Ghost Marriage

Do ghosts get married? Why do they demand so? How was such spiritual wedding like? In this intriguing investigation, SPI exclusively interviewed the Taoist Priest in-depth from Seng Wang Beo Temple who has many years of experiences in conducting this ghost marriage ritual. The observation of such amazing ritual was documented and published for research purposes. Ghost marriage is one of the most controversial occult activities under the scrutiny of religions. At the same time, it is also an epitome of cultural belief blended with a high degree of paranormal concepts. Can human souls be really summoned up from Hell and then be pronounced to a legally married couple in the underworld? Is it a classic of Taoist magic or simply a ridiculous hoax? SPI presents to you the raw facts and insights of this paranormal phenomenon. You’d be your own judge to evaluate this incredible myth.

(Photo credits belong to the SPI Investigation Team)
Investigation and Interview of a Spirit Wedding
Glossary and Further Questions

Information Research on Syonan Jinja
(Opinions belong to the individual authors and hence do not represent views of SPI)
News Report of Ghost Marriage
Other Reports of Ghost Marriage

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Haunted House Explained (Part 3)

How To Know if Your House is Haunted

SPI was invited to investigate a haunted residential house of more than 100 years old. Nobody can bear to live there longer than a month

How do you know if that persistent rapping on your walls is bad plumbing or a mischievous spirit? Here are some of the signs of a haunting – and what you can do about it

You hear heavy footsteps in the upstairs hallway when you know no one is up there. Doors slam unaccountably. Commonly used items disappear and reappear without cause. The kitchen light turns on by itself. There’s the unmistakable scent of a strange perfume in the air.

These may be indications that your house is haunted. True hauntings are rare occurrences, and it may be difficult to determine whether or not any strange phenomena you are experiencing in your home might be due to a haunting. For one thing, no one really knows what a “real” haunting is – what causes it or why it starts. There are many theories, of course. But if you think your house may really be haunted, what can you do about it?

The Signs of a Haunting

The first step is to determine, as best you can, whether or not you truly have a legitimate case of a haunting. Not all hauntings are alike, and they may exhibit a variety of phenomena. Some hauntings feature a single phenomenon – such as a particular door slamming shut that occurs repeatedly – while others consist of many different phenomena, ranging from odd noises to full-blown apparitions.

Here’s a partial list of phenomena that might indicate that your house is haunted:

  • Unexplained noises – footsteps; knocks, banging, rapping; scratching sounds; sounds of something being dropped. Sometimes these noises can be subtle and other times they can be quite loud.
  • Doors, cabinets and cupboards opening and closing – most often, these phenomena are not seen directly. The experiencer either hears the distinct sounds of the doors opening and closing (homeowners get to know quite well the distinctive sounds their houses make) or the experiencer will return to a room to find a door open or closed when they are certain that it was left in the opposite position. Sometimes furniture, like kitchen chairs, are perceived to have been moved. Very rarely will the experiencer actually witness the phenomenon taking place.
  • Lights turning off and on – likewise, these events are seldom seen actually occurring, but the lights are switched on or off when the experiencer knows they were not left that way. This can also happen with TVs, radios and other electrically powered items.
  • Items disappearing and reappearing – this phenomenon, which we have dubbed “the DOPler Effect” (DOP = Disappearing Object Phenomenon), has been examined in the article “The DOPler Effect.” Others have called this “the borrowers” phenomenon, and it’s the familiar experience of not being able to find a regularly used item – say, your set of car keys – which you believe you placed in a spot you routinely place them. But they’re gone and you look high and low for them with no success. Some time later, the keys are found – in exactly the place you normally put them. It’s as if the object was borrowed by someone or something for a short time, then returned. Sometimes they are not returned for days or even weeks, but when they are, it’s in an obvious place that could not have been missed by even a casual search.
  • Unexplained shadows – the sighting of fleeting shapes and shadows, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. This phenomenon has also been discussed in some detail in “Shadow People.” Many times, the shadows have vaguely human forms, while other times they are less distinguishable or smaller.
  • Strange animal behavior – a dog, cat or other pet behaves strangely. Dogs may bark at something unseen, cower without apparent reason or refuse to enter a room they normally do. Cats may seem to be “watching” something cross a room. Animals have sharper senses than humans, and many researchers think their psychic abilities might be more finely tuned also.
  • Feelings of being watched – this is not an uncommon feeling and can be attributed to many things, but it could have a paranormal source if the feeling consistently occurs in a particular part of the house at a particular time.

Those are some of the most common experiences of those who think their houses are haunted. Yet even stranger things can happen. The following phenomena are more rare, but could be stronger evidence of a haunting:

  • Mild psychokinetic phenomena – hearing a door open or close is one thing. Actually seeing it happen is quite another. Similarly, actually seeing a light go on or off by itself is greater proof that something unexplained is happening. Do you see the TV or radio turn on? Or perhaps you’re present when a child’s powered toy begins to operate on its own. Doors and windows are locked or unlocked. Some people report that when they are in bed they can feel and/or hear something sitting on the bed.
  • Feelings of being touched – the feeling of being watched is one thing, and actually feeling like you are being touched is quite another. Some people feel something brush past them, something touching their hair or “a hand” on the shoulder. Some feel a gentle poke, push or nudge.
  • Cries and whispers – on occasion, muffled voices, whispering and crying can be heard. Sometimes it’s music from some unknown source. People hear their names being said. This phenomenon, as is true for the one above, gains more credibility if more than one person hears or sees the same thing at the same time.
  • Cold or hot spots – cold spots are classic haunting symptoms, but any instance of a noticeable variance in temperature without a discernable cause could be evidence.
  • Unexplained smells – the distinct fragrance of a perfume or cologne that you do not have in your house. This phenomenon comes and goes without any apparent cause and may accompany other phenomena, such as shadows, voices or psychokinetic phenomena. Foul odors can happen in the same way.

