Loyd Auerbach on Ghosts
When it comes to the subject of ghosts, few people have more experience or have conducted more research on the subject than Loyd Auerbach. Loyd is the Director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, a consulting editor for FATE Magazine, President of the California Society for Psychic Study and a professor at JFK University. He is also the author of several books on ghosts, ESP and other psychic phenomena. (See the end of the article for more complete biographical information.)
In this interview, he offers his expert opinion on ghosts, hauntings and poltergeist activity.
Based on your extensive experience with the phenomenon, what are ghosts?
Most of us in parapsychology have used the term "apparitions" to refer to that which most people call ghosts. An apparition is what is seen, heard, felt or smelled, and is related to some part of the human personality/mind/soul that can somehow exist in our physical universe after the death of its body. The basic idea of an apparition is twofold: the consciousness must survive and it must be able to communicate or interact somehow with living people.
Is the apparition literally seen and heard?
When I say that the apparition is "seen" or "heard," I don't mean that this is happening through the eyes or ears. First of all, remember that our actual perception of the world around us involves a process whereby data is received by the senses, then screened and enhanced by the brain and mind. Perception resides not in the senses, but in the brain. Hallucinations, for example, are essentially superimposed images, sounds, smells, etc. that are added to (or in other instances blocked or erased from) the information of our senses. In the same way, the apparition somehow "adds" information to our sensory input that is then processed with our sensory data and integrated in what we perceive. In other words, the mind of the ghost is providing our own minds with the extra information necessary to perceive him or her. This is an excellent example of telepathy at work.
What's the evidence for this conclusion?
Besides the fact that when an apparition is present, not everyone experiences the entity, there can be a variety of experience that indicates as subjectivity on the part of the witnesses. Some might "see" the ghost, some "hear" his/her voice (some both), some "feel" a presence or that they're being touched, and some "smell" his/her cologne or perfume.
As not everyone is seeing the apparition, the very idea that one could photograph him/her becomes complicated. If the ghost was reflecting light, people's eyes would see him/her and a photo would be no problem.
I should also mention that I have received an interesting wording of this model of apparitions from an actual ghost, a deceased woman who was in constant communication with a young boy (and seen by others, as it happens). She said that as far as she knew, she was a ball of energy, of consciousness, though she also said she really didn't know that "ball" was the right word, since she felt kind of formless. How she pictured herself was how others perceived her - she noted that she was more or less connecting mind to mind to the boy (and others), and projecting the idea of her form, clothing and her voice to him.
How is such an apparition different than a haunting?
Apparitions are often confused with hauntings. The difference is that apparitions are "live" (intelligent consciousness) and hauntings are "recordings."
Interestingly enough, many apparitions sighted are of living people. Those people may be in some kind of crisis or distress, though often there can be a correlation to a time when they are dreaming (generally dreaming of visiting the place they're seen) or even having an out-of-the-body-experience. The alternate model of OBEs is that some part of our consciousness splits off and is capable of both travel to other locations and perception of those other locations. On some occasions, the OBE form is apparently perceived by people at those other locations, like an apparition. This specific experience is sometimes called bilocation.
Because apparitions and hauntings both may involve a figure seen, voices heard, things felt or smelled, they are often confused with one another. Both may be called ghosts.
A haunting relies on the living, not the dead (although in a sense, all of history is "dead"). A haunting is information received by the witness who has the experience. Hauntings actually show that we are all psychic receivers (clairvoyant) to some degree.
Ever walk into a house and get a feel for the "vibes" (the house feels "good" or "bad")? Of course, that feeling could be because of normal perceptions, the décor is nice or "off," but you may also be psychically perceiving emotions and events embedded in the environment. There are other possibilities besides psi, which I'll get to in a moment.
One ability proffered by many psychics over the ages is psychometry: the ability to "read" the history of an object by holding or touching it. Objects, we're told, "record" their entire history, and some can decipher that with psi. And what is a house if not a big object?
In haunting cases, people report seeing (or hearing, feeling or even smelling) a presence (or several) typically engaged in some sort of activity. It could be a man's figure walking up and down the hallway, or footsteps heard from the attic, or a man and woman physically fighting until one is dead, or even the sounds of two people making love coming from an adjoining room. The events and figures witnessed in hauntings tend to be repetitive both in what's experienced and when they occur (at approximately the same time). Speaking with the "ghosts" tends to do no good, because they just continue to go about their business, as though you're not even there.
Some claim this is because the ghosts are "stuck" in some sort of cursed time loop. However, hauntings have occurred on many occasions where the "entities" are representative of living people, so there's certainly no one to be "stuck."
What does appear to be stuck is some kind of environmental recording of events and people. Like the small object "read" in psychometry, the house or building or land somehow records its history, with the more emotion-laden events and experiences coming through "louder" and "stronger." That people mostly report negative events and emotions (around suicide, murder or other violent crimes, or emotional fights) is likely due to a reporting artifact rather than any unbalanced ration of negative to positive events.
You might think of a haunting as a loop of video or audio tape playing itself over and over for you to watch. Trying to interact with it would be akin to trying to interact with a show on your TV: sure, you can turn it off or change the channel, but I wouldn't expect the actors to suddenly stop and talk to you directly.
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