Friday, October 14, 2011

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

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

 Included in Part III are the opinions of Brad Steiger, Author, and Michael Persinger, Neuroscience, Laurentian University.

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-commital’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. 


No Justification Necessary
Brad Steiger, author and co-author of some 150 books on the subject of the paranormal, says, “After researching the paranormal for more than 50 years, I spend little time these days theorizing about what ghosts may be. I accept the reality that within each of us there is a spiritual essence that is imperishable and eternal. I completely accept the existence of spirit phenomena, and I contend that it is extremely multifaceted. While I believe it may be difficult to separate ghostly manifestations into definitions of type and purpose that are truly distinct from one another, I submit that real ghosts and restless spirits often fit into the following categories: spirit residue, spirits of the dead, poltergeists, spirit parasites and spirit masqueraders (Steiger, 2003).”

 What They Are
However, Steiger presents a theory for ghostly activity that he borrows from his colleague Brian A. Schill of the American Society for Paranormal Research and investigation and author of the book entitled The DNA of Ghosts.  Schill attempts to explain the existence of ghosts in scientific terms.  The body, Schill explains, has a “bioelectric cycle” functioning at 60 Hz. This cycle allows our nervous system, brain, heart and organ to both function and communicate with each other within the organism itself.   If one considers the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed, “we are able to recognize that two-thirds of our total existence is in the form of intangible energy (Steiger, 2003).” What then happens to this energy (which cannot be destroyed but only transformed) when we die?

Schill says that when we die the bioelectric energy is released out of the body into the environment, where one of two things happens.  This “unconscious energy” may disperse freely into the environment and cause no manifestation thereafter. Or the energy may, “through covalent bonding” attach itself to an object or building to which the person was attached and remain in the environment. This covalent bonding can occur anywhere, according to Schill, that has an “electron deficit” which Steiger contends is the reason for repeat hauntings. This is likely to occur when the energy is quickly released (as in an accidental or tragic death). The energy “coagulates” within, “’the local environment over a short period of time, maybe only a couple of minutes or so, and amass to such a degree that the greater portion that was originally in the body has now become self-aware outside of the body.’ Psychological forces of conscious will may also trigger this type of reaction.  When self-awareness occurs, there is generally a degree of confusion because of the new form that the person is in, one of pure energy rather than a physically manifested body (Schill, Steiger, 2003).”

Steiger suggests that there are three striking similarities that paranormal investigators have documented over the years that rather verify Schill’s theory.  First, most haunting phenomena involve low-level electromagnetic field disruptions, generally falling within 3 to 100 mill gauss (Mg).  The low-level disturbances are caused, according to Steiger, by the “intangible bio-magnetic field that makes up the ghost (Steiger, 2003).” He also contends that this bio-magnetic field causes hiccups and malfunctioning of electric devices within the environment.

A second similarity is the occurrence of “cold spots.”  Steiger suggests that air temperature drops somewhere between 10 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit during paranormal activity.  These drops are thought to be due to the “unintentional attraction and condensation of free electrons in an environment.  The condensing of an energy field leaves a momentary void of heat in the area (Steiger, 2003).”

And the third similarity is that many ghostly phenomena is caught using devices that measure in the infrared spectrum  a lower level energy spectrum – which lies just below the visible spectrum of energy and light which we can see with the naked eye.  This lower level of electromagnetic energy seems to be the area of the spectrum, “where the greatest number of manifestations take place (Steiger, 2003).”  Because this lower spectrum borders the lower portion of the visible spectrum where we see red, orange and yellow, he feels that is might explain why entities are often caught only with our peripheral vision versus our “direct line of sight.” “Manifestations seen with peripheral vision also attract the attention of our unburdened subconscious rather than our conscious mind, which bears the fears of social restriction and repression when we experience something that is out of the ordinary (Steiger, 2003).”
Brad Steiger

Geophysical Forces
Neuroscientist, Michael Persinger suggests a more natural explanation for feelings associated with a haunting. He suggests geophysical forces cause the feelings of a haunt. “’When you have geophysical forces focused, even small ones, even tiny ones in the view of geophysical forces, and you focus them into a small space for a brief time, you can get tremendous magnetic fields generated. If that takes place you can get fluorescent and light thresholds generated much like the will-o-the-wisp or electro-static discharges.  And if they are above the illumino-static threshold you can photograph them just like any other electrostatic phenomena.”

 Persinger goes on to say that these geophysical anomalies occur at many supposedly haunted locations, often intersecting with the brainwaves of those in the area.  He has tested this theory in his laboratory with some success “Many of the kinds of patterns of fields that are generated of haunted areas that we have found are very complicated, brief transient fields of erratic forces. If these forces stimulate the brain you can have feelings of a presence, sounds of footsteps or movements or voices, and of course that ever-present feeling that there is something looking at you (Persinger, 1997).” He concludes that highly creative individuals are more sensitive to these electrostatic forces, which causes them to report more haunting phenomena (Hauntings, 1997).”
Michael Persinger, Ph.D.
Neuroscientist, Laurentian University


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

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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