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The real scientific low down on ghosts and hauntings may not be far away now...
...as research teams are getting ever more high tech tools with which to document and explain strange events, which should help a lot to finally come up with a definitive explanation of the phenomena.
Apparently at least a few professional psychics are actually proving useful to serious researchers in determining where exactly to search for such things. So perhaps it's true that some percentage of the human population possesses a certain sensitivity to such matters.
Rapidly changing magnetic fields seem to be very important to sightings. Field strength during sightings can peak at up to 100 times normal background strength [1-2 milligauss is considered normal].
The anomalous magnetic fields display an electrical element that's static DC rather than the AC you'd expect from things like common household appliances. Static DC fields are what you find in living things like mammals. These fields also float around from room to room, and are basketball-sized or smaller.
Temperatures can drop by 20-35 degrees C during ghostly phenomena.
Some fields show signs of radioactivity too-- such as gamma rays(!) The article didn't mention whether the radioactivity was ever sufficiently strong to harm observers-- so hopefully it isn't.
Some photos of ghosts sent to photography experts for analysis resulted in conclusions that the anomalous images were spawned by fogging effects from ionization, or unusual electromagnetic fields.
Bathing a specter in infrared light with appropriate night vision imaging systems can sometimes reveal a full body image of a human being in the phenomena.
There's still no conclusive agreement on ghostly phenomena. The strange magnetic fields recorded could be plain natural phenomena capable of inducing hallucinations in some human minds exposed to them-- a sort of reversed vision, where instead of light hitting your eyes and projecting an image into your brain, your brain's natural internal EM field itself suffers interference from an outer EM field, thereby causing strange images to spontaneously appear in your visual centers, perhaps pulled randomly from old memories, in a way not too disimilar to dreaming. But in these cases you'd be experiencing dream-like imagery while awake. Such EM field interference with normal brain functioning could also explain vivid but unreal experiences like alien abductions, and bigfoot and loch ness monster sightings. I.e., some witnesses might truly be experiencing strange things which seem utterly real to them, but are nothing more than hallucinations brought on by anomalous EM fields in their vicinity.
|More information on the matter of external fields effecting human perceptions is available in "Alien abduction: the inside story", New Scientist, 19 November 1994, p 29, and a study published in Proceedings of the Journal of Psychical Research (vol 57, p 275) by Wilkinson and Gauld|
The New Scientist article includes several specific cases where various circumstances of machine, metal, circuitry (and even subterranean geological) configurations apparently produced haunting phenomena in observers, which could be 'turned off' by simply changing the configurations themselves.
Proponents of the supernatural however counter that the EM fields simply allow true spirit entities the extra energy required to make contact with the living. And that the chilling effect of an appearance might itself be an indication of the energy drain required for a manifestation. Proponents also point to the apparent cast shadows of some manifestations, as being proof that they are more than mere hallucinations or EM fields.
To those studying these phenomena, it turns out "apparitions" and "hauntings" are two entirely different classes of events. "Hauntings" resemble fixed recordings of events, which seem not to change regardless of observers or any actions the observers take in the vicinity (similar to the recent discovery that environmental audio signals from the distant past may have been inadvertantly captured in the hand sculpting of pottery made upon spinning workbenches, much like how sound could be stored in the grooves of old phonograph records). "Apparitions" however are interactive-- they respond to observers and changes in their environment in various ways.
Apparitions seem to stick to the same behavior patterns you might have expected of them when they were alive.
Both apparitions and hauntings are thought by some to be some form of electromagnetic recording somehow embedded in the local environment.
Surprisingly, it seems much of the phenomena occurs not in old houses but new ones. Usually 'guardian angel' type entities seem to 'adopt' families, especially those with children, and attempt to help them or look out for them in some way. Evil or malevolent types of phenomena seem quite rare.
