(Illustrated by Hernan Marin, 2012)
Fantazmë, прывід, φάντασμα, Spøkelse, גייַסט, Ուրվական, 幽霊, Hayalet, Exspiravit, Ysbryd, 유령, Ghost.
There are approximately 7,097 languages on this planet (according to ethnologue.com, 2018) and you would be hard-pressed to find one that did not have a means of expressing what we in much of the western world call “ghosts”.
Is it human nature, under certain circumstances to see (or think you see) apparitions of the deceased?
The answer to that question, is obviously, “yes“. It is an extremely popular concept, across countless cultures and has been documented for thousands of years throughout history. However, this doesn’t prove that ghosts actually exist in our scientifically perceived, measurable reality. The sightings could be caused by many contributing factors, but the main two umbrella terms used are, pareidolia and apophenia. Pareidolia, allowing the human mind to conjure shapes, figures, faces out of any visual stimuli, especially shadows. Apophenia being the tendency to come to (often far-fetched) conclusions by mistakenly finding/creating links between generally unrelated events/signs.
If however, ghosts do exist, a set of questions can be considered:
- Are they sentient and therefore reactive to any form of stimuli (a “spirit” capable of processing/remembering/learning new information)?
- Is a ghost an independent remnant of a consciousness, therefore a memory of itself somehow suspended in time and space (perceivable by multiple/all parties), and non-reactive to stimuli?
- Is what is being perceived as a visual/audible/olfactory apparition the suspended consciousness of someone other than that of the person/entity being observed (the witnessing of an apparition is the visual activity and possibly the emotion(s) [usually fear] of someone else’s suspended consciousness)?
- If ghosts are not sentient/conscious but rather “psychic impressions”, is anyone capable of observing them or only specific individuals under specific conditions?
- Can ghosts/apparitions only come from the deceased, or could the living somehow imprint a memory that is later/simultaneously perceived to be an incorporeal entity (or project their spirit, as suggested in the concept of astral projection)?
- What is ultimately achieved by the existence of ghosts, what purpose could innate(?) memory impression serve (possible evolutionary ability of our species to share a warning after death)?
- If a ghost is sentient, like the traditional understanding of a spirit, what is the purpose of its presence (if any, is there such a thing as “unfinished business”)?
- Do ghosts have any connection to humanity, but rather, as many religions suggest, are something of a more disingenuous nature to deceive or manipulate mankind (demonic)?
At this stage, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Ghost Hunting? Well, in order to hunt something you need to understand it. I think the spectrum of possibilities of what a ghost is, needs to be considered thoroughly before genuinely attempting to witness this extremely rare and paranormal phenomenon.
The popular modern approach with “hunting the paranormal” seems to be heavily focused on apparatus capable of reading minuscule environmental changes. This route is popular for good reason, because it’s aligned with the desire to record corroborating results/images that can prove something unusual is taking place. You should attempt to record things, but not at the cost of failing to observe the surroundings for yourself. Aside from that, the problem with a fixation on sensitive apparatus is that anomalous readings can take place every once in a while during the monitoring of any system. Ask anyone who has worked in system control or spent a lot of time observing surveillance footage, seemingly unusual things occur more often than you might think. Especially when everyone starts drawing conclusions from sounds that no one would really care about under different circumstances.
The extensive use of devices can also nullify someone’s understanding of what is actually going on around them, when they’re focused on an instrument’s reading. This is especially true when it comes to the use of EMF (electromagnetic field) meters, the reading of electromagnetic radiation flux density of direct current (natural) fields. Depending on how sensitive the device is, you’ll detect naturally occurring magnetic fields in even the most mundane places.
Suggestions for applicable assessment (try at your own risk):
- Dedication of time. Very rarely do you hear of someone going to an alleged haunted location and experiencing something immediately. You need to spend a fair amount of time at the location, preferably doing seemingly run-of-the-mill tasks on your own (reading, either being or seeming genuinely distracted, letting your guard down, so to speak). Ideally, you would spend the night.
