Ghost Explained (Part 4)

Plasma and Psychospheres

by Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs

A Field Phenomenon

Perhaps one of the most intriguing mysteries to make it into the 21st century without ever having been resolved is the ghost phenomenon.[1] Such a vast literature has been written on the subject that I will not expound on anything in this brief paper, but straightforwardly introduce a possible working hypothesis that may guide us in future investigations.

In every ghost apparition essentially two participants can be identified:

• the percipient is the one and sometimes the group undergoing the experience;
• the agent is the ghost itself or the person who is represented by the ghost, himself often deceased.

The most fundamental issue at stake in the ghost phenomenon appears to be the question who or what triggers the apparition: who takes the initiative? Subjective theories argue that the percipient himself initiates the apparition, for example as the effect of his unconscious on his sensory organs. Objective theories, on the other hand, advocate the view that there really is physical substance and actuality in the apparition, in other words, that the ghost itself may really operate on the percipient.[2]

Taking all the evidence together it would seem that there are certain arguments in favour of both explanations. Given the strong neurological resemblance between ghost apparitions and hallucinations, for example, it sounds likely to assume that the ghost apparition is essentially a between-the-ears process. Yet other considerations vouch for the physical existence of the ghost:

• the ghost is frequently observed by more than one person, all in their right minds, and appears to each of them in the correct perspective;
• the percipient generally does not even remotely expect to see anything of the kind, as most ghosts come completely ‘out of the blue’;
• many percipients have skeptical views of the paranormal and are greatly surprised by what they see;
• the ghost often appears opaque, blotting out objects behind it;
• the ghost is sometimes reflected in a mirror;
• the ghost often looks exactly like the agent, wearing clothes or having physical characteristics that are by no means known to the observer;
• the ghost is occasionally seen by animals as well, who sometimes even point the apparition out to the human percipient.

Thus, on one hand there is no denying that the ghost apparition is connected with hallucinatory processes in the brain,[3] whilst on the other hand there really appears to be some sort of external trigger. It seems warranted, then, to assume in the final analysis that both objective and subjective explanations play a part in the process. Now, how could this be envisioned?

I think a theory of ghosts could greatly benefit from the use of a field model. Field theory is especially common in physics, where it is used to account for the simultaneous presence or operation of certain forces in different places at the same time. The best known fields are the gravitational and the electromagnetic fields. Fields have a number of basic properties which will turn out to be of great help in a theory of ghosts:

#1. A field is typically generated by a single object.

#2. Fields can only be felt or experienced if you are properly attuned to them.

#3. Two or more different fields can overlap if they are close enough or the spheres are large enough. The resulting force in the overlapping area will be the sum of the forces of the overlapping fields.

#4. The field radiates outwards from this objects with a gradual decline in strength. The strength of the field declines in space and time – in space, because the further you are removed from the centre the weaker the field becomes, and in time, because the longer after the original generation of the field, the weaker the field becomes.

These characteristics seem to make sense of many aspects commonly involved in ghost experiences:

#1. A large class of ghost apparitions, most notably the deathbed and near-death apparitions and so-called crisis apparitions, take place on occasion of extreme emotional stress, usually of a negative kind, but occasionally of a delightful nature. It would seem, then, that the psychological crisis experienced by the agent generates a field of some kind, which forms the basis of the apparition. I will provisionally call this field a psychic field or a psychosphere.[4]

#2. Many people never see ghosts and it even occurs that some people in a group see it, but one in the group misses it. There appears to be a selection of people who can observe a ghost. This could be explained by a field model, in which persons whose senses pick up the right wavelengths can see a ghost. This notion bears a close resemblance to Rupert Sheldrake’s suggestion of morphic fields, which convey information relevant to select groups of individuals, as well as to theories of telepathy. As a rule of thumb you could say that people who are closely related or know each other well seem to be better ‘tuned in’ to each other and that might help explain why so many ghosts are identified as family members of the percipient, dead or alive.[5]

#3. The discrepancy between the objective and subjective theories of ghosts could now be overcome by invoking the principle of an overlap of fields. If we might posit for the moment that every human being – or every animal with a brain – has his own psychosphere, then all types of non-verbal, non-visual and distant communication could be understood as the result of an overlap of psychospheres,[6] facilitated if the persons involved are tuned in to the same wavelengths. Thus, if someone sees a ghost it is neither enough to suppose that the agent is sending out signals nor to suppose that the percipient is hallucinating, but both are true at once, as it is a mutual process triggered by this overlap of psychospheres. The agent, typically on occasion of crisis, broadcasts strong signals constituting his own psychosphere, which are picked up by the percipient if he is tuned in properly.[7] The psychosphere must somehow be supposed to convey all the necessary information to ‘make a ghost’ and ‘deliver a message’, for which issue see below.

#4. The gradual decline of a field in time and space works well for the ghost phenomenon. Naturally, you would expect that the psychosphere is at its strongest close to the agent and at the moment of the crisis itself. This is, of course, why deathbed apparitions are such a common class of ghost observations. The two other dominant classes of ghost apparitions are haunters and crisis apparitions. Haunters and to a lesser degree revenants are classes of ghosts who are bound to one particular place and appear more than once in that area for an extended period of time. Many people can see the same haunters, including people who have no idea who the haunter is. Unlike haunters, crisis apparitions are ghosts who are seen in a different place than the place of trauma, often far removed from it, but this time almost exclusively by close relatives and friends of the agent. Thus, haunters and crisis apparitions appear to be each other’s opposites in terms of distance and familiarity:

location: seen by:
haunters: same place anyone
crisis apparitions: anywhere close family and friends

These observations receive an excellent explanation in terms of a field, as the two classes of ghost apparitions correspond to the peaks of field strength in space and time respectively. That is, whilst the field strength gradually declines after the crisis it can still be picked up either by being close to the centre of the field, where it was generated (haunters) or by being well attuned to the correct wavelength (crisis apparitions). If you are far removed from the source and are not tuned in to the particular person you will miss the signals.

This explanation requires, almost as a corollary, that a psychosphere imprinted by someone in mental crisis can linger on after the person’s death. This imprint could then be identified with a ‘soul’ or ‘astral double’, if you like.[8] It supposedly forms a double of the agent in crisis himself and sometimes even of his environment.

What Type of Field?

