A 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 odours.”
Ghosts are controversial phenomena. According to a poll , about 32% believe in the existence of ghosts. The term ghost has been replaced by apparition in parapsychology, because the word ghost is deemed insufficiently precise.
The 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:
“As 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.”
Although 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, which shows deceased people in the afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style of dress.
Another 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.
Although the evidence for ghosts is largely anecdotal, the belief in ghosts throughout history has remained widespread and persistent.
In 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.
One of the earliest known ghost “sightings” in the west took place in Athens, Greece.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.
Critics of “eyewitness ghost sightings” suggest that limitations of human perception and ordinary physical explanations can account for such sightings; for example, air pressure changes in a home causing doors to slam, or lights from a passing car reflected through a window at night. Pareidolia, an innate tendency to recognize patterns in random perceptions, can cause people to believe they have seen ghosts. Reports of ghosts “seen out of the corner of the eye” may be accounted for by the sensitivity of human peripheral vision.
…peripheral vision is very sensitive and can easily mislead, especially late at night, when the brain is tired and more likely to misinterpret sights and sounds. A person’s belief that a location is haunted may cause them to interpret mundane events as confirmations of a haunting:
Once the idea of a ghost appears in a household . . . no longer is an object merely mislaid. . . . There gets to be a dynamic in a place where the idea that it’s haunted takes on a life of its own. One-of-a-kind quirks that could never be repeated all become further evidence of the haunting.
Sound is thought to be another cause of ghost sightings. Frequencies lower than 20 hertz are called infrasound and are normally inaudible, infrasound can cause humans to feel a “presence” in the room, or unexplained feelings of anxiety or dread.
Carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause powerful auditory and visual hallucinations, depression, and a generalized sensation of illness and dread, was recognized as a possible explanation for haunted houses .
The traditional perception of ghosts wearing clothing is considered illogical, given the supposed spiritual nature of ghosts, suggesting that the basis of what a ghost is said to look like and consist of is quite dependent on preconceptions made by society. Skeptics also say that, to date, there is no credible scientific evidence that any location is inhabited by spirits of the dead.
Ghosts are prominent in the popular cultures of various nations. Since the earliest generations of video games, ghosts have played roles in many. For instance, ghosts are the enemy in the classic game Pac-Man and still are in modern Pac-Man games. Ghosts known as Boos feature prominently in the world of Super Mario Bros. as enemies. In the related game Luigi’s Mansion, the player becomes a ghost hunter.
Films including or centering on ghosts are common, and span a variety of genres. American films focused primarily on ghosts include Ghost, Ghostbusters, Ghost Dad, and Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Ghosts can also be found in various television programs that focus on the paranormal, such as the children’s animated series Danny Phantom, Ghost Trackers, Truth or Scare, and Mystery Hunters.
A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. There is often some material object (e.g., snake oil) involved which is actually a forgery; however, it is possible to perpetrate a hoax by making only true statements using unfamiliar wording or context . Unlike a fraud or con (which is usually aimed at a single victim and are made for illicit financial or material gain), a hoax is often perpetrated as a practical joke, to cause embarrassment, or to provoke social change by making people aware of something. Many hoaxes are motivated by a desire to satirize or educate by exposing the credulity of the public and the media or the absurdity of the target. The many hoaxes satirize people’s willingness to believe the media. Political hoaxes are sometimes motivated by the desire to ridicule or besmirch opposing politicians or political institutions, often before elections.
Governments often perpetrate hoaxes to assist them with unpopular aims such as going to war . In fact, there is often a mixture of outright hoax, and suppression and management of information to give the desired impression. In wartime, rumours abound; some may be deliberate hoaxes.
There is often considerable controversy about whether a given factoid is true or a hoax.
The word hoax is said to have come from the common magic incantation hocus pocus. “Hocus pocus”, in turn, is commonly believed to be a distortion of “hoc est corpus” (“this is the body”) from the Latin Mass.
Character of hoaxes
Hoaxes are not always created, initiated or sourced the same way. Examples:
* Hoax by tradition
* Hoax by design (such as in war)
* Hoax originating in legitimate non-hoax use
* Hoax by scare tactics (virus hoaxes)
* Urban legend
The main characteristic of hoaxes is presenting the information or media as something real or believable to human understanding but is in fact false. Whether there is intent to deceive is not part of the hoax characteristics, as hoaxes are known both with and without it.
During certain events and at particular times of year, hoaxes are perpetrated by many people and groups. The most famous of these is certainly April Fool’s Day, which is open season for pranks and dubious announcements.
A New Zealand tradition is the capping stunt, wherein university students perpetrate a hoax upon an unsuspecting population. The acts are traditionally executed near graduation (the “capping”).
Many Spanish-speaking countries have Innocent’s Day, on December 28, to make “innocent” a person with jokes and hoaxes. The origin for the pranking is derived from the Catholic feast day Day of the Holy Innocents for the infants slaughtered by King Herod at the time of Jesus’ birth.