Posted 20 hours ago

Are Ghosts Real? (Unexplained: What's the Evidence?)

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For centuries, people believed that flames turned blue in the presence of ghosts. Today, few people accept that bit of lore, but it's likely that many of the signs taken as evidence by today's ghost hunters will be seen as just as wrong and antiquated centuries from now. Uncanny is the TV incarnation of a podcast I have been making for the BBC for the last two years. It features real people telling me about experiences they’ve had that they feel could be paranormal. Each episode features a new story, told by the person it happened to; ordinary people who have experienced the extraordinary. I guess the major difference between us and pretty much any other paranormal show out there is that our audience is divided equally between believers and sceptics. There are detective stories – if you are a sceptic, it’s a howdunnit, you can try to figure out if you think the ‘haunting’ could have been caused by environmental or psychological factors, and if you are a believer, it’s a whodunnit – you want to know who is the ghost and why are they there.

The show spawned dozens of spinoffs and imitators, and it's not hard to see why the show is so popular: the premise is that anyone can look for ghosts. The two original stars were ordinary guys (plumbers, in fact) who decided to look for evidence of spirits. Their message: You don't need to be an egghead scientist, or even have any training in science or investigation. All you need is some free time, a dark place, and maybe a few gadgets from an electronics store. If you look long enough any unexplained light or noise might be evidence of ghosts. The study highlights how common it is for us to imagine strange phenomena in uncertain and unsettled situations. It's an illusion to think we're all fully rational; it's much wiser to recognise that all of us are vulnerable to making lapses in judgement when we feel like we're not in control. Even the sharpest minds can yield to whimsy. Critical thinking My dad used to eat sunflower seeds too. That’s where I get it from. But he used to chew the whole thing up. The shells, the seeds, everything. Just devour them like some kind of beast. When I was really young, I used to ask him if a sunflower was going to grow inside of him since he ate the seeds so much. He was always watching some kind of game, like football or basketball, and he’d turn to me just for a second, just long enough to not miss a play, and say, “Sunflowers are all up in me, kid.” Then he’d shake up the seeds in his palm like dice, before throwing another bunch in his grill to chomp down on.

What’s the evidence?

During the late 19th century, lots of psychic mediums in America claimed they were able to communicate with the dead. However, these were exposed as frauds by sceptics and investigators such as Harry Houdini - a Hungarian-born American illusionist and stunt performer renowned for his escape acts. Inspired by the BBC Sounds podcast of the same name, Uncanny features real-life stories of apparently supernatural encounters told by the people they happened to - experiences that appear to defy logical explanation. Or do they? Still others create their own special categories for different types of ghosts, such as poltergeists, residual hauntings, intelligent spirits and shadow people. Of course, it's all made up, like speculating on the different races of fairies or dragons: there are as many types of ghosts as you want there to be. I am one of two experts on the show, alongside Dr O'Keeffe. We are both paranormal psychologists but where Ciarán considers himself a hardcore sceptic I am more open minded. My job is essentially to answer the question of 'If this is paranormal then what type of paranormal phenomena is it and how does it relate to our current understanding of the supernatural?' But let me tell you, my dad was lying. Wasn’t no sunflowers growing in him. Couldn’t have been. I don’t know a whole lot about sunflowers, but I know they’re pretty and girls like them, and I know the word sunflower is made up of two good words, and that man ain’t got two good words in him, or anything that any girl would like, because girls don’t like men who try to shoot them and their son. And that’s the kind of man he was.

There’s still so much to this universe that we don’t understand, and it’s comforting to fill in the void with explanations. Supernatural explanations are often stated with confidence, even when there’s no actual evidence, and this confidence provides a false sense of actual truth," Hupp said. When sociologists Dennis and Michele Waskul interviewed ghost experiencers for their book " Ghostly Encounters: The Hauntings of Everyday Life" (Temple University Press, 2016 ) they found that "many participants were not sure that they had encountered a ghost and remained uncertain that such phenomena were even possible, simply because they did not see something that approximated the conventional image of a 'ghost.' Instead, many of our respondents were simply convinced that they had experienced something uncanny — something inexplicable, extraordinary, mysterious, or eerie." Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India - W. A. Chambers, one of the hotel's architects, jumped from a fifth floor balcony. It's believed that his ghost still wanders the halls of the hotel. There are plenty of misunderstood phenomena that influenceghostsightings. For example, sleep paralysis in a recognized experience that leads to people feeling like they have seen aghost, demon, or alien," Hupp said.

If ghosts are real, and are some sort of as-yet-unknown energy or entity, then their existence will (like all other scientific discoveries) be discovered and verified by scientists through controlled experiments — not by weekend ghost hunters wandering around abandoned, supposedly haunted houses in the dark late at night with cameras and flashlights.

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