Policywise

Why do people see ghosts?

Ruling out psychosis, or the existence of actual ghosts, how do we explain ghostly sightings?

I saw one just after my son was born. To be exact, I ‘felt’ the ghost rather than saw him. ‘Feeling’ someone in the room is such a common occurrence in ghost sightings that it has a clinical name: “feeling of presence,” or FP.

In fact, survey data shows that while 18 percent of Americans say they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost, 29 percent say they have felt in touch with someone who has died.

A lightning storm lit up the sky while I sat bleary-eyed in Gabriel’s pitch-black bedroom, breastfeeding him in the armchair at some unknown hour. Then, the sensation descended – not as a possibility, but an absolute certainty, the way you know it’s raining because you are suddenly wet: there was a young man standing next to me.

My eyes scoured the contours of darkness for shapes, silhouettes. Petrified, I felt a maternal sixth sense alerting me to danger. It took every ounce of reason and self-reassurance to return Gabriel softly to bed and close the door, feeling all the while someone was watching us.

I tried to rationalize away the ghost as a manifestation of my anxiety as a new mom. My brain was uncomfortably awash with post-pregnancy neurochemicals responding in exaggeration to mundane stimuli: a baby’s face, a baby’s cry. I lay awake at night after putting Gabriel back to sleep thinking with genuine amazement that women everywhere do this all the time.

A graphic illustration showing a person walking through a foggy forest with a large, ghost-like entity in their path.

The thought astounded me. Why weren’t more new moms jumping from rooftops, or putting their heads in ovens?

Maybe my ghost was a subconscious idiom to express what many new moms feel they can’t: misery. Still, it was hard to “disbelieve” something I could sense almost tangibly.

One study claims to have reproduced a sense of “ghostly” presence in a lab by introducing unpredictability. Subjects, blindfolded and ear-plugged, were attached to a robot that reproduced their hand movements (e.g. tapping the air in front of them) on their backs using a robotic arm. When the arm corresponded in real time to subjects’ movements, they recognized it as produced by them.

But, with a few milliseconds delay, subjects reported feeling an eerie presence in the room. The temporal disconnect mixed up their sensorimotor signals so they no longer recognized the input signals as belonging to their own body. Some subjects were so spooked they opted out of finishing the experiment.

Another researcher proposed that a ‘sensed presence’ can be a reaction to extreme or unusual environments that we are unprepared to process, leading us to focus more within ourselves. In these circumstances (think Shackleton’s failed Antarctic expedition, survived air-crashes, space travel, solitary sailing) it is common to adaptively imagine a third man (as the phenomenon is called) who provides moral support when one needs it the most.

These explanations never made my ghost disappear. But they helped me to reconsider him as something else: a symptom of my feeling fundamentally disoriented, of not knowing what to expect.

And perhaps my ‘third man’ appeared, if not to provide me comfort, then to alert me that things were different now. I’d wandered into an uncharted terrain of sleepless nights, dirty diapers, sterilized bottles and the desperate deciphering of different baby cries. This was my ‘no-man’s land.’

So maybe there’s an ethical imperative to acknowledge that the ghosts we see – or feel – are not leering over our shoulders, but are instead inside our brains: personifications of our attempts to situate ourselves among deep uncertainties. We can become haunted by our own insecurity, in effect, ghosting ourselves.

–By Kristin Kostick, Ph.D., staff scientist at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine

27 thoughts on “Why do people see ghosts?

  • It isn’t inside the brain. My daughter and I saw the same ghost at the same time. I caught them on film and had others verify they saw the same thing before it disappeared. I would like to understand what makes some see ghosts while others can’t or how sometimes a person can see them and other times they can’t. Maybe a scientific way can explain it like one must have visibility to the color spectrum from x point to y point and only x number of people can see that many colors or one must have cells that regenerate at x speed because they possess a certain characteristic that allows the eye to see more faint images. If someone were to work hard enough and believe or trust that ghosts exist, they could probably find a common characteristic like these and find out how it works to allow the eyes to see ghosts where people without this feature can’t.

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    • As ghosts are spiritual they can minifest themselves intentionally to those they want to see them and not to those they don’t. I am sure there is a science in all this inside our brain which one day will become a reality to all of mankind.