Note that even if hauntings do turn out simply to be 'brain candy' of the EM field induced variety, learning more about them could lead to great new virtual reality rides or experiences, with specially tuned EM generators. Assuming, of course, that such things can be utilized without harming the user, and controlled well enough to prevent waking nightmares from taking over the event (yikes!).
Another possible implication of ghostly phenomena finally getting explained scientifically in the years and decades ahead is a possible new blow to traditional religions. After all, the more reduced in stature 'supernatural' or 'miraculous' events become, the less monolithic or imposing various religious foundations and justifications may be perceived over time.
Many of the ideas above were found on or about 12-20-98 on the New Scientist web site ("Midnight watch" apparently by Andy Coghlan). Other sources were also useful to my writings above, such as various television shows hosted by Arthur C. Clarke, and a variety of books (to be listed later).
-- Are you there, God? By Lawrence Osborne, salon.com; Books Dec. 24, 1999, URL: http://www.salon.com/books/it/1999/12/24/templeton
Natural tricks of light and electrical phenomena too surely fuel some of the strange sights which get labeled as UFOs. Some examples would include the halos of 'Saint Elmo's Fire', WWII 'Foo Fighters', and various types of glowing and streaming electrical discharges, and floating or flying fireballs and/or ball lightning, as well as miscellaneous mirages and reflections frequently observed at sea, on land, and in the air.
-- The Unnatural Museum - Bizarre Electricity by Lee Krystek 1996, found on or about 7-11-2000
-- The Unnatural Museum - Foo Fighters by Lee Krystek 1996, found on or about 7-11-2000
Subsonic or low frequency sounds may also be one source of ghostly or seemingly supernatural events. Such vibrations, under the proper circumstances, can produce an acoustic standing wave in a building or other inanimate object. The vibrations can be produced from any number of ordinary sources, both natural (like the wind) and man-made (motors or engines of various kinds).
Note that such vibrations may often not be perceptible to people as sounds, but more as feelings-- such as a general unease, dread, paranoia, or depression, or sense of an unseen presence with them in a room. Such infrasound might even produce visible hallucinations in a subject. Eyeballs may apparently resonate along with low frequency sounds to smear one's vision, and thus help create odd sights-- especially in peripheral vision.
It may be that the ancients possessed some knowledge of this power of sound to create an altered state in bystanders, and purposely built into some of their monuments and temples a structure suitable to generating such vibrations from more normal sounds produced in or near the construction.
|-- Fortean Slips: Spooky Acoustics, by D. Trull, Enigma Editor, citing Electronic Telegraph ("Science finds a sound reason for ghosts," June 28, 1998; "Ancient tombs were designed for eerie echoes,"April 15, 1997; "UFO abductions all in the mind," November 17, 1994), found on or about 3-6-2000|
Could a simple drug eliminate most or all ghost sightings? Perhaps at least those possibly caused by hypnagogia, or night terrors-- a state mid-way between consciousness and unconsciousness, whereby manual control of one's limbs is disconnected via a natural process to prevent injury from physical movement incurred by reactions to dreams. On occasion a person may consciously experience this as paralysis, while they are also aware of a dream or nightmare. Such a combination can easily lead to false memories of alien abductions or demonic visitations-- or ghostly encounters.
Hypnagogia may occur most frequently just as a person is drifting off to sleep, or coming near to waking (I've experienced it myself most often around wake up time-- and by often I mean only a few times in my life. It really does feel like you're paralyzed, or being held down by enormous weights. The near waking version is called hypnapompic dreams. -- J.R.).
Perhaps somewhere between 6-10% of people may experience some form of this phenomena. Since the experiences can seem frighteningly real, this means a significant portion of the world population has in the past, and is in the present, undergoing astonishing personal experiences of all sorts of wild things-- which they may thereafter sincerely report to others as alien abductions, supernatural encounters, or other exotic events.
