Do People Still Actually See Ghosts?
This article is more than four years old.
There's no denying that people still witness unexplained paranormal activity, especially with the growing number of public ghost hunting events that take place on an almost nightly basis at many of the most haunted locations around the world. So, shouldn't more people be reporting seeing full-bodied apparitions?
It's not just that the number of reports of apparitions doesn't match the increased number of ghost hunts, but the figure actually seems to have dropped in the last few decades.
Most paranormal investigators today say they became interested in the supernatural after reading books of ghost stories as a kid. These books often told us about real life haunting cases and used phrases like "many staff at the building have reported seeing the ghost of a man wearing Victorian-style clothing." Yet, this Victorian ghost hasn't been seen at the property in living memory.
We also read about fields across England where on the anniversary of a battle the soldiers would be seen at 11am re-living the conflict. As kids we assumed that as this event happened on a regular basis that it must have been witnessed by hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years. But today walkers in the area stomp across the field at the given time without a sign of a single military apparition.
Today people still report seeing ghostly figures, but gone are the days of vivid descriptions of ghosts including details about their facial features and clothing. Now people more often report seeing a black mass or a shadow figure, or sense the presence of something moving past them.
Ghost hunter to the stars, Lee Roberts wonders if these "full apparitions" ever occurred in the first place. He said, "today we know a lot more about the science and psychology of a paranormal investigation and when someone now says they have seen something it needs to be backed up by evidence. No evidence then it might as well of never happened."
So where has the Grey Lady and her cavalier friends gone?
The most likely reason for their decline is simply that these events are very rare. This combined with our tendency to misremember, embellish and exaggerate stories makes them seem more common than they actually are.
For example, let's say 60 years ago a fictional pub's landlord and regulars thought that it was haunted. They witness poltergeist-like activity and even reported seeing a dark figure moving through the building and call someone in for help.
This might be a psychic medium who picks up on the spirit of a monk, a paranormal investigator who looks into the history of the property and finds it was built on the site of a monastery, or a group of friends who simply conduct a séance and make contact with the spirit of a monk.
Most ghost stories are passed on by word of mouth and we seem to inadvertently corrupt them as we re-tell them. We add speculation and our own opinions to emphasise the interesting parts and leave out the boring bits.
So, in the case of this fictional pub, the story might have started as "the regulars at the Old Oak have witnessed objects moving around and even seen a dark figure moving upstairs, a psychic said it's the spirit of a monk." After being re-told a few times, the story could end up more like, "the ghost of a monk haunts the Old Oak, it throws stuff around and has even been seen upstairs." Leading people to believe that an apparition of a monk has been witnessed.
Lee agrees, "I thinks these stories come from someone thinking they saw something. Over the years people have spread the story and it becomes more real than it actually was, so what was a misty figure or shadowy figure is now a full blown apparition."
If anyone has seen a full-bodied apparition then it would be a professional ghost hunter. Danny Moss, who leads the Haunted Hunts paranormal team, thinks that there's a rational explanation for at least 90% of reports of the paranormal. He says that seeing a ghost is all down to our imagination and preconceptions of the haunted location, "they put two and two together and automatically assume they've seen a ghost."
Danny adds, "to witness a real full-bodied apparition is an extremely rare thing and I believe that it's luck, you have to be in the right place at the right time and that may only occur on a particular date and at a particular time, which makes it even less likely to see one."
Lee also questions how frequently these sightings occur, "we all hear the stories of the grey lady, or the dark monk, but these sightings are few and far between, but because the stories have been spread over the years the locations seem to get mixed up, every town had a ghost story but is that ghost story from the next town along but locals have adopted it to suit their ghost stories."
Documented evidence of full apparitions is equally as rare. One of the most famous reports is that of the 'Cheltenham Ghost' which was investigated by the Society for Psychical Research. Their report describes "a persistent apparition in a house in Cheltenham".
The haunting took place in the 1880s and the phantom, that was seen on a number of occasions by various people, was described as a tall woman dressed in black, holding a handkerchief to her face. The main witness was is described in the report as credible, "a lady of scientific training, now preparing to be a physician."
Although the case is compelling, even this example of a full apparition took place over 130 years ago, proving how rare these cases are.
Lee, who runs ghost hunting events at the Village, Mansfield says "many have caught shadows on camera and stills, around 12 have witnessed a 'full apparition', but out of those 12 we have had none caught on camera... coincidence? Or is it that the shadowy figures we have captured are the full apparitions and yet when we see them with the naked eye our brains make sense of what we can’t understand and turn it from a shadowy figure to a full blown apparition?"
Danny on the other hand thinks he has seen one fully-fledged ghost himself, "I've been doing this for a long time and I've spent a huge amount of time inside some of the most haunted locations and I believe I've only ever seen one full-bodied apparition in person."
Danny's encounter took place at Tatton Old Hall in Cheshire and took the form of a white/grey figure. Danny said, "from what I saw it was just like witnessing another human, it had full mass to it."
What about these dark figures, how do paranormal investigators explain their appearance? Danny says, "I think a lot of the shadow people and dark masses people see nowadays can be caused by sleep deprivation. Investigators are often up until the early hours of the morning and it's common that people see things out of the corner of their eye."
Whatever it is people are seeing, it still fascinates the paranormal world. Lee says, "it's a very interesting subject and I'd love to study it more and see exactly how we interpret an apparition and what it is we are actually witnessing."
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