      I believe ghosts ie deceased humans manifest themselves intentionally first and foremost as a way of communicating to us that they need help and I am referring spiritual help in terms of prayers and masses said for them so their soul can Rest In Peace and pass onto the other side of the spiritual spectrum.

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    • As ghosts are spiritual they can minifest themselves intentionally to those they want to see them and not to those they don’t. I am sure there is a science in all this inside our brain which one day will become a reality to all of mankind.

      I believe ghosts ie deceased humans manifest themselves intentionally first and foremost as a way of communicating to us that they need help and I am referring spiritual help in terms of prayers and masses said for them so their soul can Rest In Peace and pass onto the other side of the spiritual spectrum.

      So the moral of the story is if a ghost manifests him or herself to you, in all likelihood they are seeking your help. So the best way you can help them is by saying a Rosary for them and for a mass to be said as for one thing is for certain if they are in paradise they won’t be around and or if they have been condemned they won’t be around either.

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      • I have been trying to wrap my brain around this.
        My husband and I went to our favorite mexican resturant where we know the owners pretty good.
        I walked in seen owners husband while he sat eating and waivef hello to him. I turned and an elderly lady which was hispanic was standing there smiling directly at the owner. So, I just dismissed as that was his mother or his wifes mother.
        When we was getting ready to pay and leave, I asked, is your mother here? Her response was no, shes at home. I said well was that your husbands mother that was behind the bar? She said no. No one was behind the bar. Then she asked are you ok? I was not ok. I clearly seen a short elderly lady looking at the owners husband and smiling at him.
        She did not look at me as I passed but was just starring at him. That was Tuesday night and Im so confused on what I seen.

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        • I don’t seem to be able to find anyone who seems to think that my theory ( and it is only one of many) including different dimensions bleeding into ours.
          It has been puzzling me that criptids are becoming things that could only have been seen since the Internet had been invented such as ( Slender man or The rake) which could only have been created since creepy pasta 😳.
          I’m 50 and have noticed an increase in Rake sightings especially. Does anyone else have an option? I can’t be alone? Can I?? Answer’s PLEASE 🙏

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          • your not the only one

      • I was hoping to find a section where I could leave my own history with spirits…I KNOW
        they are not in my head. I can tell when a house has a spirit,I used to think they only revealed themselves to believers until my friend seen my Mama not long after her death
        My deceased husband used to watch our nephew sleep
        I’ve been shoved out of a closet by one -it was her closest lol
        My son lets me know he is still around as well.
        But I not only see,I hear some…but I always feel their presence

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    • I ran my boat 20 minutes up the Chesapeake Bay heading north for Cell for Flounder out of Cherry Stone camp ground Va. Saw no boats and got there Perfect time for the right tide turn off my motor for stealth There was no boats in sight at all land was 8 miles east of me I started my drift sat down 17 ft ct Perfect drift and all the sudden I hear kind of slow today and there a boat 5 ft from me and the on the boat reeled up a 20er but he was warring jeans and sweat shirt It was 84 degrees the Boat did not MOVE as I drifted by for 20 seconds or so and the boat still did not Move I started my boat and turned it around and the BOAT was not there FUCK Scared the hell out of me haven’t been back cents that was over 10 years ago

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    • I agree with you ghosts are NOT (always anyway) manifested by us. I’ve seen 3 full apparitions over the past 35yrs & heard/felt too many to count~the most shocking being the full form yet transparent spirit of a young Revolutionary War era (given his uniform) soldier who walked through my basement & vanished into a wall! I wasnt the only 1 who saw him either, he’d appeared doing the same exact thing in front of 1 other person who said nothing to me about it until my sighting. That experience was more sad & shocking than scary as I felt bad for whomever that young man was & wondered if he even knew he was dead but now believe what we saw was actually a “residual haunting” or moment in time that plays repeatedly like a broken record. Still pretty weird but def didnt come from my or my friends brains lol!

