Do Ghosts Exist?


By Mary Jaksch

Have you ever seen a ghost?

A while ago, I was sitting in a cafe, wondering what to write. Two woman asked to share my table. I waited until they were sipping their Latte. Then I addressed them.

“Excuse me, can I please ask you something?”

They nodded encouragingly, ready to give me precise directions to the Post Office.

“Have you ever experienced a ghost?”

… silence.

The woman with bright red curls rallied first.

“Well no – I can’t say I have. However…”

She then recounted an incident in Scotland where she was cycling along an old country lane and suddenly sensed the presence of people from long ago.

“Did you see anything?”

“No, not really. I just had an internal image of people in clothes as they wore them long ago and a strong sense of their presence.”

What about you. Have you ever encountered a ghost?

I first encountered a ghost in my twenties. was in England with a colleague of mine. We were staying in an old cottage in Sussex, rehearsing for a concert  The cottage was over four hundred years old, with roses hanging off the eaves and a loo that refused to flush. The first night I woke to find a man standing between the beds, looking down at me with grave interest. I wasn’t afraid, just surprised and repeated again and again, urgently: “Who is that? Who is that? Who is standing there?” But I got no answer.

I couldn’t see his face clearly but he had my father’s build who had been dead for a while, accidentally killed by my mother.

We can be abruptly drawn into ancient suffering.

A friend of mine once took me on an outing to Freemantle in Western Australia to show me the sights. We were enjoying ourselves hugely, laughing and joking, until we came to a fort that used to be a prison for convicts.

I was in good spirits until I entered one of the cells. It was narrow but very high and had a little window right up by the ceiling. As soon as I entered, I was instantly in tears. For a moment I could see a man sitting in one of the corners, looking up to the little window by the ceiling with such intense longing and despair. It was unbearable to witness his suffering.  (After this incident my friend canceled our next planned stop, a visit to a former asylum…)

Dr. Richard Wiseman is conducting research on ghosts at the moment. He’s skeptical but says there are some anomalies in people’s response that warrants further investigation.

One of the experiments he conducted was set in Hampton Court – where the ghost of the executed Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII is said to walk. The volunteers had to record any unusual experiences, such as hearing footsteps, feeling cold or a presence in the room, as well as marking the location and intensity of the experience on a floor plan.

Before this, candidates were also asked to reveal any prior knowledge of hauntings at the site.

According to an article on the BBC, the researchers then examined the distribution of unusual experiences. The results were striking: participants recorded a higher number of unusual experiences in the most classically haunted places of Hampton Court. You can see an interview with Prof. Wiseman about his research work on ghosts here.

In preparation for a symposium on ghosts on April 10 2009 in Edinburgh, Professor Wiseman has called for people to submit images of ghosts. You can see them here.

Sometimes it’s not what we see or sense, but what we hear.

A reader, Scott R. sent me the following:

When  I was exploring a wilderness in South Dakota, in the USA. Here the Lakota Sioux Native Americans had lived. At this place, many miles from a road or habitation, there had been a massacre of Indians. Alone, on that sunny day, I sat on a great bluff overlooking a vast plain. And then, seemingly on the wind, I heard drums softly beating. Indian drums. I stood up, amazed, certain that someone was nearby. But I was alone. And still the drums played, more clearly now. After a time they grew quiet, and I heard only wind. I am a skeptic at times, but I will never forget what I heard that day.

Have you ever experienced a ghost? Do you think ghosts exist?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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  1. When I lost my first dog I was probably about 10. I got out of bed to use the bathroom a few days later and heard the chain dog collar trotting along through the living room. I was young so I got scared and as soon as I did, the noise stopped.

    Tim @ MiniLifeHackss last blog post..Avoid Back Pain When Standing for Long Periods

  2. Hi Mary:

    I prefer to call ghosts, spirits. Ghost is too sensational I guess.

    If we were to, as a general notion accept their existence, can you imagine how many more questions would spam from accepting that notion?

