I’ve got a spooky little question to ask you: Do you believe that ghosts exist? If the answer to that question was “No”, how would you prove it?
This is an actual account of a little “experiment” which I performed when I was out on the beach alone late at night to see if I would end up seeing a ghost. Read it if you dare!
All Alone in a Dark Place Late at Night…
I took up an interest in amateur astronomy a number of years ago. One thing that those who indulge in studying the heavens crave is a clear and truly dark night sky. Living near the beach, I would often go to the seashore very late at night, often at around One or Two O’Clock in the morning. I found that there was less light pollution from neighborhood streetlights there, and that the constellations shone clearer over the ocean.
On some nights I would see fishermen along the shore, or occasional youths having a good time in the dark on the beach. But on many nights, it seemed that I was the only one out there.
Then someone posed the question to me: “What if you see a ghost out there?” To which I replied- “Oh, I really don’t believe in that stuff-”
But once it had been planted in my mind, the question would pop back up from time to time when I was out there, and when this happened, I would then remind myself that I really didn’t believe in such things. However, it turned out that many of the people that I knew seemed to believe in ghosts, and seemed to have a genuine fear of them. So I took some time to think about the matter.
There were people who said that they had seen ghosts, or had been visited by “a ghost that comes to them while they’re in bed and makes them unable to breathe.” I would usually tell them that what they had seen was actually not really a ghost, but was perhaps an effect of ambient lighting, or a subjective perception of an ordinary phenomena. As for the “ghost that makes it so they cannot breathe”, I would usually tell them that it was probably sleep apnea or sleep paralysis . They seemed to be convinced, however, that what they saw or experienced was indeed a ghost, and seemed to carry a fear of it.
Thus, when I was out on the beach at 2AM studying the constellations, sometimes that question would pop back into my mind: “What if I see a ghost while I’m out here?” Then I would remind myself that I really did not believe in that stuff, and push the thought out of mind.
Now really, what’s there to see and do on the beach at 2AM? Actually, for some, there is quite a lot – for one, as there are no streetlights shining from the ocean, the stars and constellations are clearer for viewing, which is excellent for budding amateur astronomers. Also, because the beach that I went to at night was usually empty at that time (it’s normally rather crowded in the day), there was more opportunity to become engaged in personal refection and philosophical thought, a pastime that I was, and am, quite fond of. The view of the lights twinkling on a distant shore, the sound of the ocean waves, the rustling of the palm leafs, the feel of the night wind blowing in from the ocean, and the sand beneath the feet contributed to this mood.
Of course, not all sights and sounds at that time were necessarily pleasant, either. Occasionally a sound eerily resembling that of a baby crying could be heard floating though the darkness. The thought would then enter my mind: “What’s a baby doing out here at this time of the night?” Actually, I understand it’s the sound of a kind of seabird, although it closely resembles the cry of a baby – but then again, parrots can sound pretty human – imagine hearing some of them in a jungle late at night repeating some of the things that they’d heard from passing hikers… And then there was the occasional moaning sound that the wind would make when it blew through the trees in just the right way.
These must have startled a part of the brain next to the part in which that little question “What if you see a ghost out there?” was stored. Then that question would move from the subconscious to the conscious mind, and then from the back of the mind to the front of the mind. After having dismissed such a question from my mind when it popped back up under those circumstances a number of times before, I decided to begin dwelling on it.
I had heard that one should never “tempt the spirits”, but since I tended not to believe in such things, and since no one else was around to judge me as being crazy to try it, I decided to do just that. Besides, I had become rather curious about the matter. They say that curiosity killed the cat, but if a cat has nine lives, I had little to lose.
So I spoke into the darkness: “If ghosts really do exist, I ask that you show yourself to me.”
It’s interesting to note how many strange thoughts and feelings can run through you in that kind of setting, if you allow them to. And so I sort of braced myself a little, just in case my request was answered.
Nothing happened. I looked around at the shadowy trees and bushes; out over the ocean, and at the space above me, and saw nothing unusual. Sure, there were areas among the trees and bushes where it seemed that little fuzzy patches of light were visible, sort of how they show in ghost movies, but these were caused by whatever ambient light was in the area at the time. There were no unusual sounds or sensations either.
So I repeated the above request a number of times in the space of a few minutes, and none of my senses perceived anything out of the ordinary.
I repeated this experiment on a number of subsequent late night beachside visits, and must honestly say that I never saw a ghost.
Now, I have heard it said that those who “tempt the spirits” may end up paying for it later. It’s been well over ten years since I’ve conducted these “experiments”, and I have not yet seen anything that I could conclusively call a ghost.
So, what’s my position on ghosts? I guess the best way that I could state it is as follows: While I personally do not believe in ghosts, I will also admit that I am human, and therefore could be wrong. But I won’t believe it until I see it.
Having said that, I will say that I used to believe in ghosts when I was a kid, but somewhere along the way lost that belief, sort of how most kids eventually stop believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I will also admit that this uneasy feeling towards ghosts took much longer to lose – in fact, it lasted beyond childhood. While I’m at it, I should also mention that when I was a young adolescent, there were a few instances when I thought that I had been visited by “the ghost that makes you unable to breathe while you are in bed”. With all of the strange thoughts and feelings that run through your mind when this occurs, it’s hard not to feel that way. However, I later learned of what are called “sleep apnea”, and “sleep paralysis”, and have come to conclude that this what I had actually experienced, rather than being visited by some kind of “ghost”.
Now I tend to see the “fear of ghosts” as a product of the emotional right brain, and the ability to analyze and explain away this fear as a product of the analytical left brain, although this would probably be a completely separate topic of discussion in and of itself! I also feel that because belief in ghosts is so widespread, we are in some ways socially conditioned to believe in ghosts. While people are often not willing to openly admit that they believe in ghosts, in the dark of night, few seem to be willing to openly deny it, either.
But now let’s move on to a SUPPOSITION.
What if I did see a ghost, or something that I was convinced really was a ghost? Let’s play out the scenarios, worst case first:
Worst case scenario: The ghost is quickly moving towards me, obviously in an attack mode.
My reaction: Fight or flight instinct would take over me. I’d RUN! (And then I would have to quickly retract that statement I made earlier on how I really don’t believe in ghosts. It would also make for a very interesting experience to write about, and publish as a post…)
Moderate case scenario: The ghost is not pleased with me being there, and asks me to leave.
My reaction: I would respectfully walk away from the area, and probably not go back there at night.
Light moderate case scenario: The ghost does not show hostility or displeasure, but does not disappear either.
My reaction: I would blink my eyes a few times to confirm if I really was seeing what I thought I was seeing. If I became convinced that it really was a ghost, then I would respectfully walk away, but would reserve the option of possibly visiting that spot again some other night. Curiosity would be starting to set in.
Conclusion: The Future?
I’ve heard much speculation as to what “ghosts” could be. Some say that they are demonic spirits. Some say they are the spirits of people who once actually lived. Others say that they are the products of the imagination.
I tend to lean towards the last definition. However, if I as a human being am wrong about it, I would be curious to know more about what ghosts really could be, and why people tend to be frightened of them. Who knows – if it turns out that the second definition above is true, and I happen to see a ghost, then I would simply be seeing what we’re all eventually going to look like in the future…