or: How to be sure a person genuinely “saw” a ghost
Look into a clear night sky and you will see a million things that are no more. You will see stars that “died” millions of years before we existed, in fact, before this planet was “born.” Life and death, existence and nonexistence is a commonplace spectacle we see for ourselves in the night sky, just above our heads. We are accustomed to seeing the inexplicable!
Some people suggest that “seeing is believing” — but is “seeing” the only way to prove a thing exists? Anyhow, experienced detectives will tell you that there is nothing less trustworthy than an eyewitness. And it’s most likely because we “see” with our brains, not with our eyes! Our brains “put together” the image it wants us to take away from an experience. Later, our rationality attempts to make sense of it.
As primates, our field of vision is remarkably limited — so astral energies only manifest to us within a narrow field of vision. (Many stars, for example, will not be visible to us within our natural range, although they will manifest themselves in other ways.) We must use the same reasoning when we speak of phantasms. (Note: I use the word phantasm because it comes from the root-word phantazein which simply means to “make visible”.)
I prefer not to use the term “ghost” because the word comes with way too much baggage. The word ghost is interrelated with dead people in a way that over-complicates things: for example, wraiths are supposed to be visitations from dead relatives, etc. Let’s not go down that path…
Here I want to concentrate on astral encounters, that is: astral, in the sense that these are things that have a non-physical presence but are perceptible to us (like some of the stars above); and encounter in that it’s a thing that must be defined as an “unexpected experience.”
The 14 interrogative questions listed below are designed to ascertain whether the witness experienced a genuine astral encounter. We are not trying to prove that the witness is a fabulist or a fabricator, since the witness is likely to believe that what he or she “saw” was real but, nonetheless, incredible, and anyway the experience was so strange that it cannot be conveniently put into words. So be nice to your witness and give him or her leeway when they try to explain something that might be just as incomprehensible to them as it is to you.
But the general rule of thumb is: if a witness revealed a close encounter with something that is not astral in nature (in other words, what they witnessed possessed some kind of physical presence, however unlikely) — it can be ruled out. Similarly, if they took part in some experience that had been provoked, foreshadowed, or premeditated in a way that expected a certain outcome … simply put, they went out “looking for something spooky to happen” (so it wasn’t strictly speaking an encounter) — it is most likely fallacious.
Fourteen ways to prove/disprove a genuine astral encounter
- Was the witness with others, and were they planning to “see” spooky things? Yes, then
- Did the witnesses go to what ghost-hunters call an “active location”? A haunted inn, an abandoned school, a cemetery, etc. Yes, then
- How great was the intention or desire of the witnesses to “see” the spectral apparition? For example, was it at a time or place that the witness considered sacred? A holy day? A day of remembrance? A time or a place of special importance? Yes, then
- Had the witness either a) just woken up or b) felt sleepy/drowsy and ready to sleep? Yes, then
- Has the witness ever asserted skills or talents in clairaudience, clairsentience, and clairvoyance? Yes, then
- Had the witness been “playing” with ghost-hunting equipment, perhaps a spirit board, an EMF (electromagnetic field meter) electronic voice recorder, a full spectrum camera, etc. Yes, then
- Did the witness witness any unusual or unexplained hot or cold spots? Just because we can’t see a power source doesn’t mean it’s not there. Perhaps the sense of thermoreception in your witness detected something abnormal. If yes, then
- Did the witness find unexplained odours? There could have been an indefinable, sweet and perfumed scent that the witness had never experienced before. As above, just because we can’t see a power source, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. If yes, then
- Did the witness do anything that might be considered “eccentric” by ordinary folk, before or during the encounter? Phantasms are inquisitive about bizarre or freaky behavior, so they tend to manifest themselves at such times, as if they want to “join in”. If yes, then
- Are toys or children’s play things involved? Phantasms like to play and the simplest and most modest toys fascinate their curiosity. If yes, then
- Did the witness hear any inexplicable noise? Have all natural causes of those noises been ruled out? If yes, then
- Did the witness perceive unexplained shadows? Have all the natural causes of such shadows been ruled out? If yes, then
- Did the witness notice any apparent change in the air’s density, i.e. smothering, stifling, clogging, airless? If yes, then
- Were pets, especially dogs or cats, behaving strangely or abnormally before or during the encounter? Other creatures have an extended field of vision. Dogs and cats hear higher pitched noises than us. They also have an advanced olfactory system (sense of smell) and, like many animals, can sense seismic activity. If yes, then
Words: @neilmach 2020 ©
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Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.