Rarer still are more extreme phenomena, some of which have been called poltergeist phenomena, and can be quite strong evidence of a true haunting:

  • Moving or levitating objects (severe psychokinetic phenomena) – dinner plates sliding across the table; pictures flying off walls; doors slamming shut with great force; furniture sliding across the floor.
  • Physical assault – scratches, slaps and hard shoves. This kind of personal assault is extremely rare, but obviously highly disturbing.
  • Other physical evidence – unexplained writing on paper or walls; handprints and footprints.
  • Apparitions – physical manifestation of a spirit or entity. These phenomena are also very rare and can take many forms: human-shaped mists or forming mists of some indistinguishable shape; transparent human forms that disappear quickly; and most rarely, human forms that look as real and solid as any living person, but that disappear into a room or even while being viewed.

It is so damn haunted. Apparitions even can be seen during day time. The house is found to be built on a mass burial ground in WW2
See the last three pictures that are taken in sequence; image from the past memory freakily emerged from the ceiling

Rule Out Rational Explanations

A person who has experienced some of these phenomena might have cause to believe that his or her house is haunted. But maybe not. In fact, according to most experts, probably not. The human mind and human senses (as any magician will tell you) are easily fooled. And people can often mistake explainable (if unusual) occurrences in their homes for the paranormal.

Before you decide there’s a ghost in your house or move out from fear, do your best to find rational explanations for what you are experiencing. Virtually all of the phenomena listed on the previous page could have perfectly natural causes:

• noises could be house settling, plumbing or even vermin such as mice and squirrels
• opening and closing doors could be faulty hinges or caused by drafts
• DOPler phenomena could just be carelessness and forgetfulness
• shadows could be just that – shadows caused, perhaps, by a passing car’s headlights
• as real as some of these things might seem to you, they really could be just products of your imagination

Of course, the more extreme the phenomena, the harder they are to dismiss. And, as noted above, if multiple witnesses experience the same phenomena, they are likely to be taken more seriously.

Get help in finding rational explanations for the phenomena. A plumber might help you find the cause of that banging. A carpenter can fix that door from closing on its own. A friend or neighbor might be able to look at your particular experience in a different way and offer a reasonable explanation for your “haunting” that you might not have though of. In short, make every possible effort to prove that your house is not haunted.

Keep a Journal

If you feel you have ruled out rational explanations for the phenomena that are taking place in your house, and they are still occurring on a more or less regular basis, document them. Keep a journal of the phenomena as they happen. For example:

June 2, 2002; 10:30 p.m. – Was sitting watch TV when the bathroom light switched on by itself. Went in and turned it off again.

June 10, 2002; 9:14 p.m. – Was in the kitchen and heard the footsteps crossing the upstairs hallway again. No one was up there. Went up to investigate and could find no cause.

A journal such as this could help with any formal investigation of the phenomena by experts. If you hear unexplained noises, attempt to record them with a portable tape recorder. If there are physical phenomena of any kind, photograph or videotape them. Keep your journal, recording and camera equipment readily available so you can document the phenomena as it happens.

SPI were then asked to investigate a workshop that is only a few block away from the haunted house
Strange apparitions were observed everywhere even in day time. Restless souls left over from the mass burial ground?

Call the Experts

When should you call a paranormal investigator? Only when you have ruled out any rational explanations for the phenomena you are experiencing and are thoroughly convinced that your house is truly haunted should you contact the experts. Of course, if the phenomena are extreme and you feel that you and your family are in any kind of physical or psychological danger, you should call for help right away at, my house is haunted

Despite whatever strangeness you are experiencing, your house probably is not haunted. But if it is, perhaps it is a benign spirit or phenomenon that you can live with. Usually, it is something you need not fear

Haunted House Explained (Part 1)

Spaces of Transition: New Light on the Haunted House

by David Taylor

“Your house is your larger body. It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless” – Kahlil Gibran

What I hope to do in this article is question, as a “ghost hunter”, how we interpret ghosts and more specifically the “haunted house”. I do not profess to have any answers, but hope to open up a subject that has remained on the fringes long enough. Respected psychical researcher, A.D. Cornell, is more than aware that we need to take a new look at ghosts and hauntings. At the 1997 Fortean Times UnConvention he said: “You have got to put forward ideas, its no good taking a safe line all the time in case you get criticised” [1]. For too long now most psychical researchers or, as the tabloid press still insists on calling us, “Ghost Busters” have concentrated on the “nuts and bolts” approach to hauntings, with the use of various pieces of recording equipment with, it must be said, very limited results. What has been overlooked in the past has been the cognitive aspects of hauntings, and that is because the haunted house still remains the domain of the amateur investigator, while the professional parapsychologists are more concerned with repeatable psychokenesis and extra-sensory perception experiments in their ivory towers, which is a shame because with their help we have a greater chance of reaching a better understanding of hauntings. The “Ghost Hunters” also do not seem to be coming up with the goods, as it were, tending instead to stick with the same old beliefs in “spirits” or “place memories”.

Every community in every corner of the world has a “haunted house”, a building that has become a strong cultural icon both within our conscious and subconscious minds. Novelist and folklorist Andrew Lang observed that haunted houses “have been familiar to man ever since he has owned a roof to cover his head” [2]. The haunted house as a traditional folklore narrative motif has long been recognised. If we look at the haunted house from a folklore/psychological angle we can begin to see that it represents an arbitrary sign within the collective unconscious of the community. Its metonymy transforms the house, in the eyes of that community, into a modern representation, all be it in bricks and mortar, of a sin eater. It begins to take on and absorb the fears and concerns of that community. In extreme cases, where a violent murder has been committed in a house, that building may become derelict or, in the case of Cromwell Street, Gloucester, local and national feeling demands that all trace of the building should be destroyed, reinforcing, I believe, the very real and strong reactions and beliefs we have about houses. The possible act of cognitive dissonance applied to the local haunted house may also reinforce psychological theories about our feelings and views of ourselves and the world around us. But this belief, a form of internal projection, in effect brings about a communal re-creation of that internalised belief and may even externalise it.

