GHOSTLY BEINGS



There is not a single culture on planet Earth that does not have its ghost stories. While individuals around the world may argue politics, religion, and philosophy from the perspective of their own cultural biases, if there is a single unifying factor in the arena of the unknown and the unexplained, it is the manifestation of ghostly entities. Of course not everyone who believes in ghosts agrees on what exactly a ghost is. Some insist that the appearance of ghosts proves survival after death. Others state that such phenomena represent other dimensions of reality. And not everyone in contemporary cultures believes in ghosts, but polls and surveys continue to indicate that a good many do.

A Gallup Poll done in May 2001 found that 38 percent of Americans surveyed were convinced that ghosts exist, a 13 percent increase from a survey conducted in 1990. While the current era is considered the age of science, the image of the traditional ghost appears to be as compelling and awesome as ever. Perhaps this is because science can never explain the Big Questions or reassure the human psyche as completely as can belief in the supernatural.

The famous psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung (1875–1961) described a personal encounter with a ghost in Fanny Moser's book Spuk (1950). In 1920, Jung was spending a weekend at an English country house a friend had rented. The nights afforded no rest, however, for the house was subject to the complete repertoire of a full-scale haunting. There were raps on the walls, noxious odors, and the mysterious dripping of liquid. Jung always experienced a sensation of incapacity whenever the phenomena would begin, and cold perspiration would bead his forehead.




The climax of the haunting occurred when the head of a woman materialized on the pillow of Jung's bed about 16 inches from his own. The ghostly head had one eye open, and it stared at the astonished psychoanalyst. Jung managed to light a candle, and the frightening specter disappeared. He later learned from the villagers that all previous tenants of the country house had terminated their occupancy in short order after a night or two in the haunted house.

In the jargon of parapsychology—the branch of behavioral science that undertakes to examine such phenomena—a ghost is usually a stranger to the one who perceives it while an apparition is well known by the one who sees it

Ghost with hand on light bulb. (ARCHIVES OF BRAD STEIGER)
Ghost with hand on light bulb. (
ARCHIVES OF BRAD STEIGER
)
and is instantly recognizable as the image of a parent, sibling, or friend. An apparition usually appears at some time of crisis—most often that of physical death—and usually appears only once. In the records of parapsychology and psychical research there are also accounts of experimental cases in which individuals have deliberately attempted to make their apparition, their ghostly image, appear to a particular witness, as in efforts to project one's spiritual essence during an out-of-body experience.

A poltergeist is a projection of psychic energy that finds its energy center in the unconscious mind, most commonly in adolescents, and emanates, therefore, from the living rather than from the dead. A poltergeist is a ghost only in common parlance, which links the two because of the "spook-like" nature of the poltergeist that causes the invisible pseudoentity to prefer darkness for its violent exercises of tossing furniture, objects, and people about the room.

Accounts of people reporting having seen spirits of the dead are among the most commonly described ghosts in all the cultures of the world. These post-mortem appearances of the dead, in which a recognized ghostly image is seen or heard long after the actual person represented by the apparition has died, are felt by many observers and researchers to prove survival of the human spirit beyond the grave.

Ghosts or apparitions that habitually appear in a room, house, or locale are known as phantoms, eerie phenomena that often appear over the years to attain a life force of their own, as if they were some kind of psychic marionettes.

Although people have been reporting seeing ghosts and the spirits of the dead since the earliest historical records of human activity, the first organized effort to study such phenomena occurred in 1882, as the first major undertaking of the newly formed Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London. By means of a circulated questionnaire, the SPR asked whether its recipients had ever, when they believed themselves to be completely awake, experienced some kind of visual or auditory phenomena. Of the 17,000 people who responded, 1,684 answered "yes." From this, the committee members who were conducting the survey estimated that nearly 10 percent of the population of London had experienced some kind of paranormal manifestation, and they sent forms requesting additional details to all those who had indicated such encounters. Subsequent investigation and interviews enabled the early psychical researchers to arrive at a number of basic premises regarding ghosts.

For example, the committee was able to conclude that although ghosts are connected with other events besides death, they are more likely to be linked with death than with anything else. Visual sightings of ghosts were the most common, and of such cases reported, nearly one-quarter had been shared by more than one percipient. Those who answered the second form of the questionnaire requesting more information stated that they had not been ill when they had witnessed the paranormal visitations and they insisted that these manifestations were quite unlike the bizarre, nightmarish creatures that might appear during high fevers or high alcoholic consumption. Of those cases in which the percipients had experienced auditory phenomena, such as hearing voices, one-third were collective, that is, witnessed by more than one percipient at the same time.

After the findings of the research committee had been made public, the SPR began to be flooded by personal accounts of spontaneous cases of ghosts and spirits. In order to aid the committee in the handling of such an influx of information, the SPR worked out a series of questions that could be applied to each case that came in. Among the questions were the following: Is the account firsthand? Has the principal witness been corroborated? Was the percipient awake at the time? Was the apparition recognized? Was the percipient anxious or in a state of expectancy? Could relevant details have been read back into the narrative after the event?

Today, over 120 years after the British Society for Psychical Research began its earnest efforts to chart and categorize ghosts, 42 percent of the residents of that metropolitan area believe in ghosts and almost half of this number said that they had seen or felt the presence of a ghost, according to a survey released on March 20, 2000, by television station GMTV in London.




In the exploration of the paranormal, it is found that most types of phenomena appear to be universal, the individual circumstances of the accounts fitting themselves to the unique cultural interpretations of whatever area in which they manifest. The ghostly beings described in this chapter are listed by loosely defined categories, for it will soon be apparent that these entities know no strictly set boundaries—especially those established by humans who attempt to explain or to identify them.


DELVING DEEPER

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DELVING DEEPER

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DELVING DEEPER

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DELVING DEEPER

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DELVING DEEPER

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DELVING DEEPER

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"Poltergeist" movie. (THE KOBAL COLLECTION)
"Poltergeist" movie. (
THE KOBAL COLLECTION
)

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DELVING DEEPER

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Ghost image of a woman frightening an elderly man in a double exposed film from ca. 1910. (CORBIS CORPORATION)
Ghost image of a woman frightening an elderly man in a double exposed film from ca. 1910. (
CORBIS CORPORATION
)

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DELVING DEEPER

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DELVING DEEPER

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