by Lauren Bumbaca
The belief that ghosts are real is the most widely believed paranormal phenomenon to date. The definition of ghosts is most commonly known as an apparition of a dead human that can have a presence on earth. Ghosts are implemented into our everyday life from the media all the way to the scary stories shared between children that come from generations. Ghosts are found in a wide variety of cultural and religious readings and are greatly immersed in modern day culture. In early times ghosts were more involved in religious and cultural stories, from being a constant theme throughout the Old Testament of the bible to being a cultural theme in the tourist attraction to New Orleans, Louisiana. The range that ghosts are represented in society from religious readings to hit TV shows explains why almost every person has experienced the extraordinary belief of ghosts at one point or another throughout their lifetime.
Tiffanie Wen, a writer for the “The Atlantic” explains how across the world, ideas of the paranormal exists. She begins her article by telling two different stories about her friends from different parts of the world experienced ghosts or “the paranormal” in one way or the other. Beginning with an eyewitness Sheila Sillery Walsh who visited Alcatraz in San Franciso recounts the story of how she was able to capture an image of ghost on her phone. Then Wen talks about her friend whom while on a trip to Ethiopia was able to capture a picture of a ghost as well with her iPhone. Both accounts are relatable and comparable to a majority of the population who have similar stories or have encountered strikingly similar situations. People believe in paranormal activity so much so that there are a wide variety of movies of “real-life” stories of families being changed forever due to the paranormal activity occurring in their homes.
When investigating ghosts, you must first look at where the popularity of ghost’s centers around. Ghosts first arose around religious entities, such as the bible. The bible is considered as one big journal of different first-person experiences. Today, when watching the blockbuster movies such as “The Conjuring” or “Paranormal Activity” you can’t help but be convinced that ghosts are real entities that exist today. Constantly we see again that these stories of ghosts come from personal experiences. Because of the medium where we learn about ghosts it already falls under the extraordinary belief umbrella by using personal experiences as proof as well as retreating to the supernatural. Another problem with witnessing ghosts is the psychological process of pareidolia; which is seeing certain images within disorganized patterns. For example, Wen’s friend who took a picture of the ghost claims to see a boy looking at a leaf in the picture she took. The friend not only is a victim to pareidolia but also retreats immediately to the supernatural without seeking other more reliable explanations, such as the picture being extremely blurry or the camera being wonky in general.
Culture also plays a big role in the belief of ghosts as a real entity. Wen discusses how more people in Asia believe in ghosts/ paranormal activity than in any other region due to their culture. For example, in Thailand the word for sleep paralysis is termed phi-um which translates to “ghost covered”. When hearing a scientifically explained phenomenon like sleep paralysis being explained in Thailand as an effect of ghosts its easy to identify why people grow up believing in ghosts. Modern culture on the world has greatly impacted the belief of the paranormal as well. Such as stated before with all the movies and tv shows surrounding theme of ghosts “haunting” the living. This not only shows how culture is a factor to the belief of ghosts but also the cognitive thought process of how humans need to have reasons for the unknown in their lives so if something out of ordinary happens then need an explanation and ghosts are the most available explanation for the unknown.
Overall, when discussing ghosts, it is easy see why most of the worlds population believe paranormal activity because it is all around us not only in modern day culture but also cognitively. Even though other people’s personal encounters are extremely believable, and many people are convinced that they themselves have had ghost encounters, it is important to note how false eyewitness encounters can be and that ghosts describe what an extraordinary belief is greatly. Making it practically impossible for them to be an actual entity of this world.