With Hallowe'en approaching, it's time to get to grips with your ghosts!
Many people think ghosts are simply troubled souls, trapped on our plane, unable to cross over to the other side for some disturbing reason; maybe they have unfinished business on this earthly plane, or had a tragic end and cannot move on. Another possibility is that they don't yet know they are dead. Some people believe that certain ghosts want retribution or revenge for wrongs done to them in their physical lifetime here on earth. Ghostly apparitions can appear to glide a few feet above the ground, or appear cut off at the knees because the ground level was lower or higher at the time they existed on earth.
Some people believe a ghost is the residue of emotional energy, or a great trauma that has impressed itself on a building or a place. Nothing is ever destroyed in our Universe, it simply changes into something else, and so it is with the human spirit. And, sometimes, we are lucky (or unlucky) enough to see this paranormal energy as a ghost, just like an ongoing memory. At the atomic level, everything is always in a state of flux, and energy is trapped and stored. That's probably the most scientific theory.
Ghosts, Spirits and Poltergeists
Of course, ghosts take many forms. Poltergeists - the word means "noisy spirits" - can be mischievous ghosts and are often attracted to places inhabited by children. They move, throw and hide things, switch lights on and off, turn on domestic equipment, start fires (spontaneous combustion?) and slam doors. Some people believe they are the ghosts of those who once lived in the house, who, because they don't know they are dead, haunt their formers homes to try to "oust" the intruders.
The mayhem caused by a poltergeist can seriously disturb living humans and some even move house to escape these unwelcome attentions. This doesn't always solve the problem because, although it appears to have achieved its goal, the poltergeist sometimes follows the escapees to their new home and continues playing its tricks. It's also claimed that some people attract such manifestations because their vibrations are particularly sensitive to the phenomenon, rather similar to the vibrations of mediums.
Although the labels "ghost" and "spirit" are often interchanged, in the strictest sense, a ghost is a manifestation "in limbo". In other words, the soul hasn't moved on to the other side. Spirits, on the other hand, have moved over, but may occasionally return, perhaps to comfort a loved one. On the other hand, it could be for more sinister reasons. There are other explanations, for example, that apparitions are a "live intelligence", while a haunting is merely a "recording".
A Hidden Agenda!
We could also consider that sometimes people invent ghost stories because they have a hidden, self-serving agenda. For example, smugglers would spread rumours of some scary apparition or unearthly monster to scare others away from where they stashed their loot or picked up their illicit cargos.
I'm often asked if I believe in ghosts. I've never actually seen one in spite of a few weird and apparently inexplicable experiences, so I keep an open mind. I think that sometimes there's a genuine scientific explanation - we just aren't clever enough to know what it is. But whether some of the stories are fully true or partly legend, they are still part of our human folklore and almost always have a historical context.
Anyhow, I shan't be out in the dark by myself on 31 October! Have a great time folks.
That, for me, is enough!
Adapted from: Cameron, Janet, Paranormal Brighton & Hove, Amberley Publishing.
Cobham Brewdf, E. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1894.
Bishop, J.G. A Peep into the Past, 1892.