The upshot is that a field theory of some sort would seem able to make sense of the communication aspect of the ghost experience. The next step from here would be to determine what type of field this is and how exactly it can convey information about the form, the behaviour and the message of the ghost. In the large majority of cases the ghost turns out to look exactly like the agent, often displaying features of which the percipient was by no means aware. Does the field somehow contain a three-dimensional image of a visual type, so that the percipient’s brain, receiving these data turns them into a hallucinatory vision, giving the percipient the feeling that he has actually observed the ghost with his eyes and other senses?[9]

A first step towards the answer is to remember that the human brain and nervous system are of an electric nature.[10] The impulses sent from our eyes, ears, nose and skin to our brain are electrical signals transported through our nerves. Thus, the information constituting a ghost experience always ends up in an electric format in our brains, but if we want to find out whether the ghost is merely a set of field parameters picked up by our brain or a real observed object, we need to know if the psychosphere itself could be an electromagnetic field. Now, interestingly, there are telling clues that ghosts do indeed have a close connection with electromagnetic phenomena:

A neighbour boy enlisted to the Marines, and was serving in the Pacific. His parents heard nothing for about six weeks, his mother was wild with anxiety. One morning I stood looking across our yard toward our neighbor’s mailbox thinking ‘If only Bob’s mother could get a letter’. As if in answer to my prayer, there stood Bob, right near the mailbox, in his Marine uniform. He and his uniform appeared pale in colour and fuzzy in outline. He neither moved nor spoke … After Bob stood there for a minute or two impressing his thought on my mind, his ‘body’ started to rise. It stretched out longer and thinner – not straight into the sky, but at an angle of perhaps 30 degrees from the vertical. When the head and shoulders were perhaps 3 metres above where they had been at first they suddenly turned into (or went into) a bright shaft of light, like a very bright electrical bolt. The balance of the figure followed the head and shoulders into the light and disappeared. The bolt appeared about a metre long and 12 centimetres in diameter. The queer thing was the sparks of blue and green light that appeared to radiate from the lower edge of the bolt, and the yellow and red sparks that came from the upper end … Bob’s last two letters came that day, and in September came a ‘missing in action’ telegram.[11]

Filmed for a television documentary, investigators headed by William Roll and Andrew Nichols, both of them professors of parapsychology in American universities, found significant electromagnetic readings in houses where hauntings were claimed.[12]

Eastman, Chief Engineer at the Rhodes Electrical Company, London, was working with his colleague Harold Woodew in a darkened room, arranging high-tension wires to form a magnetic field. To their astonishment, a luminous blue sphere began to form over a dynamo revolving near them. Then, as the light grew brighter, they saw a form resembling a human hand appear in the centre of the sphere. They watched it for several minutes, until it faded away. For four days, the two men worked to re-create the conditions in which the phenomenon had occurred. When they eventually succeeded, the sphere again appeared, but this time the form which appeared in the magnetic field resembled a human head, white in colour and slowly revolving.[13]

During an apparition the percipient’s hair is often raised and the person frequently feels a chilling passing wind as well:

Percipients quite often tell us they have a feeling of something strange before they actually see their ghost … At one point during the Cheltenham case, Rosina Despard notes, ‘I felt a cold icy shiver’ when the ghost bends over her while she is playing the piano. On another occasion five of the witnesses feel ‘a cold wind, though their candles were not blown about’.[14]

Ghosts sometimes produce Poltergeist effects, such as lifting tables, or closing windows or doors. These observations could be explained in terms of electromagnetism as well.

It would seem, then, that the psychosphere is an electromagnetic field or at least has an influence on electromagnetism. But how could an electromagnetic field possibly take on the visual appearance of a ghost? This question has to my knowledge never been answered in existing literature and it is at this point that I would like to introduce plasma as the possible key to decipherment of the ghost enigma.[15] A plasma is an ionised gas, which is by definition located in an electromagnetic field. The particles of the plasma rearrange themselves according to the field lines of the magnetic field, so that a plasma in a field with a sufficiently strong current becomes a visible manifestation of the magnetic field. The shape a plasma takes on, therefore, is the shape of the magnetic field. It is now generally acknowledged that plasma accounts for 99.9 % of the universe; well-known examples of plasma formations are stars, the sun, the auroras, lightning, and fire. I would now propose the following working hypothesis for a new theory of ghosts:

A ghost is a plasma formed when the percipient’s electromagnetic field overlaps with the electromagnetic ‘psychosphere’ of the – often distant – agent and the combined field strength ionises the gas particles in the air.

This hypothesis could be tested by a detailed comparison of the morphology of ghosts with plasma physics. Although I am in no way a specialist in plasma physics, a general reading of literature would support the following observations:

• Ghosts often glow or are visible in the dark. This is a property of plasma.
• Ghosts run the gamut of sometimes being completely transparent and sometimes being completely opaque. Opacity is a function of the density of the plasma.
• Ghosts occasionally produce sound, but they often have difficulty with it, fail to say something, or merely utter an eerie cry. Plasmas, such as auroras and lightings, are frequently accompanied by sound.
• Most ghosts are stationary, but some are engaged in some activity or move around. Plasmas could be either stationary or mobile.
• Ghosts are sometimes seen passing through walls, but often open doors like ordinary people. There would be no boundaries for moving plasmas, although it appears that the agent urges the plasma to react as a living person would do.
• Ghosts never leave physical objects behind. Plasmas are simply ionised gases.
• Many ghosts start off as a ball, then become a ring or a humanoid form. Witness the following examples:

A party of young people and myself determined on All Hallow’s Eve to play at the childish game of sitting separately in dark rooms, with supper laid for two, with the intention of awaiting the appearance of a future husband or wife. Thinking the whole thing a joke, and not in the least expecting to see anything, I distinctly saw, first, a flimsy cloud which rose up at the other end of the room, then the head and shoulders of a man, middle-aged, stout, with iron-grey hair and blue eyes – not in the least the picture which a young girl would imagine she saw on such an occasion.[16]

Frau Schmidt-Falk is climbing alone, when she happens to miss her way: ‘… Having started a little late for the return, and light beginning to fade, all of a sudden I found myself in a really dangerous position … All of a sudden I noticed a sort of a big ball of light, and this condensed to the shape of a tall, rather Chinese looking gentleman … The gentleman bowed, spoke a few words, led me a small path to the tourists’ way, and disappeared as a ball of light.[17]

When we were about five, Aunt Sarah died … About two weeks later, Bud and I were playing by the side of the house at twilight (sic!). I happened to look up and saw a cloudy, swirling vapour. It became Aunt Sarah, standing there by the house.[18]

(While working with medium Marthe Béraud) ‘I see something like a white vapour, about 40 centimetres from me. It is like a white veil or handkerchief on the ground. This whiteness rises, becomes rounded. Soon it is a head, level with the ground: it rises further, grows, and becomes a human figure, a short man, wearing a turban and a white robe, with a beard …[19]

I was lying on a divan, reading, at about 5 p. m., when I saw at the doorway a little luminous circle, like the reflection of a mirror. I could see nothing that would cause such a light. The luminous circle became larger, and when it was as big as the door itself, a kind of dark shadow appeared in the middle of it. A human figure formed more and more distinctly, then detached itself from the wall and advanced towards me.[20]

Other than the visible plasma, the intruding psychosphere might contain additional electromagnetic information to be read by the brain of the percipient, which could perhaps account for the missing information, important advice, correct hiding place and so forth transmitted by the ghost in many ghost experiences. Needless to say that the investigation has only just begun.


