A Discussion About Ghosts

A Discussion About Ghosts


Picture representing ghostly house and spirit

I am the first to say that I believe in ghosts and that I had ghostly experiences.  I love to talk about ghost and/or unexplained experiences. I am very excited about our Questers Fall Conference in September 2018 because we will be talking about ghosts. But,  I never really thought about categorizing them.  Then, I read this fascinating article called “The Curious Question of Ghost Taxonomy” by Benjamin Radford in the Skeptical Inquirer Volume 42.3, May / June 2018. 

A bit about Benjamin Radford – he is a scientific paranormal investigator, a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, and author, co-author, contributor, or editor of twenty books and over a thousand articles on skepticism, critical thinking, and science literacy. His newest book is Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits (2018).

The summary of his writing is to ask what ghost hunters are looking for.  Here are is a quote from his article.

Among the vast constellation of unexplained and Fortean topics, ghosts are by far the most elusive and unknown. Cryptozoologists who search for Bigfoot, for example, have reached a general consensus on what they’re looking for: a tall, bipedal, hairy, manlike animal. Not so with the most popular paranormal subject in the world: ghosts.

What are ghost hunters looking for? It’s not clear. As Owen Davies notes in his book The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts, historically “Ghosts shared certain characteristics with fairies, angels, and devils, and the tricky task of distinguishing between them often depended on the context in which they appeared: and this in turn changed over the centuries according to religious, philosophical, and scientific developments” (Davies 2007, 13).

Another excerpt….

But there are of course other theories, including:

  1. Ghosts are “created by naturally occurring environmental conditions such as electricity and electromagnetic radiation”; evidence for this often comes in the form of EMF readings.
  2. Ghosts are the “‘playback’ of energy or stored human emotion that was once present in the location and then somehow captured or ‘recorded’ into the environment”; evidence of this theory is often discussed in terms of “residual hauntings,” for example. Flaxman and Jones noted that if this theory is correct, it raises questions about the legitimacy of EVPs (ghost voices), which may in fact be “merely the thoughts and feelings of the investigators.”
  3. 3) Ghosts “are very much alive and active, but present in alternate dimensions or realities.” Flaxman and Jones speculate that “if a ghostly apparition is indeed coming to us from another dimension or parallel universe, it might not be a dead person at all but a real, live person whom we are merely glimpsing across the great divide of reality.”
  4. Ghosts may be either figments of our imaginations or products of temporary hallucinations (created, for example, by brain chemicals or low-level electromagnetic fields).
  5. Ghosts “are sentient entities that enjoy vexing and even harming humans.” This theory suggests that ghosts are similar to supposed demonic entities or fairies.

If you want more information, pick up the magazine, “Skeptical Inquirer”, June issue, or, go to https://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_curious_question_of_ghost_taxonomy and read a smaller version of the article. 

Read more about the organization, Skeptical Inquirer.  A bit of their philosophy and about their founders is below.

The Committee is a program of the Center for Inquiry, a nonprofit educational organization. The Committee was launched in 1976. The Skeptical Inquirer is its official journal.

Some of the founding members of CSI include scientists, academics, and science writers such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Philip Klass, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, James Randi, Martin Gardner, Sidney Hook, and others. A list of CSI fellows is published in every issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

CSI, encourages careful, rational, critical examination of unusual claims. One of the best guides is a short piece by Ray Hyman, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, titled “Proper Criticism”.

Walk in peace!

Editor’s Note:  This article is to talk about ghosts and to point readers in the direction of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine because it has such fascinating information in it. –Judith