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  • I have felt the presence of a spirit today, the 22 of October 2020 at around 3.30 am, I was asleep for up to around 1.00pm with my 6 year old daughter. I ran out of sleep as from that time and stayed awake in bed till 3.00 am. Suddenly, I started dreaming of a man who I think was already dead and had died of an accident. The man was crying when he tried to remember at how his death occurred. There was a certain woman at the same time who was with the man but the woman was not dead. At this point I was not fully asleep. Here is the most terrifying moment of it; the dream ended I kind of woke up and started thinking of my own things. It was until then that I had an alert message on my phone. Immediately I felt a strong presence of a spirit, of my late sister to be precise. My whole body was shaking. I have never felt that before. The presence of that spirit kind of possessed me for a while..I wanted to pray to God but my mouth could not utter a word, I was not able to speak. I just produced some kind of noise coming deep down my heart-the sound took around 4minutes then it disappeared and the presence of the spirit was gone. Very terrifying right?

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  • Omg. I hope I don’t see one

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  • So I also saw a ghost, this morning at 3:39 am ,I was sitting at my desk trying to finish my exam in my room when at the corner of my eye I saw a shadow enter the room.I looked straight it and saw it was a older lady with long hair and I yelled get out at it.My whole body turned into chills. I could not move for some seconds. I saw it leave my room and I been sick to my stomach all morning.I know what I saw.

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  • Anxiety see ghost can’t be see but can see ghost sick not come home

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  • I saw a ghost at school l was doing grade 3 , l was just writing my work with my classmates and one of my classmate screamed and pointed at the window and we saw a woman staring at her eyes were red and she was wearing something like a white sheet and she was black as a coal then we all started screaming then our teacher came running to the class when she came in she was gone l have been traumatized since then l will never forget that day no matter what , people ghosts are real 🙆🙆🙆

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  • Way back, when I was working in a hospital laboratory, I saw a full body apparition on a deceased Pathologist. This was verified to me by a coworker who’d worked in the lab for over 30 years, and had seen the ghost herself. She’d known the doctor in life. He was as solid and real looking, head to toe, as anyone in life. As I approached him asking what he needed, he turned and walked right through a wall of the Pathology suite. This was late at night when no one in that office worked. Nevertheless, I checked the office. No one was there. I’ve felt other presences, but he was the only full body I’ve witnessed.
    I think some of us can feel and see them and others can’t.

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    • I had a full conversation with a doctor on an elevator when I was a young nurse. He got off on my floor I was stationed at and I went to the breakroom. When I returned to work I asked a co worker what doctor was that that visited and discribed him. She was an older nurse and said he has been dead a few years and sometimes comes around. One other time I was passing meds and while walking out of the room tapped another man on his feet and said goodnight, he said goodnight. Not knowing who he was I went to pull the chart only to find that bed was unoccupied.

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  • Why do I keep seeing the ghost of the old lady who stayed in this house I am staying in now? She looks angry but does not hurt me, also only I can see her. When I try to communicate with her she does not answer. If she opens her mouth all I hear is like the sound of the wind blowing. I never knew her, why does she only come to me. And when I see her I feel scared of her presence why is that.

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  • Woke up at 2:15 a.m, had coffee and surfed internet for current events around the world. I would say I was on the computer for well over an hour but not sure and decided to get dressed for work. I walked to the pantry to get my lunch ready and just as I was going to open the pantry door, I noticed a young women come around the hall wearing a long shirt. The kind of shirt some women wear to bed. I thought for a split moment it was my daughter and didn’t really pay any attention but as I thought to myself within that split second I looked backed as to really examine because it wasn’t my daughter who I saw but somewhat similar as to height but slimmer. She was gone.I walked to my daughters room but she was sound asleep. I immediately got chills all over my body and the hair on my arms were standing up. I really think I witnessed something supernatural? I’m just freaking out and Really nervous. What do you all think?

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  • Today I was in my kitchen making myself breakfast and saw the ghost of maybe an 1800th. She was blonde with curls, blue dress, bow in hair, red lipstick, blue eyes, black Mary Jane’s (Kind of shoe), white over knee sock, and was walking through my kitchen. Kinda spooky.

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  • I was about 12 years of age. For no reason, I was awakened for no reason, sat up in bed, saw a man in black suit, derby hat, looked tired. He was standing by my mother’s side of bed. I screamed and he was gone. Mother showed me a photo of her father the next day. Grandfather died before I was born. Same man as on photo . I have had gentle taps on shoulder, felt someone sit down by me on sofa.