    If we exist, they must exist. But that is one extensive subject to cover. The topic unfortunately always turns to ghastly story- telling. Which may or may not be true, depending on so many things. Instead of discussing the practical ramifications that could exist by acknowledging or possibly interacting with that world.

    Hope this post encourages that kind of conversation. Who knows it may lead to some really useful insights.


    claudio alegres last blog post..Everyone wants to be different until it’s time to be different!

  3. Steven says:

    I was staying in a hotel in San Francisco. I got up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water. What appeared to be a woman in shackles was standing by my bed. I later told the manager of the hotel. It seems he had heard the story before. The hotel acted as a jail after the 1906 quake. I guess an “innocent” looter died in the jail and has never left the building.

    My second experience happened in a hotel as well. I guess ghosts like hotels. This time I was in Los Angeles and I was staying in a hotel in Hollywood. I woke up in the middle of the night to some great piano music. I called down to the desk and told the clerk. The clerk told me he had gotten other complaints and the security department was trying to get the issue resolved. The piano music eventually stopped, but I was told by management none of the rooms or suites have pianos in them. Later I found out pianist Liberace lived in the suite I occupied.

  4. Hi Tim!
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think childhood experiences are especially interesting because children don’t yet have a preconceived idea of ‘ghosts’ or ‘spirits’.

  5. Hi Claudio!
    ‘Spirits’ instead of ‘ghosts’? I shy away from using the word ‘spirits’ because I associate it with ‘spiritualism’.

    What about ‘apparition’?

    It’s interesting that these words exist and are ancient. It shows that people have been having ‘ghostly’ experiences all along.

  6. Hi Steven!
    Thanks for sharing your interesting hotel experiences. It’s interesting that in each event you didn’t know the background story in advance.

  7. Victoria says:

    Yes, I believe they do. I have had several experiences with Entities, as I call them. The most distinct was an older woman, who finally appeared to me, after a week of waking me every moring around 4am. She also had a cat, who I would see quite often.
    After meeting her, and letting her know she no longer lived in the place I then lived in, and that she could move on, I was no longer awakened, and I never saw the cat again either.

  8. Hi Victoria!
    It’s interesting to see that animals can also appear as ghosts!

  9. To be completely honest, I don’t believe in ghosts because I’ve never had any direct experience nor have I seen irrefutable scientific evidence.

    Of course, if I see a ghost tomorrow, I’ll have a completely different opinion. 🙂

    Roger – A Content Lifes last blog post..30 Days of Mindful Eating – Day 22

  10. Hi Roger!
    You say “I don’t believe in ghosts”. Fair enough. I would have said that too if I hadn’t had some experiences of apparitions. I can’t say I “believe”, but I am puzzled.

  11. Hi Mary, my mother died quite suddenly last year but she had the most amazing transitioning at home, with friends and family helping her go and holding her hand and…well it’s too long to go into here but it was te most amazing experience I have every had. I don’t see her ghost but I do see her spirit the dictionary has a interesting definitions on both the one for spirit fits best “The non physical part of person that is the seat of emotions and charactor.” I love that definition.

    Coryelle Kramer~Animal Communicators last blog post..Bach Flowers For Animals: Spotlight On Larch

  12. Hi Coryelle!

    Yes “The non physical part of person that is the seat of emotions and charactor” – that’s a lovely definition of spirit!

  13. marty says:

    If ghosts really exist – how would that change my life?

  14. marty says:

    I meant to add that I really like this post!

  15. Bengt says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I am not fond of the word ‘ghost’ though, I prefer to call it a ‘spirit’ – a soul without a body. It does go along with reincarnation, some souls hang around on earth instead of moving on.

    I have encounters with them, feel their presence but can not yet see them.

  16. Hi Bengt!
    Thanks for the comment. What are your encounters like?

  17. Regardless of the name we give it. Ghosts in this case. Where do they come from or more importantly, where are they going?