The following is a very brief extract of the findings of Hilary Evans’ detailed study of ghost apparitions:

Types of ghosts[21]

#1 from the past:
#1a revenants
#1b deathbed and near-death
#1c haunters
#2 of the present:
#2a crisis apparitions
#2b living ghosts
#2c autophany and bi-location
#3 of the future
#4 out of time:
#4a aerial battles and other events
#4b archetypal ghosts

Characteristics of ghosts[22]

#1 a ghost is generally life-like in appearance;
#2 a ghost is usually ‘seen’ in much the same way as if it was real;
#3 a ghost may be seen either collectively or selectively;
#4 a ghost may change its appearance during the sighting;
#5 a ghost generally adapts to its surroundings (by minding doors and so on)
#6 a ghost may appear by forming from a luminous or misty shape;
#7 a ghost is generally dressed naturally … but sometimes not;
#8 a ghost may be clearly defined … or fuzzy;
#9 a ghost may be seen in whole or in part;
#10 a ghost’s appearance may contain details unknown to the percipient;
#11 a ghost may be opaque or transparent, may reflect or not, cast a shadow or not;
#12 a ghost may or may not be seen by its own luminosity;
#13 ghosts can make sounds;
#14 a ghost may perform a physical action … but if so, the action is trivial;
#15 a ghost may be touched and felt … but lack material substance;
#16 a ghost may respond to the percipient or act as though s/he isn’t there;
#17 a ghost generally makes a once-only visit … but sometimes returns;
#18 a ghost may appear in two places simultaneously, or within an impossibly short space of time;
#19 a ghost may depart naturally, or vanish abruptly, or simply fade away;
#20 a ghost never leaves any souvenir, memento or trace;
#21 a ghost may be seen by the ‘wrong’ person;
#22 a ghost frequently fails to establish its identity;
#23 ghosts are frequently sensed.

Purposes of the ghost experience[23]

#1 apparitions offering comfort, counsel, help
#2 apparitions requesting comfort, counsel, help
#3 apparitions warning of danger
#4 apparitions seeking to complete ‘unfinished business’
#5 apparitions manifesting malevolence
#6 apparitions as messengers of doom.

Marginally related phenomena[24]

#1 dreams
#2 hallucinations
#3 religious visions
#4 battlefield helpers
#5 folklore entities
#6 angels and women in white
#7 demons and men in black
#8 bedroom visitors
#9 extraterrestrial beings
#10 séance-room materialisations

Those who have the ghost experience[25]

#1 exceptional people
#2 sensitive people
#3 ‘encounter-prone’ people
#4 exceptional states
#5 mystical states
#6 exceptional circumstances
#7 violent death and reincarnation
#8 immediate circumstances
#9 geophysical parameters.

So, if a person experiences a severe electric shock, or his house is built on clay, or he is susceptible to thunderstorms, or he is laid low by fever, or eats the wrong food or no food, or dallies with drugs or abuses alcoholic beverages, or pushes himself too hard at the office, or drives alone at night or sails alone across an ocean, or undergoes a spiritual transformation or quarrels with his partner at the breakfast table – in these or a hundred other situations, he may be rendered more likely to have a ghost experience.[26]


• Because we know that the subconscious … can visualize a hallucination, we may accept this as the process whereby an apparition is perceived, the suggestion either originating in the individual’s own subconscious, or suggested to it by an external agent.

• Because we know no limits to the creativity of the human mind, we may accept the possibility that many ghosts … are visualizations, exteriorized by the percipient’s own subconscious and accepted as real by his conscious mind.

• Because we know that the mind is occasionally capable of remote viewing we know that psi exists, and because the mind can be capable of precognition, we know that super-psi exists; and because we know no limits to super-psi, we may conceive it possible that the mind can obtain unlimited access to information of every kind.

• Because we know that projection takes place, we know that the extended self, or something like it, must exist. If so, it is a likely candidate for many types of apparition, notably living ghosts and those which seem to involve bi-location.

• Because the extended self, in the course of projections, displays memory, awareness and other indications of intelligence … we may accept that these faculties can exist apart from the physical body.

• Because the extended self, possessing awareness, intelligence and memory, can seemingly exist apart from the physical body, we may further conceive that it could survive the death of the physical body, and even continue to display signs of individual personality.

• Because we know that ghosts sometimes communicate information known to no living person, and utter veridical warnings, we know that whatever causes them enjoys seemingly unlimited access to knowledge; this could be the percipient’s own subconscious, or the extended self of the surviving dead, using super-psi.

• Because there are cases in which more than one person sees the same ghost in natural perspective, we may conceive that the subconscious, or the extended self, or the two in collaboration, can create a short-lived apparition which has some degree of material substance.[27]


[1] Along with a host of closely related phenomena such as UFOs, saintly visions, battlefield helpers, folklore entities, angels, demons, women in white and men in black, extraterrestrial visitors, séance-room materialisations, and bedroom visitors, see H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 130-165

[2] Compare: We have basically two models for the experience: • The subjective model, originating with the subconscious of the percipient. Either of its own accord, or in response to information obtained via psi or super-psi – comprising telepathy, clairvoyance, and unlimited access to information including precognition and retrocognition – the subconscious initiates a visualization process whereby it exteriorizes an image which can be perceived consciously by the percipient, and perhaps by others, as an apparition. • The external model, originating with an external agent – by which we generally mean the extended self of a person still living, or the surviving extended self of a person once living but now dead – which is able either to manifest as an apparition, or to impose an image by suggestion on to the subconscious of the percipient(s) and cause it to exteriorize an apparition … in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 235f.