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  • We were vacationing in Middletown, RI last August. We rented an AirB&B. We left the bedroom door slightly ajar. I was awakened @ 4:00 AM because the door was opening & closing almost as if caused by a draft. My husband decides to close the door. The room is now pitch black. I see specks of dust, Smokey floating cloud and then, the face of a British soldier wearing a white wig.
    I screamed, “No!” and kicked him away. My husband jults out of bed and the image disappears. It was so scary. I’ve never seen a ghost before and thankfully; I haven’t seen one since.

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  • Greetings everyone,
    Where do I begin? I used to think that a bright light would appear in my room when I was a child. My mother constantly changed the living room to bed rooms . 2 older brothers and my sister and I were born 7 and 9 years later( my mother didn’t know how she got pregnant, my brothers both born in January less than1 year apart) that is why it was 7 years later when she had me. I watched scary movies since I was 3 years old and was told ” it’s tv, make believe, and some based on true stories” ok so I didn’t scream and cry at night but I would run through the house scared something would grabmy ankles under the bed. My brothers are the cause of that. They told me ” blood bones was in the furnace. I remember being in the bathroom scared they would growl. D talk crazy through the vents and it was a old-fashioned furnace. One day they grab my ankles coming u base ment steps. Omg I thought I would have a heart attack at 5 …anyway my grandpa said ” frank lives upsty in his house” when he died I was 12 and it was hard for all of us. We were closer than anyone he come to our house everyday…we moved into his house for a few years after he died .and it was comforting. My mother said she could feel him and sometimes floor would creek . My room was upstairs and my little sister was babyfied slept with my mom til 13 yrs old .dad on couch …one night I was trying sleep had radio on for a while ..then I was in bed and my room looked smokey and there were a bunch of older men with beards some long hair with folding chairs .one puthis hand out offering me a beer can …I said omg Robin!! Wtf with . I covered my head up and made sure my feet were tucked in as well. I’m like what?? Frank was grandpa’s way of telling the adults something weirds upstairs but .making light of it …but wow .. nobody ever told me why he said Frank was up there. I thought it was just a joke to keep my sis and I from going up there. Grandpa would lock his guns up anytime kids came to his house. So I thought by 13 that’s why he say frank up there. They appeared a couple of more times…my brain told me draw a blur pentagram and circle on the floor and sit in it. Apparently that was my guardian angel telling me that because I didn’t know that and We All have a guardian angel. And sometimes more than 1 ..our father passed 3 years later and he still visits us. He mainly with my sister because of her mental depression and all the babies she has…but after we pass we have a period if time ..decades to review our lives and learn from them they also say. We pick our parents and families and those are our soul mates. And for some reason you chose them before birth. And eventually you will reincarnation when it’s time …..and you will see your soul mates and family again ..and they come to check on us….and these are our flesh. Our souls don’t die… something told me that all my life ..as a child I felt this a d maybe open minded ppl are able see and fe more. I’m an empath also and I feel and see and even dreamt 6 days in a row when my dad suddenly died. I can’t see everything….I feel alit….I was at the cemetery where my baby is buried in a very old civil war cemetery called evergreen in northern Kentucky….the funeral was there I. The chapel and it was 20 years later when I looked through the glass in that room where my baby was laid out….and I snapped a good dozen pictures…..when I got home download them in my computer…there were 4 p looking back at me and they had d lady hair do like the longer hairspray60’s style like return of the living dead…..and orbs were everywhere during the day….but my naked eye couldn’t see them but I could feel something.

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  • I got a picture of a ghost what can I do about it

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  • My Mom said she seen a ghost of me walk down a hallway

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  • I was awake and reclining in my bed in my dark house, at 23:45 two nights ago. I looked over to the bedroom door and saw a ‘light’ figure standing there. Medium height, female, and I thought ‘She’s not very attractive!’ although I can’t remember her features. (She wasn’t disfigured, perhaps just rather plain.) Then I said out loud ‘What the hell is going on here?’ I either saw or sensed that she smiled. I kept watching her, and after a while she just faded away. I wasn’t at all scared, and am not sure what brought on this very real presence.
    It’s not my first experience of seeing a ghost.

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