Haunted Houses – Transferring Tensions

As a psychical researcher, I come into contact with many cases of haunted houses. The archetypal haunted house may very well be a council house, and indeed many are but, by the same token, many are not. These cases are not confined to any one social class or structure, and there are common motifs in all these cases. One case which comes to mind concerned a family who lived in an affluent suburb of Birmingham. The recurring phenomena which they reported occurred at night, and involved the mother and daughter hearing footsteps walk across the patio at the rear of the house, then enter the house (no doors were heard to open) and then walk up the stairs and stop outside the teenage daughter’s bedroom. Upon investigation no one was there. The family made discreet enquiries with the neighbours about the history of the house. They were told that no one ever stayed there long. When I visited them it was clear that the present occupants believed that a past resident, who they believed had died in the house, was responsible for the phenomena. These occurrences, they believed, had apparently also been experienced by previous occupants of the house with the result that no one ever stayed long in the property. An hour in the local records office soon showed that, despite what the neighbours had told them, a normal number of families had stayed in the house over a reasonable period of time and, even though past occupiers may have died, there was no evidence to suggest that they had died in the house. This I feel illustrates the point – faced with apparently unexplained phenomena the family believe that the only explanation can be the “spirit” of a past resident who died in the house. Their belief is reinforced by neighbours who appear to have “invented” a history of the house.

Even when faced with such contradictions the family were convinced that a death must have taken place in the house. As Peter Rogerson has pointed out: “To the new occupant, the ‘incomer’, the haunted house has a ‘history’ or a ‘reputation’ in a personal, almost sexual way. The house is not a ‘virgin’. It has been violated by the presence of other human activity…” [3]. And, while we cannot say with any certainty that the family in question had any problems, certainly no more than “normal” families anyway, their neighbours certainly seem to have projected their concerns onto the house. The house had become a sort of psychic scapegoat. We can then get entangled in a chicken and egg situation. Rumours that a house is haunted could lead the family to turn normal “bumps” and “bangs” into a tormented “spirit”, and before you know it the entire family is convinced the house, which prior to the rumours everyone was happy to live in, is haunted.

I investigated a similar case some time ago. Again the occupiers were concerned that someone had died in the house, and that their “spirit” was responsible for the phenomena experienced. Despite the scientific research undertaken which strongly indicated that an electromagnetic phenomenon was responsible for the experiences in the house, the occupiers still desperately believed that a supernatural explanation was more probable. This case also illustrates a very important, and an often overlooked aspect of hauntings. The family in question have since moved house, and now live in a small rural community. Both parents have since developed a healthy attitude to ghosts and are now both actively involved in various aspects of healing. After enduring what they have described as a living nightmare, the family has emerged stronger for it. Psychologist Julie Milton has also found similar cases which show that a more positive outlook on life and any possible life after death is also shared by some witnesses to the paranormal [4].

An obvious motif that emerges in most cases is the apparent link between hauntings/poltergeists and children going through puberty and family problems. As Gauld and Cornell have observed: “The most common themes in the resultant diagnosis have been repressed aggression and tensions within the family….This consideration provides substantial evidence for the view that poltergeist phenomena not uncommonly express emotions and emotional conflicts denied access to the agent’s ordinary stream of consciousness” [5]. These sentiments have been shared on the other side of the world by Brazilian researcher Andre Percia De Carvalho: “Apparent paranormal occurrences are always reported near the high points of crisis in a disturbed environment” [6]. Although we do not as yet have enough data to make any concrete statements, I am at this point tempted to speculate, from various observations I have made that, along with these factors, we are also dealing with frustrated and suppressed creative tendencies, the frustrations from which, due to increased external and internal factors, can be projected onto the immediate environment.

The stress involved in a case, particularly a poltergeist case, may also occasionally lead the witness to become “actively” involved without being aware of it. Such an observation was made as long ago as 1938 by Dr Nandor Fodor. His most celebrated case involved a 35 year-old housewife who he called Mrs Forbes who appeared to be at the centre of a poltergeist outbreak. Fodor soon came to suspect that Mrs Forbes was responsible for the poltergeist activity. The turning point came while they were out walking one day. Quite suddenly, and without warning, Mrs Forbes opened her handbag, took out a small stone and casually threw it over her shoulder. When Fodor questioned her about it afterwards, she indignantly denied having done such a thing. Significantly, Mrs Forbes seems to have been at least half-aware of what she was doing. In the aftermath of the stone throwing incident she told Fodor: “Sometimes I feel that I am not here, that I am not really alive. It seems to me as if another person has taken control of my body….Last Monday my cat had an accident….I have a horrible feeling that I did it without knowing….” [7]. It is difficult for those who have not lived in a haunted house to appreciate the emotions and stress involved, so is it any wonder that the witness finds it easier to believe that “spirits” are involved rather than something much more closer to home?

But we should not be surprised at these deeply rooted beliefs in the haunted house and spirits. In the ancient world, it was a common belief that every dwelling had its own spirit or genus loci that was honoured and respected. Neglecting to honour and make offerings to these guardian spirits of the home would almost certainly result in havoc breaking loose. What we would today classify as poltergeist activity was in the past often attributed to the fairies [8]. Today we consider ourselves far too civilised to believe in fairies and goblins, but the belief in spirits is obviously far too deeply rooted. So far I have yet to come across a case where the occupiers thought that their house was haunted by an elemental spirit.

