What is a ghost?
Ghosts, with thousands of reports of the paranormal, from all over the world, leave little doubt that haunting experiences are quite real. Yet, what causes them and why?
Like our photo to the left here, you may have seen them depicted in movies, read stories , and seen TV shows and documentaries sensationalizing them. You could have seen the rare genuine photos of them. I'd bet you have heard of first-hand ghostly encounters from friends and relatives. I get at least 8-10 people who come on my ghost tours every month telling me about these experiences. You may have even seen a ghost yourself.
But what are ghosts? I'll give you the best answer I have: No one really knows for certain.There are, however, many more theories on this subject than you can poke a stick at. People have an over-riding need, to explain the many thousands of documented experiences, that many around the world have had since the beginning of recorded history. Ghosts and hauntings are common part of the human experience.
There are at least several types of ghosts or hauntings, so it may take more than one theory to explain them all.
"I SEE DEAD PEOPLE"
The traditional view of ghosts is of them being the spirits of dead people. For some reason, they are "stuck" between our world and the next world of spirit. This is usually because of some tragedy or trauma - or that there is some kind of issue that needs resolving before "passing over". If some TV shows, ghost hunters and psychics are to be believed, normally these earth-bound spirits don't know they are dead. Hans Holzer, a US based ghost hunter wrote, "A ghost is a human being who has passed out of the physical body, usually in a traumatic state and is not aware usually of his true condition. We are all spirits encased in a physical body. At the time of passing, our spirit body continues into the next dimension. A ghost, on the other hand, due to trauma, is stuck in our physical world and needs to be released to go on."
Known as "intelligent hauntings," it is believed that ghosts exist in a state in which they haunt the scenes of their deaths or locations that were important to them in life. These types of ghosts are able to interact with the living. They are aware of the living, and react to being seen on the occasions that they materialize. Psychics and Mediums claim to be able to communicate with them. When they do, they will typically try to help these spirits to understand that they are dead, and to move on to the next part of their journey.There have been a number encounters of this kind reported at Tarella, the haunted mansion on our Lower North Shore Ghost tour, of people who died there. They appear happy to remain on the grounds, haunting this mansion over a hundred years after their passing. Similar experiences have been reported in the old St Thomas Cemetery grounds in West Street that is also on the Lower North Shore Ghost tour.
These experiences are like spirit recordings - residual energies - that replay over and over again, like a movie film "on loop". Some ghosts appear to be recordings of parts of a person's life, that seem to replay in the environment in which they once existed. The laughter of a dead child is heard echoing in a hallway where she often played. A world war 1 soldier appears in the window of a building where they used to stand guard. A dead nurse walks the halls of a hospital, brushing through the wards on their rounds. Even cases of ghost trains and cars can still be heard and sometimes seen, even though they are long gone. These ghosts neither interact with, or seem to be aware of the living. Their actions and appearance are always the same. These experiences have been reported in Tarella, the haunted mansion on our Lower north Shore Ghost Tour, in the wards of the old sections of Royal North Shore Hospital, and in the Gore Hill memorial cemetery on our Middle North Shore Ghost Tour.
"Traumatic events in time leave a strong energy imprint on the building or area," says Daniel Phillips," "replaying themselves for eternity. This could allow an observer to get a 'glimpse of the past' - a recreation of some traumatic or emotion-laden event."
It is my belief that the Quarantine station at North Head in Sydney,the Port Arthur Prison site in Tasmania, and places like the Dachau Nazi concentration camp in Poland have literally absorbed the emotional trauma of the people who were undergoing truly awful events in these places, leading up to their deaths. I believe that people sensitive to their surroundings in that way can pick up on that information, and feel what those people must have felt, and will sometimes get a lot more information than that.
These kinds of ghosts are the most common form of Paranormal phenomena. These are the spirits of people, that appear shortly after their deaths, to people close to them in life. Unlike traditional ghosts, and residual hauntings, these ghosts are completely aware of their deaths, and interact with the living. They will normally bring words of comfort to their loved ones. Typically, they re-appear for a last time to say that they are well and happy, and not to grieve for them. They are usually motivated by love, and will briefly return for the express purpose of helping the living cope with their loss.
Sometimes, these ghosts are called "crisis apparitions." While these paranormal visits can take the form of a farewell, sometimes important and useful information is relayed - like health information, or emotional information about another family member. Though dying is the most common crisis, other life-threatening situations can also trigger this kind of ghost visit.
The word poltergeist comes from the German words poltern ("to make noise") and Geist ("ghost"). The term quite literally means "noisy ghost". This type of paranormal haunting is the most feared, because it has the greatest ability to affect our physical world. Poltergeists are unique paranormal phenomena, in that they have the ability to affect physical objects.
