Believe It or Not -- Belief in Ghosts is UP

I don't believe that ghosts are "spirits of the dead" because I don't believe in death. In the multiverse, once you're possible, you exist. And once you exist, you exist forever one way or another. Besides, death is the absence of life, and the ghosts I've met are very much alive. What we call ghosts are lifeforms just as you and I are.

PAUL F. ENO, Footsteps in the Attic

You’ve only to look at the TV guide to realize that interest in the paranormal has soared. Fiction programs like Supernatural, Fringe and Ghost Whisperer plus non-fiction programs like Ghost Hunter, Paranormal State and Ghost Lab, have gained an incredible following in recent years.

Does this mean that a lot of people actually believe in ghosts?

The answer is YES, and what's more, they’re talking about it!

In January of this year, several members of the New York Nicks reported that their hotel in downtown Oklahoma City was haunted. People have reported strange noises and ghostly apparitions at the Skirvin Hilton for years. But for a major sports team made up of big strapping guys to publicly admit to being bothered by such a thing is amazing.

Something has definitely changed in our society as a whole.

The Numbers Are In…

Research shows that increasing numbers of people DO believe in ghosts. That includes my humble blog poll this month and a BIG THANK YOU to every one of the 62 people who took the time to vote. My poll showed that a whopping 70 per cent of the voters DO believe in ghosts. Forty-four people out of 62 checked yes, and twenty-nine of those said it was because of an experience they had. Ten out of the 62 allowed that ghosts might exist. Only 8 people said they definitely didn’t believe.

Recent national polls on the same subject have had interesting results as well. In October 2009, a Rasmusson poll found that 23 percent of Americans believe in ghosts. In an article in the Business Insider (December 2009) the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life discovered that one in five Americans believes in ghosts – and that this number is double what it was just ten years previously. An earlier Gallup poll placed the number as high as one in three! And one source had a surprise finding -- the more educated a person is, the less likely he or she is to be skeptical!

And by the way, Americans aren’t the only ones contemplating the netherworld. In 2009, the Times Online reported that four out of 10 Britons firmly believe that ghosts exist.

These numbers cause several questions to spring to my mind. Are people today more receptive to the idea of an afterlife? Or is it just more socially acceptable now to admit to a belief in paranormal phenomena? In other words, many of us have always believed in ghosts, we’re just more comfortable expressing that now … like the members of the Nicks.

Everything Old is New Again?

Fashions and trends tend to cycle in and out of popularity, like the 70s-style pink and orange lamp I saw the other day. Is today’s fascination with ghosts simply a trend that has come around again? The Spiritualist movement originated in the United States in the early 1800s, and grew from there until its popularity waned in the 1920s. Although a religion eventually sprang from spiritualism, it didn’t begin as one and it wasn’t an organized movement for many years. In short, it was a set of three beliefs – an afterlife existed, spirits were real, and that communication with those spirits could and should be achieved.

The proponents of spiritualism were mostly mid to upper class, both well-off and educated, and included many famous, judicial and political personages such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes; Horace Greely, editor of the New York Times; and Nathaniel Talmudge, senator of Wisconsin. Even the famed inventor, Thomas Edison, was said to have been working on an apparatus to communicate with departed spirits. Is today’s paranormal popularity a resurgence of that earlier movement? And why would so many people, both then and now, suddenly feel a heightened interest in the paranormal, and in ghosts in particular?

“I Want To Believe”

Skeptics say that humans simply want to think that death isn’t the end. It might make sense on some level – certainly most people prefer to think there’s more than just this life (particularly if it’s not going as well as planned). And somebody who is avidly looking for ghosts might accidently interpret occurrences as paranormal that aren’t, simply because they want so badly to experience something supernatural.

However, the skeptics’ theory fails to explain paranormal episodes experienced by individuals who previously did NOT believe, didn’t WANT to believe, and were just minding their own business at the time. One of my daughters had an experience a few months ago where she was driving to the city and a ghost crossed the road in front of her in broad daylight. She hadn’t been thinking about ghosts and certainly hadn’t been hoping to see any – it just happened.

Truth Will Out

Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, truth will out. With today’s technology and immediate communications, I have to conclude that the truth will indeed become known – and probably soon. New discoveries are being made all the time and even now scientists are realizing there are many more dimensions than first thought. If there are ghosts, their existence simply can’t be kept a secret much longer.

In the meantime, there are countless people who feel they already know the answer!

Dani Harper

Your turn -- why do you think that so many more people believe in ghosts now compared to, say, ten or twenty years ago?

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