[3] Compare: Psychological variables of many kinds are the building blocks of the ghost experience: hallucination is no more than the process which enables them to find visual expression as the devil, an extraterrestrial alien or Aunt Jane’s ghost, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 137

[4] William Roll calls this a psi field: Because the ‘telepathic charge’ of a haunted house is similar to the magnetic, gravitational, and other fields that surround physical objects, I have used the concept of psi field to describe psi phenomena that seem to depend on such objects. We can think of the psi field of an object, whether animate or inanimate, as a pattern of associations … In the same way as a magnet may magnetize another piece of metal and then be destroyed without affecting the new magnet, so may the images, ideas, and so on of a person continue to exist as part of the psi fields of objects with which he was once in contact, after he has gone. The image of a person seen in an apparition, whether this image was produced by him or someone else, may survive his death without being inhabited by his consciousness, William Roll, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 250

[5] James Crenshaw has toyed extensively with the idea of different realities with different wavelengths, as the following quotes show: Aside from the considerations of pure spirit, the same kind of vibrating energy, the same kind of dancing wave patterns that we encounter here are to be found there. Only the wavelengths, the incredibly rapid rate of vibration – frequencies of high orders unimagined in our world – appear to be different, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 271. The residents of the next world are able to take on a lower frequency, allowing them to manifest in our space and time. This is like a different radio or TV frequency, to which you need to be attuned if you are to receive the signal, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 271

[6] Compare: What happens when a witness perceives a haunter, in Price’s view, is that there takes place an ‘overlapping or interpenetration of two psychic atmospheres, the one which surrounds the percipient’s body and the one which pervades the room’ (which he supposes has been, as it were, left behind by the haunter after her death), in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 232

[7] Compare: One way of accounting for the crisis apparition would be if our subconscious is continually scanning the cosmos, like the radar scanner at an airfield, and picks up on happenings relevant to itself …, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 233

[8] Adolphe d’Assier in 1887 deemed this the ‘post-sepulchral spectre’: It is the phantasmal replica of all the organs of the human body. It has been seen, in fact, to move, speak, take nourishment, accomplish, in a word, the different functions of animal life. The molecules which constitute it are evidently borrowed from the organism which gave it birth. It may then be defined as a gaseous tissue offering a certain resistance, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 258

[9] This view is defended by Hilary Evans: It is attractive to suppose that the subconscious of some percipients – those that are, as it were, on the same wavelength as the psi field – may pick up a message from the psi field and externalize it as an apparition, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 250

[10] Compare: Like any brain process, hallucinations are essentially electrical; so in principle they can be recorded, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 142

[11] Pearl Ullrich, Bellingham, Washington State, 3 July 1944, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 88f.

[12] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 187

[13] Eastman, Woodew, London, circa 1930?, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 188

[14] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 92

[15] James Crenshaw’s theories came very close, but James had apparently never heard of plasma. He postulates fields of force as the basic building blocks of the universe: the particles which make up reality as we know it are merely ‘evanescent indicators’ of the emergence of these fields of force into our physical world of space and time. It is these fields which control the kind of growth and development exemplified by, say, the directive process of cell division, and – I suppose – the whole forward-progressing course of evolution. Crenshaw suggests that similar processes may result in apparitions and materializations: ‘the apparition appears to be made up of the same kind of transitory, emerging matter. It appears and disappears, can sometimes be seen and felt before disappearing, occasionally moves objects and leaves material traces …’ in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 270

[16] Mrs Gordon Jones, Anerley, England, Autumn, 1881, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 70

[17] Elsa Schmidt-Falk, Bavarian Alps, 1950s, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 109f.

[18] De Leon, Bonham, Texas, 1889, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 127

[19] Charles Richet, Villa Carmen, France, 1904, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 163

[20] N. Heintze, Moscow, Russia, 15 April 1884, in H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 163

[21] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 13-57

[22] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 58-94

[23] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 105

[24] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 130-165

[25] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 192-214

[26] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 213

[27] H. Evans, Seeing ghosts; experiences of the paranormal, John Murray, London, 2002: 273

Ghost Explained (Part 3)

Dealing with Ghosts

Playing host to a ghost is not necessarily a bad thing.  Ghosts seldom present any physical threat to the living, after all, and they tend to be self-absorbed, more concerned with their own problems than with causing trouble for anybody else.  Resident spirits can even be comforting, provided they belong to benevolent ancestors or departed friends, or even to a charmingly sorrowful soul who’s just looking for company.

Viewed with a coldly commercial eye, a haunting can even have practical value.  Harmless but interesting haunts add a certain romantic cachet to a house, and that cachet may enhance property value.

All that having been said, however, most of us would probably prefer to confine our households to the living, simply because ghosts are scary.  Faced with the chilling certainty that some stranger is invisibly among us, its nature unknowable and its motives and intentions unknown, our first reflex is to scream.  But to whom?

To a priest is one answer.  In times past, and sometimes even today, spirit infestation was deemed a religious problem, best solved by religious means.  There has never been a society, primitive or modern, pagan or Judeo-Christian, that lacked the necessary technicians, whether witch doctors or shamans or clergy.  Tibetan Buddhists still use a rite called shedur that involves summoning a protective goddess to oust an offending spirit.  And of course, the Roman Catholic Church still occasionally employs the ancient rite of exorcism.

Some purists argue that exorcism aims to out demons, not ghosts.  But other experts dismiss this distinction as mere semantics, contending that a ghost, broadly defined, is any alien spirit that impinges on the world of the living, not just a spirit of the dead.  Demons qualify, therefore, and demonic possession is the invasion of a soul by some foreign entity rather than the invasion of a dwelling.  Indeed, the most ancient human problem with spirits has not been so much with the haunting of property as the haunting of souls, and these spirits, by definition, were evil.

The Catholic Church perfected its rite of exorcism early, in the 4th centaury, and it has changed little since.  Originally, the rite was built into baptism and could be applied both to the faithful and to those outside the Church as necessary.  But not all ecclesiastics could be exorcists; a certain charismatic quality was needed.  Some priests, for example, showed such power that they could drive out evil spirits by the force of their prayers alone, or by the laying on of hands.

As Christianity spread, however, and paganism waned, demonic possession became rare.  “It is only Catholic missionaries laboring in pagan lands,” according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “who are likely to meet with fairly frequent cases of possession.”  Still, all reports of possession must be taken seriously and closely investigated, but only by those who have led brave and blameless lives and have prepared themselves through prayer and fasting, clergy who have immunized themselves against demonic invasion.

Soothing the Sorrowful

A priest need have no special qualifications, however, to bless a dwelling that may be troubled by restless spirits.  He may visit a home and offer prayers for those who live there.  Sprinkling of holy water and filling various rooms with incense also may be useful.

Malicious spirits sometimes can be persuaded by these techniques to move on.  If they resist, however, it’s possible that they are not malicious at all.  Most ghosts, it is said, cling to Earth because they are troubled souls, not evil ones.

Some experts believe that ghosts respond to exorcists not because the spirit is afraid of the talismans of belief, but because clergy tend to be good listeners, with an aura of emotional tranquility.  In fact, the negative energy of a full-blown exorcism may only enrage the ghost, especially if it’s already angry.

Most ghosts are not mad, merely sorrowful.  It isn’t that they don’t want to leave; their sadness holds them where they are.  More than any other kind of haunter, sorrowful ghosts reflect the living; all they lack is a body.  Because they are so close to live with them as they endlessly relive the moments that define their grief.  Let them brood.  And should they become too much, they generally will depart if asked politely.