Poltergeists are blamed for unexplained noises, such as wall-banging, rapping, footsteps and even music. They are known for taking objects and hiding them, only to return them later. They turn on water taps and gas taps, are known to slam doors, turn lights on and off, and even flush toilets. They can, and are known for throwing things across rooms. They have even been known to pull people's clothing or hair. Malevolent poltergeists are known to even scratch, hit or slap the living.
It is because of these sometimes "mean-spirited" actions, that poltergeists are considered by some to be demonic in nature.
A lot of the time, though, these activities can be more accurately described as 'mischevious' - such as paranormal activity reported in Tarella, a haunted mansion in Cammeray, on the North shore of Sydney, Australia, (which is part of our Sydney Ghost tours - Lower North Shore Ghost tour ) where furniture gets re-arranged at night when no-one is in the building, and the alarm is on.
This is the kind of paranormal activity that typically result in a priest being called to a house to perform an exorcism . Although most churches tend to frown on this kind of ritual in the 21st century , nearly every culture on the planet has some form of ritual form of banishing "evil spirits" - which suggests that it is a very common human experience.
Other investigators, however, believe that poltergeist activity is not caused by ghosts at all, but by certain living people under stress. They believe that certain people have the ability to unconsciously move things with their mind when under stress - a process called "psychokinesis". While this theory is the subject of on-going research, it remains to be proven.
Are you thinking about going on a Ghost Tour this summer holidays? If you are, these are the things that Daniel Phillips, the founder of SydneyGhostTour.Com suggests you need to be aware of before you hang out with the “things that go bump in the night…”
1. Don’t drink or do drugs: “You will be walking around in the dark, and can hurt yourself, if you are intoxicated. Mediums and Psychics also strongly recommend that before putting yourself in contact with ghosts, do not put chemicals in your body that affect your health. It could give unwanted paranormal energies an invitation…”
2. Know what you are looking for, and tell your guide. “Are you there to be frightened silly, to have a good laugh – or are you a history buff? A good ghost tour has elements of all three in different measures. Ask the tour operator before you make a booking what their specialty is, and when you arrive, let the guide know what you expect. A good guide will know their stuff so well, that they will tend to tailor how they present the tour accordingly”
3. Choose who you go with carefully. “Ghost tours are events people are either really positive about, or have negative pre-conceived ideas about. Bottom line- you are going out to have fun. If someone in your social group is really not keen to come along, or has a very negative opinion about this kind of tour – leave them at home. A silently hostile skeptic, or a loud obnoxious one, will make your night miserable, and affect the enjoyment of the rest of the tour group.”
4. Patience. “Looking for Ghosts is a lot like fishing. On some ghost tours, you'll find paranormal activity. On others, you won't. Sometimes what you thought was paranormal can be explained by natural causes. Treat it as an entertainment activity – and if something freaky happens, it is a bonus!”
5. Plenty of flashlights. “Always bring plenty of flashlights, along with extra batteries. Be Safe!”
6. If you are serious – bring an EMF Meter (Electromagnetic Field Meter). “An EMF meter measures electromagnetic radiation, and can be a very useful tool. Usually, areas of paranormal activity produce strong magnetic fields, and have high EMF readings. Be careful, though. EMF meters can produce false positives. Power lines, appliances, mobile phones, and fuse boxes, can give off strong EMF readings – so check first. One strong indication of ghosts is EMF's that move. (The background EMF needs to remain constant in order to locate such fields.) Usually, these EMF's will either move away from you, or follow you.”
7. Wear good walking shoes and warm, comfortable clothing. “Walking around haunted places, and cemeteries at night, can and does get cold..”
8. A camera – “Bring either a digital camera or a 35 mm camera. If you use a 35 mm camera, bring several fresh rolls of high-speed film. For best results, use 400 speed film or higher. If you use a digital camera, use the highest resolution and make sure the memory stick is empty (or has enough storage capacity).”
9. Video camera. “Always use clean new recording media, or a fresh, clean memory micro SD card – the largest capacity one your video camera will accept. Gyro stabilized ones are good for hand held models. Switch torches off before shooting to prevent light reflection.”
10. An open mind. “Go along on a Ghost Tour with a positive attitude, an open mind, and use your good sense. Remember to Have fun.”
Daniel Phillips of SydneyGhostTour.Com is currently running family friendly “Ghosts of Christmas past” tours, that explain the traditions of Christmas, from 6.15pm to 8.00pm. Adults Only tours run at 8.15pm and 11.15pm on Sydney’s North Shore. Details of these tours can be found at www.sydneyghosttour.com, or alternatively on 02 8197 0363.