I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of ghosts. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but after reading up on the science of paranormal activity, it seems likely that most people who swear they’ve seen a ghost are really just experiencing something more mundane. But maybe I’m wrong! So it was with an open mind that I dove into a new study from the University of Hertfordshire in England. Researchers conducted experiments to try and determine what makes people believe they’re witnessing ghostly activity, and whether there’s any merit to those beliefs. The results surprised me — but let’s start at the beginning:
The project involved gathering EVP recordings, infrared camera footage and magnetic field measurements in historical sites around London.
The project involved gathering EVP recordings, infrared camera footage and magnetic field measurements in historical sites around London. It was run by Richard Wiseman and David Scanlan, two well-known figures in paranormal research. The experiment was conducted in historical sites around London including St James’s Park, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.
The experiment was led by Dr. Richard Wiseman, a professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire who previously conducted the San Francisco Spontaneous Human Combustion Study; and David Scanlan, a paranormal investigator.
The experiment was led by Dr. Richard Wiseman, a professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire who previously conducted the San Francisco Spontaneous Human Combustion Study; and David Scanlan, a paranormal investigator. The team surveyed over 1,000 people about their experiences with ghosts and conducted experiments to test for evidence of these spirits in various locations across the United Kingdom, including Edinburgh Castle and Edinburgh’s haunted underground vaults.
One participant said they felt something during the experiments while another claimed they recorded EVP (electronic voice phenomena) while using an infrared camera in one location. Another person said they saw a strange blue glow coming from behind them as they were walking away from where an earlier experiment had taken place.
The article goes on to cite examples from other studies proving that there could be some truth behind these phenomena:
They surveyed over 1,000 people beforehand to gauge their beliefs about ghosts
Before you read the results, let’s take a moment to look at the process. The survey was conducted by polling more than 1,000 people in the UK. It took place on an unnamed website, through an app called Survey Monkey, and with support from The University of Hertfordshire.
It should also be noted that there is no scientific evidence that ghosts exist (in spite of what some people may say). This means that any conclusions drawn from such a study would have little value in terms of proving or disproving whether ghosts exist or not—it could only indicate popular opinion about whether they do or not based on subjective factors like intuition and personal experience rather than hard data.
Most of the people who rated themselves as believers reported feeling something during the experiments — but so did many skeptics.
The experiments were designed to test the beliefs of the participants. They weren’t told what to expect, or what to look for, or what to do if they felt something unusual. Instead, they were simply asked to conduct an experiment in their homes and report anything unusual that happened after each one was over.
In both groups—believers and skeptics—about two-thirds of those who rated themselves as believers reported feeling something during the experiments—but so did many skeptics.
Those who felt that they had experienced something unusual were often surprised when their recordings didn’t show anything out of the ordinary.
The phenomenon of the power of suggestion is a well-documented one. People can be convinced they’ve seen something that they haven’t, or at least that it was more significant than it turned out to be. Just look at how many people claim to have seen unidentified flying objects (UFOs) over the years and how many times those sightings were later proven to be nothing more than weather balloons or airplanes.
The experiment was designed around this idea: People who felt that they had experienced something unusual were often surprised when their recordings didn’t show anything out of the ordinary—but why? Was it because their powers of perception were actually heightened by their belief in ghosts? Or was it simply because these individuals were looking for signs that paranormal activity had taken place?
To find out, researchers from Queen Mary University London recruited forty participants and gave them night vision cameras so that they could record any strange occurrences during an eight-hour period inside an allegedly haunted house known as Glamis Castle in Scotland. They then showed half of those participants footage from other locations during daytime hours and asked them whether or not they believed these images depicted actual ghosts—and got similar results! The people who watched nighttime video footage couldn’t tell the difference between real paranormal activity vs fake footage made during daylight hours with actors dressed up as ghosts; however, those who watched daytime videos could distinguish between authentic ghostly figures vs artificial ones created by researchers in black cloaks with masks over their faces
The study raised new questions about how our beliefs can make us see (and hear) what we expect to see.
The study also showed that our beliefs can make us hear what we expect to hear. For example, if you believe that there is a ghost present in the room, then you will likely hear what sounds like footsteps behind you even if no one is there. This result was unexpected as it shows that people who believe in ghosts are more likely to see and hear things without any real evidence whatsoever!
The study raised some important questions about human perception and how our beliefs can affect our perceptions of reality: “If we’re already primed to see spirits around us every day,” said Professor Wolfe, “then maybe they’re everywhere.”
You can make yourself believe you’re experiencing paranormal activity, even if it’s all in your head!
If you think about it, the human mind is a powerful thing. We can make ourselves believe we’re experiencing paranormal activity, even if that activity is all in our head!
A team of scientists at Oxford University conducted an experiment to test this very idea by placing volunteers in an empty room and asking them to imagine that they were hearing a ghost knocking on the wall. What happened? The volunteers began to hear knocks on the walls of their room – even though there was no one else present! This shows us how our expectations can play tricks on us when combined with what we know (or think we know) about paranormal events: if we expect something strange or unusual will happen during an experience and it doesn’t occur—we tend not to question this outcome because we’ve already made up our minds beforehand that something weird would happen during said experience.”
The takeaway from this is that belief has a powerful effect on our perceptions. In some cases, it can even make us feel something that isn’t really there. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your gut and trust your instincts, but it’s important to keep an open mind when making judgments about the world around us.