Unresolved Issues

The ghosts hunters now summoned by the haunted tend to be less interested in driving away spirits than in understanding them, helping them work through the inner conflicts that keep them forever restive.  There is little room for troupes of bungling, khaki clad “ghostbusters” and their high-tech ectoplasm collectors in the real world of paranormal investigations.  The idea is not to bust ghosts but to counsel and comprehend them, to offer a compassionate solution to their emotional problems.  Like their living counterparts, ghosts have issues of abandonment, self-esteem, loneliness, and anger to resolve.  The language of ghost hunting has altered to reflect this understanding and uses the vocabulary of holistic therapy, not that of confrontation and spectral war.  Today’s professionals must be there for them.

They also must be there for hosts whose kinder, gentler approach hasn’t budged the spirit.  These intransigent ghosts are the plague-rats among haunters, ghosts in whom the touching melancholy of other apparitions seems to have curdled into terrible rage.  They aren’t working through anything familiar to the living, nor do they search for lst love’ they want only to entwine themselves as destructively as possible with the lives of their hosts.

Some of these are down right messy, besides.  Being haunted quickly loses its appeal when decapitated ghost drip blood on a white carpet even when the stain vanishes a moment later.  Slime is devilishly difficult to get out of suede.  A house haunted by such negative spirits is a miserably unhappy house.

China Breaker

And then there are the poltergeists (German for “noisy spirits”).  These demonic whirlwinds of the spirit world seem always to need attention from the living and are willing to go to any extreme to get it.  Some modern ghost haunters say poltergeists are not real ghosts and that the mischief usually attributed to them is actually caused by psychic energy emanating from a troubled member of the household, especially young people.  Whatever the source, however, paranormally flying crockery and slamming cabinets can be problems that need immediate solutions.

Once a poltergeist is sensed, the first step might be to store the family china and other breakables outside the home.  These prankster spirits often seem to have a sense of fun that can make them lively company as long as they are treated well.  They are like pet raccoons, marvelous to watch, often funny, and wondrously destructive.

If you don’t find them amusing, however, the most important tactic for getting rid of them may be to look inward.  Most investigators now believe that ghosts, including poltergeists, are drawn to the projections of the human unconscious.  Thus, before trying to expel an angry ghost or rowdy poltergeist, a certain amount of introspection is in order.  Haunted hosts are often just people under a lot of stress or jangled by a recent emotional ordeal, so they radiate a powerful negativity, a dark flame that draws spectral moths.  Before calling anyone, one must change that aura and deprive the ghost of its negative beacon.


Calling in the Ghost Investigators

If the dark beacon attracting the ghost is external instead of internal, i.e., something to do with the property rather than the host, a trip to the library might reveal what happened there that would leave a ghost-drawing psychic imprint.  A murder?  A suicide?  A memorable injustice or failed romance?  Old houses virtually glow with forgotten violence.

To help erase this psychic residue, you may need to call in the professionals.  Their tactics will vary according to the nature of ghost and the nature of the hunter.  Some excel at tracking, some are eager for discovery.

The Singapore Paranormal Investigators, a registered society that has a website of information on ghost hunting and hauntings, has a large collection of ghost photographs posted on the Internet, a kind of spectral rogues gallery to help the haunted to identify what is plaguing them.  Besides photographs, the society has posted tips on on equipment usage and ghost hunting strategies, along with goose-bump-inducing recording said to be voices of the dead.  There is information about club gathering, research trips and a newsletter for do-it-yourself ghost hunters.  For those seeking additional aid, the society provides links to other useful sources such as exorcists, spiritual healers and so on.

Even if you have good professional help, “laying the ghost” – the unfortunate but traditional term for getting rid of one, can be a long and complicated process.  Eventually, you may have to decide whether your spectral guest is more welcome than the hunters pursuing it.

Intuition and Patience

Because ghosts generally require patience and understanding more than the shock of an all-out exorcism, a good ghost hunter must be intuitive to a fault, a person whose own psychic abilities allow contact with the spirit on an emotional plane.  No one wants an angry banishment that could result in more ghost trouble down the line.  But the client’s instincts are also central here.  Generally, anyone sensitive enough to have a paranormal problem reads underlying psychic vibes well enough to find the right ghost hunter for the job at hand.

Once a professional has been called in, the investigation unfolds step by step in a logical fashion.  First, an interview examines the hauntee’s report, with the experienced hunter wielding skepticism like a machete.  Few reputable practitioners would undertake an investigation before ruling out every possible natural scenario, turning to the paranormal only as a last resort.  Then photographs are taken of the site, and perhaps drawings are made.  If the haunt has a discernible pattern, the investigators may want to stay on site for a while to map it.  Given the intrusive nature of the inquiry, you should never embark on a paranormal investigation lightly, or with investigators who are not sympathetic companions.  Hunters who are too ready to believe, or too skeptical to accept what their senses tell them, should be replaced immediately: Ghost sneer at their psychic inferiors.

Whatever the type of spectral presence, its removal should be under taken with compassion and understanding, or at worst with tough love.  Despite their restless, worrisome ways, ghosts are more like us, more like the living, than not.  They have beliefs, hopes, fears, concerns, and expectations that must be respected.  And they have vast experience.  Many ghosts are believed to have been roaming the world for centuries.

Sometimes they may be gentled into a tolerable domesticity.  But now and then they are so dark, so angry, so destructive that they have to be forced to leave.  Time is on their side, however, and they know it.  Having one’s ghosts removed, even with today’s conciliatory methods, may take a good long time.  Patience is the key.  Patience is what we should be thinking when we finally decide to pick up the telephone and ask for professional help.

Ghost Explained (Part 2)

Exploring the Other Side

While some people sense ghosts or see them, others are driven to sort them out, to discover what they really are.

What are Ghosts?

Ghosts are easy to define, hard to explain.  Almost everybody agrees on the basic proposition that ghosts are spirits of the dead.  But that deceptively simple definition is just a gateway to a thorny thicket of questions, some of them the most profound that humans ever ask.

What exactly is a spirit?  Is it the same thing as a soul?  Does such a thing really exist?  And if it does, can it survive the death of the body?  In what form?  Why do the dead haunt the living, or just some of the living?  Why do some people apparently see ghosts, others not?  Are ghosts vengeful?  Kindly?  Sad?  Should we fear them?  Avoid them?  Seek them out?

The answers depend largely, of course, on whom you ask, and when.  People who believe in ghosts or claim to have encountered them – a minority that hovers between 10 to 20 percent, according to most polls taken over the year, are quick to speculate on the nature and significance of spirits.  For unbelievers, on the other hand, ghosts are merely the stuff of idle chitchat, the quaint fantasies of credulous minds.  But this wasn’t always so.  There was a time, beginning about a century and a half ago, when some of the world’s finest intellects (skeptical intellects, mostly) pursued the subject of ghosts in deadly earnest.  It was for them, one might say, a matter of eternal life or death.

