, ghosts are not "spirits of the dead" because I don't believe in death. Nor are they video-like recordings on the environment as many parapsychologists suggest for lack of any better explanation.

    I'm absolutely convinced that to understand ghosts, we must accept what has come to be known as "quantum reality." To make a very long story very short, the universe we experience with our five senses is not only illusory to a great degree, it seems one of an infinite number of universes that make up a vast, timeless "multiverse." As Einstein theorized, time and space are one and the same, and time itself has no objective reality: It's a function of our consciousness.

    Physicists who accept this view (and more and more do) describe reality as a space-time "foam," with infinite numbers of "bubbles," each of which is a universe. Together, they contain all possibilities. There is no "past" or "future" as we understand them, and the only difference between two given universes is that in one you may exist and in the other you don't. However, I believe that each of us exists in hundreds, thousands or even millions of these universes, and that all these "facets" of ourselves help make up the totality of what we are.

    It's in this bizarre context that we can find the key to what ghosts are. That's because, unlike in the Hollywood version ("Sliders," etc.), these space-time bubbles can impinge upon one another and pass through one another at certain points -- and we can cause them to do so.

    I believe that it's out of this framework that we experience ghosts. If we're in the right place at the right time, as it were, and if our own consciousness is "tuned" properly, we can see, hear and even interact with people from other "times."

    These people aren't dead because there is no death, only life. But the apparent fact that these space-time "membranes" can be so "thin" explains not only the vast majority of ghost experiences, but also the fact that people sometimes experience ghosts of people who haven't yet "died," ghostly animals, objects, buildings and even whole towns and cities. People even see "ghosts" of themselves.

    I also encounter what I can describe only as "parasitic entities." These seem to be life forms that use electromagnetic fields, including the bioelectric fields around our own bodies, to gain access to where we are so they can feed off our energy, usually negative energy. Among other phenomena, I believe these entities include poltergeists. They demonstrate intelligence and have a remarkable ability to learn. In "Footsteps in the Attic," I describe various techniques to fight these entities.

    There are two tendencies of parasitical entities that my audiences find very frightening, and I don't blame them. One is that some parasites tend to be what I can only describe as "pack hunters." They work together to prey upon certain people or families, sometimes following them for generations. Other parasites are quieter, actually cultivating individuals or groups of people for their "food" value.

    We as a species are quite literally being "farmed."

    I include "tulpas" in my list of these parasites. Known in many cultures and prominent among the darker spiritual concepts of the Tibetan Buddhists, the tulpa is believed to be a spirit deliberately created by concentration. Many tulpas are well documented, and I have cases in my files about groups of parapsychology students who actually have created tulpas. These entities often take on lives of their own and can be very difficult to "put away." Some have even been photographed. Personally, I believe that tulpas are parasites that already exist and just use the opportunity to take form and gain strength through all the human concentration.

    Finally, I believe that there are legitimate "visitation apparitions" often from loved ones who have "moved on." There seem to be some universes or states of awareness that are clearer or more enlightened than ours. Those whose condition puts them in one of these universes after their "deaths" seem to be able to aid loved ones and others who remain.

    I emphasize the physical nature of all this. In most cases, I don't believe these are "spirits" in any sense that the popular mind undersands this. If there were, why would they be wearing clothes and doing everyday things? They sometimes appear to have bodies because they do -- in the more aware parallel universe.

    So, in fact, any entity that we think of as a "ghost" is a life form of some kind.

    Q. You've come to some unusual conclusions about ghosts and where they fit in the scheme of reality. What qualifies you to do this?

    Eno: First of all, I never try to pass myself off as a scientist. I'm a professional journalist with a background in theology, philosophy and psychology who investigates, catalogs experiences and writes about this scientific subject.

    Of course, in most cases I go beyond just writing, and I take action to try to help people if they need it. I feel qualified to do this because I have more experience with this subject than most people, and I studied under some of the mid-20th century greats.

    It would be difficult to be involved with this for as long as I have and not notice the characteristics, patterns and commonalities among these phenomena. Presumably, my years as a journalist give me credibility as a trained observer. My philosophy degree should mean that I have some training as a thinker who can analyze the evidence and arrive at some tenable conclusions.