    The souls of dead people that wonder aimlessly whom some us see and others don’t. What’s their purpose? to hunt the rest of us? to stay and defend what use to be theirs. Do they even know they are dead?

    What is their purpose in interacting with us, what if somehow we are suppose to but we, the living, don’t know how to in order to help them.

    claudio alegres last blog post..Everyone wants to be different until it’s time to be different!

  18. Hi Claudio!
    Your comments always make me think…

    If ghosts do exist, then your
    question is spot on: “What is their purpose in interacting with us?”

    What do they want from us?

  19. Bengt says:

    Claudio raises some interesting questions. “The souls of dead people that wonder aimlessly whom some us see and others don’t. What’s their purpose?”

    Most of the souls of dead people find their way to the other side. Some stay behind because they can not find the way, they do not realize that they are dead or they have a message to deliver to someone who is still alive.

    If the soul does not realize that it (the body) is dead they might stay around and defend what they think is theirs. They need to be told that they are dead and shall cross over.

    The souls of dead people that are lost and can not find the way look for people who can communicate with them in order to get help and get over. Same with the souls that have a message to deliver, they also look for someone who they can “talk” to. Once that is done they cross over.

    Mary asked what my encounters are like. Since I can communicate with ‘ghosts’ I do all of the above. I get messages, I help them cross over and I sometimes have to deal with the ones that do not realize that they are dead.

  20. Hi Bengt!
    I respect your beliefs.

    What puzzles me is your certainty. How can we truly know what happens beyond the door of death?

  21. Bengt says:

    “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

    It is about trust, trusting my very strong intuition that says the information that I get is true. We can not “know” in the usual sense of the word what happens beyond the door of death since we basically start fresh in next life.

    The concept of reincarnation means – to me – that we have a soul that later is reborn, and has been reborn before. Ghosts are souls of dead people, see my previous comment.

    I am a healer and also a medium, I can communicate with the souls of dead people.

    Bengts last blog post..There is a crack in everything

  22. Hi Bengt!
    I thank you for sharing so openly with us all.

    Personally, I try to keep an open mind. But not so open that my brain falls out.

  23. Hi Mary,

    I had a near death experience when I was 15 so I have no doubt in my mind that there is life after death. So I wouldn’t use the term ghost but I would say that ghosts are just souls that still linger and have not accepted the fact that they are no more in human form.

    Nadia – Happy Lotuss last blog post..The Second Step To Happiness

  24. Hi Nadia!
    How much do you remember about your near death experience?

    Was there a point when you had to either go back into life or accept that you were no longer in human form?

  25. Hi Mary,

    I remember all of it. I had to come back. I wanted to stay but my time was not up yet. I was told a few other things which became true some years later. It was a life altering event for which I am grateful. 🙂

    Nadia – Happy Lotuss last blog post..Love Yourself, Baby!

  26. Hi Nadia!
    thanks for sharing that awesome experience with us!

  27. I remember reading a very interesting quote on this topic: “The Daoist definition of a ghost is a weak nagging commitment.”

    Whether or not ghosts exist depends entirely on how you choose to define them.

    Chris | Martial Developments last blog post..Teaching Children The Magic of Martial Arts

  28. afraa says:

    i don’t believe in ghost what ever u said was totaly wrong i knew it cause ghost can see us but we can’t and what ever u guys see and then u say it is a ghost it is it is called emagenation yeah realy and u can’t fell them if they r here one last important thing is there is no life after death that is true

  29. Mali says:

    I have been interested in Ghosts since I was 10. When I was ten I was hurt by two dogs. Everything went red and then white. My little brother who had died when I was three stood there holding out his hand to me. I was scared so i did not take it and turned away. I woke up int he hospital with doctors surrounding me. I was having stitches put into my forehead. My little brother was tehre floating beside the doctor like he did it everyday. When I told my mom about it she told me that I was on drgs to dull the pain and was just imaging it. A couple of nights later I dreamt that he came back and told me to be strong and hold on. In high school some stuff happened and I tried to kill myself ( i hate to admit ) and I saw him, just shaking his head.. then he disappeared and has not come back since. But now I get feeling when I am in certain places.. like cemeteries and old places. I do not know if it is just a child hood imagination, but now that I am 16 I am not sure…. I have been studying about Ghosts and the supernatural and find this website and thought maybe you could bring some light onto it. Am I going crazy or am i just imaging things.. Or is it real????