Narcoleptics are those most susceptible to these afflictions, since they may pass in and out of sleep more frequently and randomly than the rest of us. The new drug modafinil has been developed to help regulate the sleeping patterns of narcoleptics and thereby indirectly reduce the frequency of night terrors they might endure.
Since modafinil generally increases the alertness of those who take it, it may find uses in other areas of human endeavor as well.
|-- Fortean Slips: A Cure for Casper, by D. Trull Enigma Editor, citing The Times (London); Electronic Telegraph; CSS Online/Connecticut Skeptic Society (http://www.theness.com/hypnagog.htm); EurekAlert! web site; and PhACT, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (http://www.voicenet.com/~davek/phact/terms.html); found on or about 3-6-2000|
Some speculate that haunted places or objects may in some cases merely be hosts of something akin to energy-based recordings of past (often traumatic) events, which replay themselves for observers when the conditions are right. But the above is offered only as one of several classes of manifestations. Another claimed class possibly involves lost or confused spirits of the dead, or vengeful, curious, or mission-oriented souls. A third is said to be some sort of primordial gathering of energy which perhaps takes shape or form gradually, over years, decades, or even longer, sort of feeding upon particular types of emotional emanations from one or more living people in the area. This nebulous entity may come to possess an entire structure or place, and even obtain a rudimentary form of consciousness. However, such a consciousness is likely something wholly alien to human beings, or else similar only to an incomplete or deranged human being. Such forms may feed upon and so encourage fear and anguish in living beings in their vicinity. Their primary conscious drive or direction is usually very basic and simple, like fear or terror or hunger.
Of course, just as with UFO sightings, a great many reports of ghosts and hauntings can probably be chalked up to hoaxes and pranks. In my own case (J.R.) my sister and I somehow maintained a pretty convincing ghost-like hoax upon our own family for literal decades without anyone becoming the wiser until we confessed our trickery as adults. But by then our family all but refused to believe us.
The trick was this: We had a large grand piano in one room against a wall which on the other side served as the wall of a staircase descending to the basement. My sister and I would wait until some family member was playing the piano, then one of us would secretly go to the basement and thrash a broom handle against the floor directly under the piano. The effect was of someone or something violently trying to escape from inside the piano itself. This charade continued on for many years. As my sister and I rarely went to the basement together, and tended to alternate our visits as individuals, suspicion had no single person to fall upon. Our family finally sold the piano, and our fun ended. Now, decades later, our family seems to suspect we are lying about being responsible for the possibly most bizarre phenomenon the family as a whole ever experienced. And so it may be that a refusal to let go of the credibility of such exciting group experiences lies at the heart of many enduring myths, legends, and ghost stories. Life is simply more interesting with them than without. Also keep in mind virtually any group tends to draw strength from shared experiences-- especially frightening or challenging ones. And so they wouldn't easily give up a cherished supernatural mystery unique to their own ring of friends or relatives.
|-- Ghosts in Our Machine [AUTHOR'S NOTE: Unfortunately, the saved text of this article left some confusion as to its authorship and perhaps the participation of interviewees. The names J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, Melinda Connor, George Sakkestad, Katherine Ramsland, and Andy Neher are all affiliated with this piece in form or fashion. END NOTE.] , MetroActive Features | Silicon Valley Ghost Stories, From the October 28-November 3, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper, Metro Publishing Inc. MetroActive /the Boulevards Network]|
Lastly, some scientists think phenomena like ghosts may simply be symptoms of brain damage in the observers-- at least in some cases.
Some paranormal seeming perceptions like 'out of body' perspectives can stem from excessive stimulation of certain areas of the brain. Damage to the parietal lobes (which enable people to distinguish themselves from their environment) can cause such experiences. Visions of ghosts may be caused in a similar manner. In some cases people actually see mirror images of themselves in such phenomena (and if the vision is very brief, dim, or dark, they may not recognize their own image, and instead consider it a ghost).
-- Brain Damage Can Explain Ghosts - Swiss Scientist, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, July 5, 2000