To answer this question we must distinguish between a phenomenon and how we interpret it. Take an example. Centuries ago when people saw an eclipse they thought that a dragon was trying to eat the sun. Now we know that it is the moon passing through earth's shadow. All experienced the same phenomenon, but interpreted it differently. Thus it is with ghosts. There are odd phenomena, but how we interpret them is a matter for discussion.
We can group the phenomena into a number of types. First of all we must realize that some ghost tales are purely fictitious.They are created as entertainment and passed on as though they were genuine accounts. These are not genuine ghost phenomena. Some are hoaxes
Next there are genuine mistakes. A classic illusion is Popper's ghost. When a piece of glass is slanted it acts as a mirror, and this can produce reflections which appear at times to hang in the air. A stage magician namd Popper once used this phenomenon to raise "ghosts" which were reflections of actors in costume hidden in the wings of the stage. Furthermore, in half light the eye can play tricks. Think of the child in the bedrroom seeing faces in the patterns on the wallpaper.How many ghostly phenomena can be explained by referene to the tenency of the mond to make up patterns?
Hallucinations are a related phenomenon. Some people undergo hallucinations and may see figures that are not really present. While some halluicinations are schizophrenic, there are non-schizophrenic hallucinations. Some hallucinations may be induced by drugs or other mental conditions. However, one characteristic of a hallucination is that it is individual to the hallucinator. If, for example, I see a pink rabbit in the corner, and no one else does, then it is likely that I am hallucinating. If it is visible to others there may well be a pink rabbit in the corner.
However, one of the greatest errors committed by intellectuals is to try to explain away phenomena that they cannot understand. There is a group of ghostly phenomena that cannot be written off easily by claiming hallucinations or lies. One kind of phenomenon is the occurrence of replays of the past. Let us take the case of the Romans in the Treasury House in York, a well documented tale. A plumber was working in the basement when he heard a horn sound. Lookinga round he saw a man ride a horse through the wall, followed by a troop of Roman infantry. They were visible only from the knees upwards, as though their feet were at the level of the old Roman Road which runs below the cellar. He fled. On reaching the next floor manager of the house saw his distress and asked him ahd he seen the Romans. It is clear that other people, therefore, experience the same phenomenon, so no one can escape the difficulties by claiming that this was a mere hallucination.
The explanation given is called the Stone Tape Theory. This is the belief that events somehow become recorded as holograms in stone and can under certain conditions be replayed. It is noteworthy that phenomena like this are tied to a particular ground level, e.g. the old Roman road. They never interact with humans and are mere images recorded in a way not yyet understood. The stone tape theory explains grey ladies, which are very common occurrence across Britain. They are non-interactive. Some observers say that they fade with age, as if they were slowly losing energy and fading into nothingness. This energy loss may explain why there are no stone age ghosts. The stone tape theory implies that in some way energy is being preserved and given off.
Finally there are phenomena where there seems to be interaction between ghost and humans. Objects may be moved and voices may be heard. Occasionally apparitions occur. Occasionally there are tactile phenomena where victims claim that they are being touched. One intellectual error is to write off these experiences as lies or hallucinations; the other is to jump to conclusions and claim that they must be ghostly. The proper approach is to accept that there is a phenomenon to be explained, but that what the explanation is is not yet clear. They are consistent with spirits attempting to contact humans, but how you answer this question depends upon whether or not you believe that spirits exist at all.
An open- minded attitude to unknown and little understood phenomena is essential if we want to reach a genuine understanding of a world much of which lies beyiond our limited comprehension. Maybe the world ghost itself is a problem. We may need a wider vocabulary if we are to account for the full range of strange phenomena that fall into the category of the paranormal.
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