Believe in Ghosts

One of the stories from my never-peaceful past that I tell people is about the house I spent the longest part of my childhood. The house carried a lot of memories … and some nightmares! We moved into this house when I was seven, and the house was sealed with a notice stuck on the door. I never read or asked about the message or bill, but I remember walking into the house and spotting a blood-soaked (or so it seemed) torn shirt under the sink. At that age, I never understood the severity of it or what it could have meant, or how eerie that could sound to someone. 

But we were a huge family and desperately needed to move to a big house, and that house was the only option available. My father never believed in any rituals, so we never got any house-warming or house-blessing rituals done. We moved into it. 

Many years later, when I was an adolescent, I remember sleeping on my side and feeling a strong, hand holding my hand. The grip was so firm that it woke me up from my sleep, but I could barely open my eyes. I could still feel that grip, so much so, that I squeezed that hand just to convince myself that it was not a dream, and I could barely squeeze beyond a certain point. At that time, I felt what I was experiencing was real! 

I was experiencing ‘Paranormal!’ 

Well, at least I would believe so…

Many argue it could be a lucid dream, which is not altogether impossible—the existence of ghosts or paranormal falls in that grey area that can be debated for decades. Ancient folklore has spoken about ghosts, other-worldly souls, the supernatural, and the mystic. Whether it is the ‘The Dybbuk’ from Jewish folklore (the spirit of a dead person that possesses a living person) or ‘The White lady’ from European folklore (the mysterious woman in a white dress who roams around castles and graveyards), or ‘The Bhoot of Bhangarh Fort’ of Indian folklore (said to be of the many people who died there as a result of the curse of a sorcerer); all have one thing in common – The BELIEF of a supernatural presence!

But do ghosts exist for real… or are some random coincidences fusing in to create an eerie experience that adds up as ‘Ghostly’ or ‘Paranormal?’

Let’s examine some experiences that people usually describe as other-worldly and if there could be a possible metaphysical and scientific explanation.

1. Apparitions

What it means?

Apparitions are supernatural appearances of a person or thing and account for the most commonly reported experiences. You see these fleeting shadows or hazy human or animal forms floating around. These can be full or partial-body apparitions, sometimes headless or without legs. At times they may be vivid and static like a person standing or sitting while it’s not there.

Possible scientific explanation

Your brain is a powerhouse of suggestions, almost to an extent where it can create alternate realities for you. As severely as your mind and heart want to see an outcome, as powerfully and vividly, your mind can construct it for you. This is called ‘Motivated Perception’ or, in layman’s terms, ‘you see what you want to see.’ More serious conditions like substance abuse or delusional disorders can cause you to have hallucinations, which may seem like apparitions.

2. Shadow People

What it means?

Like apparitions, shadow people are humanoid, animal figures, or a combination of both. They are dark and are usually silhouettes. They can walk or float like apparitions, traditionally considered dark and negative energy. People typically associate shadow figures with death and harm.

Possible scientific explanation

Similar to apparitions, these could be a play of your perception, hallucination, or a trick of the light. Our brain also tends to find patterns and meanings in our vision. So even if you may have seen something random, your brain works overtime to find a match from your memory data warehouse. Whatever it can attribute it to, it does. At times it can be carbon monoxide poisoning causing you to have hallucinations and extra-sensory perceptions.

3. Unexplained noises

What it means?

Hearing voices, names being called out, hearing heavy footsteps, someone banging the door, or noises of things falling, doors and windows opening or closing or creaking are staples of horror stories. Many people report being called by someone, especially from behind, hearing whispers, and turning around to find no one. Interestingly, these usually happen when you are alone and not surrounded by people.

Possible scientific explanation

You can blame the wind for the noises. The acoustic vibrations could be at play, or a sudden breeze could cause certain sound waves that our brain may decipher as a ‘certain word’ or a sound vibration similar to your name. However, at times the proper frequencies are just infrasound. They are too low for your ears to pick up but can trigger physical and emotional responses that feel like a ‘paranormal experience.’ EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) pick up these infrasound vibrations that sound like ghostly voices!

4. Strange smells

What it means?

Many people report smelling a particular odour without reason for being there. Perfume sprays or odour of the person who unexpectedly died. Like rotting fish or flesh, many also report smells of something burning or rotting. These are primarily written from sites where a tragedy has taken place.

