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steveb | 22:37 Sun 18th Aug 2013 | Science
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I would never normally consider posting a question about ghosts in this section but I think I'll get the best answer here.

I do not believe in any supernatural phenomena, however I was speaking to some members of a family we have known for years and was very surprised to find that 3 adult members of this family did. They claimed that each of them had independently seen the ghost of an old man in their bathroom, and various other seemingly paranormal events, objects moving, noises etc.

I didn't know what to say to them, I completely do not believe in these type of events yet I consider these people to be completely honest, sane and genine.

Noises and other minor events can generally be explained by logical means, but can anyone offer an explanation for actually seeing ghosts, particularly people seeing the same ghost?

Any suggestions would be greatly received, it's almost enough to make me question my own beliefs.


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People can be wrong, the eye in particular is untrustworthy, let alone the brain. Various studies have demonstrated, anyway, that we can be fooled, seeing things that are not there and not seeing things that are. Moreover there is no way for these people to know that they have seen exactly the same "ghost", and it's likely that there was a certain amount of...
23:23 Sun 18th Aug 2013
Parallel universes is a popular theory.
People can be wrong, the eye in particular is untrustworthy, let alone the brain. Various studies have demonstrated, anyway, that we can be fooled, seeing things that are not there and not seeing things that are. Moreover there is no way for these people to know that they have seen exactly the same "ghost", and it's likely that there was a certain amount of subconscious "memory correction" that led to all three people agreeing on the details. Happens a lot of the time, we are also too easily suggestible. It's how most mediums work, too, by (often not deliberately) relying on people filling in large gaps in what the medium has said, or relating a vague detail to something specific in their own life.

What to say to them, then? I'd say something like this: "I have no reason to doubt that you are indeed honest, sane and genuine, but until these observations are made consistently in a controlled situation then I have to put ghost stories as just stories, and unproven, and more likely to be down to normal human flaws and suggestibility than evidence of a spiritual world."

It's a bit of a mouthful, but it's not the easiest thing in the world to say that someone is wrong without being rude, and you also have to leave the door very slightly open just in case it is shown, later, that ghosts are not just figments of people's imagination/ results of our brain playing tricks on us.

Anyway, that's also the most likely explanation. People are seeing either what they want to see, or what their brain is forcing them to see, but that in itself doesn't mean that there was anything to see that was really there.
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Thanks jim that's a good answer!
I saw a ghost once. Up to that point in my life was not a believer or non believer in such things. Since that day 40 years ago never saw another. It was not in my mind it was there. Also it was not like looking at a living person, more like a negative photo of one. No explanation to offer you. Just to say never doubt someone who says they saw one.
Never underestimate the power of the human mind. Your brain is totally responsible for how your senses interpret the world around you, and the same goes for everyone else. Nothing supernatural is required.
Personally I'm not a believer,I've never experienced any thing I could say was ghostly,in fact at one pit I worked at I as regarded as being a bit "weird" as I was often deployed to work by myself in areas of the pit which were regarded as "haunted" and it never bothered me. One of my sisters on the other hand is a big believer and claims to have experienced several supernatural events. I suppose it's just one of those things you either believe or you don't.
And Paddywak it will only take one brief happening to change your mind forever.
There are mirrors in bathrooms. Reflections, especially those with condensation on parts of mirrors, could easily produce such a sight.
It depends on what you mean by being "sceptical". A lot of people describe themselves as such, and then say that one incident did change their views. That's not really scepticism in my book at least -- given the brain's capacity to make some astonishingly basic errors a single incident should change little or nothing. I would need to repeatedly see ghosts, several times, including when I was paying a lot of attention, before I'd start to be even close to convinced. And then I would need many other reputable people to see ghosts too, again and again, in circumstances that were independently verifiable. And then I would need someone to demonstrate that all of those incidents could no longer be explained as human and brain errors, and therefore that there are bona fide ghosts in the real world. and for that demonstration to be peer-reviewed and accepted by a majority of Scientists. That is scepticism.
Sigh. I knew I was wasting my time!
May be so grasscarp, but up to yet I've never experienced that one event. I don't know if there's any other ex-miners amongst us but if there are I'm sure they'll agree that half an hour spent by your self in some old workings could make you believe in anything. When you've sat down by yourself,switched you light out and listened to the earth talking to you if you're the slightest bit nervous you can come out believing anything.
I could, equally, say the same in my attempts on this site to promote the scientific viewpoint. As much as I'm sure your experience was genuine, and that you "know" that it was real, you have to admit that in the end it's just another personal account -- and that until you and others with similar stories can demonstrate that these stories were more than just brain-related errors, such stories have to be treated as just that: stories.
And they will remain forever stories because they are ephemeral - ghosts. Bit of a non starter as a debate really as there can never really be proof. If you are seeking to discredit people who say to you they saw something and say it was in their mind, or condensation on a mirror etc. They know you are wrong. You say prove it. They can't. End of debate really.

A few years ago I was walking along a railway track with a colleague and about 50 yards infront of us a small blanket of mist appeared from the trees and drifted across both tracks and disappeared into the trees on the other side.

At first we thought it must've been smoke from a tractor or something similar but when we got near there was nothing but trees either side.

I'm not a believer in ghosts but to this day I still wonder what it was
If you had posted this yesterday I would have said that there is no such thing as a ghost....there can't be...after a completely unexplained and impossible happening today...I am on the fence.
Still puzzling about it as I type...either something very odd happened to me or someone is trying to send me dolally...and they're a bit late there....:-)
Elvis and Gness so glad you joined in as I was feeling a bit of an odd ball. Not everything we experience in life is totally explicable. Good night.
I was always of the maybe/maybe not camp and himself was a definite no. However, we lived in a 1911 house and all was fine until our daughter was inadvertently born in the house. After that, a little boy would run along the landing beside me, we heard him crying (that was horrible), running along the landing and playing. Don't know the in's and out's of it all but there was defiantly something there (and himself is so not into any of that stuff).
Grass...I have had a few unexplained happenings over the years..well things I can't explain anyway but today was different. I will find an explanation...I hope...or else like I say, I have gone mad and no-one has mentioned it to me yet.
Grasscarp, I don't think your an oddball it's just that I've never experienced any thing that's made me believe in ghosts or life after death, on the other hand I've never seen a UFO but the universe is that large I just can't believe we're alone, so maybe to say I'm a non believer is wrong and I should just say I'm one of the great number of the unconvinced

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