Ghost stories pervade the collective consciousness of most societies in the world, with distinct cultures separated by history and geography sharing ideas about the existence of spirits and epiphenomenal beings that go bang in the night.
So what, if anything, explains these shared beliefs and reported visions occurring the world over? Well my phantasm fancying friends, science has a few things it would like to throw into the ring at this point.
But while these theories might dispel the idea that if you don’t finish all of your earthly business before you die you might have to wonder around deserted buildings for eternity, but they also point to the unnerving effect that our environment can have on the way we think and interpret the world around us.
Only Certain Places Are Haunted
To begin to examine the way environmental factors can really begin to unnerve us humans, we should have a quick look at two examples of experiments involving volunteers and supposedly haunted places.
The Edinburgh Vaults are a series of arches that hold up the city’s South Bridge, and are long reported to be haunted. For four days in 2001 some volunteers recorded any unusual occurrences or feelings they experienced and scientists measured lighting levels, air movements and temperature as well as the levels of magnetism present.
A similar experiment was then carried out in Hampton Court Palace, where the ghosts are said to wander through the rooms. The rooms in question were divided up into grids and volunteers were asked to record what sensations they experienced in each square.
In both of these experiments the results showed that people tend to experience supernatural sensations in exactly the same places and in very similar ways, which got scientists thinking about the unseen forces that may be acting upon us in these scenarios.
One thing that links the two examples above is the presence of weak magnetic and other electrical fields. It is suggested that these interact with the brain causing dizziness and hallucinations, which would explain why people tend to see ghosts in certain places.
This could also explain why more ghosts are seen at night as the solar winds interact differently with the earth’s magnetosphere, causing the planets magnetic field to stretch on the side that is in darkness. Some scientists believe it is this stretching process that causes some people to hallucinate.
One common characteristic of ghost sightings is the person in question experiencing a sudden drop in temperature, or cold spots in otherwise hot rooms. Usually the source of this cold spot can be traced to a specific source, but the sudden decrease in temperature and humidity can bring on feelings of dread and paranoia.
In both the Edinburgh Vaults and Hampton Court the volunteers feeling of the supernatural corresponded exactly with this localised cold spots.
This is the most interesting element of the whole ghost sighting phenomenon. Infrasound is a type of low frequency sound wave that we cannot consciously hear but can have extraordinary effects on our brains and bodies. The vibrations caused by these frequencies are scientifically proven to bring on feelings of nervousness and discomfort in people, and they also cause the human eye to vibrate which can lead to people seeing things that are not real.
So in areas where there is strong source of Infrasound, the body and brain can be affected in ways in which people begin to feel uneasy and see ghostly shapes due to the twitching of their eyes. What they are really seeing is the physical effects of infrasound.
So, if you put all of these factors together you are bound to have a few people report that they have seen something resembling a ghost. Boom. I should set up some kind of IVR phone line for people to phone that calmly takes them through the environmental factors they are experiencing, although that might really annoy all of the ghost hunters and other charlatans that make money off this stuff.
Anyone not convinced by the scientific explanation of ghost sightings?