Haunted Houses – Universal Symbols

The acquisition of a house has become a symbol of power, and an important rite of passage in our culture. It shows we are ready to stand on our own two feet and face the world and its responsibilities. The acquisition of land has always been a potent image often relating to supernatural powers and feats of strength, whether it be through the traditions of carrying fire round the perimeter of the land or the well known ox-hide myths. Peter Rogerson [3] may be right when he says that the council house is today’s archetypal haunted house, and offers a tantalising explanation that this is due to a lack of bonding between occupier and the property simply because as a council house it belongs to someone else. Maybe our houses are haunted because we have lost touch with them, not in a physical sense, but in a deep spiritual sense? Author and researcher Nigel Pennick has suggested: “The personality of a house, expressed by its name, is denied by numbering. It is reduced to an object, defined only in terms of its relationship, spatial or otherwise, to other objects classified similarly. Its character is no longer recognised” [Pennick 1993]. This interaction between memory, emotion and home has been explored by the artist Pam Skelton: “We construct a sense of who we are, what our identity is, through our recollections of places and people – ghosts and symbols from the past which haunt us both in the present and the future” [9]. You only have to look at reports of recent legal battles between once friendly neighbours over boundary disputes to see how entrenched these feelings are.

This interaction is not only confined to our perception of the house but to how we perceive ghosts. As Bob Trubshaw has outlined [10], Our attitudes to ghosts, from classical Greece to Victorian England means that, to each generation, ghosts appear for a variety of reasons and purposes. An audience in classical Greece, familiar with vengeful spirits would scarcely comprehend the “Grey Lady” as she flits through Victorian graveyards [11]. Our own sensibilities and constraints of the Victorians have not only silenced us but our ghosts as well. Death within popular Western culture is seen as a contamination. Our denial of death reached a peak with the Victorian era. But within Indo-European creation mythologies the act of death inevitably leads to life. The sacrifice of the primordial god leads to the formation of the world [12]. Even today, anthropologists have documented tribal cultures that believe that the ancestors have power over the living and can endow it with fertility [13]. In traditional cultures, the cosmos, temple, house and human body are all linked [14]. This means that we are intrinsically linked in a supernatural relationship with the land that the house is built on.

From the annals of folklore, an intriguing aspect of this symbiotic relationship between death and houses can be glimpsed in the customs and superstitions still centred around screaming skulls. These are either actual human skulls or carved stone heads which have been kept in a property or passed down through the family, and which occupy a specific place in the house. Removal of these “skulls” often leads to screaming and other poltergeist type activity until the “skull” is returned [15]. The location of these “skulls” and other ritual artifacts, in geomantic weak spots, such as windows, over doors and chimneys is said to keep away unwanted ghosts [16]. So here we glimpse archaic vestiges between house, spirits and death, traditions which, even though greatly diluted, are still an important and deep-rooted aspect of modern culture in the form of those who believe their house is haunted. How many people do you know whose attitude would change if you told them that a person had died in the chair which they were sitting in, or the bed in which they slept? That chair or bed suddenly takes on a new meaning. It is viewed differently. It is still a chair or a bed, but it has now taken on a liminal quality, it has a symbiotic link between the living and the dead. And, as we have seen, in extreme cases such as Cromwell Street, that relationship cannot be tolerated.

As we can see from any good ghost story, ghosts are always perceived to occupy liminal areas, such as crossroads, graveyards, moorland, and, as we have already seen, liminal objects are associated with death [17]. I am also intrigued by the many reports I have come across, and the observations I have made, where ghostly apparitions/presences have been encountered on every-day liminal thresholds such as doorways. Some of these experiences may be deeply rooted in Neolithic superstitions about doorways and death [18]. Once again, as Peter Rogerson has perceptively pointed out: “Ghosts, haunts and polts then are the signs of the Liminal zones between being and not being” [3].

Haunted Houses – Dreaming the Sacred

The developments between consciousness research and “earth mysteries” has led to “Project Interface”, the latest phase of the Dragon Project Trust, which was established in the 1970s to research so-called “earth energies” at ancient sites. This new phase has centred around volunteers sleeping and dreaming at selected ancient sites to see if any transpersonal, site-specific motifs will emerge which can shed new light on these sites [19]. Now this raises an interesting point – by the simple act of defining some areas as “sacred sites”, what we are in fact doing is saying that some sites are not “sacred”. We are taking the sacredness away from the land and our lives [20]. What makes some locations any more sacred than others is not the primary concern here. However, it is an interesting possibility that the research by Paul Devereux suggests strong correlations between stone circles and geological faulting [21] may be applicable to cases of hauntings. Dr Michael Persinger has also done a great deal of work linking geomagnetism, altered states of consciousness and anomalous phenomena [22], and we must not overlook the influence of man made electromagnetic fields on the human mind [23][24].

If the work of Project Interface tells us anything about sacred sites, could this research be applied to the study of haunted houses? One of the underdeveloped areas of parapsychological research is the interaction of human consciousness at haunted locations. Writing in the 1920s, Jung made a pertinent observation: “One of the most important sources of the primitive belief in spirits is dreams” [25].

I ask this question simply because a few months ago I came across the following case of a haunting, in which one of the witnesses was having vivid dreams, dreams which only occurred in the house, never while she was away. In the dream, the dreamer is woken by a knock at the front door. She opens it, and is greeted by her recently dead brother who was killed in a car crash. He tells her that he was “hoovered up” after the accident, taken to the top of a tall tree, put back together again, and has come to give her a message. A strange aspect of this already strange dream is the fact that the dead brother has no skeletal structure. The dream ends when he opens his eyes, revealing nothing but blackness, at which point the dreamer screams and wakes up.

If we look beyond the obvious personal and emotional aspects of this dream we can begin to possibly glimpse some transpersonal details with strong shamanistic elements. The being taken up to a [world] tree, the putting back together, the supernormal powers (no skeletal structure), and a message for the living, are all apparent in shamanic practices [26][27]. But this is just a dream, and so tends to get overlooked by most psychical researchers, which is a shame, because I have a hunch that here is the key to unlock a Pandora box of answers. Jung had similar thoughts: “….the primitive speaks of spirits, the European speaks of dreams….I am convinced that if a European had to go through the same exercises and ceremonies which the medicine man performs in order to make the spirits visible, he would have the same experiences. He would interpret them differently, of course, and devalue them….” [25]. Maybe in cases of haunted houses we can glimpse the emergence of a much-neglected strand of shamanistic experience. After all, if we placed these experiences within any other context than a modern Western one, dreams and visions of “spirits” was the domain of the shaman. If this dream had occurred at a stone circle, burial chamber or holy well, we would all be jumping up and down, excited and expectant at what it would tell us about our relationship with sacred sites. But this dream occurred in a council house in a suburb of Birmingham, and as we all know, these are not sacred sites….are they?

