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Friday, October 14, 2011

Part IV - A Spirited Debate: What are Ghosts Anyway?

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey
 Included in Part III are the opinions of Rob Conover, Paranormal Investigator and former Ghost Buster, Dr. Robert Baker, Professor Emeritus at University of Kentucky.

 Few questions are like to elicit a stronger response than the question, “do you believe in ghosts?” The naysayers will quickly and adamantly deny any such possibility and call you a fool for asking. The non-committal’s will shrug and move on to another, more comfortable topic. And the dabblers and the believers will expound for long minutes recalling odd experiences they have had.

Truthfully, few topics are as divisive as this one. Those who deny the possibility often do so from vehement religious beliefs.  And, make no mistake, science became the religion of the 20th century, with its scriptures as dogmatically adhered to by its followers as any religious zealot.  Proponents of science vehemently defend the notion of science being able to answer all questions with a rationale answer. The world around us, they tell us, is the only reality, and anything unexplained simply a riddle not yet solved. 

On the other hand, those who believe in the paranormal have a vested interest and will fight to support their beliefs just as strongly.  After all, a belief in spirits is a belief that the soul survives death. And that is a very attractive notion.

Whether you’re a believer, fence sitter or fierce non-believer it is undeniable that people have been seeing (and hearing, and smelling) ghosts since the dawn of mankind.  Not every person among them is a fool, charlatan or notoriety seeker. Indeed most people who experience something paranormal are absolutely normal. Many are reluctant to even talk about their experience, afraid of being ridiculed.  The paranormal knows no class bounds. Emperors and peasants, politicians, and garbage collectors, a paranormal experience can happen (and has) to anyone.  (See my series on famous people and the paranormal to find out what the many of the greatest minds thought on the subject.)

So what is the explanation for these odd events?  There are as many answers to that question as there are people who have experiences.  Compiled here are the opinions of many experts both within and without the field. These are the words of writers, thinkers, scientists, college professors and lifelong investigators.  This is what they have to say about the possibility of ghosts. 
Pros

What Are They
A former Private Investigator, Rob Conover started his career with the paranormal as a non-believer. He set out to disprove a haunting at a building, and quickly changed his mind. “I was very sure there was nothing there and things started to happen to prove otherwise. And as I walked through the door, and as I did it felt like thousands of little, cold icicles blew through me and it got quiet, and I said, ‘they’re gone. And at that point I said, ‘there is something to this.’…. When I walk into an area where there is a spirit there is a feeling that comes over me that is very hard to describe. The nearest I can get is to say is that it is like a cool electrical shock without any pain from toes to head….….When you come face to face with it, then you have to deal with it as reality, because when you’re face to face with something it is reality.”
Rob Conover
Paranormal Investigator

Cons
University of Kentucky Professor Emeritus, Robert Baker (now deceased) was an avowed ‘ghost buster’ believed, “there are no haunted places, just haunted people (Bernstein, 2005).” He argued that in his 50 years studying ghostly phenomena, he came across nothing that deterred him from that stance. According to Washington Post writer, Adam Bernstein, Baker was first and foremost a skeptic, but a skeptic that worked with people who believed they were being haunted or tortured by “unexplained forces.” Baker believed that one should start from a position of non-belief when dealing with unusual phenomena – “ghosts, UFO abductions, lake monsters, remembrances of past lives (Bernstein, 2005).” 
Instead, Baker thought that odd experiences were better explained as “mental states.” For example, he felt hallucinations could explain alien abductions, or "waking dreams," might explain ghostly phenomena seen, “in the twilight zone between fully awake and fully asleep (Bernstein, 2005).” Quoted in the 1997 documentary Hauntings, Baker concludes that ghosts are “an invention of the human mind. And they have invented ghosts because they provide a great deal of psychological satisfaction in people who believe in them. It fills a gap, a void in their lives (Hauntings, 1997).’”
Robert Baker, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Noted “Ghost Buster”

Resources

Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook; Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press, LLC. Dallas, Texas.

 Documentary Produced by The History Channel (1997) The Unexplained: Hauntings.

Conover, Rob. A former private investigator turned paranormal Investigator http://robconover.net/default.aspx

 Steiger, Brad (2003) Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Places. Visible Ink Press. Canton, MI.
 
Taylor, Troy (2007) Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings. American Ghost Society. White Chapel Press: Dark Haven Entertainment. Decatur, Illinois.

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