Possible scientific explanation

Our brains are definitely at play here. It could be conspiring with your senses to create fragrances you want to smell (like in the case of perfume fragrances of your loved ones). This is a ‘Coping mechanism’ your brain tricks you into. It tries to comfort you by creating the same scent you are used to. 

It could be chemicals or pheromones in the environment you may be picking up on that smell like rotting flesh or burning odours. A specific variety of mold can also cause you to hallucinate and experience odours while appearing spooky! 

5. Sudden cold or physical sensations

What it means?

This one is my favourite. A sudden drop in temperature, a particular spot feeling unusually cold, a feeling of cold air brushing past you, or even a cold hand touching you is commonly attributed to spirit presence in the area. A Portal opening is also said to have a cold spot around it. A portal is a doorway, gate, or entrance to the other world. A gate where people can come and go of free will (like a door or window in the house). In the metaphysical world, a spirit portal can be around anything that can pull or reflect energy (like a mirror) or at places where you transcend into a different form of energy (like a hospital or a morgue, or cemeteries). It could also be at a random location in the house or an open space where geomagnetic energy concentrates on the geological forces of the area.

Possible scientific explanation

Magnetic fields are more commonly to be blamed for such unexplained cold spots. We cannot see the earth’s magnetic spots and could misconstrue them as cold spots. A window direction, airflow dynamics, air currents, lighting layout, or your body’s temperature regulation system could trick you into experiencing cold spots.

6. Objects moving on their own

What it means?

This is said to be done by poltergeists. This is when things suddenly fly off from their places without any explainable cause. For example, the doors and windows may open and close. Or drawers may suddenly open and shut. Something you believe you kept in a particular place may be found elsewhere. Poltergeists are believed to be very violent and influential because they are tactile and can cause tangible things to move and, therefore, can be physically harmful to you.

Possible scientific explanation

Vibrations or infrasound can cause movement in unexpected areas. You may also have pranksters and hoaxers having fun at your expense. Or there could be sudden air-flow change causing things to move or fly off, which generally don’t.

7. Sleep Paralysis

What it means?

Sleep Paralysis is when you suddenly wake up and feel someone choking you or sitting on your chest. Your eyes and mind are open, but you cannot move. You can see and understand everything but are unable to scream or speak.

Possible scientific explanation

Sleep paralysis is a commonly reported condition. Narcolepsy or sleep apnoea can cause sleep paralysis. It lasts only a minute or two but can feel like a long time and frightening. 

There could be many other reasons behind a paranormal experience. Some are psychological, like personal beliefs, the power of suggestions, and sociocultural conditioning. In contrast, others may be as mundane as sleep deprivation causing you to have visions and experiences that feel other-worldly.

Even with many explanations in support and against the idea, there cannot be an absolute answer on whether ghosts or spirits exist. This remains, and will forever remain, a ‘grey’ area where you cannot say which argument could be actual.

It all eventually boils down to which part you lend credence to with the experiences you have been through. As for me, my experiences did push me to say…

Yes, I do believe in Ghosts! Do you?

Veena Gupta, a homemaker, doting mother, and a loving wife, who takes pride in a long-standing career in Banking and Finance. While her life took shape and as she was pursuing all this, something kept tugging her creativity. This pull lead her to decide to express her thoughts through writing. True to her name, her words flow from her pen to resonate with the reader’s mind like the soothing music that the musical instrument Veena creates! For someone who likes to experiment in life through adventure sports, trekking, and other varied interests, Veena likes to bring her experience, background and perspective to her readers through her simple yet effective writing to push the fact home!

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4 thoughts on “Believe in Ghosts

  1. I always found shadows of trees and leaves, red lights and darkness spooky for years! I could never sleep at night because I would get nightmares! My grandparents’ house was a nightmare for me and dreaded my summer vacations there. It was an old house and i would get spooked with all sounds around the house. Strong winds blew all the time making all spooky sounds. To top it all, there were constant power cuts in the evening. I used to arm myself with my teddy bears and a flashlight so I wouldn’t get scared. Hats off to u to have stayed in that house! I wouldn’t have survived there.

    • Hey. To tell you the truth, I totally enjoy the occult and the paranormal. If not for my family, i would have been one of those spirit-inviting psychics. 😀

      I still have ‘visiting the Bhangarh fort’ in my bucket list 😬

      Hopefully someday I can make it

      • he he Veena 🙂 Nice to know that you enjoy the occult. I would love to be that way some day! Hope you do visit the Bhangarh fort someday. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article.

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