Does Fear Drive Kids’ Paranormal Experiences?

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Night terrors and bad dreams are common among young children, and a new study found that that some preschoolers who suffer from nighttime phobias have difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality.

Children are often said to be more sensitive, or “open,” to psychic and paranormal experiences. The idea is that there is wisdom in the ignorance and inexperience of youth and that adults rarely see entities or have such experiences because their minds have been closed off by logic and skepticism to the magic and wonder of the world.  Or, to use another analogy, it’s like in Warner Bros. cartoons when Wile E. Coyote or Elmer Fudd walks off a cliff but doesn’t fall until they are told that they’re not on land.

Why Children See Ghosts

The trope of supernaturally-sensitive children is staple of countless depictions in the media and popular culture. Ghosts and monsters usually make their presence known to young children. We see this in countless horror films such as “The Exorcist” (demons possess a young girl); “Poltergeist” (evil spirits contact a young girl through television static, causing her to famously announce their arrival with the creepy sing-song phrase “They’re heeere!”); and the film “Mama,” currently in theaters, which features two young sisters who communicate with an evil ghost the adults don’t see.

Real children reporting ghostly experiences (often at night) were also a staple of the popular, long-running television show “Unsolved Mysteries.” Though some parents were initially skeptical, they soon came to believe that their child’s accounts of seeing and interacting with ghosts and monsters were real and not merely imagination. “Why would a child make up something like that?” they often ask.

Written By: Benjamin Radford
continue to source article at news.discovery.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. I remember one brief “episode” as a youngster. Don’t know if it was day or night – I was in bed and convinced there was a ghost lurking about. Didn’t tell anybody, just froze hoping it would go away.

    I now realize it was a manifestation of anxiety from a move to a new house, city, and state.

  2. All kids should grow up watching Scooby Doo (they can ignore the Scrappy Doo Series…)
    They will soon learn that all those apparent apparitions they see are probably just the janitor, or the guy who cleans the pool, in disguise.

  3. When I was about eight or so I went through a phase of seeing small floating lights in my bedroom which would appear as I tried to get to sleep. I knew that they were really only in my imagination but when alone in the dark it was easy to start thinking that they were malevolent and I would ly as still as possible to avoid touching them. Once I saw a transparent body drifting down through the ceiling, this was the only time I remember screaming during the night (My parents ran straight to my sister’s room as it was normally her who had nightmares, and only checked on me as an afterthought.). My dad tried to reassure me that it was just my imagination. I remember thinking that that wasn’t the point, I knew it was my imagination and it was still scary.
    I was always convinced that I was awake when I saw these things, though after reading the description of sleep paralysis in The Magic Of Reality I realised that that is probably what was happening to me.
    During a discussion at work about paranormal experiences I related my experience to a colleague, she looked absolutely horrified until I assured her that I knew it was just my imagination, it made me wonder what else she thought it might be.

  4. Perhaps the answer lies in this sentence: “The study also found “that children with nighttime fears suffer from higher levels of general fears…”.

    As it is well known dreams are exhaust, a sort of vent pipe of our dally fears or any feelings that we suppressed. Mental pictures in dreams are merely mise en scene of feelings, what matters are liberation of suppressed feelings. If those feelings are that of fear, normally that the picture behind it in our head during the sleep, is going to be some bad picture (most likely pictures that in conscious state we find somehow troublesome). Sometime the “plot” is not connected at all, and that shows that feelings generate pictures, not vice versa, because fears jump from one to another,… pictures only pop up as background of those feelings. The important is that child liberate itself of dally fears. :)

  5. In reply to #2 by Alternative Carpark:

    All kids should grow up watching Scooby Doo (they can ignore the Scrappy Doo Series…) They will soon learn that all those apparent apparitions they see are probably just the janitor, or the guy who cleans the pool, in disguise.

    If there’s one thing I love about science it’s the comfort of evidence leading to knowledge, such as the indisputalbe fact that everybody hates Scrappy Doo.

  6. When I was a kid back in Canada, my brother and I shared a bedroom. We had bunk beds, with him on the bottom bunk and me on the top.

    Across the road from our house lived Mr. Bell. He would have been in his nineties at the time, and commonly wore his favorite striped pyjamas around his house as he didn’t get out much and had little reason to change into street clothes.

    My sisters, brother and I used to visit him quite often as he had no family and needed help around his property on occasion. He had a black and white TV before our family got one, so us 5 kids would hang out and watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights after dinner, and Don Messer’s Country Jubilee on Sunday evenings. But I digress…

    One early morning I woke from a sound sleep and lay on my back with my eyes closed for a bit trying to get back to sleep. I opened my eyes at one point and noticed a vague, nebulous outline in the middle of the room. As the sleep left my eyes, the image became clearer and coalesced into what appeared to be the torso of a person. I didn’t immediately notice a head, but thought it even more odd that the torso was at eye level… I was on the top bunk 5 feet off of the ground. The torso appeared to be wearing a top with a familiar striped pattern. I immediately shut my eyes tight, held my breath, and froze. After a few excruciating minutes, I found the courage to take a peek. Nothing. Needless to say, I didn’t get back to sleep and was a wreck when mom called us down for breakfast. I told no one about my experience as my siblings would have teased me ragged over it.

    When I eventually ventured outside to catch up with the neighborhood kids for a day of horsing around (and forgetting), one of the kids from down the street ran up to me fit to burst. “Did you hear what happened?” he panted. “No, what?” I asked. “Mr. Bell died last night!” he beamed, “Mom says it must have happened at 2 or 3 in the morning.”

    Didn’t sleep for a week after that.

  7. I aspire to someday be a ghost. Heaven, hell, limbo, purgatory, even the atheist’s oblivion???

    NAH, none of those for me thanks. I want to haunt. Think about it. No need for food. No need for water. No waste production. No illness. No aging. Nothing that could hold me back or exclude me from any experience I’d like to witness.

    I could hang out in Halle Berry’s dressing room. I could sun on a nude beach in Rio. I could spy on the Holy See and actually witness the fraud firsthand. I could get to the bottom of tons of cool mysteries and quench my curiosity on so many levels.

    Forget hanging around spooky houses and graveyards. I’d be the progressive ghost. I’d haunt only uptown penthouse suites. Attend events I couldn’t dream of attending now. Superbowls, prize fights, World Series… I could see my loved ones and look over their shoulders for perpetuity.

    That’s right; IT’S A GHOST’S LIFE FOR ME!!!

  8. There is a specific kind of nightmare, actually I just looked it up and according to Wikipedia its classified as different than a traditional bad dream, called Night Terrors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_terror I suffered from these through my 20′s. You feel paralyzed and have a dream that some intruder (paranormal, alien, or human) is entering your room. They are more vivid then a normal bad dream and they often involve dreaming you are awake in the bed you went to sleep in so its hard to distinguish between dreaming and waking.

    I’ve often thought that this phenomenon was responsible for things like reports of alien abduction as well as belief in the supernatural in general.

  9. “Children are often said to be more sensitive, or “open,” to psychic and paranormal experiences.” Stop right there. There is no such thing as “paranormal” activity, so to pose that statement as if it were a real thing is to lose most intelligent people in the audience. There are parts of our brain that have occasional access to less visited parts of our brain, and sometimes access what is commonly thought of as the “greater awareness”, and this is what many people mistake as a “god” experience, or the supernatural. Naturally there are many cults who swoop in and try to claim they know all the answers, when someone has an experience. I could go on and on…ranting.

  10. So now what do you think it was? Just a dream about your neighbour?

    In reply to #6 by Alakan:

    When I was a kid back in Canada, my brother and I shared a bedroom. We had bunk beds, with him on the bottom bunk and me on the top.

    Across the road from our house lived Mr. Bell. He would have been in his nineties at the time, and commonly wore his favorite striped pyjamas around his house as he didn’t get out much and had little reason to change into street clothes.

    My sisters, brother and I used to visit him quite often as he had no family and needed help around his property on occasion. He had a black and white TV before our family got one, so us 5 kids would hang out and watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights after dinner, and Don Messer’s Country Jubilee on Sunday evenings. But I digress…

    One early morning I woke from a sound sleep and lay on my back with my eyes closed for a bit trying to get back to sleep. I opened my eyes at one point and noticed a vague, nebulous outline in the middle of the room. As the sleep left my eyes, the image became clearer and coalesced into what appeared to be the torso of a person. I didn’t immediately notice a head, but thought it even more odd that the torso was at eye level… I was on the top bunk 5 feet off of the ground. The torso appeared to be wearing a top with a familiar striped pattern. I immediately shut my eyes tight, held my breath, and froze. After a few excruciating minutes, I found the courage to take a peek. Nothing. Needless to say, I didn’t get back to sleep and was a wreck when mom called us down for breakfast. I told no one about my experience as my siblings would have teased me ragged over it.

    When I eventually ventured outside to catch up with the neighborhood kids for a day of horsing around (and forgetting), one of the kids from down the street ran up to me fit to burst. “Did you hear what happened?” he panted. “No, what?” I asked. “Mr. Bell died last night!” he beamed, “Mom says it must have happened at 2 or 3 in the morning.”

    Didn’t sleep for a week after that.

  11. Maybe this built-in fear children have for the unknown is leftover instincts that would of helped the offspring of say chimpanzees to stay away from danger or the fear of the unknown without the need to learn why a snake for example,on the ground should be avoided.nightmares are just a by product of daily feelings.

  12. No, religious woo does.

    The more children understood the difference between fantasy and reality, the less fearful they were.

    Yet another reason why not teaching them this difference is a form of child abuse.

  13. In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

    …You feel paralyzed and have a dream that some intruder (paranormal, alien, or human) is entering your room. They are more vivid then a normal bad dream and they often involve dreaming you are awake in the bed you went to sleep in so its hard to distinguish between dreaming and waking.

    I’ve often thought that this phenomenon was responsible for things like reports of alien abduction as well as belief in the supernatural in general.

    I think the general consensus nowadays is that this paralysis occurs so we don’t act out the content of our dreams and possibly injure ourselves and others. Evolution came up with the solution of keeping the body immobile at these times.

    Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting The Nightmare is perhaps the most famous visual representation of this safety mechanism. Modern-day accounts of alien abduction are, as you suggest, almost identical; the only difference is that the tormentor has changed from a demon into a saucer-eyed visitor from space.

    rdf richard

  14. Psychologists agree that dreams are mechanism that allow suppressed energy (that we raised in daytime,but not used it) to release itself. In my opinion fear that ones feel during the sleep is nothing more that projection of fears that one feels during the day. For example, if I was afraid to say a girl that I love her because of fear of being judged wrongly, I suppress that energy that I raised in order to do so (to say). That energy stays in me and bothers me all day. And it continues to bothers me until I do what I intended to do with that raised energy, in other words to release it in communication (to say “I love you”). The laws of physics says that energy can not be reversed but used. Dreams are mechanisms that allows us to release accumulated energy, they are valves for reduction of energy. :). I believe that ones when children (and adults) are liberated of their fears generally, they will not have frightening dreams. :)

  15. In reply to #3 by jenog:

    My dad tried to reassure me that it was just my imagination. I remember thinking that that wasn’t the point, I knew it was my imagination and it was still scary.

    I imagine you would have been much more frightened had you believed it was real. For instance, I’ve found that people who believe in the supernatural don’t handle hallucinogens very well.

