Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Personal Ghosts

art/Lisa Semerad.

One paranormal researcher is of the opinion that " a vast porportion of reports, possibly as many as 98%, can be solved by identifying the 'haunting' as something quite mundane."

Then he goes on to say "Of course, the other two percent can be absolutely fascinating."

Fascinating because the facts as presented are resistant to the usual grounds for dismissal -- illusion, delusion, confusion or deliberate fraud.

Researchers classify ghostly phenonema according to various criteria. One type is referred to as a crisis apparition -- ghosts of the dying.

Several famous cases of a clear, substantial apparition visiting a close friend or relative with the news -- before that relative could have received the confirmation from a conventional source (because of distance) -- resist explanation by the laws of physics as we know them.

Further, a number of the more seriously regarded cases were not based on the testimony of a single individual. Apparations were observed and recognized by several people.

Attemps to elucidate the mechanism for this type of appparition often involve unstable and complex theoretical extensions such as telepathy, bi-location, out-of-body experience, or survival of the spirit, ie. illustrating an unknown by an unknown.

Probity rests largely on the fact that the recipient of such visions could not have known of the precipitating event because normal communication was either absent or unavailable -- how could a mother see her son in England if he's presently on a ship going down in the south Atlantic. So one wonders if -- in this age where contact is available 27/7 -- claims of such visitations will substantially diminish.


Aine said...

Great question!! I hope someone somewhere is tracking that. (Any paranormal students out there who need a thesis idea?)

Having been a biology major, I am naturally skeptical of any ghostly claims. But, man, what I wouldn't give for a new discovery in physics that would substantiate ghostly activity!

Bernita said...

I know, Aine! That irradicable feeling that the truth is out there...

freddie said...

Your post made me think of an article I once read, "Myths Over Miami," that reported on the beliefs of street kids in Miami. They had this whole eerie, sophisticated myth centered around Bloody Mary and the Blue Lady. One of their beliefs was that the newly dead try to communicate warnings to loved ones. I'd be happy to send along the link if you'd like.

BernardL said...

You make a good point about 24/7 communication. Everyone is running around with cell-phones capable of decent visual reproduction in either picture or video form, yet the number of UFO sightings and strange phenomena have dropped. This is probably because the first words from a skeptic are 'do you have a cell-phone'. When the observer is found to be carrying the latest high tech tinker toy with high def capable reproduction, their story quickly falls into a mutter of 'my battery was dead'. :)

Bernita said...

Freddie,thank you. Interesting that supposedly disconnected-from-traditional-cultural-assumptions street kids also express a profoundly traditional belief about the motives behind many ghostly manifestations.

Bernita said...

Hee, Bernard, and the inevitable claim that the manifestation CAUSED the battery up the ghost( so to speak).
Paranormal claims of various kinds do go though cycles, however, and any drop may be independent of the availability of the latest technology.

freddie said...

Here it is for anyone who'd like to read it:

Bernita said...

What a wonderful article, Freddie!
Thank you again.
Substance for a novel there.

Charles Gramlich said...

I watched Fringe last night and they were talking about communication at a ghost level, with energy sources normally undetected by humans.

Bernita said...

And apparently, Charles, also undectable by mmeasuring devices set up to record them.
The problem is that ghosts don't appear on schedule.

spyscribbler said...

I know when people die. I don't know who dies, but they pass by. The peaceful ones. It's like a moment of pure, breathtaking peace. First time was in the middle of summer camp. When I got home, I asked if someone had died. Yep. Then I felt my downstairs neighbor. It happened enough times for me to finally believe it, LOL.

When my best friend's dad died, it was so strong it completely freaked me out so much I begged not to "see" like that again. Unfortunately, I haven't.

For me, it's not something I can see with my eyes. It's like I can see it clearly and vividly with my soul. As plain as day, no question. Sort of bizarre. I wouldn't believe it, but...

freddie said...

Some people just have that sense, I think. I have a hard time believing in the supernatural, at least in the rational part of my mind. Yet as a kid I believed, with no contradictions, in EVERYTHING. There's some of that left over even in my adulthood, as if my life would be richer, somehow, believing in spirits.