Haunted Houses – Healing the Haunted

Haunted houses certainly have a lot to tell us. H.H. Price, Professor of Logic at Oxford University and past President of the Society for Psychical Research, seems to have been aware that when investigating ghosts and hauntings we are faced with a dual problem: “….neither mental or physical, but betwixt and between” [28]. Very few cases show any evidence of direct, conscious hoaxing. The majority of cases are reported by genuine people who are struggling to come to terms with what they have experienced. They are more often than not scared by these experiences, and are confused and a little embarrassed at talking about them. It is up to psychical researchers, psychologists and folklorists to help people in this situation to come to terms with their experiences. It is certainly tempting to engage in what Jung would have called the “Transcendent Function” in cases of hauntings in an attempt to bridge the conscious and the unconscious minds with the “spirit of place” of the house through its mythopoetic projections in an act of self healing. Whether we realise it or not, myth has a key role to play in unravelling the enigma of the haunted house. “Myths recount the actual workings of the supernatural, and because they do so, whenever they are retold or re-enacted, they are deemed to release or set in operation that supernatural activity….Myth preserves a sense of the sacred. If a society has no use for the sacred it will probably have no use for myth either, except perhaps as a euphemistic term for indicating what it takes to be a lie” [29].

As I stated at the start of this article, this is in no way intended as a cohesive argument for a well-packaged theory, but rather the musings of one ghost hunter who ?after countless long cold nights in haunted castles, pubs, factories, manor houses, council and private houses ?feels that it is about time we made a move and followed the suggestion of A.D. Cornell quoted at the beginning of this article, and put forward new ideas. Most paranormal investigators will resist this, but that is no surprise for new ideas are seldom liked or encouraged. When investigating ghost/haunting experiences we have to remember that we are dealing with human experiences. We have in the past I feel, overlooked the human element in all this in favour of the apparent non-human. There is certainly a lot to be said for physical readings and measurements with scientific equipment in cases of hauntings, and I would be the first to champion that line of research, but also we have to be careful that we do not neglect the other, more cognitive aspects of these cases and what they may tell us about the world around us and more importantly, about ourselves.


Arbitrary Sign: We know the meaning of a sign without considering other possibilities.

Cognitive dissonance: Theory that, when faced with contradictory information or viewpoints, the mind seeks out messages that confirm choices or verdicts previously reached.

Communal recreation: Urban legends that are changed in the re-telling.

Icon: A sign that, through frequent repetition, gains a central position in the communication systems of the culture and thereby acquires rich and relatively stable connotations.

Liminal: Derives from Latin, and means “boundary” or “threshold”.

Metonymy: The use of an object to represent the person or organisation which uses it.

Motif: A traditional narrative unit, such as character, object or action that serves as a building block of folk stories of all kinds.

Mythopoetic: Myth-making imagination.

Transcendent Function: Archetypal process that mediates opposites and enables a transition from one attitude or condition to another. It arises in an attempt to understand the elusive meaning of images. It has a healing effect by bridging consciousness and the unconsciousness.

Transference: Projecting emotions onto the environment or other people.


[1] CORNELL, A.D., 1997, “What Are Ghosts”, Fortean Times UnConvention
[2] LANG, Andrew, 1897, “The Book of Dreams and Ghosts”, London
[3] ROGERSON, Peter, 1987, “And the dogs began to howl”, Magonia No. 27 p7?0
[4] MILTON, Julie, 1992, “Effects of ‘paranormal’ experiences on people lives: An unusual survey of spontaneous cases”, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol.58, No.828
[5] CORNELL, A.D. and GAULD Alan, 1979, “Poltergeists”, Routledge & Kegan Paul
[6] DE CARVALHO, Andre Percia, 1992, “A study of thirteen Brazilian poltergeist cases and a model to explain them”, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol.58, No.828, p302?13
[7] FODOR, Nandor, 1958, “On the Trail of the Poltergeist”, Citadel Press
[8] BORD, Janet, 1997, “Fairies – Real encounters with little people”, Michael Oara
[9] SKELTON, Pam, 1990, “Groundplans”, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
[10] TRUBSHAW, R.N., 1998, “Fairies and their kin”, At The Edge No.10
[11] FINUCANE, R.C., 1982, “Appearances of the Dead”. Junction Books
[12] STONE, Alby, 1997, “Ymir flesh – north European creation mythologies”, Heart of Albion Press
[13] CHILDREN, George and NASH, George, 1997, “Smoking, exposing and disposing the ancestors: the emotion of death and mortality during early prehistory”, 3rd Stone, No.26 p11?5
[14] TRUBSHAW, R.N., 1997, “Cosmic Homes”, At The Edge No.5 p13?6
[15] CLARKE, David and ROBERTS, Andrew, 1996, “Twilight of the Celtic Gods”, Blandford
[16] LLOYD, Virginia, 1997, “Ritual house protection”, Folklore Society News, No.26 p7? [and Dec 1997]
[17] TRUBSHAW, R.N., 1995, “The metaphors and rituals of place and time”, Mercian Mysteries, No.22 p1?
[18] CHILDREN, George and NASH, George, 1998, “Rites of passage and the cultural life of the doorway: An expression in metaphor and social statementing”, 3rd Stone, No.29 p29?3
[19] DEVEREUX, Paul, 1994, “Of Dragons and Dreams”, The Ley Hunter, No. 122 p26?8
[20] TRUBSHAW, R.N., 1991, “Tune in and turn Earth on”, Mercian Mysteries No.7 p8?0
[21] DEVEREUX, Paul, 1982, “Earthlights”, Turnstone Press
[22] PERSINGER, M. and LAFRENIERE, G., 1977, “Space-time transients and unusual events”, Nelson-Hall
[23] BUDDEN, Albert, 1994, “Allergies and Aliens”, Discovery Times Press
[24] BUDDEN, Albert, 1995, “UFOs Psychic close encounters: The electromagnetic indictment”, Blandford
[25] JUNG, Carl, 1982, “Psychology and the occult”, Ark Paperbacks
[26] KELLY, Karen, 1996, “The world tree in classical shamanism”, Sacred Hoop, No.12 p20?3
[27] ELIADE, Mercia, 1989, “Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy”, Penguin
[28] PRICE, H.H., 1953?, “Six Theories About Apparitions”, Proc. of the Society for Psychical Research, Vo.50 p153?39
[29] SYKES, Egerton, 1993, “Who who: non-classical mythology”, Dent

This article first appeared in At The Edge magazine No.10, 1998

What is a ghost?

