Scientific Explanations For Ghosts

Last week I attempted to provide you with proof that ghosts were real and being as almost 50% of people believe in them already, I imagine I will have convinced about half of you.

For the other half of you that don’t believe, why did my ‘proof’ not convince you? I showed you photographs and videos. Incontrovertible proof of the existence of ghosts.

Did it have something to do with the fact that IT’S NOT ACTUAL PROOF?

Science has so far, been unable to come up with any solid evidence for the existence of ghosts. So what about all the photos, videos, testimonies?

That’s what I want to talk about today. Read on to find out some of the scientific explanations for many of the ghosty phenomena that you may have heard described or have perhaps witnessed yourself…

That Feeling That You’re Not Alone

Have you ever felt like there was somebody in the room with you? Perhaps it was late at night and your house is dark and quiet. You’re sure there is someone in the room with you, but that can’t be, can it? You’re alone in the house and you see no one else.

Electromagnetic fields

Canadian neuroscientist, Michael Persinger, has spent decades studying the effects of electromagnetic fields on perception. These fields are imperceptible to us consciously, however are able to make us feel like there is a presence in the room with us, by changing the patterns in the brain’s temporal lobe.
His experiments with certain patterns of weak magnetic fields played over someone’s head for 15-30 mins were able to create the perception that there’s an invisible presence in the room.

The following year, Persinger reported a case of a girl who was convinced she’d been impregnated by the Holy Spirit and even felt the presence of a baby on her shoulder. Evidence?

Next to the girl’s bed was an electric clock which generated magnetic pulses similar to those that can be used to induce seizures in rats with epilepsy. With the clock removed, the feelings of the ghostly presence ceased.

Persinger argued that some people are prone to temporal lobe disruption, which is where the brain produces information. In fact, Psychologist Christopher French noted that surgeons can manipulate the part of the brain where the temporal and parietal lobes meet to ‘turn on’ and ‘turn off’ out-of body-experiences.

French’s own experiments using electromagnetic waves could not reproduce Persinger’s findings, with people recounting experiences irrespective of if they had been subject to an electromagnetic field or a placebo. He simply stated:

“The most parsimonious explanation is just if you say to suggestible people, ‘Go in here, and you may have some weird experiences,’ some of them do,” – Christopher French


This is sound at levels so low that humans can’t hear it.

Scientists have found that low frequency noise can cause physical discomfort, including:
* Disorientation
* Feelings of panic
* Changes in heart rate
* Changes in blood pressure

All of these are symptoms that could be associated with supernatural sightings. For example, a 1998 paper cited engineer, Vic Tandy, who reported working in a haunted room. He described feeling depressed and uncomfortable when working in this room and described hearing odd noises and even seeing an apparition. Investigators discovered that the room housed a fan which fitted a 19hz standing wave, sending out inaudible vibrations and when the fan was removed, the strange experiences ceased.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A family’s story was published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, detailing the tales of their haunted house. They began experiencing weird phenomena when they moved into the old house – furniture moving around, strange voices, apparitions – all well-known supernatural stuff. As it turns out, a faulty furnace had been leaking carbon oxide into the house, causing the hallucinations. The furnace was fixed, and the hallucinations stopped.


Research carried out by an engineer at Clarkson University has shown that certain types of mold can be bad for your brain and can cause auditory and visual hallucinations that could simulate ghostly sightings. Anectodaly, the researcher suggests that such old exists in some haunted places.

Exposure to such old can cause delirium, dementia and irrational fears, coinciding with a lot of reported ghost sightings appearing in old, dilapidated buildings, strongly suggesting a link, but evidence is so far anecdotal.


Reported drops in temperature, often attributed to the ‘other side’ can often be explained by simple movements of sir within a building. Having windows open at opposite ends of a building, cooler air can enter a warm building, creating cold spots as the air flow changes.

It’s All In Your Head

The real cause of ‘hauntings’ may be the human brain. Personality traits may make you more susceptible to attributing noises at night to a ghost as opposed to the cat knocking over a vase.

A study from Chapman University found that the more fearful a person is, the more likely they are to believe in the paranormal. The study was based on a theory that humans have evolved to see patterns where none exist; a self-preservation response, if you like – we are in the woods at night and hear a strange sound. Do we stick around or do we run away? Sicking around could put you at risk, so running away is the safest option.

Evolutionary theorists suggest that our ability to attribute events to an entity with agency (an action producing an effect) may explain belief in ghosts – or even God.

Someone Said It Was Real

A 2014 study by the University of London found that people were more likely to say they saw something if someone else did; the experiment had a fake psychic ‘bend’ a key with their mind. If a participant in on the act said they saw they key bend, other onlookers were more likely to agree.

One person’s account can influence another’s, so one person saying they saw a ghost is more likely to lead to another confirming that they, in fact, saw it too. One very confident, yet inaccurate, witness can convince others to believe.

We Want To Believe

The idea of our own mortality is not something we are generally comfortable with and so the idea that there may be something more can can be quite comforting. We are more likely to believe evidence for something we want to believe.

We Enjoy Being Scared

We now know that our brains release dopamine, a chemical normally associated with pleasure. Dopamine is also released when we are afraid.

For some, letting or imaginations run wild may produce a euphoric high, in the same way the riding a rollercoaster or performing a bungee jump might.


Have I set out my case well enough to prove that the existence of ghosts and ghouls is nonsense, or is there nothing I could say that would ever convince you that you hadn’t had a genuine supernatural experience?

For me, the case is clear – there is no credible evidence of anything paranormal. I am prepared to be convinced otherwise.

Wait…Did I just see something out the corner of my eye…?

person thinking

My question to you:

Are ghosts real?

3 thoughts on “Scientific Explanations For Ghosts

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