  30. Nitin Javalkar - India says:

    to me, I don’t believe in ghost. every human brain has two side. For example – the way we think the same way we see. If you think of ghost you will see ghost every where. The experience that I read above, are nothing illusion that created on the side of the brain. According to vedas (Hindu Religious Books), the person depending upon his deeds (good or bad) has to experience in his old age i.e. for his bad deeds he has to suffer a lot before the death comes. A person with good deeds passes away without any suffering. After the death the soul goes to a place called Atama Youni (a place where pure soul rest in peace). Hence when a soul rest in peace how can we expect a ghost.
    During student life, I encountered a illusion of ghost while I was riding my motorbike, it was around 1:00 AM, I was working in lab till late night as I was preparing for my exams, after my work I left the institution to my room which was located on the banks of river Krishna which was almost on the outskirt of the city. while I was riding, I saw a man walking in the same direction as i was riding with white shirt and trouser (traditional Indian Style of 1600 AD) with his hand sometime up -n- sometime down.
    I was wondering how come a person so early go for a morning walk? as I was nearing the person I could see him clearly that he had no head. For a moment I thought of taking a U-turn and go back to the institution, but my mind warned me if I do so, I will hence forth not be able to ride at late night. So I decided to go ahead of whatsoever happen. I raced my bike to max and passed him away.
    This was not the end, suddenly a dog started chasing me from my left side, in fact I was at a speed of around 80 Km/Hr, but that dog was chasing me at the same speed as that of my bike. It chased me for about 4.5 Km until I crossed the bridge of river Krishna. I, mixed up with some farmers who worked late till night and told them what had happened. All of them told me I was very luck to escape the death. but one among them a very old uncle told me beta (child), it could be your imagination or may be your mind was blocked due to studying till late night and that too quite far away from your home and home town.

  31. Yahn says:

    Ghosts don’t exist. Why don’t they exist you ask? There is proof out there in the world and people are so blind to see it that they simply just throw it away. Just because you can’t see something doesnt mean it doesnt exist.

  32. Becky says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever “seen” a ghost, but sometimes I get a mental flash of someone dear to me who has died. These flashes are often random, out of the blue. Sometimes, it just seems they are checking in. I always acknowledge it by saying (or thinking), “Hi, ____. Yes, I just got that message you are here. I miss you.” You never know.

  33. Alice Boyd says:

    My major encounter with a “spirit” was when I lived in Baton Rouge, LA, which I was told was the psychic belt of the USA. I lived in an historic house across from the capitol building. There was a marker from the Napoleon era outside of this house. It was the divider between the USA and Spain. Just off to the east of the Mississippi River.

    One night after a long work at the BRLA Capitol with the politicos, I went home and fell asleep, only to be awakened. There stood before me a US Revolutionary solider. Complete in the dark blue uniform. I gasped. So did he. I tried to speak to him but he had these frightened eyes like he had made a mis-step into another era. And then he faded before me. I must assume the house I was living in was on his erstwhile territory at some time.

    I just wished I could have spoken with him. I didn’t have the chance.


  34. Hi Mary,

    ​​This is an interesting topic. I never had firsthand experience of ghosts but I read there are entities all around us that affect us in various ways.

    I read that when a person dies only his gross body ceases to exist. His subtle-body (consisting of the subconscious mind, intellect, ego and soul, i.e. minus the physical body) however continue to exist and moves on to the other regions (positive or negative regions) of the universe. When subtle body has lots of desires and negative intentions they turn into Ghosts.
    Jagriti Aanand´s last blog post ..Subtle experiment – Are tattoos good for us?

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