What Are Ghosts?

What are ghosts? Where do they come from? What are they made of? The short answer, assuming they exist at all, is that we don’t know. However, looking at the available evidence and various reported sightings throughout history, we have some possible explanations.

Let’s briefly take a look at them.

Paranormal Possibilities

When a haunting occurs, or when a ghost sighting is reported, there are often conflicting responses that greatly depend on what any given individual believes about ghosts.

Some believe that ghosts are truly the dead returning to the world of the living, to complete “unfinished business,” or perhaps to stay behind for other reasons.

Others believe that ghosts, as we know them, are spirits who have actually moved on to the afterlife, but have returned for some unknown purpose. Still others don’t believe that “ghosts” are ghosts at all, but rather unnatural entities such as demons or poltergeists, existing solely to cause havoc or hurt the living.

Fringe Theories

Some believe that hauntings and ghosts can be explained in a more unorthodox manner. They believe “ghosts” may be the coming together of parallel dimensions, alternate realities bleeding into our own. This would in many ways explain phenomena such as doppelgangers or phantom houses and objects. Multiple realities, or the existence of a multiverse, could allow one person to exist in many places, and times, at once.

Or, ghosts and hauntings could be the product of temporal distortions, momentary corruptions in space-time that cause the past, present, or future to shift slightly, causing those present at the scene to witness “ghosts” that are actually living persons from another time.

Finally, there are residual hauntings, which may occur after a traumatic or emotionally-tenuous experience. These types of hauntings are said to be natural recordings, in which traumatic events are replayed, again and again, through time. They may seem like ghostly encounters or hauntings, but they always repeat, always the same, without any sort of communication or “intelligence.” They exist as haunted projectors, forever playing the same film reel at the same theater for future generations to witness and ponder.

Scientific Explanations for the Existence of Ghosts

Of course, ghosts don’t necessarily have to be supernatural at all. We can never rule out more scientific explanations. Even in a world where ghosts were undeniably proven to exist, there would still be ample room for human error.

For example, many ghostly encounters may simply be hallucinations, or caused by other psychological phenomena.

There is also a theory that human beings may, in some manner, be able to mentally project “ghosts” into reality, such as with tulpas or thoughtforms. Are they really there? Are they ghosts? When it comes to the human experience and what our senses deem as reality, that question may turn out to be completely irrelevant.

The aforementioned “parallel dimensions” theory may also one day prove to be true, as the growing evidence of a multiverse continues to mount.

Other natural phenomena, such as trapped sound waves, including infrasound, may lead to strange experiences, such as animals acting up and odd feelings.

The truth is, even if we don’t have a scientific explanation for certain phenomena, that doesn’t mean a rational, scientific explanation doesn’t exist.

As physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, we always have to be mindful of the “unknown unknowns,” the concepts and phenomena so complex, however natural, that we don’t even know we don’t know about them, yet. Things such as quantum mechanics and dark matter are perfect examples of our “known unknowns.” Just imagine what we don’t know that we don’t know.

Will science one day provide a solid explanation for what we call ghosts? Are they the dead returned to this world? Images repeated through time and space? Or simple hallucinations caused by overactive imaginations?

At the moment, all we can do is guess, while ghost hunters and investigators try their best to uncover the mysteries of the paranormal.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.