What are your experiences with the paranormal

What could be behind experiences with ghosts

Paranormal experiences
Again and again people report coming into contact with the deceased or seeing ghostly figures. Often our senses play tricks on us.
pixabay / Mystic Art Design
Mold in old "haunted houses" can cause hallucinations, for example.

You have to know that

  • According to a federal survey, almost half of the population in Switzerland believes in healers or clairvoyants.
  • Possible explanations for paranormal experiences are hallucinations that every person can experience.
  • External influences, for example poisonous mold, could also lead to inexplicable perceptions.
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Belief in supernatural phenomena is alive. In Switzerland, around 45 percent of the population believe that there are people who have the gift of healing or clairvoyance, according to a survey by the Federal Statistical Office in 2019. About twenty percent think it is possible to make contact with ghosts. Your own inexplicable experiences could play a role. In a German survey from 2005, over half of the participants stated that they had already had a supernatural experience. But can such phenomena be scientifically explained? Yes, at least in part they are.

Those who tend to have paranormal experiences

Basically: Those who already believe in ghosts are more likely to report paranormal experiences. This is shown by a study that compared the ghostly experiences of self-declared spiritualists and media with those of other test subjects. However, almost half of the media and spiritualists said their first paranormal experience occurred before they came into contact with the spiritualist movement. In addition, this group showed a greater ability to absorb, that is, the openness to experiencing emotional and spiritual changes is greater.

In addition, the spiritualists and media achieved higher scores on the Revised Hallucinations Scale, a questionnaire used in psychology to measure susceptibility to acoustic hallucinations. This could indicate that people with certain characteristics are more prone to paranormal experiences - regardless of belief in ghosts. However, the results are only based on surveys and should therefore be treated with caution.

Science check ✓

Study: When spirits speak: absorption, attribution, and identity among spiritualists who report “clairaudient” voice experiencesCommentThis is a comment by the authorWith 208 test persons, the study is based on a not particularly large sample. Although the data were collected using recognized scientific methods, they are nonetheless subjective statements that cannot be verified. Therefore, the study results should be viewed with caution.More information about this study ...Reliability: 208 subjects between 18 and 75 years of age, 65 of them self-declared spiritualistic "media", peer-reviewed.Study type: Survey.Funders: Wellcome Trust Foundation. All information about the higgs Science Check

Why we can all hallucinate

One possible explanation for experiences with ghosts is hallucinations. These can occur on all sensory levels, i.e. optically, acoustically, but also tactile or even with the sense of taste. Hallucinations can be a symptom of various mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, they can also occur in mentally healthy people. For example, as so-called presence hallucinations.

“A presence hallucination is the strong feeling that someone is standing behind you who neither touches you nor speaks to you. The feeling can be so intense that you have the urge to turn around and look, but when you turn around, nobody is there, ”explains Fosco Bernasconi, neuroscientist at EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne). Presence hallucinations can
can be experienced by every individual, especially in extreme situations such as mountain climbing. But they are more common in the elderly. "Often they feel the presence of a deceased partner - mostly in times of grief," explains Bernasconi. In addition, these hallucinations are noticeable features in diseases such as dementia and Parkinson's. Up to seventy percent of these patients experience such hallucinations.

The laboratory in which Bernasconi works deals with human consciousness and examines various psychological and neurological phenomena. In this context, the researchers tried to artificially reproduce the feeling of a presence hallucination - with success. Test subjects who did not know what the experiment was about, blindfolded, moved their hand in front of them. Behind them, a robot mimicked the movements, touching them on the back. If the robot imitated the movement with a short delay, the test subjects got the feeling that someone was standing behind them. And that although they actually knew that the robot was touching them from behind. This was reported by several test persons after the experiment.

The hearing and the scariest frequency

There are a number of environmental influences that could also be responsible for ghostly phenomena. For example sounds. The human ear can perceive frequencies between around 16 and 20,000 Hertz. But we don't consciously hear all of them. Sounds below 16 Hertz that are so deep that we cannot hear them are called infrasound. This is caused by natural phenomena such as wind, thunder or volcanic eruptions, as well as by man-made machines such as jet jets or wind power plants. Although infrasound cannot be heard by us humans, it has an impact on our body. The form in which this appears is, however, controversial.

Again and again infrasound is associated with eerie, ghostly feelings. The reason for this is a large-scale experiment from 2003. In this experiment, two psychologists unknowingly exposed a group of 750 concert-goers to infrasound during some pieces of music. In the subsequent survey, 22 percent of the test persons reported unusual experiences. These included a strange feeling in the stomach, an increased heart rate, feelings of great fear, and sudden memories of emotional loss. Only: The data from the experiment were not published in a specialist journal. The statement about 22 percent more unusual experiences with infrasound comes up again and again.
This does not mean that infrasound cannot be responsible for an uncomfortable feeling that suggests the presence of ghosts. However, this area still needs to be explored more closely.

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Mold haunts haunted houses

However, infrasound is not the only external influence that could be responsible for unexpected ghost experiences. An example: Paranormal experiences are often suspected or even reported in old, eerie houses. Such buildings not only correspond to our image of a classic haunted house, they also often provide the perfect breeding ground for mold. Outdated ventilation systems, poorly insulated walls and roofs as well as previous floods ensure high humidity. The mold thrives particularly well here. A study of Finnish midwives who worked in a hospital infested with toxic mold showed that mold can lead to neurological problems. 62 percent of the test persons experienced symptoms such as dizziness, concentration and memory problems and language difficulties.

Many theories that are supposed to explain paranormal experiences are based on insufficient data to draw general conclusions. Individual experiences can only be viewed through a subjective lens, since such experiences cannot be reproduced. Hallucinations, both in healthy and mentally or physically ill people, are still relatively little researched, especially in neurology. One reason for this could be that serious scientists often shy away from doing research on paranormal events. Because "ghost busters" are not exactly respected in this scene.

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