Tuesday, October 30, 2007

* BOO! * (or Bunk?)

I think it's time to tackle a most controversial subject: Are Ghosts Real?

Personally, my answer is an extremely wishy-washy, "I think so." (Nothing like hedging your bets, huh?)

I have written a few articles on hauntings and have long been a firm "believer" that there are things we don't understand about death, life and time.

For instance, could time "overlap" in places, thus causing an "image" of the past (or future?) to appear for a few moments? If so, we might call this a "ghost", even though it could just be a blip in the time continuum.

(It sounds like I know what I'm talking about here, but I really don't. Any scientists are welcome to tell me how this is impossible, improbable or just plain silly!)

Or is it possible that souls CAN communicate from beyond the grave? Is life really over when we take that final breath, power down the neural net and shake off this mortal coil (kudos to The Bard for that last description)? Are we able to intelligently come back to watch over people or try to make amends?

Okay -- your turn.

Are ghosts real? Or are they merely figments of our imaginations, serving some social, cultural, religious and/or spiritual purposes?

Have you ever seen one? Have you snapped a picture and thought you saw something (or someone) in the developed photograph? Or do you say, "BOO!" to the whole idea of someone returning after life as we know it has ceased?

(A quick side note: Though I've always been a fan of ghosts, I've not embraced the notion of angels. Imagine my surprise when both my husband and son told me they felt angels were a real presence. Huh. Blew my mind. You can know people for a while and yet they'll still amaze you.)


Aine said...

This one is right up Jason's alley. He'll probably be along at any minute now....

I've always wanted to believe in ghosts. The romantic notion of being able to communicate with souls who've passed on is so exciting and comforting. But, as I've grown older (and wiser, I hope), the scientist in me denies the possibility of ghosts.

I worked in nursing homes for many years. I've cared for people on their deathbed. On several occasions I was present within minutes after death. There has never been any evidence of a soul apart from the body. But the amazing things that a live brain can do... that's where the ghosts live. They are wrapped up in our emotions. Our perceptions of reality come entirely from our brain. So, if we need to believe in ghosts to find some comfort in our own mortality, then we will find evidence to support that perception.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm a little late, but better late than never. :)

I've always been fascinated by ghosts and really want them to be real. However, with ghosts and alien sightings and such, my logical brain has a serious problem. They are generally based on human witness accounts, and those accounts tend to happen at times when we should least trust human perception. Anxiety. Darkness. Being alone. Fear. Late night/tired. These are all factors which push our brains away from objective observation. If these things are real, why aren't they ever experienced in groups in the bright light of day? During a summer picnic? Instead, they live in the dark corners, where our imaginations and fears run wild.

Hoodie said...

Do I believe in life after death? Yes. Do I believe in spirits? Yes. Do I believe in hauntings? Umm, no.

If spirits are real, then they are just people without bodies. And if there is a master plan, then there is a place for those spirits to go other than just hanging about watching the rest of us having all the fun with our bodies.

Why a person would choose to wander among the living, scaring them or whatever, I can't imagine. That's no way to spend eternity.

But I do believe, if there were some reason a spirit needed to communicate with a living person that that is completely possible. I would think it would be more enlightening than scary, however.

I believe in angels too, but I would imagine my definition of those to contradict the stereotype as well.

The Quoibler said...

Aine, Jason, and Hoodie:

Wow. I never thought I could be swayed from my belief in ghosts, but you all brought up such excellent points...

1. Aine, your personal experiences with death are very compelling. I had once heard that nurses and doctors could "tell" a soul was leaving a body. It might have been an urban legend!

2. Jason, you're so right about us never seeing ghosts at the beach or while we're playing in a well-lit park. Huh. I have heard of a few sightings (especially in Gettysburg) in broad daylight, but they are absolutely the exceptions.

3. Hoodie, you definitely hit a good point. Why the hell would someone want to hang around here? Isn't there a better place to be? That would make perfect sense.

Anyway, I thank you all so much for your thoughts and contributions to this dialogue! You've really given me something to ponder on this boo-tiful Halloween night!


SzélsőFa said...

Hoodie has said everything I had wished to say.

SzélsőFa said...

I think I might come up with a solution to Jason's problem (i.e. why can't ghosts/angels be seen/experienced at broad daylight/fun places like a beach/crowded places?

Well, I think these types of places are distracting the mind into the funs/burdens of material life.

When it's darker, when we alone, the average people is more able to look inside his soul, to think about his inner conflicts and debates.
Conflict like how do I meet a deadline set by my boss OR what to eat next dinner do NOT count as inner conflict:P
I mean real ones.
Those when we question the meaning of life, the loss of a loved one, the continuation of a way of life -

When the thought is immersed in 'surreal' thinking, the mind can perceive surreal objects.

I am positive that this body of mine is just a cloak. Some 40-50 years from now, I will shed it, what's the big deal.

SzélsőFa said...

So, my point is:

It's not fear that brings forward these perceptions of 'ghosts' and or 'angels' from the inside of our brains - I think it is that our mind is more able to accept/perceive/communicate with anything that is otherwise hidden.

You can't see a candlelight at a full sunshine at the beach. Take it into a shadow of the forest and you'll see it.
I hope this analogy helps me make me through.
The candlelight is there, even at the beach. Your vision is distorted by the greater light, by the stronger presence of the physical.

Hoodie said...

I like your candle analogy, Szelsofa. I agree with that, and not just about being in contact with those who have passed through mortality.

The Quoibler said...

Szelsofa and Hoodie:

I love the points that you both are making here.

Perhaps ghosts are simply in our mind and we really don't have a chance to connect with them until we're alone and all is quiet and dark.


Anonymous said...

Strength and observability.

Those are fair points. One thing can eclipse another.

However, a candle on the beach is still there. You can bump into it. It can burn you. Just because the light is obscured, it does not cease to be.

Then, when you take it in a dark place, the light shines. You can pictures of it. You can read a book by it's glow.

Things which are hard to observe are nevetheless still proved to exist all the time. A challenge of observation is rarely insurmountable. Shouldn't we perceive a least a few ghosts during quiet, introspective times during the daylight? I have plenty of those moments. I also have done a bit of impromptu ghost hunting at night. I have never observed anything unexplained. Maybe it's because I'm a skeptic and not expecting to experience anything. I remember reading about an experiment where some scientists floated a balloon over some trees with a light inside it. Many UFO eyewitnesses came forward. Some saw the object zooming across the sky. It was tied in place. It never moved. Many times we see what we expect to see.

My point was more about discomfort, fear, anxiety, and other strong emotions. Those states are notorious for producing untrustworthy human perceptions. Once my science teacher staged a fake attack where another teacher burst into the classroom and "shot" him with a starter pistol. The eyewitness accounts of the event were all over the place. One student actually reported that it had been a stabbing.