The First Ghost Hunters

It was in England in the 1880s that a group of Cambridge University scholars formed the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to fix a cold and skeptical eye on paranormal phenomena.  Not given to mysticism, these dons were thoroughly systematic.  They would collect information, collate, analyze, theorize, test.  They began with ghosts.

A trio of SPR founders Edmund Gurney, Frederic Myers and Frank Podmore, interviewed about 6,000 people regarding their experiences with ghosts.  In 1886, they published their results in Phantasms of the Living, a two-volume tome of 1,400 pages.  There Myers coined the word “telepathy”, postulating that some ghosts were really telepathic impulses, which percipients, the people who see or sense ghosts, took to be phantoms.  “Instead of describing a ‘ghost’ as a dead person permitted to communicate with the living,” he wrote, “let us define it as a manifestation of persistent personal energy.”

Eleanor Balfour Sidgwick, a mathematician and the principal of Cambridge’s Newnham College, speculated that inanimate objects might absorb and store psychic impressions from the living in the same way that stones gather heat energy from the sun.  When the impressions were radiated by the object, the figurative hot stones, their energy, she thought, might be perceived as ghosts.  The strength of the apparition, Sidgwick believed, depended on the emotional magnitude of the psychic imprint, the amount of stored energy, and the percipient’s sensitivity.

Ghostly Intentions

Phantasms of the Living was the first great leap into the paranormal unknown.  Based on its findings, the Cambridge group began classifying different types of ghosts.  Motive seemed to be one differentiating feature.

“We were struck,” said Gurney, “with the great predominance of alleged apparitions at or near the moment of death.  And a new light seemed to be thrown on these phenomena by the unexpected frequency of accounts of apparitions of living persons, coincident with moments of danger or crisis.”  As people experienced death or some other extreme condition, he suggested, their psyche became more adept at projecting itself in ghostly guises.

Nor was crisis the only motive.  Some apparitions brought balm for the grief of loved ones; others, comfort for the dying.  Some apparitions appeared to remind the reincarnate of their previous lives, or to give a future family a preview of a reborn person on the way.

Ethereal Theories

Myers kept his belief that human existence didn’t end at death, but he saw flaws in this telepathy hypothesis.  In Human Personality and the Survival of Bodily Death, published in 1903, he theorized that apparitions were a kind of knot of energy emanating from the agent buy strong enough to alter the percipient’s space.  As for the actual substance of ghosts, Myers proposed that specters existed not as material beings but as “metetherial” – a kind of fourth-dimensional domain.

Some years later, SPR president Henry Habberley Price, an emeritus professor of logic at Oxford University, echoed Myers with the notion of a “psychic ether,” which he described as “something intermediate between mind and matter.”  He believed that thought and other types of mental activity generated an image that survived on another plane even after the death of the thinker.  While invisible to everyone, such images might be perceived as ghosts by psychic sensitives.

Ghostly Taxonomy

G. Tyrell, who became SPR president in 1945, devoted 40 years to ghost research.  Tyrell, who held degrees in physics and mathematics from London University, is credited with formulating the four categories of phantoms that are still generally recognized today: crisis apparitions, apparitions of the living, postmortem apparitions, and continual, or recurring, apparitions.  (More details on Types of Ghosts.)

Drawing on modern psychology, Tyrell proposed that ghosts came out of a confluence of creative energy from the unconscious minds of both the agent and the percipient.  He called the result an “apparitional drama,” or “sensory hallucination.”

Researcher Andrew MacKenzie also postulated a link between apparitions and the subconscious mind.  Examing a number of reported hallucinatory experiences, he found that most of them came when the percipient was tuning out the external world and concentrating on something else.  At such times, MacKenzie reckoned the barriers between the conscious and unconscious come down.  The resulting flow from our unknown mental interior sometimes seems to be a ghost.

Inside the Mind and Out

The pioneering work of Tyrell and MacKenzie can still be seen in the work of present day psychical researchers like William Roll, a prominent American parapsychologist.  Like them, he explains haunting as an interactive drama between haunter and observer, as he calls the percipient, but he proposes that the phenomena occur along a sliding scale.

Haunting visions or sounds can be related to a particular situation or event, which Roll contends, seems “to leave an imprint in the environment that lots of people can respond to.”  But he sees no need for such carrier substances as psychic ether.  “All we need to say is that there is no sharp distinction between mind and matter, and that the processes that go on in the human brain may also go on in the human environment.  To me the main interest of these phenomena is that they suggest body and mind and matter are not as clearly distinguished as we have been led to believe, that mind is enfolded in matter, that there is meaning in matter, that the physical environment has mental qualities that come from the people who have lived in that environment.”

“Those qualities imprinted on the environment compose the ghostly side of Roll’s equation.  The percipient composes the other.  Hauntings move on a sliding scale between them, driven by whichever factor, the spectral or the personal, is more active.  If the power lies toward the environmental end, the imprint should be so deeply etched that anyone can discern it.  At the far end on the percipient side of the scale, the observer creates the ghost out of nothing, that is to say, he or she makes it up.

Roll says that the latter type of haunting seems to follow emotional stress; it is often seen, for example, in strife-torn marriages.  Then, according to Roll, the percipient creates “an objective reality” to fill a void.  “It is like a dream that has become real,” he explains, “a strong need that somehow has created a situation that satisfies it.  My impression is that memories will be drawn out in response to needs.  And it is just as likely to happen in a new duplex as in an old mansion.”  Anything, including oneself, can be haunted.

Ghostly Behavior

Today, speculation about ghosts has largely passed out of the academic realm.  Seldom ghost hunters are full-timers who are serious about their subject.  Their language is more casual than that of the academicians, and their scientific tastes tend more toward psychology than physics.  For instance, Troy Taylor, the founder and president of the American Ghost Society, finds it useful to divide phantom encounters into two types: the intelligent haunting and the residual haunting.

The intelligent haunter, according to Taylor, is “the personality of a once-living person who stayed behind in our world instead of passing over to the Other side.”  Such ghosts are self-aware and are able to interact with the living.  The residual haunter, on the other hand, is merely “an imprint that is left on the atmosphere” of a haunted site.  It is the spirit of an event, rather than a personality, that plays out over and over in phantom form.

As to the nature of intelligent ghosts, Taylor reports that generally, they are “very sad.  We have to remember that many of them are very confused over what has happened to them.”  Some, he says, don’t even realize that they are dead.  Ghosts are never evil, he contends, although they do project in their phantom forms whatever personalities they had in life: benevolent, caring, angry, bitter.