My roommate claims to have had several experiences with ghosts, and he's very good at creeping me out with his stories. So I guess a part of me believes in them.

Your welcome on the article, Bernita. I've always thought that article was pretty great. Poignant, but wonderful, too.

Bernita said...

Unusual, Natasha.
People often depend on external validation for these experiences, ie. hearing death bells - my mother's favourite.

Bernita said...

I was impressed with the rich detail by which their spiritual world was described, Freddie.

Virginia Lady said...

I've noticed a similar thing with UFO sightings. There aren't anywhere near as many now that we have all these satellites monitoring everything 24/7.

But I suspect most of the accounts of ghostly encounters are things that aren't photographable, they are more of a personal experience. Not quite so tangible.

raine said...

I suppose the new era of communications would make the skeptics less likely to believe. But then, they probably wouldn't anyway.
I've heard too many instances of this happening from people I trust NOT to believe it. Don't claim to understand, but I accept it.

StarvingWriteNow said...

Probably they'll take on a whole new dimension...apparitions in emails, ghost texting... I mean, come on, even the spirit world has to be up on technology!

Robyn said...

"Ghost in the machine," Beth?

I always wondered why intelligent aliens didn't go for the President instead of a corn field. Maybe the crop circles are an alien teenage prank.

Miladysa said...

I think that the dead cell phone battery theory only works in some cases.

When we were experiencing 'paranormal' events we did not think of them as such until afterwards and everything else had been ruled out.

We didn't want to classify anything as 'paranormal' not when it is in your home or you are the one who is experiencing it. If it's paranormal or your brains fried you opt for the paranormal theory.

When others are experiencing similar events, when they are unaware of what has happened before and when it is not happening in a spooky castle where imaginations can run wild then you very reluctantly consider paranormal.

At the time it is happening you are not looking to capture it on your cellphone or in any other medium. On the contrary you are praying bloody hard that it stops.

I don't believe it has anything to do with the dead, I think one day it will be explained scientifically. I go more for recorded images/voices/events theory.

Bernita said...

Virginia, claims/reportage/media interest doesn't necessarily mean lack of actual activity.
Nevertheless, I agree with you,knowing there are external monitors may lead people to attribute encounters to other, more natural causes.

A good point, Raine... people are less likely to report because they know they face an uphill battle, so why bother.

Beth, I have trouble with old dimensions. I don't need them in new ones!

Robyn, you must know that, according to some theories,many of our important people ARE aliens!
Alien teen-agers hanging out in the 'hood, doing grafitti on cornfields....hmmm, I like that.
Seems though that the corn-circle culprits are entire human.

Milady, the dead battery business is based on the engergy-suck theory.
I hope for better explanations, both from physics, biology and from psychology.

Scott from Oregon said...

I wrote this this morning and my guides made it disappear by kicking me offline during the 'send" function.

Humans have bio-mechanical parts. They have ears that contain hammers and anvils. Eyes with a lens and receptors that have evolved to see light reflected between specific wave lengths.

You can do a Wiki search and learn all about them if you like.

The point being, if you reverse engineeer a "paranormal" ghost event, you run into the sticky question "how did you hear or see" something "supernatural", when your eyes and ears are only capable of observing "natural" phenomenon?

If you "hear" a ghost, the ghost must be capable of producing a "natural" sound, meaning it has to affect the natural world. Physics will tell you what condition a ghost must have to do that. It would need mass and a reasonable level of density. If it is a "voice", it would need something like a vocal chord or a violin string or a way to blow air over a bottle-shaped "thing".

All of these things require that ghosts be a natural, physical things which must follow natural physical laws. You can claim a ghost does not follow natural laws, but then you can't claim they affect the natural world that you and I are stuck in.

Same goes for "seeing" a ghost. If you can see it, it has to reflect light between two specific parameters, otherwise the human eye cannot detect or "see" it.

What this points to is that the phenomenon we often call "ghostly" have to follow natural laws and are physical in nature. The ghost explanation happens AFTER the perception, after being heard or seen. The ghost perception, in other words, happens in our brains.