    Besides, I'm not the first one to suggest many of these ideas. Nor will I be the last, because more and more people are realizing that the traditional scientific method (observation-theory-experiment-law), based on scientific materialism, is being hopelessly outdated by this new vision of reality. We can't hope to understand a multi-dimensional universe with a three-dimensional method.

    So in my work in this field, I try to involve bolder experts from many different professions. There is a dire need for serious research into the paranormal, and not by people who work only to make the paranormal fit the traditional model of a science. That can't work. There is a spiritual dimension to everything, and the "new science" finally is beginning to admit that.

    Q. Who are these "bolder experts"?

    Eno: Currently, I work on-site (not necessarily all at once) with a soil engineer, an electrical engineer, a professional photography expert, an expert on "death and dying" and a Blackfoot medicine man. We also have advisors to help with the people who are victims of negative phenomena, including a psychotherapist and a few clergy. And I'm very much on the lookout for an open-minded physicist. Seems like a motley crew, but each of these fields is very relevant.

    Q. You didn't mention psychics.

    Eno: I seldom if ever work with psychics. With a few rare exceptions, I find them completely ridiculous. In my experience at least, and with apologies to the few good ones I've met over the years, most psychics seem to be on an ego trip, with little understanding of what their often legitimate sensitivities really mean. And virtually all of them seem fixated on what I refer to as the 19th century, Victorian séance-room vision of what this is all about.

    Q. How do you find cases to investigate?

    Eno: They find me. People will read something I've written, or perhaps see an article about me, and they'll call, e-mail or write New River Press, my publisher, which will put them in touch with me. Often, people will attend one of my book signings or lecture programs and talk with me afterward about their situations.

    Q. How do you carry on a typical investigation?

    Eno: I ask people to tell me as little as possible about what's happening, then I'll visit the site on my own to see what impressions I pick up. Of course, now that I've bad-mouthed psychics, it sounds as though I'm being one! But what I'm really doing is looking for electrical fields, cold spots and other clues that I've learned about from experience.

    Naturally, I make every effort to determine at the outset, and throughout the case, if people's psychological states or other mundane causes are responsible or partially responsible for the situation.

    If the people who've experienced the phenomena relate experiences that correspond with my findings thus far, I listen to the whole story and begin calling in other members of my "team." We rely a great deal on the soil science of the site and on photographing anomalies there.

    If there is no immediate threat to the people, as from a nasty poltergeist outbreak, we will take time to study the phenomena in detail. If there is more urgency, we will begin helping people heal the situation. Sometimes, we will call in clergy from whatever religion the people belong to.

    Situations are often difficult, and I make no guarantees.

    Q. Now your son, Ben, has joined you!

    Eno: Yes! After years of asking to come on my cases, my wife and I believe he's old enough to help. I have been very careful in the past to keep him out of contact with the really "scary stuff." But he has demonstrated a remarkable maturity, grasp of the subject, and an ability to pick up psychic stimuli. His personal charm helps reassure nervous families, and he's great with the camera. What better lesson for a young person than to realize there's something challenging in life that he doesn't have to fear, and that he can help others learn the same lesson! I'm very proud of Ben, and I'd have him by my side anytime!

    Q. What do you charge for your services?

    Eno: As a rule, nothing. If somebody wants me to come a great distance, I'll probably have to ask for mileage and expenses, but I never charge for services as such. I recover later when I write or lecture about the case. To that end, I ask people to sign a paper waiving their rights to photographs or videos taken in the case and, at the same time, guaranteeing their anonymity when I do write or lecture, unless they specifically direct otherwise.

    And after my experience in the Bridgeport poltergeist case of 1974 (see "Faces at the Window"), people can be sure that I make every effort to keep the press out of it!
  7. goblin

    goblin Noble

    Years ago I met with an area ghost hunter who had some concept that ghosts are nonhuman entities that somehow mask themselves as deceased humans. If I remember right he thought these entities were not of human (or greater) intelligence, but somehow took on an imprint of a departed human personality. Why only departed humans and not living humans, I do not recall. I took some notes, I'll have to see if I still have them.

    Not that I think he's likely correct but, it was a new one on me.

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