David Oester and Sharon Gill, co-founders of the International Ghost Hunters Society, agree.  “A ghost is a mirror of who he or she was in life,” they say.  “If they were happy campers in life, they will happy campers in death.  The reverse is also true.  If they were angry and mean in life, so too in death.”  Whatever their natures, the spirits remain earthbound “because of unfinished business, unresolved issues, or because they have a comfort level and choose to remain here.  In many cases, the soul or spirit has negative earth emotions that were not released while living, and now these negative emotions are creating an anchor that will hold them back until they can release these negative emotions.”

Times have changed.  Pondering a ghost’s “unresolved issues” seems a far less pressing task than trying to validate religion by proving that spirits exist.  Now and then, though, an echo of the old urgency can still be heard: “Ghosts are really the evidence,” say Oester and Gill, “that religion should lean toward as proof of an afterlife.”

The Strange Case of SIA flight SQ006

The Strange Case of SIA flight SQ006
Written by SPI Research team: Scapula and Portagee

Yuiiko has taken this strange photo by chance in the flight cabin;
Is it an anomaly or a camera fault?

Recently the crash of Singapore Airlines flight SQ006 in Taipei in 2000 was mentioned in the SPI public forums.  According to the story, the crash of flight SQ006 may be caused supernaturally by an earlier tragedy that involved the Singapore Airlines (SIA); the murder of a SIA flight stewardess in Los Angeles. This story has been circulating on the Internet since 2001.  It has gained popularity in Singapore and has even become an urban legend amongst flight crew members in SIA.  Since the anniversary of both events is drawing near, SPI has decided to take a closer look at the story.

Murdered SIA Stewardness Came Back for Revenge?

Background information provided by the author sets the tone of the story:

Singapore Airlines (SIA) have removed SQ 006 permanently from their timetable. The flight number is now replaced by SQ 030. The return flight of SQ 005 is now SQ 029. From now on, SQ 006 is history. The flight numbers were changed after the SIA investigating team and management found something spooky happened on the SQ 006 final flight. Believe it or not? If you recall, a few years ago on the date that SQ 006 crashed, there was this Taiwanese SIA stewardess who was murdered in a hotel in Los Angeles. The murder suspect was her fellow colleague, an Eurasian guy.

Her naked body was dismembered and hidden in a cupboard. Do you know that she was wearing red when she was flown back to Singapore on SQ 006 via Taipei and wore red when she was buried? Her mother wore red too to receive her body at the Changi International Airport. Exactly one year (31st October) later on her death anniversary, the plane crashed in Chang Kai Shek International Airport in Taipei. Coincidentally, this was also the day the Eurasian steward was released from prison.

Memories of flying with SIA flights

Something Spooky Caused the Plane Crash?

The author of the story claims that the flight number, SQ006, was permanently removed from the SIA flight timetable after the crash investigations were completed.  The story suggests that the reason behind this was because “something spooky” was discovered in the events leading to the doomed flight.  However, the flight number SQ006 was changed after the accident because the flights had been re-routed to that of SQ030; the flight number was not replaced but discontinued.  What had permanently changed in SIA after the crash was the discontinuation of painting any SIA aircraft with a promotion livery.  At the time of the accident, the Boeing 747-412 9V-SPK aircraft that had operated on SQ006 flight was painted with a “Tropical” livery instead of the standard SIA livery.  The “Tropical” livery was part of the airlines’ marketing exercise promoting its new First Class and Business Class seats.  There was only one other SIA aircraft that was painted with a similar “Tropical” livery; the sister aircraft of the plane involved in the crash: 9V-SPL.  After the accident, it was re-painted with the airlines’ original colours and SIA discontinued the use of any promotional livery on its aircraft, possibly in memory the tragedy.

1. Every airacraft carries a registered number, like a license plate on automobile;
this one is 9V-SRK. It looks like 9V-SPK which was the SQ006 plane from a distance
2. This one is 9V-SYL. Aircrafts that are registered in Singapore all start with prefex 9V by the international codes

SPI Debunks the Fallacies

The author of the story attempts to link another tragedy in the airlines’ history to the tragedy of SQ006.  The murder of Chang Yu, an SIA stewardess, in 1995 received considerable media attention in Singapore.  She was murdered by her SIA colleague who was later arrested in Singapore and extradited to the United States to face trial.  According to the story, key dates in the murder case and the SQ006 crash looked like they are strangely and coincidentally related. However, when these coincidences were compared they become questionable. The crash of SQ006 took place on 31 October 2000, but the murder of Chang occurred on 25 October 1995; it was neither “on the date that SQ006 crashed” nor was the crash “exactly one year later on her death anniversary.”  Finally, the air steward  (whose name is Zaini Jeloni and there was no mention that he is an Eurasian), was released in the US on 8 January 2001 after serving a prison sentence for causing Chang’s death, not coincidentally on the same date of the SQ006 crash.  The only coincidence that linked the two tragedies was the year when Jeloni was released from prison was also when this story was first circulated on the Internet.

The story claims that Chang’s body was found “dismembered” in a closet in her hotel room when in actual fact he body was found strangled with evidence of blunt trauma wounds to her head and stomach. The author went on suggest that the aircraft which repatriated Chang’s body back to Singapore was the same plane that crashed on 31 October 2000: “She [Chang] was flown back to Singapore on SQ 006 via Taipei� Exactly one year (31st October) later on her death anniversary, the plane crashed in Chang Kai Shek International Airport in Taipei.” The aircraft involved the accident, Boeing 747-412 9V-SPK, was delivered to SIA in January 1997, two years after the murder of Chang in Los Angeles.  It could not have been the same aircraft that repatriated Chang’s body back to Singapore.

In year 2002, Hong Kong released a ghost movie “The Stewardess”. The ghost of the air stewardess was also wearing red

The storyline consists of elements of affairs, murder, body dismembered, and the ghost returned for revenge
Such are typical stereotyped attributes for ghost story

Dressing in red color upon death has a certain influence in Chinese culture

The author of the story also claims that both Chang and her mother were dressed in red when Chang’s body was repatriated to Singapore. For this claim we can only rely on the author’s research.  Information of such nature is usually classified.  It is worth mentioning that there is a popular belief in Singapore that if a deceased was dressed red at the time her dead or burial, she would return to seek vengeance on those who caused her death.  The author had interestingly made special mention of this detail in the story.  Clearly the author did not just casually mention the colour of their dresses; he/she was writing to a readership that would understand its connotations when he/she continues the story to suggest that the crash of SQ006 may have been caused by supernatural forces:

The SQ 006 TPE/LAX sector was scheduled to leave TPE at 10:55pm. As there was an approaching typhoon, the SQ 006 Captain and his crew decided to board the plane and depart 15 minutes early. The Left 1 and Left 2 doors were not closed until 10:55pm (the original departure time). The reason was that, the number of passengers did not tally with the passenger lists in economy section. One of the junior stewardess counted 5 times and advised her colleague that she could not tally the passengers in the economy section. Both of them then counted the passenger again and confirmed an extra passenger in the cabin. When they recounted the passengers with the chief stewardess again, the number of passengers was correct. The junior stewardess advised her chief stewardess that one of the lady passenger sitting in 40A (front section of the economy class) was not there and they could not locate her in the lavatories either.

