The Science of Ghosts

What makes ghosts? Can they really be explained away by science?

Humans and our belief in the supernatural have almost co-existed since forever with stories of ghosts and demons intertwined in folklore and movies through the centuries. As kids, we were even disciplined with spooky stories, and we’ve all had at least one chilling incident happen to us.

So what is the supernatural? Is it just an unexplained phenomenon or is it really unexplainable?

Exploring this idea, here are some possible explanations for supernatural sightings:

1) Toxic hallucinations:

Carrie Poppy-an investigative journalist- talks about her experience with a haunted house. In 2009, she started feeling like she was being watched in her home. A feeling she initially described as something pressing down on her chest soon escalated to physical pain and hearing sounds that weren’t there.

This continued for so long that she started crying herself to sleep every night, until one day she happened upon the website of a group of skeptic ghost hunters. Here she found out that the dreadful feelings she had been experiencing were not caused by a ghost, but by carbon monoxide poisoning.

It was then that she found out that she had had a gas leak in her home that had been making her hallucinate, become fearful and feel pain in her chest- symptoms of a gas poisoning that the gas company said might have killed her soon had she not called them when she did.

In cases not dissimilar to this one, people have experienced hallucinations as a result of being exposed to toxic mold. This might explain why most paranormal sightings take place in old buildings with poor ventilation.


2)The power of suggestion:

Research has shown that if you are given verbal suggestions of supernatural activities, you will be more likely to experience them. In an experiment, participants were divided into groups and given a tour of the theater. Before their tour, they were told that the site was undergoing renovation, save for one group which was told that the place was haunted. Unsurprisingly, the experiences of the latter group were more intense, similar to paranormal events.

Perhaps it is because we are conditioned to believe in the supernatural since early childhood that we collectively tend to see them so often.


3) Electromagnetic fields:

Studies have also shown that being subjected to electromagnetic fields can induce feelings of a presence, sensations of being touched, or the perception of God. Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger demonstrated this using the God Helmet, which is placed on the head of the subject to be exposed to weak magnetic fields.

While subjects who took this test did experience the mentioned perceptions, replicas of the apparatus did not seem to yield similar results, which has led to Persinger’s experiment being widely discredited by the scientific community.

However, places such as Hampton Court which have been most associated with haunting do show the presence of erratic magnetic fields.


4) Infrasound:

Sound waves with frequencies lower than the limit of human audibility have also been observed to have similar effects. It seems that just because we can’t hear them does not mean that we can’t react to them. These sounds can make us feel dread, fear, nervousness, and sorrow.

Similarly, they can even resonate with our eyes, causing vibrations that distort our vision, leading to possible ghost sightings.


5) Seizures:

This one is quite obvious in that seizures have often been mistaken for demonic possession. During a seizure, the body makes violent movements that may look frightening, thus leading people to believe that it is caused by demons.

Whatever science says, there are still unexplained things lurking in the darkness. Perhaps one day we will learn that humans are just a bunch of jumpy beings with no chill, or perhaps we will find out that our senses weren’t playing tricks on us after all… Until then, hang tight.

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