- Assessment to be undertaken by multiple parties, preferably new to the location and unaware that it is presumably haunted. The moment you tell someone a place is haunted, their interpretation is tainted to a degree, their frame of mind adjusts.
- Introduce animals (cats/dogs) to the location that have not previously been there. Ideally each animal on their own, then clean as best you can after the visit to remove the scent of the previous animal. Look for similarities in behavior each replication of experiment.
- Introduction of personal effects, objects, music that may have some connection to the deceased to agitate/provoke activity.
- Induce fear, mass hysteria. As unpleasant as this suggestion sounds, statistically these are the conditions under which paranormal activity is most commonly witnessed.
- Most controversially, the mock re-enactment of something somehow significant to the deceased, possibly related to their demise. To either agitate/provoke activity or increase likelihood of discovering (by whatever means) the impression/memory.
- Last, but possibly not least, the lighting of candles and the placement of religious paraphernalia. Candles evoke spiritual sentiments in most of us and are easily extinguished to indicate a possible ethereal presence. Religious icons could awaken or comfort, agitating/provoking paranormal activity. If the presence is something inhuman/demonic, some Judeo-Christian superstitions suggest the presence of religious icons/symbols/recitings could agitate/provoke detectable activity.
In closing, you might ask what are the tools a Ghost Hunter might want to take into some dark and abysmal place? Firstly, I would suggest rationality, rationality gives way to courage. Then I’d recommend patience, along with curiosity, those two work hand-in-hand. Then you would require diligence, to be willing to replicate the same possibly fruitless endeavor several times to derive the truest interpretation of the location/experience you are investigating. Then you’ll need resilience, to not be discouraged if/when you don’t find anything. One thing to keep in mind is that experiencing something and gaining physical proof of something, are two separate things.
6 thoughts on “ᴀ GUIDE ғᴏʀ ᴛʜᴇ GHOST HUNTER”
I enjoy reading your posts. Your selection of points to ponder are wonderful. Always a fun read!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Much appreciated Blaine. From what I’ve read of your blog, I think my approach to this topic is somewhat similar to yours. One thing I neglected to bring up in this post, is the existence of certain African Pygmy tribes that some anthropologists deem to be natural atheists, in that their cultural development is (seemingly) void of spirituality. If it is possible that there are groups of isolated people who never experienced/conceived the notion of “ghosts” or “life after death”, that raises more questions toward the validity of the topic.
I agree. I think we certainly share some ways of looking at topics of these types. We try to start with a set of questions. And, you make a good point for experiment. In the case of a culture that may have no religion or mention of an afterlife, we can ask if there will be any claims of a, “paranormal,” nature that still pop up in that culture that become data points? Would the total subtraction of religious or spiritual identity as cultural practice necessarily mean no paranormal or spiritual types of claims would be existent? The percentages might drop, or they might even drop greatly. But, ya know, after looking into this topic for a while now (and you can make me give back my degree in Anthropology if I need to :-)), I still think the human brain will make sure that some types of anomalous claims are voiced. Also, inevitably, at least the few will look up at the night sky and ponder universal meaning and conclude that a personal cosmology devoid of an Intellect behind it is not their own. In other words, in a Godless culture, there will still be those who find God. And, then, the discussion rounds itself back to what you and I chatted about before in a comments section. What do we do with our models of neuroscience? What directions will our neuroscience models take in the future and how will the puzzle come to be filled in? What is the best estimation of consciousness? I’m not a psychologist or a neuroscientist so I should not speak out of turn. But, after keeping up with the topic and following trends, I just feel that the human brain will always make sure a population, whatever the size, will mean that claims will exist of some sort that fall outside the norm in any social dynamic. Statistically speaking, there are simply going to be those events that confuse our brains and leave us with questions. There was that time, even as recently as some of my first few blog posts, where I myself asked why I continued to speak to the topic of ghosts with any attempted rationality. But, I have recently been humbled and reminded that there is so much I don’t know, and wherever the ultimate answers lie with ghosts, even if they pertain only to how our brains work, then the pursuit is still worth the while. Science really does stand to benefit by keeping the question within reach for the sake of discussion and for using as a teaching tool for a scientific way of thinking. But, I think science also benefits from the endeavor overall, not in the way that means a helpful piece of technology winds up in your hands or some medical breakthrough occurs, but in that I still think there are some answers there that will teach us more about ourselves. Jolly good points. Thanks for your commentary!