SzélsőFa said...

Science has still a lot to learn I say.
Or rather, I'd say that a scientific scepticism does not exclude the existence of a phenomenon.

This series is a very interesting one, Bernita. Great choice of subject.

Bernita said...

Scott, ALL perception "happens our brains."
What if the vast majority of people were colour blind, for example, and only a few could distinguish the spectrum, what "laws" would be applied to what those few perceive?
Maybe apparations are "stealth " people...
We are still expanding our knowledge/understanding of "natural laws" of space and time and matter.

Thank you, Szelsofa.
" I'd say that a scientific scepticism does not exclude the existence of a phenomenon."
In a nutshell. I agree.

Marianne McA said...

We have a story like that in our family: a mum seeing her son coming home unexpectedly from the front out the window, shouting to the household he was home, and rushing to the door to greet him, only to find that he wasn't there. Later they were to find out he had died that day. That was during WW1.

Not quite the same, but my grandmother had a dream in which she was warned about a date, which turned out to be the day - before or after, I can't remember - on which my uncle died during WW2. My mum said she used to worry about it after - couldn't understand why, if she was to have a warning, it wouldn't have been for the right date.
Twenty years after she had died, my uncle and aunt went to visit Portsmouth, where the records from the submarine were viewable. As it turned out, the letter the family had got had given the wrong date - he had died on the day her dream had foretold.

At this late date, it's all hearsay - I can't know what really happened.

Bernita said...

Marianne, you have what appears to be a true crisis apparition and a forwarning.
I think it best to keep an open mind about possibilities.

Steve Malley said...

Or perhaps now our ghosts will be in the machine...

Dave F. said...

As for seeing a ghost, human eyes are marvelous instruments. They alternate between a kluge and genius. In one aspect, we have poor eyes because we can't see like eagles or at night like predators and we have a blind spot. Now that's a neat evolutionary stupidity - making the weaker species have the weaker eyes.

And then on the other hand, we can see through things. Yup, right through solid matter.
Put a single finger up in front of your face and look at something with lots of detail - like knicknacks on a set of shelves. Notice how your finger disappears and you can see everything on the shelf? You can see "through" your finger because that's the trade-off for having less than eagle eyes. We see through the jungle, behind things. This works much better with motion involved. Like skeet shooting.

So why can't the eye see a ghost, a non-physical apparition? What is it that we aren't seeing? The movie Ghostbusters turns ectoplasm into snot for the sake of laughs but what if ectoplasm is a form of energy we haven't cataloged? It was only a few years ago we learned of Dark Matter in the Universe and we still haven't put our hands on it. Let alone understand it, but we believe in it.

Dave F. said...

I have another comment about "ghosts"...

The news makes a big deal of people who see "Jesus" in a piece of burnt toast. Now for the life of me, I look at pictures of those things and shrug. It ain't my vision. It ain't my revelation. I don't see it.

But it might be someone else's and it might change their life forever. God spoke to them. An angel visited. My grandma watches over me. And the one that many of us believe "The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost..."

Those revelations are not mine to deny.

So those that see ghosts might be seeing ghosts that we cannot.

Chumplet said...

My husband says his grandfather visited him (hubby)at the time of his (grandfather's) death, even though Opa was in Europe.

He said someone moved his blanket off his shoulders while he was in bed, and laid a hand on his shoulder. He didn't see anyone, but knew it was his grandfather.

The next day, he received the news of his grandfather's passing.

Sarah Hina said...

I am doubtful about the existence of ghosts, and yet I want to believe.

But why should that be? Ghosts are so often victims of perpetual torment and recycled traumas. I wouldn't really wish that on anyone...or thing.

Maybe it's just the hope that something lives on. That there is a legacy, an enduring energy, beyond death.

Scott from Oregon said...

"What if the vast majority of people were colour blind, for example, and only a few could distinguish the spectrum, what "laws" would be applied to what those few perceive?"

Simple. The laws of waves in a spectrum. If you assume knowledge is what it is today (meaning we know what we know) people will be identified as "color seers" because their eyes are capable of seeing the whole spectrum of color. Seeing color is easily understood. Light is reflected and picked up by the back of the eye...

