On explaining ghost sightings

On explaining ghost sightings

From time to time, and particularly in October, there appear articles in the popular media explaining ghost sightings. They generally rely on psychological explanations. These include such things as seeing patterns in random data, a desire to believe in the paranormal and misinterpreting sensory data in spooky environments.

I’ve no doubt these, and other similar, psychological factors are real and that they have a genuine effect on people. However, having studied ghosts for more decades than I care to admit, they do not explain actual ghost sighting reports for me. Having seen several ghosts myself I have found xenonormal explanations for all of them. In every case there was a quite specific reason why I saw an unexplained human figure. In none of the cases was a general psychological tendency responsible. The same is true, as far as I can tell, of other people’s ghost sightings that I’ve personally investigated. In most cases sightings were caused by misperception, hallucination, coincidence or a variety of other unusual circumstances.

I can see how, when faced with a misperception or hallucination, say, psychological factors may affect how different people interpret what they’ve seen. But there was still something to be seen and explained, even if it was only a hallucination. And, frankly, I don’t think psychological factors have a big effect on such sightings. If you see a man in a tricorn hat in the photo (above right) then whether you believe in ghosts or not, or get nervous in spooky places, is irrelevant. It is still a figure, not seen when the photo was taken, that requires explanation (story behind photo here). And the fact that some people don’t see the figure at all needs explaining too (it’s misperception if you haven’t guessed).

Explanations need to address why a particular witness saw a specific human figure, that wasn’t physically present, at a particular place and time. General psychological tendencies just won't do it for me.

Author :© Maurice Townsend 2020

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