Do ghosts really exist?
Not far from where I live in the Bay State there’s a place known as “Bridgewater Triangle”, and ghost stories have been told in that area for as long as people have been there. It’s a rather large region in southeastern Massachusetts full of local folklore about all sorts of paranormal activity, like the icy touch of a dearly departed loved one and that sort of thing. Up north in Vermont, there’s also a site very similar to this known as Bennington Triangle. The point is that New England is home to all kinds of intriguing places like Dighton Rock and Hockomock Swamp, to name just a couple locations here in Massachusetts. According to the legends of the native Wampanoag tribe, the latter is the “place where spirits dwell”.
In line with this, the Rehoboth Village Cemetery is part of the Bridgewater Triangle. Although the site is originally from the 17th century, the apparition that is most commonly seen is a bitter old man in 19th-century attire. Locals claim that this is a poltergeist with deep dark eye sockets that often screams and sneers at people. The South Coast Ghost is known to many as “Ephraim” and he also has an ethereal counterpart named Catherine. Visitors to the graveyard have even seen him beating her. It’s said that this might be the lost soul of a man named William Reynolds. That is, at least, if the Robinson girls were right about what they saw. They claim to have encountered the ghost of a man praying at his grave who spoke in some otherworldly tinny-sounding voice.
Stories like this abound here in New England. In 1692, Martha and Giles Corey were both accused of witchcraft in Salem. As a result, she was hanged and he was crushed to death by Sheriff Corwin. As the story goes, Giles refused to enter a plea after his arrest. So George used an obscure English law to try and coerce a confession out of Giles. In the one and the only use of this sanction ever in American history, the man was subjected to execution by pressing, in an effort to force him to plead. In the process, he was stripped naked, with a heavy board laid on his body, and rocks were then placed on the plank, one after the other.
Instead of admitting guilt, he died after a couple of days of absolutely gruesome torture. However, with his dying breath, Giles Corey placed a curse on the accusers. Within a few years, the powerful hex had claimed the life of the sheriff, and probably others as well. The ghost of the purported warlock is still said to wander near his remains in the burial plot at Howard Street Cemetery. On top of that, a lot of locals say he appears right before anything really bad is about to happen.
In yet another example, about 125 years ago the Borden family lived in a house about 50 miles from where I’m sitting at the moment. Young Lizzie was one of the daughters in the household and she completely despised her stepmother Abby. So, a little after nine in the morning on August 4th, all those years ago, Lizbeth took it upon herself to go upstairs and strike Abby in the back of the head and neck nearly twenty times with an ax. Then, after about an hour or two she went down and found her father sleeping on the couch and gave him ten blows to the face, although once or twice would have been enough to finish him off.
As if that wasn’t crazy enough, she was acquitted of those heinous murders after a flimsy 13-day trial. As one might suspect, this led to plenty of unresolved feelings surrounding the whole issue. A lot of people believe this caused the place to become haunted, as a result of the violent unexpected trauma. To this very day though, there are still those who claim to be visited by ghosts when they venture onto the property.
Stories like these make me wonder about all sorts of things about the possible existence of discarnate entities. Like, are ghosts somehow the shadow traces of trauma, or vengeful spirits seeking retribution, or maybe just the projections of frightened people, or perhaps permanent records in the fabric of space-time, or something else altogether? Is it possible that some souls don’t disintegrate from the physical world after the death of the body?
Think about it. Can certain people, or circumstances, somehow leave psychic scars on the environment? Is a ghost a conscious being, or are hauntings just leftover impressions of something from the past? Better yet, should everyone move out of the Borden house to give Andrew and Abby their home back? If so, should someone then go in to clean it up from time to time? If not, would they fade away with the building as it slowly fell apart? There are simply too many questions and not enough answers.
According to some people, the soul can sometimes remain attached to its former life and try to remain associated with the physical plane of existence, rather than moving on to the spirit world in the afterlife. As part of this, there are those who claim to have been in the presence of a ghost, in some form or another, at some point in their life. Granted, at least some of these encounters were probably hallucinations, if not just tall tales.
Nonetheless, with so many NDEs and past life memories out there, maybe there really is something to the idea of continuing on as a discarnate soul after the demise of the flesh. Reports like this have gone on for millennia. With that in mind, I guess it’s possible that there could be ghosts that linger in the material world long after death. However, I’m very skeptical about the whole thing, at the same time.
By and large, the overwhelming consensus of the academic community is that apparitions and hauntings simply don’t exist, plain and simple. This could very well be true. However, I’m not entirely convinced of that, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Granted, I do admit that the existence of ghosts is impossible to falsify, and I believe that most ghost hunters are actually engaged in what amounts to pseudoscience. Still, there may be something to this.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that ghosts are necessarily fake. One of the problems in all of this is that there is no standard definition of what a “ghost” really is, or how to know if you’ve actually found one. Throughout the ages, the descriptions of phantoms in ghostlore have varied widely from one account to another. This ranges from everything to an invisible presence to translucent abstract shapes, to more realistic, life-like forms, and beyond.
The thing is that if ghosts really are earthbound souls in need of assistance then shouldn’t we try to help them? This brings us full circle back to needing to understand what a ghost really is and why. For all we know, there could be lots of different kinds of ghosts, not just one type. Maybe, as some researchers believe, a poltergeist is different from a specter, and so on and so forth. Here too, though, I begin to have my doubts. Some ghost hunters claim that poltergeists can actually move objects, like throwing a book across a room or even just knocking it off a shelf. Still, there could be some merit to the idea of a taxonomy for the dead.
Maybe there are those who have died but refuse to accept it because they can’t face the idea of being done with life. They would need to be treated a little bit different from ghosts that can’t let go of their bodies, but still very much the same. This is altogether different from a ghost that is mad that a new family is living in his old family’s house. Not realizing that you’re dead is one thing, but not wanting to share your home with strangers is another. So, some ghosts have to be dealt with in different ways. The problem is that there is no way of knowing for sure if a place is actually haunted or not.
The things that paranormal investigators really detect with their cameras, EVP recorders, and EMF meters are not what they claim. These devices have no business being used in this way. More importantly, they can’t actually be used to find ghosts. Even machines like an EEG or fMRI can’t detect consciousness, they only see the way that the CNS responds to the soul, not the soul itself. The mind is not what the brain does, as the neuroscientists claim. Instead, the immortal psyche described by Plato and Descartes is far more akin to what the soul really is. That is what gives rise to a mind and in some cases a ghost.
This metaphysical aspect of one’s being is an immaterial subject, not a material object. As such, the mind is undetectable by any physical apparatus. So, if the soul is physically undetectable, then what about mentally? In other words, maybe only a psychic could find a ghost. That’s why a number of paranormal researchers enlist the help of people who are more sensitive than others when they go out ghost hunting. Hans Holzer used to work with people who may very well have been psychic, such as Ingrid Beckman and others. The problem is that there are lots of cold readers and other charlatans out there. Thus, it would take a very special person to be a real ghost hunter.
It takes the second sight of the third eye to see dead people, so although anyone could notice a ghost not everyone can. Psychics need to scour the planet in search of phantoms. Then, shamans, priests, monks, metaphysicists, parapsychologists, psychologists, and countless other specialists need to work together to effectively communicate with earthbound souls in an effort to help them successfully cross over into the spirit world. Ghosts are people without bodies who are scared, or confused, or angry, or any other negative emotion you can think of. The point is that they all need help and we owe it to them to try. Since we will all one day die, the souls of the dead more than deserve our faith in their possibility.