A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: ghosts

26 Jan 2009
Skeptics claim there is a rational explanation for all the weird things that happen on this planet. They will stop at nothing to drive a round peg into a square hole every time. I tried to become a skeptic with the help of a friend who belongs to the skeptic society. He could not accept that I had seen a ghost earlier in my life. I had just moved into an apartment and it is possible I literally scared a ghost out of there upon my move in. As I was leaving and opened the door I could see this illuminating fog around me in the dark. I stood there and watched it pass me by and then move down the front steps, down the walkway and speed away once it reached the sidewalk. It wasn't highly illuminant but you could definitely see its human shape as it hovered off the ground about 3 feet. That was the only time I have ever seen a ghost in my life and am totally convinced of the reality of the experience. I tell of the story occasionally and am surprised to hear other people have also had similar experiences. I've had many other freaky things happen in my life that have sent a clear message that we are not alone. I would suppose as a skeptic you would block these experiences from the mind and conclude that there is always a scientific explanation. Do skeptics have a kind of phobia of the spirit world where their fears run wild because of things beyond their control?

Can't quite buy this skeptic business,


reply: I'm puzzled by what you mean when you say you tried to become a skeptic but were put off because your skeptical friend didn't confirm your belief that you'd seen a ghost. Skeptics don't usually believe ghost stories, so why were you surprised? When you told your skeptical friend that you seem to have scared the ghost away, did he laugh at you? Usually, ghosts scare people, not the other way around. So, your experience seems exceptional on at least that count.

I don't know how anyone could block such an experience from his or her mind. I admit that I'm pretty ignorant of all the possibilities that might account for such an experience, but I think I might consider that I was hallucinating, seeing a natural light source reflected off some natural objects, or witnessing some bizarre natural occurrence before I'd accept that I'd probably seen a spirit. Of course, my perception is colored by my beliefs. I just can't quite buy this spirit business. The brain has been known to cause perceptions of objects that appear external to the body but aren't really there.

I don't think I have a phobia any more than you have a phobia against being alone. And I don't think most skeptics fear what they can't explain any more than you feared the dimly lit object you saw gliding by you.

Logically speaking, there are an infinite number of explanations for any event, so it is unusual if we humans can't come up with at least one for anything we experience. Even so, it wouldn't hurt to admit that we don't know what we saw when we experience things that look like dim objects with a vague human shape moving in a fog. In short, it's a stretch to call a blurry perception a ghost or spirit and expect any critically thinking person to agree with you. Surely, you'd want a little more evidence than the confident certainty of the observer if the issue were something important like, say, a witness testifying he saw you commit a crime in the fog on a dark night.


07 Jul 2003
I noticed that your entry for ghosts was rather short and really only consisted of a description. I was wondering if you might look into (if you aren't already) the possibility of electromagnetic fields as an explanation for this and other phenomena. It's difficult to find any reliable research or information when researching ghosts, but the idea that electromagnetic fields can interfere with normal brain function seems plausible to me. The basic idea as portrayed on the science channel (I believe) is that places that are considered to be haunted can be explained by high levels of electromagnetism and its effect on the human brain, and thus the experience of ghosts is actually only perceptual, but the electromagnetism can explain its consistency from person to person in the same place.

 Poltergeists can also likely be explained by the effects of electromagnetism on an individual. The explanation of poltergeists may be found possibly by looking into more carefully the effects of the combination of Tesla coils and an individual on the environment. I'm only a student and really have no experience in any of the relevant areas of discipline, so I was wondering what you thought. I understand that you're very busy so I'm not expecting a response, but I would appreciate your careful consideration of the matter, and feel that the subject upon further investigation could be a valuable addition to your dictionary.
tj dreves

reply: According to ScienceNet.org

When a person's brain is subjected to certain electromagnetic fields, it can cause them to experience the feeling of unseen presences, which the brain may interpret as visions of God, ghosts, or even alien abductions.

07 Jul 2000 
I am glad that I managed to stumble upon your web page, it is rare to see the voice of sanity and reason on the internet these days. I am a chemist by degree, a computer programmer by profession and I used to be a magician's assistant so I have quite a good insight into the scientific world and the world of entertainment through deception. It amazes me how otherwise intelligent and rational people can believe such nonsense.

Two little stories which you may find amusing...

When I was a magicians assistant I would often listen to the conversations of people after the show, I would hear them talk about what they saw and how they thought the tricks were done. Quite often they would mention that they saw things that I knew could not be true because I knew how the tricks were done. They would report him doing something with the floating silver ball that, if he did it, I would have been shocked. It just goes to show that people are not the most reliable of witnesses.

My wife was convinced that something was not right in the house because every time she ran downstairs in the basement she would hear drawers being opened and closed upstairs. I am not sure if she was convinced there was a ghost in the house or not but I did a little bit of investigation. First of all I ran with her and I could also hear the drawers being opened and closed upstairs. Then I stopped running where I could here the noise and waited. The noise occurred every time she ran towards one end of the basement. After a couple more runs I pushed on one of the basement doors and latched it properly and the noise stopped. It turned out that as she was running into the narrow part of the basement she was pushing air in front of her which was moving the not properly latched door just enough to sound like a drawer opening. The noise came from the top of the door and thus sounded like it was upstairs. I am convinced that if I was not there she would have come to the conclusion that there was a ghost in the house.

22 Nov 1998
Recently, while surfing the web, I came across a site which featured a web camera aimed at the wall of an old building in my home town of Portland, Oregon. It had been placed there to see if the appearance of ghostly writing on the wall could be detected. It was alleged that the building had been built on the site of an old cemetery, but no address was given.

I immediately emailed the operators of the site requesting a specific location, and also asking them if they were aware that at one time there were numerous small cemeteries under what is now downtown Portland, and that many buildings could now stand on those sites (including one I used to work in). I further asked if they were aware that as the city grew, all these small cemeteries were closed and the bodies moved to a new, larger cemetery across the Willamette River in the mid-1800s.

All this information (including the locations of the original cemeteries) is readily available to anyone who requests information from the department which manages pioneer cemeteries in Multnomah County. The literature that is provided indicates that it is possible that some bodies were missed when the small cemeteries were closed, and there is no mystery to this; simply poor records and primitive if nonexistent embalming.

Funny-- NOBODY has responded to my message. I guess it's more fun to set up a web camera than it is to do a little historical research!

Keep up the good work,

Roger Voeller
Portland, Oregon

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