Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe that the spirits of the departed can linger here after the body has moved on? For many, such a notion is utter foolishness, tall tales meant to scare children and the simple minded, or alternatively to bolster tourism. For others (some 38% of Americans¹),there is no doubt that things beyond our experience can and do attach themselves to our world, vaporous entities that, for myriad reasons, haunt our graveyards, forgotten homes, disused facilities, and other places of death and suffering.
The belief in spirits is almost ubiquitous across our planet in some capacity or another. Countless tribes and clans base their whole societies on pleasing these spirits, sacrificing food or weapons or even each other to them; in many cases those spirits are believed to be those of their departed ancestors. They seek their guidance in times of trouble, and plead with them in times of need, and in battle they may invoke them for power and prowess.
In our western cultures, where our societies lean more towards the pursuit of the future than the glorification of the past, we find a different approach to the spirit world. Growing beyond the efforts of the early spiritualist movement, the last few decades have seen the rise of many paranormal research groups which seek to confirm, or in other cases dispel, that shadowy realm of the lost. Utilizing a range of technical apparatuses, from electromagnetic field meters to Geiger counters, and employing the insights of psychologists and historians, these organizations attempt to record instances of paranormal activity through audio and visual methods, using techniques, such as the infamous ouija board, to communicate with whatever may be lurking beyond our senses.
For believers in such things, though ghosts can inhabit any number of diverse locales, behind them all is a certain layer of suffering. Ghosts, they say, tend to anchor themselves to this world in places where they were tormented in life. Battlegrounds may play host to battalions of incorporeal soldiers who on cold, dark night emerge from the shadows of time to once again relive their final conflict. The shadowed halls of disused hospitals, broken down and forgotten, may ring with the spectral screams of patients that endured much there before coming to their end, just as abandoned orphanages may come to life with disembodied giggles and tiny footsteps. Occasionally, rather than the place itself presenting a ripe environment for a haunting, it is what happened at that place that stains it with living memories. Places of murder, for instance, need little provocation to become legendary.
I’m sure that your mind has already conjured up any number of familiar ghost stories. After all, aside from the wealth of tales which come to us from the old days, we have an absolute mass of new, if fictional, stories that come to us through the efforts of our entertainment industry. All those aside, some of you may have your own experiences and encounters with that unseen world, which haunt you. I know I have my own…
Even so, in spite of all the testimony, skeptics abound, and in many cases for good reason…
In addition to the perennial accusations of insanity or active imaginations, there are a number of valid scientific answers for many hauntings. One of the most common explanations comes in the form of electrical stimulation of the temporoparietal junction,² the portion of the brain that controls our understanding of self. Experiments on that section of the mind has lead patients to sense shadowy and intangible beings, oftentimes accompanied by sinister feelings of dread. Those who support this theory claim that the necessary electrical stimulation may arise from any number of sources, including overhead power lines or subterranean bodies of water. Another explanation put forth by skeptics concerns the effects of infrasound.³ While we can hear sounds up to 20,000 Hz, sounds below 20 Hz cannot be registered audibly. The effects of these silent sounds though can be felt in our bodies, leading to sensations of dread, depression, panic, even awe. What’s more, as infrasound produces tiny vibrations, its effects may precipitate as movements of objects around us, not unlike certain aspects of the poltergeist phenomena.
Unpleasant collisions of infrasound and brain stimulation such as these may very well be associated with typical hauntings, but in some cases there may be something more. One of the most unsettling phenomena, for instance, is that of “sleep paralysis.” In case you are not familiar with the term, it typically involves one waking from sleep with a distinct feeling of dread, oftentimes accompanied with a sensation that they are not alone in their room, and some even experience “hallucinations” of humanoid figures or even creatures. What’s more, these horrifying incidents may come with an intense pressure in the chest or abdomen, not unlike they are being sit upon or otherwise assaulted by some evil thing. Worst of all, the experiencer tends to be totally helpless, unable to move, unable even to let loose a scream of terror. For some, the sleep paralysis phenomenon is one with a completely rational explanation. For others, nothing can convince them that what they have felt is of this world. It is an intriguing fact that, by far, the majority of experiencers acknowledge that it comes from something evil…something demonic…
Now, it goes without saying that there are a number of rational explanations to account for ghost stories and the like. That said, I am a huge believer in the notion that just because a phenomena can be seemingly explained doesn’t mean that that answer is correct. I have no doubt that there is a world beyond what we can typically see, and that souls, indeed spirits, exists. For my part though, I lean towards what the Bible says.
What then does the Bible have to say about ghosts, spirits, and the restless dead? While it may be somewhat evasive in pinning the subject down directly, there are a number of insights within that should not be missed.
For one, in the book of Deuteronomy (18:11-12), God gave us a strict warning against contacting the dead, calling those who do “abominations.” A similar prohibition was given against the use of mediums and necromancers in Leviticus (19:31; 20:6, 27).
Intriguingly, and much to the surprise of some, there is little reason to believe in the existence of ghosts (at least the perspective that ghosts are the disembodied spirits of the dead). No, the Bible is clear that, at the moment of death, we are swept away to another existence, one separate and distinct from this one. What of the truly paranormal then? Those ghost stories that seem to defy rational explanation? We cannot forget that, though we may be locked into this world or the next, there most certainly are spirits of a different nature, the so-called fallen angels and demons, which roam our world amongst us, seeking nothing less than to encourage sin, cause disorder, and foster confusion. I have no doubt that those things we call ghosts, those entities that defy logic, are not the lingering souls of the dead but rather dark beings of evil and malicious intent, capable of not only manipulating our physical world but also our very minds…
Do you believe in ghosts, or are you content to put your faith in something seemingly more believable? Or do you favor a different route altogether, recognizing those restless things as something beyond our remnants?
Are ghosts real? You decide.
- Peterson, Skip; Associated Press (2008-05-31). “Ghost-hunting groups enjoy surge in popularity”. USA Today. Retrieved 14 December 2009
Thank you very much, and God bless!