ghost is usually defined as the apparition of a deceased person,
frequently similar in appearance to that person, and encountered in
places he or she frequented, or in association with the person's former
belongings. The word "ghost" may also refer to the spirit or
soul of a deceased person, or to any spirit or demon. Ghosts are often
associated with haunting, which is, according to the Parapsychological
Association, "the more or less regular occurrence of paranormal
phenomena associated with a particular locality (especially a building)
and usually attributed to the activities of a discarnate entity; the
phenomena may include apparitions, poltergeist disturbances, cold
drafts, sounds of steps and voices, and various odors."
are controversial phenomena. According to a poll conducted in 2005 by
the Gallup Organization, about 32% of Americans believe in the existence
of ghosts. The term ghost has been replaced by apparition
in parapsychology, because the word ghost is deemed
belief in ghosts as souls of the departed is closely tied to the ancient
concept of animism, which attributed souls to everything in nature,
including human beings, animals, plants, rocks, etc. As the
nineteenth-century anthropologist James Frazer explained in his classic
work, The Golden Bough, souls were seen as the creature within
that animated the body:
the savage commonly explains the processes of inanimate nature by
supposing that they are produced by living beings working in or behind
the phenomena, so he explains the phenomena of life itself. If an
animal lives and moves, it can only be, he thinks, because there is a
little animal inside which moves it. If a man lives and moves, it can
only be because he has a little man or animal inside, who moves him.
The animal inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the soul. And
as the activity of an animal or man is explained by the presence of
the soul, so the repose of sleep or death is explained by its absence;
sleep or trance being the temporary, death being the permanent absence
of the soul."
the human soul was sometimes symbolically or literally depicted in
ancient cultures as a bird or other animal, it was widely held that the
soul was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, even down
to clothing the person wore. This is depicted in artwork from various
ancient cultures, including such works as the Egyptian
Book of the Dead also The Mummy, which shows deceased people in the
afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style
widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they were composed of a
misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists speculate that this may
also stem from early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the
person, most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which
upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This
belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of
"breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin spiritus
and the Greek
pneuma, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the
Bible, God is depicted as animating Adam with a breath.
the evidence for ghosts is largely anecdotal, the belief in ghosts
throughout history has remained widespread and persistent.
many historical accounts, ghosts were thought to be deceased persons
looking for vengeance, or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did
during life. Most cultures have ghost stories in their mythologies. Many
stories from the Middle Ages and the Romantic era rely on the macabre
and the fantastic, and ghosts are a major theme in literature from those
stories date back to ancient times, and can be found in many different
cultures. The Chinese philosopher, Mo Tzu (470-391 BC), is quoted as
way to find out whether anything exists or not is to depend on the
testimony of the ears and eyes of the multitude. If some have heard it
or some have seen it then we have to say it exists. If no one has
heard it and no one has seen it then we have to say it does not exist.
So, then, why not go to some village or some district and inquire? If
from antiquity to the present, and since the beginning of man, there
are men who have seen the bodies of ghosts and spirits and heard their
voices, how can we say that they do not exist? If none have heard them
and none have seen them, then how can we say they do? But those who
deny the existence of the spirits say: "Many in the world have
heard and seen something of ghosts and spirits. Since they vary in
testimony, who are to be accepted as really having heard and seen
them?" Mo Tzu said: As we are to rely on what many have jointly
seen and what many have jointly heard, the case of Tu Po is to be
accepted." (note: King Hsuan (827-783 BC) executed his minister,
Tu Po, on false charges even after being warned that Tu Po's ghost
would seek revenge. Three years later, according to historical
chronicles, Tu Po's ghost shot and killed Hsuan with a bow and arrow
before an assembly of feudal lords.)
of the earliest known ghost "sightings" in the west took place
in Athens, Greece.
Pliny the Younger (c. 63 - 113 AD) described it in a letter to Licinius
Sura: Athenodoros Cananites (c. 74 BC – 7 AD), a Stoic philosopher,
decided to rent a large, Athenian house, to investigate widespread
rumors that it was haunted. Athenodoros staked out at the house that
night, and, sure enough, a dishevelled, aged spectre, bound at feet and
hands with rattling chains, eventually "appeared". The spirit
then beckoned for Athenodoros to follow him; Athenodoros complied, but
the ghost soon vanished. The philosopher marked the spot where the old
man had disappeared, and, on the next day, advised the magistrates to
dig there. The man's shackled bones were reportedly uncovered three
years later. After a proper burial, the hauntings ceased.
Eastern religious traditions also subscribe to the concept of ghosts.
The Hindu Garuda Purana has detailed information about ghosts.
ancient texts of the Hebrew Torah and the Bible mention many ghostly
events. For instance, in the Second Book of Samuel, a disguised King
Saul has the Witch of Endor summon the spirit of Samuel, while in the
Gospel of Matthew, the Twelve Apostles at first believe Jesus to be a
ghost when they see him walking on water. In
addition, the Holy Ghost is a common way to describe the Holy Spirit as
described in various ancient texts of the Bible.
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