What is a ghost?  This is a common question pertaining to the Paranormal.  Our definition of a ghost is the spirit of a departed person who has not yet entered onto another “Higher Plane” of existence after Death.  The spirit remains earthbound.  Every living thing has a spirit.  When something dies the spirit simply has no use to stay inside a body which will no longer function so it leaves.  Most spirits pass onto these “Higher Planes” such as Heaven or even Hell but others remain here.  There are many reasons for their staying.  Some are afraid to pass on or are in denial of their very Deaths.  Others have unfinished business while others may not even be aware that they’re dead.  There are many other reasons why the spirit may not leave this world (whether it be because of personal reasons or otherwise) but they can be helped onto “Higher Planes” through using psychics and other methods which are of religious and we don’t want to elaborate.

Theories on ghosts

Throughout time man has tried to define and understand his own Mortality by believing in Ghosts and the Hereafter.  Skeptics and Believers alike are eager to create new theories either proving or disproving ghosts so in this write-up we will take a quick look at some of the theories trying to explain the mystery of ghosts.  This write-up will take a quick look at the usual Beliefs on ghosts on the viewpoint of Believers and Skeptics alike.

Those who believe in ghosts believe they are the spirits of departed persons who remain on this Earth and have not yet passed onto the “Other Side” for some unknown reason(s).  We SPI are trying to prove this theory and find out the truth behind.

Skeptics like to believe that spirits are simply figments of madmen and overactive imaginations.  It is easy to accept this theory but the problem in accepting this theory is why is there so much photographic and other evidence as well as first-hand accounts of encounters with ghosts.  Mass hysteria throughout the Ages?  Not likely.  Some already witnessed ghosts first-hand themselves and this is by no means uncommon.  One out of 10 Singaporeans have claimed to have had an encounter with ghosts at least once in their lifetime and one out of 4 Singaporeans believe in ghosts.   Not to mention all of the other experiences happening to millions, if not billions, of other people around the world.  Certainly it is totally and utterly impossible to refute all of these claims as lies, hoaxes, and overactive imaginations.  Yes, some of the cases are but we are still left with an overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of the afterlife.  The Bible and the Quran and most World Religions support the ideology of “Life After Death”.  As the old saying goes, “Truth is always stranger than fiction”.  That is certainly the case here.  It may seem more rational to believe we simply disappear after we die but science is showing quite the contrary so what may seem rational is not always the Truth!

In short, if we want everlasting hope of the Afterlife then let us believe in ghosts!  The evidence is there but we sometimes just don’t want to accept it simply because most people do not like the thought of death.  Most people may even strictly put science and ghosts in opposite positions – to allow us choose either one of the two, and no in-between.  There is no exact science.  Things that cannot be explained by now doesn’t mean they will never be explained in the future.  Those who advocate and bestow science is everything that we can see and touch materially would have less chances to move beyond.  We believe, only with an open mind we will learn.

So are there ghosts?

There are, however, many theories to explain the thousands upon thousands of documented experiences that people around the world have had since the beginning of recorded history. Ghosts and hauntings seem to be a relatively common part of the human experience. And there appear to be several types of ghosts or hauntings, and more than one theory may be needed to explain them all.

Dead people

The traditional view of ghosts is that they are the spirits of dead people that for some reason are “stuck” between this plane of existence and the next, often as a result of some tragedy or trauma. Many ghost hunters and psychics believe that such earth-bound spirits don’t know they are dead. Veteran ghost hunter Hans Holzer says, “A ghost is a human being who has passed out of the physical body, usually in a traumatic state and is not aware usually of his true condition. We are all spirits encased in a physical body. At the time of passing, our spirit body continues into the next dimension. A ghost, on the other hand, due to trauma, is stuck in our physical world and needs to be released to go on.”

Ghosts exist in a kind of limbo in which they haunt the scenes of their deaths or locations that were pleasant to them in life. Very often, these types of ghosts are able to interact with the living. They are, on some level, aware of the living and react to being seen on the occasions that they materialize. Some psychics claim to be able to communicate with them. And when they do, they often try to help these spirits to understand that they are dead and to move on to the next stage of their existence.

Residual Hauntings or Recordings

Some ghosts appear to be mere recordings on the environment in which they once existed. A civil war soldier is seen on repeated occasions staring out a window at a house where he once stood guard. A dead child’s laughter is heard echoing in a hallway where she often played. There are even cases of ghost cars and trains that can still be heard and sometimes seen, even though they are long gone. These types of ghosts do not interact with or seem to be aware of the living. Their appearance and actions are always the same. They are like spirit-level recordings – residual energies – that replay over and over again.

“A traumatic moment in time leaves an indelible impression on the building or area,” says Strange Nation in “What Is a Ghost?,” “replaying itself for eternity. This could be anything from a ‘glimpse of the past’ – a recreation of some traumatic or emotion-laden event – to footsteps up and down a hallway.”

What causes these recordings to be made and how and why they are played back is a mystery. “How and why past events are recorded and replayed repetitiously is not understood,” writes Lauren Forcella. “Whatever the actual mechanism, it apparently possesses longevity as the encore performances of a haunting can continue for decades or longer. Generally, the haunting is a fragment or portion of an actual event.”