The flight received push-back clearance as scheduled. The two junior stewardesses were among the casualties in SQ 006 where none of the passengers in the front economy section survived the crash. The chief stewardess only suffered slight injuries as she was sitting in the business class section.

While preparing the flight for LAX ( Los Angeles ) in the business class section, one of the male in-flight supervisor who could “see things” happen, saw a lady flipping through the passenger list which was placed on one of the first class cabin table. As there were cleaners in the cabin, he did not shout at her but when he walked to the first class section, there were no signs of this lady. The male in-flight supervisor was among the survivors left unscratched in the crash as he was sitting in the back section of the economy class. This story was brought up during an investigative interview with the SQ 006 crew.

There was suspicion that the murder a year ago could have involved more than one person but it was not pursued further. It was believed that the (Eurasian guy, who was also a SIA steward) accomplices could have been in the SQ 006 flight. It was also understood that one of the male in-flight steward who died in this crash was a buddy of the Eurasian guy. The flight number was immediately changed after the interview.

Loop-holes of the Story

The main concern and key factor that influenced the flight’s departure time was the approaching Typhoon Xangsane, which was making it increasingly hazardous for aircraft taking off or landing at the airport.  The author of the story mentioned the typhoon and claimed that the pilot and flight crew had “decided to board the plane and depart 15 minutes early”.  Commercial flights can only be delayed and they do not leave before the scheduled departure time.  Imagine the chaos and confusion that it would cause to passengers and ground staff if a flight’s time of departure was determined solely by decisions made by the pilot and flight crew. 

The official findings and reports of the SQ006 crash did not mention changes to the flight’s scheduled time of departure due to discrepancies with the passenger list and a headcount of passengers by the flight crew.  If there were any discrepancy in the headcount would be reported immediately to the cockpit.  The cockpit voice recorder recovered after the crash did not contain any communication between the pilots in the cockpit and the flight crew over any inconsistency with the passenger list and the passenger count.

1. A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 in its normal livery.
The airline removed the tropical livery given to SPK’s sister ship after the disaster of SQ006 (Image source: Public Domain)
2. Artist’s rendition of 9V-SPK lined up with taxiway NC during Typhoon Xangsane (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
3. The wreckage of SQ006 (Image source:

According to the author of the story, the first half was told from the experiences of two junior stewardesses and a chief air stewardess just before the flight took off.  In the story, the two junior stewardesses did not survive the crash.  Of the four flight crew members who did not survive the crash two were flight stewardess, one however, was a Leading Stewardess, not a junior stewardess as the story had claimed.  The second half of the story claimed that the male in-flight supervisor could “see things” and prior to the accident, he saw something that was amiss on the plane; a “lady flipping through the passenger list” who was not supposed to be there.  The author implied that the in-flight supervisor may have seen a vision of a lady, possibly a vision of the flight stewardess murdered years earlier.  These were revealed, the story went, during an interview with the in-flight supervisor who “was among the survivors left unscratched in the crash” because he was seated “in the back section of the economy class”.  The official investigation reported that “Crew duty time, flight time, rest time and off-duty activity patterns did not indicate influence of pre-existing medical, behavioral, or physiological factors of the flight crew’s performance on the day of the incident. [1]”   All interviews with surviving members of the flight crew after the crash were primarily focused on the emergency evacuations procedure of the flight.  There was no account of an in-flight supervisor’s “visions” mentioned in the report.  Moreover, a SIA flight crew servicing a Boeing 747 is led by one in-flight supervisor.  During takeoff or landing, the in-flight supervisor usually takes his seat in the middle of the plane near the stairs leading to the upper deck, not at the rear of the plane in the economy class. And the in-flight supervisor on SQ006 on 31 October 2000 did not survive the accident. He could not have been interviewed by crash investigators.

Diagram of 9V-SPK illustrating crew and passenger seat locations:
0: Fatality (location unknown), 1: No injury, 2: Minor injury, 3: Serious injury, 4: Fatality, 5: Child on lap (fatality), 6: Fuselage break
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Diagram of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport and the taxi path of Singapore Airlines Flight 006.
The dotted green line indicates the correct path to Runway 05L.
The green arrow indicates the path to Runway 05R. The red path indicates the fatal takeoff path.
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

SPI Separated the Truths and the Lies

The story contains a number of questionable points.  There are no links between the murder case in 1995 and the crash of flight SQ006 that can even be considered coincidental. The story was also based on interviews and survivor accounts that did not exist.  This is at best a fictional story with supernatural themes.  However, creating a fictional story based on two tragedies, not to mention one that is also rather recent, trivialises these painful events and diminishes the memory of the victims.  Of the two stewardesses who died in the accident, the Leading Stewardess survived the impact of the crash and returned into the plane wreckage to try and rescue survivors.  She did not return alive. Her family and friends have known her to be passionate about her career with SIA.  The in-flight supervisor of SQ006 who died in the accident also reacted heroically after the initial impact of the crash.  The official reports showed that he survived the impact of the crash and went up to the business class section on the upper deck to look for survivors.  He did not return from the plane wreckage.  The story claimed that in-flight supervisor survived the crash and was interviewed by crash investigators, ignoring his courageous act, sense of duty and responsibility.  Finally, the story reminds of the tragic death a SIA flight stewardess who was killed at a young age and on her maiden flight with the airlines in 1995.  It also mentions the release of her murderer in 2001 after serving a prison sentence in a medium security prison in the United States.  In a Singapore where convicted offenders of serious crimes are usually given stiff sentences, or in some cases the death penalty, some Singaporeans may find the release of Chang Yu’s murderer and his return to Singapore questionable. 

For families affected by the tragedy of these two traumatic events, their pain and loss is unimaginable.  While the story circulating on the Internet may help keep the tragedy of these two events in the public mind, it does not remember the victims and survivors in a deservingly manner.


[1] Findings of the Aviation Safety Council, Taiwan, Republic of China after the investigations of the crash of flight SQ006.  This paper acknowledges that the ASC report was disputed by the Singapore authorities with regards to probable causes leading to the crash.

Some reference photos of an air stewardess in a hotel – she of course is not Chang Yu

Related News:

Possibly one of the original and earliest “sources” of the rumour posted:
Spooky revelations of SIA crash, posted 17th July 2001, 10:02

Photo Gallery of SQ006 Crash by Zaobao: