Why people think they see ghosts

By Dean Peterson

A 2012 poll shows that 45 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts. More amazingly, in that same poll, 28 percent of the respondents said that they have personally seen a ghost before.

With such a widespread belief in ghosts, I was curious if there was actually any scientific evidence to fuel these beliefs.

I went to Buffalo, New York, to talk to Joe Nickell, a senior research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and allegedly the world’s only full-time paranormal investigator.

He told me that in his almost 50-year career of investigating all things paranormal, he’s never come across a single shred of evidence that would prove the existence of ghosts.

Instead, he points toward other scientifically explainable reasons for why people may think they’ve seen a ghost, including infrasound, sleep paralysis, and the traumatic grief of losing a loved one.

Watch the video above to learn more about the totally valid reasons you might experience a “ghostly encounter.”

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

25 COMMENTS

  1. This is interesting. I have had several “ghosts” appear.
    There was one day when I noticed a dark shadow moving on the wall. I started asking my doctor and he scheduled me for an eye exam. Then I found out I had cataracts and clouded lenses.
    So I guess the “ghost” had invaded my eyes.

  2. A ghost is simply an unexplained phenomena, which like the ignorant claiming “god-did-it, is attributed to the supernatural!

    As a child my brother and I once heard ghostly music coming from a darkened spare bedroom.
    We went up stairs three times to investigate but despite the repetitions of the noise – like the plucking of not quite in tune ghostly harp strings, we found nothing.
    When we finally quietly crept back for the last time, WE FOUND: .. .. . . .
    . . . . The cat sharpening her claws on the wire frame of a propped up spare bed, before she ducked under another bed out of sight – (as she knew clawing furniture was not allowed)!

  3. Alan, I think what you have there is Satan’s cat. I have two.
    Was it a black cat?
    I think a cat seance is in order. (are we supposed to be serious on this one?)

  4. Well I found it interesting to think an appliance in my house might be making feel as if I am being watched alf.

    Alan

    can you remember thinking what the noise might be?

  5. Olgun #4
    Jul 16, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Alan

    can you remember thinking what the noise might be?

    We knew there was no one upstairs, so were genuinely mystified.
    It sounded VERY like a musical instrument, and was rhythmical!

    alf1200 #3
    Jul 16, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Alan, I think what you have there is Satan’s cat. I have two.
    Was it a black cat?

    No! She was a long-haired Persian multicolour camouflaged cat! – Oh! and a skilled stealthy hunter given to disappearing into the dark forest near our house – when she was not hung round my neck impersonating a fur collar, or on the fireside rug, “supervising” the open fire!

  6. People like to tell stories and most of us have had a few odd and uncanny experiences that we can’t explain. “Could that have been a UFO? a ghost?” This is a natural thing to ask. Ghosts and UFOs and things of that sort are also a part of a cultural and literary heritage. What’s the point of raising our noses at others? Are we so different? Let he who has not been inclined to think that something supernatural has taken place at least once in his life cast the first stone.

    I myself have seen doors open. No wind, no open window, not the hinges, no cat pushing it, no nothing. I certainly don’t dwell on this stuff, but it does give one pause at times.

  7. Dan #8: “Let he who has not been inclined to think that something supernatural has taken place at least once in his life cast the first stone.”

    I’ll go so far as to clain that about the time I became a teenager in 1969 at the latest a supernatural “solution” for anything has been out of the question for me. But then my once fairly formidable baseball arm has withered a bit under the wear and tear of aging, so chucking walnuts and peanuts from our balcony to the squirrels in the meadow below is more my current speed (though trying to get distance with a peanut can be strenuous). As for the squirrels, they are more prone to UFO scares – qute rightly so for them, because the unidentified flying object seen out of the corner of their eyes might only be a pigeon, but it could very well be a hawk or other bird of prey. Better safe than sorry certainly is a sane world view at their size.

  8. I certainly respect that and agree with that, GK. How could I not? But insisting that one has found a “solution” is different than a bit of imagining or speculation. The former is insidious, the latter benign and essential for children – and it could be said that everyone has a child in them, sometimes.

    (Hope you don’t mind; been using the phrase “the Goebbels Channel”. You came up with that. Good one.)

  9. Once I was coming out of our kitchen into our dining room at night. There was only one light on in the kitchen, and it was shining into the dining room. In one of the dining room chairs a black human-shaped figure was sitting, absolutely motionless. It was so real-looking I stopped, skin tingling, screamed for my husband…and the figure never moved. By the time my husband came downstairs on the run, saw the figure, and came to a skidding stop, his mouth open in amazement, I had figured out what it was. It was the shadow of the pots and pans hanging from an overhead rack being cast on that particular dining room chair by the kitchen light. Still, it gave both of us the creeps, and I promptly rearranged the pots and pans. The only thing really odd about the incident was that that particular set of circumstances had never occurred before that we had noticed, even though we’d had that lighting and kitchen arrangement for years.

  10. Sue, everytime I go in the kitchen it scares the hell out of me. Is this the day I poison myself? Do I really have to wash the dishes this month?……..How do I cook this animal?

  11. Alf, I concluded that I could think of no explanation, and was therefore mystified. That’s all.

    (Sue, great comment about Sessions. Bravo.)

  12. Dan, I must have a death wish. When I was in the Air Force, friends took me to a house in Shreveport that was “haunted”. I didn’t waste a second getting out of the car and headed toward the house. They stopped me and said ” what if somebody lives there”.
    Yep……really haunted.
    I would love some rich eccentric to give me a million to stay in his haunted house. It better have a nice mattress and food.
    I am however, sure the UFO’s are piloted by ghosts of bigfoot.

  13. Would I believe that a house is haunted? Nope. eom.
    Would I believe that what others describe as a haunted house is harmless? Also Nope.
    I would tentatively assume that someone wants to keep people away from that house for some reason, and has found that producing some kind of special effects that scare (I’ll just call them that for sake of argument) gullible people does the trick to his satisfaction for most, if not all of the local populace. Enter the sceptic (outside) intruder (called heretic in other circumstances). If what’s in the “haunted” house is limited to scary special effects, the hoax gets blown up (not that this would convince any real true believers). If what is to be kept secret about the house is of fundamental importance to the special effects creator, I would assume that there is a second line of defence against intrusion into the “haunted” house; perhaps a third … these next “special effects” could veer towards the decidedly unhealthy, perhaps even deadly. I think there have been quite a few (horror) movies along these lines. But occasionally, life imitates art (I still blame “Dallas” and “Dynasty” for the decline of the US …).

  14. Grumpy, It was more in the lines of ”lets see if he buys the ghost story”.
    That was back in the seventies. They were southern locals and I was the northern gullible.

  15. GrumpyKraut #16
    Jul 21, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Would I believe that a house is haunted?
    Nope. eom.
    Would I believe that what others describe as a haunted house is harmless?
    Also Nope.
    I would tentatively assume that someone wants to keep people away from that house for some reason, and has found that producing some kind of special effects that scare
    (I’ll just call them that for sake of argument)
    gullible people does the trick to his satisfaction for most, if not all of the local populace.

    Coming from an other angle, if there were credible accounts of creaks and groans, or objects moving by themselves, I would definitely check for mining subsidence, sink-holes, landslip, or structural failures in the building!

  16. Alf – I know, right? Terrifying. If I had been just slightly more gullible and less quick to get over my startled moment, why, I might have had the local ghost hunters in there that very evening checking out my dining room chairs with their EMF meters and contacting the spirit of my pots and pans!

  17. Alan4discussion #18
    “Coming from another angle, if there were credible accounts of creaks and groans, or objects moving by themselves, I would definitely check for mining subsidence, sink-holes, landslip, or structural failures in the building!”

    No question about that. Doesn’t make that house any less dangerous to enter. And at least for the last case, I would feel very annoyed with the local authorities about not demolishing this dangerous object. Or suspect corruption within these local authorities if the derelict object belonged to some speculator and no action had been taken.

  18. Sue, I always wondered why they need EMF meters and UV cameras and heat seeking bullshit?
    It seems to me, if someone is reporting a “ghost”, they didn’t have all that equipment.
    They should be able to walk in the house with no equipment.
    Cheers, from OS, Wa.

  19. Felix Unger: I believe there is a ghost in this apartment. The noise is coming from somewhere over there.

    Phony occultist: Ha-ha-ha. Mr. Unger, there is no such thing as ghosts……Spirits, yes.

    (From the TV show The Odd Couple.)

  20. Alf – Me too. How do they know they’re detecting ghosts with those meters? As far as I know, the only thing an EMF meter detects is electromagnetic fields. And those cameras only detect infrared radiation (heat). If the disembodied consciousness of a dead brain can create EM fields and temperature changes, as well as EVPs on recording devices, why can’t they just talk to us? Why all the coy little tricks and skulking around at night?

  21. Sue, and we all know you don’t need all the equipment to find Bigfoot.
    All you need is an imagination. And a bottle of whiskey.
    I think I saw one in Port Townsend yesterday, but it was just a local.

  22. Sue Blue #23
    If the disembodied consciousness of a dead brain can create EM fields and temperature changes, as well as EVPs on recording devices, why can’t they just talk to us? Why all the coy little tricks and skulking around at night?

    Because they are coy and skulking little rascals who like nothing better than to give people a fright in the night. Boredom is probably the basic problem here — what to do with eternity, if singing the celestial dictator’s praises for ever does not spin your wheels.

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