There is no "magic" in that.

Suggesting that we don't know what the eye can see is a bit disingenous. We do. The eye has been studied and has been found to see specific things.

If you want to claim that the eye can see "energy" of an as yet unknown type in order to justify "seeing a ghost"... well, you have granted the eye super powers it does not have to make your premise work.

Therein lies the heart of the problem with "belief".

It trumps all forms of logic, reason, and common sense, making reality conform to the belief instead of the other way around.

And Dave, you're not helping...

The thing that gets me, is that reality is far more complicated and extraordinary than a ghost could ever be, and yet ghosts are preferred...

I have to confess, I am out of place in these discussions, because I just don't get the whole "belief" thing.

I just learned about a small bug that gets inside of the brain of an ant, and steers the ant up a blade of grass so that the ant can be eaten by an herbivore and the bug can reproduce in the stomach...

Now THAT is cool.

Bernita said...

Ah, Steve, more apt to be demons...

And the eye can't see infra red, Dave. And it's certain that not all eyes are exactly the same in their functions.

Your husband's experience might fall under the sub-class of sensory communication, Sandra.

I'm doubtful too, Sarah. It's not so much that I want to believe but more that I'd like the phenonema explained and understood.

Scott, my point is that if the majority of people could not see colour, science might find no need or impetus to explore the possibilities.
No one is expressing a "belief" in "magic" here.
Instead, what we have are sceptics of fixed "belief" about any science that claims to have solved everything about the universe -- and at the same time, such sceptics are trying to understand certain apparent anomalies in terms of it.
A proper "belief" in science demands an open mind.
"making reality conform to the belief instead of the other way around." seems to me to apply to yourself as well.

writtenwyrdd said...

It's easy to say someone else's experience is non-scientific due to it's being anecdotal; but when I actually have awakened, found myself going to sit by the phone and wait for a phone call because I woke up knowing someone had died...You can't convince me that there isn't something at work beyond the current knowledge of science! So I just remind myself to be sceptical but also willing to believe when I hear others' tales!

Bernita said...

Exactly, Written.

Jon M said...

My sister-in-law worked in Nursing Homes for years and was quite matter of fact about seeing ghosts of those who had recently passed away. She and her colleagues would see them once soon after their deaths and that was it.

laughingwolf said...

i embrace that elusive two percent!

i see an increase in that kind of 'reporting', and less in the other

Bernita said...

Intersting, Jon!
Probably be clasified differently from crisis apparition though.

Very difficult to dismiss certain instances, Lw.

Dave F. said...

CNN reports that a set of security cameras were triggered by motion and the only thing on the tape is a fuzzy white blurry thing.

It's in a gym of all places and kinda just floats around. They don't know what it is and neither do I... It's spooky. It's unexplained. It's on tape.

Barbara Martin said...

The nature of science is not perfect, there are some matters that cannot be explained away. Ghosts are one of them. Of the times I have seen them, most I wished would just go away and not come back. Nor do I understand why there are people who like to "hunt ghosts". For excitement?

Appearances can be neutral, and I have had one occurrence where the one room became so cold you could see your breath when you spoke (while the kitchen and bedrooms were a normal temperature, and witnessed by two others) and another of the smelly ghost that I would prefer would just leave. This is not exciting, it is very annoying.

J. L. Krueger said...

Och! Ghosts are more fun than logic and science.

I think it amazing that virtually every culture has its ghosts and spirits. In many ways it will be a sad day if science can adequately explain away 100% of the experiences.

Bernita, the response you get to this subject is also amazing. Must be a lot of Scots / Irish out there!

J. L. Krueger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernita said...

"Unexplained" is the appropriate word, Dave!

"The nature of science is not perfect and there are some matters that cannot be explained away"
Not at present, at least, Barbara. But mysteries will remain if no one goes looking.

Don't think only the Scots/Irish admit curiousity, JL. As you said, every culture and heritage.

freddie said...

Bernita, may I put you on my blog reader on my blog? Would save me time when I come to visit.

Bernita said...

Freddie, of course.
~am flattered~