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re right, there are many elements that obstruct or complicate things when looking into the validity of claims of ghostly apparitions. Speak to individuals suffering from the major symptoms of Schizophrenia, or someone in the advanced stages of sleep deprivation and they will tell you how real and compelling some hallucinations can seem to be. It is highly possible the human brain, regardless of cultural influence forms similar fears, along with similar desires. Maybe events of pareidolia, actual stimuli being misinterpreted (as a shadowy human entity) led to concepts such as the existence of ghosts evolving in a prehistoric culture. Similarly to paraeidolia effecting a single Buffalo to misinterpret a branch for a snake, which triggers the frantic stampede of an entire herd. However, even if you discarded every single supernatural claim made by an individual, that wouldn’t end the discussion. Because while individual accounts are more common, large groups of people have reported witnessing certain phenomena take place. Statistically, there have been commonalities found among people who believe in certain supernatural things, Ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, Demons etc and quite often an individual may believe in one of these things and not the others. More thought should be given to how someone could go about provoking an occurrence and if their means of recording said event is actual justifiable proof. Because unfortunately, often images of apparitions to one person, are common optical anomalies (backscatter) to another. Even the wealth of UFO footage available is not convincing to most as a legitimate unidentified flying object, many people remain skeptical that the footage itself is not authentic, and for good reason (same said about crop circles, and the many human individuals caught creating them). Ultimately, if what we call “ghosts” do exist, the first step in proving that, may reside on an individual level, finding an applicable means for someone to agitate and engage. Then to properly validate that experience, with third parties experiencing the same phenomena. The personal experience, as elusive as it is, may be the only tangible “proof” a person may be capable of obtaining. Interestingly, some people share that view on religion. You can be told about something, but until you experience it, it’s just words. Thanks for your insights also.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great thoughts! It’s also interesting that you close with the comments about the subjective experience maybe being the only, “tangibility,” a person can come away with. I had another wonderful blogger mention Robert Graves’ separation of solar (objective) knowledge and lunar (subjective) knowledge. Without getting into some of the scholarly arguments over Graves’ overall ideas, his breakdown was simply another way of coming around to say the same thing. So, when considering a topic such as ghosts, the verdict still winds up being left to the individual doesn’t it? 🙂 Wonderful reply. I believe you have another new post waiting. I have to go over and read it!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Well, doubt can stretch over many topics surrounding the unknown, or even things most people might take for granted. Look at the rise of the Flat Earth Society over recent years, if you can’t make something tangible to some people and they have (or believe they have) reason to doubt you, they may not believe what you’re saying to be true. 45% of US citizens doubt the legitimacy of vaccinations, 1 in 10 Americans don’t believe the moon landing ever occurred. 33% of Americans don’t believe what they hear reported in the news. For decades it’s been rumored the U.S Defense Force weaponized a device that could send sound waves at a specific target from over 3,000 ft away, calling it ‘The Voice of God’ to implicate enemies in various ways, if that technology exists, a “religious experience” could be simulated to an extent. Look at the Cottingley Fairies photographs, many people believed these young girls had photographed actual fairies and even when it was finally admitted to be a hoax when the girls were around 90 years old, they remarked noticing how many people wanted to believe, wanted to be fooled. Two people could experience the exact same phenomena, one might believe it happened, the other might believe they were mistaken somehow. Maybe the most definitive means of believing in the existence of ghosts, is if you become one. Cheers, hope it interests you. Not really ghost related, I try to cover a pretty broad range of anything that strikes me as unusual, wide array of topics to contemplate.