What are Ghosts
The word ghost’ has been used in several connotations. The soul or the spirit of a deceased person is generally called a ghost. It is commonly believed that the ghost looks similar to the deceased person in appearance and frequents the place where the person lived. However, any spirit or demon is also sometimes considered as ghost. Earliest beliefs of ghosts included souls of not only human beings, but also that of animals, plants, rocks, etc. In parapsychology, the word apparition’ is used in place of the word ghost.’
There is a huge controversy about the existence of ghosts. A Gallup survey in 2005 revealed that about 32% of the people of the United States believed in the existence of ghosts. It is normally held that ghosts resembled the features of the particular departed person, though misty, subtle or airy in substance. Even though there are only anecdotal evidence about ghosts, throughout the history of mankind, the belief in ghosts had been persistent and widespread.
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Generally, ghosts are attributed to remain on earth due to the bad things the deceased persons did in their life or they are believed to have remained back to wreak vengeance for the wrongs done to the deceased person. Nearly every culture of the world has its own ghost stories. In Europe, many of the stories of the Middle Ages and the Romantic era have ghosts as the major theme, with the macabre playing an important part in the development of the stories.
The Garuda Purana of the Hindus deals about ghosts in great detail. The Hebrew Torah and the Bible also contain several references to ghostly events. In Christianity, the word Holy Ghost’ is extensively used as an alternative to the word Holy Spirit.’ The belief about ghosts and certain persons acting as mediums’ for such departed spirits has been prevalent in cultures of many nations even today. The so-called mediums’ invoke the departed spirit and the relatives and friends of the deceased are asked to speak to the departed soul or voice their questions and doubts. Though there has been no scientific evidence to suggest that these mediums’ really invoke the departed souls, people have been thronging to such mediums’ to have a chance to speak to the departed soul that was dear to them.
Scientists explain that sightings of ghosts could be due to several reasons. Changes in air pressure, the sensitive nature of human peripheral vision, general human psychology, low frequency sound waves, hallucinations caused by drugs or intoxication or carbon monoxide poisoning, depression, anxiety, dread, are all attributed as reasons for the perception of a ghost.
Another belief is that the souls of persons who died in violent murders roam around as ghosts. However, scientists point out to the number of such murders all over the globe. Statistics reveal that in the United States alone, over a million people had been brutally murdered in the twentieth century. If the theory that ghosts are the spirits of such murdered persons is true, then there should be innumerable sightings of ghosts everywhere in the globe. As such, scientists refute the above belief with a strong skepticism. Even though the belief of ghosts had existed for several centuries, it had to be noted that there is hardly any concrete evidence about the existence of ghosts that could be scientifically verified or tested.
Despite the lack of such evidence, literature, art, drama, films, radio, television, and even video games all over the world had unhesitatingly adopted ghosts as one of the main themes for creation of fantasy. In the culture of every nation, ghosts have had a prominent role in depicting the macabre and the fantastic. Phantom stories, Harry Potter stories and several other fantasy stories like Superman, etc. invariably have ghosts as some of their main characters.
Moreover, several places in the world are believed to have been haunted by ghosts. There are innumerable instances of houses and mansions being designated as ghost-haunted, thereby lying deserted or unused and remaining desolate. A few bold persons venture to occupy such places and in several cases, the existence of ghosts in these places had not been validated. Even in those places where something mysterious did happen, scientists come up with plausible alternative explanations, describing the incidents as events induced more by the basic human psychology, rather than the actual existence of a ghost.
Parapsychology is the science that deals with the belief of existence of ghosts and other supernatural or paranormal beings. The Parapsychological Association has member associations in nearly every country. The scientists in such organizations conduct rigorous research on the topic of ghosts and other paranormal beings, with scientific meta-analysis methods of clinical and laboratory tests as well as statistical compilations. They study the physical, mental and survival phenomena of those claiming to have seen ghosts or other apparitions. However, till date the actual existence of ghosts had neither been conclusively proved nor disproved.
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