These kinds of ghosts may be the most common. These spirits usually appear shortly after their deaths to people close to them. They are aware of their deaths and can interact with the living. They most often bring messages of comfort to their loved ones, to say that they are well and happy, and not to grieve for them. These ghosts appear briefly and usually only once. It is as if they intentionally return with their messages for the express purpose of helping the living cope with their loss.

“This category commonly involves one-time visits to someone with whom the apparition has close emotional ties,” says Lauren Forcella at Paranormal Investigations, who calls these ghosts “crisis apparitions.” “Though the encounter usually seems to be a type of farewell, sometimes important and useful information is relayed to the ‘viewer.’ Though dying is the most common crisis, other life-threatening situations can also trigger apparitional visits.”


This type of haunting is the most feared by people because it has the greatest ability to affect our physical world. Poltergeists are blamed for unexplained noises, such as wall-banging, rapping, footsteps and even music. They take our possessions and hide them, only to return them later. They turn on faucets, slam doors, turn lights on and off, and flush toilets. They throw things across rooms. They have been known to pull on people’s clothing or hair. The malevolent ones even slap and scratch the living. It is because of these sometimes “mean-spirited” manifestations that poltergeists are considered by some investigators to be demonic in nature.

Other investigators, however, believe that poltergeist activity is not caused by ghosts at all, but by certain living people under stress. “During a poltergeist experience,” writes Lauren Forcella, “the agent, in an attempt to relieve emotional stress, unknowingly causes the physical disturbances using mental forces. The mental mechanism that allows the poltergeist agent to unconsciously cause these physical disturbances is called psychokinesis.”


The skeptics’ point of view – if they are willing to admit there is anything to haunting experiences at all – is that they are all in our minds, or are products of our own minds. Ghosts, they say, are psychological phenomena: we see them because we expect to or want to see them. A grieving widow sees her dead husband because she needs to; she needs the comfort of knowing that he is alright and happy in the next world. Her mind produces the experience to help itself cope with the stress of the loss. Since we know so little about the power and capacity of our own minds, it’s possible that they can even produce physical manifestations, such as apparitions and noises – projections that even others may be able to see and hear. But they are not “real” in any sense, say the skeptics, just the conjuring of powerful imaginations.

Are there such things as ghosts? The phenomena of ghosts and hauntings are very real experiences. It is their true cause and nature that is the ongoing mystery.

Types of Ghosts

It is indeed a tough job to precisely classify ghosts.  There are lots of different types of ghost, which behave in lots of different ways.  The variety of reported hauntings spells trouble for theories about where ghosts come from, because any theory that claims to be able to ‘explain’ ghosts also has to explain a mass of contradictory ‘ghost facts’.  For instance, one may believe that ghosts are only spiritual forces that influence mind to induce hallucination or vision of ghosts.  Then what about Poltergeists that are able to generate noise and move things?

In general, a ghost is a spirit, apparition, or presence of something or someone that isn’t really there.  Ghosts have been reported by every culture throughout history.  The stereotypical ghost is the spirit of a dead person that appears as a transparent mage, but there are many other types of ghost – they don’t have to be of people (they don’t even have to be dead).  Ghosts typically, but not always, haunt a specific location or person.

Given such wide variety, we attempt to define several general types of ghosts as shown below.  This classification is limited only to those pertaining to dead, and ordinary level of spirits often intertwining with human beings.  That means, it does not include a full domain of spirits such as deity, fairy, angel, devil, demon, goblin, or goddess etc.

  • Human ghosts
    • The unquiet dead
    • Re-enactment ghosts
    • Cyclic ghosts
    • Ghosts of the living
      • Crisis apparitions
      • Doppelgangers
  • Inhuman ghosts
    • Creepy critters
    • Planes, trains, and ghost ships
  • Poltergeists

Human Ghosts

The unquiet dead

The most usual theory is that ghosts are the souls of the departed, trapped on Earth for some reason.  This theory explains why ghosts might appear, and also why they disappear when laid, but it doesn’t explain ghosts of the living, ghosts of inanimate objects, or ‘boring’ ghosts that seem to have no purpose.

Here we have one example of classic ghost.  One of the earliest and famous ghost stories is the tale of Athenodorus, as told by Roman writer Pliny the Younger (61-113CE).  According to Pliny, there was a house in Athens haunted by the spectre of an old man in rags, who would moan and rattle his chains.  This terrible apparition frightened off all potential tenants until a visiting philosopher, named Athenodorus, decided to spend the night.  A few hours after dark, Athenodorus duly heard the clanking of chains and saw the ghost.  He followed it to a spot in the courtyard – digging the next day revealed a human skeleton in chains.  The bones were given a proper burial, and the ghost was never seen again.

Pliny’s classic tale illustrates many of the elements of the stereotypical ghost.  The typical ghost is the spirit of a dead person, which appears as a pale or transparent version of its living self.  Usually the apparition is wearing clothes and if it interacts with living people at all it does so in a limited way (it may not be able to speak, or it may only be able to repeat a few words).

Often a ghost seems to have a motive in appearing – to get the living to perform whatever ritual or process is necessary to let the ghost rest in peace.  This is known as ‘laying a ghost’.  In Pliny’s tale, the ghost’s original body was not properly buried, so its spirit was condemned to haunt the night.  This motif is found in ghost stories as far back as the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians, and as for afield as Asia and Europe.

Re-enactment ghosts

Not all ghosts act with a purpose.  In fact many of them seem oblivious to the real world or living people, and display no form of intelligence or consciousness.  An example of this sort is the ghost that re-enacts a sequence of actions when it appears, passing through walls and closed doors and sometimes appearing to stand above or below the level of the floor.

Re-enactment ghosts are thought to be following a route they took in life.  They are usually linked to violent or traumatic events – battles, murders, executions, accidents or suicides.

