What Are Ghosts Really? 5 Paranormal Theories
Ghost stories and tales of human spirits who return after death have been part of human culture for thousands of years. No doubt even ancient humans had tales of ancestors returned from the grave in shocking and terrifying ways.
Back then, as today, some people likely dismissed those tales as the products of overactive imaginations or outright lies. That's probably true in many cases, but with thousands of reported sightings, we eventually have to ask ourselves if there is more to this phenomenon.
Is it possible that ghosts are real?
I like to think of the paranormal as science we just don't understand yet. When we look back at a great many of the discoveries throughout human history it is interesting to note that many of them were considered impossible or outlandish just a few years before they were proven. In a couple of decades will science be able to prove the existence of ghosts?
Or, are ghosts entities of the spiritual realm, the inhabitants of a world that can't be measured or quantified with science or math? Are they part of the fabric of another universe we will never understand?
There is plenty of evidence of ghosts and the paranormal to suggest, whatever the answer, something is going on that defies our understanding of the known universe. This article attempts to present some theories about ghosts, and why they are so mysterious. In the end, we attempt to answer the question: What are ghosts really?
Here are five common theories held by paranormal researchers.
1. Ghost Are the Spirits of Dead People
It is a widely-held belief supported by many major religions: When we die, our spirit continues on. However, not all religions agree on what that spirit does after death.
In most Christian faiths, the spirit heads off to Heaven or Hell and doesn't stick around to bother the living. Still, despite the Judeo-Christian influence in much of Western culture, many of us cling to the idea that human spirits walk the earth.
Maybe this is a coping mechanism of sorts, perhaps born of our need to hold on to our relatives after they are gone.
On the other hand, witnessing a spirit you did not know in the living world is hardly comforting. There are countless eyewitness stories of human spirits haunting houses, and they aren't all there to make us feel better.
But how is this possible? While we really don't know what happens to us when we die, some people theorize that basic physics plays a part.
The Law of Conservation of Energy says energy can't be created or destroyed, but can only change form. So, what happens to our energy after we're dead? Is it converted to another form? Believers say this is proof enough that spirits live on.
Is it possible we can end up stuck in this world, wandering around forever after death? Perhaps it would be because we are afraid to move on, or maybe because something is preventing us. Even worse, what if there is simply no place to go after death, and we are all meant to reside on this earth in spiritual form until the end of time?
2. Apparitions Are Interdimensional Beings
Perhaps ghosts aren’t the spirits of dead people as many of us are prone to believe. Maybe they are interdimensional beings, people, or entities who are living in another time and place. It's a wild theory, but not totally unsupported by science.
The concept of a multiverse is contemplated by many theoretical physicists. This idea says there are many universes besides our own, all humming along in parallel with ours. In some other universe, the Beatles may all be alive and still together, the Cleveland Browns may be Super Bowl Champions four years running, and you may be a rich and famous moon-rock baron.
Other physicists theorize there may be many different dimensions besides ours, as well as many different timelines.
Of course, it’s all theory, but what if those timelines or dimensions get crossed up and we catch a glimpse of the other side? Perhaps ghost sightings occur when the fabric of these many universes or dimensions gets twisted up temporarily.
So this begs the question: If other beings are accidentally crossing into our dimension, do we ever cross into theirs? Maybe occurrences such as astral projection and lucid dreaming can be linked to short trips into separate but similar dimensions.
2. Ghosts Are Angels and Demons
There's another school of thought that says there is no such thing as ghosts. This is comforting news until you hear the second part of the theory: Ghosts are actually demons or angels manifesting in a manner understandable to humans.
That's right, that ghost of Grandpa beside your bed at night might actually be a guardian angel looking down on you, making sure you are safe.
Or, those ghosts you see wandering around your house, Grandpa included, could be demons masquerading as human spirits in order to gain your confidence.
Yow! That is not a happy thought! Demons are supposedly particularly fond of portraying little children in order to befriend human children. Hey, if they were nice they wouldn’t be demons.
An offshoot of this idea says that demonic spirits are able to control human apparitions and make them do all kinds of horrific deeds.
For example, a demon may hold human spirits in this world, gain power from them, and prevent them from passing to the next realm--whatever that is.
Of the five theories in this article, I think it’s safe to say that number four here is the least desirable for any homeowner.
4. Ghost Are Recordings of the Past
Another theory says that ghost sightings can be explained by past events somehow recording themselves into the environment. What we recognize as a ghost is really just history playing back. There is no spirit present at all. It is like watching a movie. For paranormal investigators, this is what they would call a residual haunting.
Some investigators speculate that different types of natural geology or geography such as certain rocks or large bodies of water above or below ground may be conducive to residual hauntings.
This idea is reinforced by reports of apparitions who appear to walk straight through walls in places where there were once old doorways. Occasionally, like on battlefields such as Gettysburg, ghosts are reported to be seen going about their business just as though the war was still raging.
It’s a fascinating idea, and it might console people who fear their home is haunted, but this theory falls flat when spirits start talking to and interacting with the living.
5. Ghost Are Products of the Mind
It's all in your head, man! The simplest explanation for ghosts is that they are purely imagined. It’s nice to wrap the whole phenomenon up in a neat little package like this, and some people just prefer to dismiss the idea altogether. Less comforting is the realization that maybe the ghosts you are seeing aren’t real, but perhaps you have greater psychological issues at hand which are causing you to hallucinate.
But ghosts can be in your head without your being ill, and without a runaway imagination. Perhaps ghosts and ghostly activities are extensions of the subconscious, either yours or someone else’s.
Or, maybe, even of a collective consciousness shared by the entire human race. Science has yet to fully understand the powers of the human mind. Who knows what kinds of crazy things we all might be projecting into the world?
But does this make things any better? Are you more or less comforted to know that the apparition you've been seeing wandering about your home is a projection of a family member's subconsciousness rather than a real ghost? Thank about that one for a few minutes.
Ghosts in Your House
If you have ghosts in your house you have a few choices:
- You can get on the phone with Dr. Venkman and bring in some professionals to deal with the problem.
- You can pick one or several of the theories above and accept the situation.
- You can cower under your bed every night and make plans to sell your home.
Personally, I think number two makes to most sense. However, if you are particularly troubled there is nothing wrong with contacting a local and reputable paranormal investigator and having them come by to check things out.
But which of these five theories is correct? I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, based on an individual’s personal view of the world.
Until science can come up with some answers, the fact is we just don’t know. It seems like paranormal investigation organizations are popping up everywhere now that shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures have become so popular.
Are we at the dawn of a new age of understanding when it comes to the paranormal? It’s an exciting idea, but we’ll have to wait and see.