  16. In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

    Well, in my opinion you are mistaken. When a body gets a stimulus out of its environment, it goes to a brainstem and hypophysis which affects the adrenal gland that causes the secretion of adrenaline which further mobilize sugars and insert them into the bloodstream. Adrenalin is an neurotransmitter responsible for so called „fight-fight-fight“ output. This output comes out of the stress suffered, and it prepares the body for the state when it needs to respond. Sugar is energy. We humans get our sugars from eating plants and meat. Plants store energy of the Sun, and cows and other animals eat plants, we eat cows, and so on. Of course fear is not an esence, it is a response of our autonomic nervous system on a specific threatening situation. I am not sure you know what is an „emotional responce“. It is all about chemistry and physics. All animals have the same process of activation of energy (sugars) and the same process of its transformation into a mechanical work, light and heat. When sugars rises in blood, hypothalamus activates the autonomic nervous system. Furthermore hypothalamus and autonomic nervous system respond equally on actual stimulus as well as on the mental image, in other words it can’t make a difference. We all know that people are only animals that can create mental images. Converting energy into her final products: mechanical work, heat and light in humans can be blocked by a series of obstacles that one form from early childhood, as bans, as standards, as fear of punishment, as rules, as social roles, as uncertainty etc. So when a person is frightent and decide not to react (because of some social rules) it acumulate raised energy (because sugars can’t go back, and also is known from physics that ones raised energy must transforme itself. Look at 1. and 2. laws of termodynamics). That energy by the laws above mentioned must released itself (must be used) and one of this forms of release are dreams. :)

  17. HAHAHHAHHAAHHAHHAAHHHAAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAh…….etc…..

    In reply to #17 by Modesti:

    In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

    Well, in my opinion you are mistaken. When a body gets a stimulus out of its environment, it goes to a brainstem and hypophysis which affects the adrenal gland that causes the secretion of adrenaline which further mobilize sugars and insert them into the bloodstream. Adrenalin is an neurotransmitter responsible for so called „fight-fight-fight“ output. This output comes out of the stress suffered, and it prepares the body for the state when it needs to respond. Sugar is energy. We humans get our sugars from eating plants and meat. Plants store energy of the Sun, and cows and other animals eat plants, we eat cows, and so on. Of course fear is not an esence, it is a response of our autonomic nervous system on a specific threatening situation. I am not sure you know what is an „emotional responce“. It is all about chemistry and physics. All animals have the same process of activation of energy (sugars) and the same process of its transformation into a mechanical work, light and heat. When sugars rises in blood, hypothalamus activates the autonomic nervous system. Furthermore hypothalamus and autonomic nervous system respond equally on actual stimulus as well as on the mental image, in other words it can’t make a difference. We all know that people are only animals that can create mental images. Converting energy into her final products: mechanical work, heat and light in humans can be blocked by a series of obstacles that one form from early childhood, as bans, as standards, as fear of punishment, as rules, as social roles, as uncertainty etc. So when a person is frightent and decide not to react (because of some social rules) it acumulate raised energy (because sugars can’t go back, and also is known from physics that ones raised energy must transforme itself. Look at 1. and 2. laws of termodynamics). That energy by the laws above mentioned must released itself (must be used) and one of this forms of release are dreams. :)

  18. In reply to #17 by Modesti:

    In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

    Converting energy into her final products: mechanical work, heat and light in humans can be blocked by a series of obstacles that one form from early childhood, as bans, as standards, as fear of punishment, as rules, as social roles, as uncertainty etc. So when a person is frightent and decide not to react (because of some social rules) it acumulate raised energy (because sugars can’t go back, and also is known from physics that ones raised energy must transforme itself.

    Some people have nightmares about zombies wanting to eat their brain, which I interpret as their existential angst over the sadly real existence of Tea Party Republicans. Others unsettled by ideas of politicians in general may be terrorised by dreams of psychopaths with unnatural amounts of power.

    This, however, is my nightmare. Not so much Freddie as Dunning-Kruger.

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