A famous example is the Treasurer’s House in York, England.  Witnesses have described troops of Roman soldiers in full armour marching through the cellars of this historic building.  Crucially, the soldiers appeared to be knee-deep in the cellar floor – at the level of an original Roman road through the area.

One popular theory to this is called the Stone Tape theory.  Many ghosts seem to be linked to traumatic or significant events, and this has led to the theory that people and events can somehow leave an impression on their surroundings, as if they were recorded in the stones of a house – hence the ‘stone tape’ theory.  Hauntings are replays of these recordings.  This theory explains why some ghosts seem not to be conscious, e.g. re-enactment ghosts; but not ones that interact with the living, or ones that are seen away from where they lived and died.

Cyclic ghosts

Many ghosts are said to appear ‘cyclically’ on significant anniversaries, these are known as ‘cyclic ghosts’.  Famous examples include Catherine Howard, one of Henry VIII’s wives, who is supposed to be seen running screaming through the halls of Hampton Court Palace on the anniversary of her sentencing to death.

Respected psychical researcher and author Ian Wilson regards such claims with skepticism, pointing out that if ghosts really did reappear that predictably a ghost hunter’s job would be extremely easy.  Another problem is that the calendar was changed in Europe in 1582 (1752 in England), with the loss of 11 days, so that if Howard really does appear she will effectively be 11 days late.

Ghosts of the living

Crisis apparitions:  Ghosts of the living usually involve people who are experiencing or approaching a crisis.  Hence they are known as crisis apparitions.  Typically a friend or relative , possibly many miles away, will see the person, who may look quite real and appear in an unremarkable fashion (e.g. popping in to say hi).  Later they discover that their friend died or experienced a crisis at the same time or very shortly afterwards, and couldn’t have been anywhere near where they were sighted.  Crisis apparitions do not fit into most theories about ghosts; the people are still alive, they are far away and they don’t seem to have much purpose.

However, many people argue that crisis apparitions are actually telepathic projections of some sort, in which sudden physical crisis boots psi power for a moment.

Doppelgangers:  Another type of living ghosts is a double; an apparition that looks exactly like the witness.  These ghosts are known by their German name ‘doppelganger’.  The appearance of a doppelganger can often be a bad omen, but not always.

Many people argue that doppelgangers, like crises apparitions, are actually telepathic projections, not ghosts.  There is also a rare medical condition, known as autoscopy, that causes people to hallucinate a transparent mirror image of themselves.

In Celtric lore, a doppelganger is known as a ‘fetch’.  In Iceland they are known as Fylgja, and in Norway as Vardoger.  These Scandinavian doubles announce someone’s arrival by appearing a few minutes before the actual person.

Inhuman Ghosts

One major problem for the theory that ghosts are spirits or personalities that survived death is that there are many reports of the ghosts of animals and even inanimate objects (mainly vehicles).

Creepy critters

Belief in animal spirits is common in hunting cultures.  Hunters sometimes perform elaborated ceremonies after killing an animal so that its spirit will not be vengeful.  In arctic Siberia, for instance, hunters hold a festival in honor of each whale they kill, so that its ghost will not frighten off other whales.

Ghost dogs are a common feature of western folklore, especially large black dogs with glowing eyes, known as barguests, devil dogs, gyrtrash, or shuck-hounds.  Barguests are usually thought to be bad omens, but can be helpful, protecting travellers in lonely places.

Planes, trains, and ghost ships

Probably the best known ghost vehicle is the Flying Dutchman.  This legendary vessel is said to be a 17-centuary sailing ship crewed by dead men, whose caption is doomed to sail the world forever as punishment for his sins.  Many sailors have reported encounters with the ship, which is usually described as glowing red or ghostly pale.


The most convincing type of haunting, the poltergeist, may not be caused by a ghost at all.  The word poltergeist is the German term for ‘noisy ghost’, and is the name given to a type of haunting in which the ghost, if there is one, is invisible, manifesting itself through a variety of physical phenomena.

Bad behaviour

Common symptoms of a poltergeist haunting or infestation include: objects being moved or thrown about; banging, rapping and knocking; small fires that start mysteriously; appliances going haywire; inexplicable wet patches; and foul smells.  Generally poltergeists are more of a nuisance than a danger, although in at least one case: the infamous Bell Witch of Tennessee, which tormented the Bell family between 1817 and 1821, and eventually poisoned John Bell, the head of the family, a man has been killed.

The epicentre

The other distinguishing feature of a poltergeist haunting is that it tends to be centred on one person, and often follows that person if he or she attempts to move house, for instance.  The focus of a poltergeist haunting is known as the ‘epicentre’.  Epicentres are most commonly children or adolescents.

All in the mind

The things that happen in a poltergeist infestation are very similar to the phenomena produced by psychokinetics and their close relations the physical mediums.  This, and the fact that an epicentre is usually involved, have led many people to argue that poltergeists are not ghosts at all, but instances of psychokinetic powers that are not under conscious control, technically known as ‘recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis’ (RSPK), produced by the epicentre.  One of the theories behind RSPK is that puberty triggers the sudden development of uncontrolled mental powers.

Poltergeists provide convincing evidence that something unusual is really happening, whether it is supernatural or paranormal, for two reasons.  Polergeist hauntings follow the same pattern in most cases, wherever and whenever they occur.  This undermines the cultural source explanation, and suggests a genuinely supernatural or paranormal phenomenon.  Secondly, investigators have exposed many poltergeist hauntings as hoaxes, in many other cases they have observed inexplicable phenomena at first-hand.

The skeptical viewpoint

The skeptical explanation is that ghost sightings are the result of a complex mix of sensory confusion, faulty memory, cultural influence, and exaggerated or false reporting.  In other words, ghosts exist only in the mind.  Skeptics claim that their theory is the only one that accounts for the whole range of ‘ghost facts’, and that the huge variety of ghost reports results from the individual and cultural variety of the witnesses.  But the skeptics can’t explain the hard core of reports of ghosts experienced by more than one witness, or cases where ghosts know things that living people do not.

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