QuestionWhy don’t ghosts communicate with us more directly?
Hopes&Fears answers questions with the help of experts. Today we wonder why ghosts (literary and otherwise) bother knocking over bookshelves and slamming doors instead of being a bit more direct.
When the door slams on a cold and loveless night, is it dear deceased Aunt Gladys saying hello from beyond, or is it simply an effect via cause: a draft? If it is ol’ Gladys, why does she have to bugger with doors and lights, oh so subtly? Why can’t Gladys and her ghost ilk just speak to us or write us letters?
Syfy’s Ghost Hunters and similar shows never seem to catch any specters as loquacious as Hamlet’s daddio – just cold spots, flickering lights and EMF fluctuations. We spoke people who live and breathe the paranormal (and one literature professor) to try and answer why other worldly entities would communicate using such indirect methods.
Dr. Luke Thurston, F.H.E.A.
Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature at the Aberystwyth University; specializes in Victorian lit, literary theory, psychoanalysis and literary ghosts; author of Literary Ghosts from the Victorians to Modernism: The Haunting Interval
I think it’s crucial to the ghost story genre that ghosts do not inhabit the world of ordinary discourse.
Walter Scott, writing in 1829, noted that if you make your ghost too “chatty” it is bound to fail as an effort to terrify the reader. What is essential to the ghost’s scariness is its enigmatic otherness to the world of everyday legibility, where we supposedly know who we are.
Ghosts remind us of the otherness of other people and ourselves…
of Americans say
they have seen a ghost
say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died
Pew Research, 2013
Co-founder of Greater Rockford Apparition & Ghost Group (GRAGG), co-star of Mission Terror, a paranormal investigation web series
It would be convenient if we could just have a ghost text us back. It's hard to say why ghosts don't write us specific messages or talk to us. I'm sure there are people out there who will say that they have received a message that clear from a paranormal force. I'm not sure about that. It's not something we've ever experienced.
One of the popular theories for paranormal activity is the manifestation of an "energy." Many believe that ghosts are lingering energy in a location and they need to build energy in order to communicate. For a ghost to close a door or make a knocking noise, that might take all the energy they can muster up, so to speak. I think this is why communication with the use of electronics has become so prevalent. Investigators believe that paranormal entities can use the energy of our electronics to build their own energy. On our series, Mission Terror, we use a variety of equipment, both electronic and not, to set up a line of communication. Whether it's asking if there is a spirit present and asking it to drain one of our batteries - then our microphone battery dies within seconds.
It's definitely not an exact science. These are just theories. Perhaps a ghost might not speak to us directly because it cannot build enough energy, but to set off a motion censor or make a knocking noise or drain a battery on command - as if in direct response. We have to take that under consideration as a possible attempt at communication. Again, nothing is certain in the paranormal.
Paranormal and spiritual beliefs of Americans
believe in ghosts
believe in creationism
believe in UFOs
believe in astrology
believe in witches
believe in reincarnation and that
they were once another person
of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive, a Nielson Company
Founder of film company American Horrors, a streaming horror channel on FilmOn, author of 1992 comic book Jeffrey Dahmer: An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer
The sensory apparatus that [people] have is very limited. Like infrared, when they do these paranormal investigations: you turn up more results if you use cameras that can catch light that human eyes can’t see.
How do you even know that [spirits] are trying to communicate with you? I don’t even buy half of this. I’m very much of a curmudgeon on this, and I don’t buy that the door shut behind you so they’re communicating with you. Maybe they just bumped into the door.
[Entities] do not possess the ability to be seen. Human beings are radios [tuned into certain frequencies], and we have senses that we ignore and we have a sixth sense that we ignore. We have the ability to feel each other. They’ve done studies where people stare at the back of other peoples’ heads and people notice when someone’s staring at the back of their head. They feel it.
Humans have a lot more mental and psychic energy than they’re aware of, and they mess with each other more than they’re aware of. So I feel a great deal of psychic and ghost activity happens in the dark or in the evening because you have less of that mental activity getting the way of your own sensory apparatus.
horror TV series
Death Note (2006)
Twilight Zone (1959)
Attack on Titan (2013)
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1991)
Parasyte: The Maxim (2014)
Silver Fang (1986)
Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files (1992)
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004)
Co-proprietor of California Institute of Abnormal Arts, a nightclub/curiosity museum/sideshow in North Hollywood, CA; one-time apprentice embalmer for a Marin County mortuary; starred in 1987 cult horror comedy Blood Diner
That’s just poltergeist activity. It’s a demonic presence. [Demons] manifest however they want to manifest in any many million different ways.
The common misconception in paranormal research is that [this activity] is people that have work undone and they need to finish and go on. That ain’t it. You have a séance and say, ‘Well, I heard Aunt Millie’s voice! And I smelled her perfume! And I could hear a little dog barking!’ These are [demonic] entities that have been around forever. They know exactly what it’s going to take to suck you in. There are good angels, but they don’t, like, haunt that house. It says very clearly in the bible that God forbade the use of the occult. Why did he do that? Because you’re opening your mind to deception. The bible is a light. You turn on the bible and all the sudden all the cockroaches run away and you see exactly what [demons] are.
But the idea that those are dead people that just need to finish their business, that’s not true. They’re already gone. They’re either in heaven or in hell. That’s the ugly truth.
Spirit medium, certified hypnotist by the Newton Institute, and The Body Wisdom Process, as a Certified Master Trainer in Hypnosis
Ghosts and spirits can and do communicate with us regularly; it is us that do not recognize or trust in the communication. We are never without the presence of spirit in our lives. I would make a distinction though between ghost and spirit presence. Certainly ghosts are also spirit but for simplicity’s sake, will refer to ghosts as discarnate spirit that is within a layer of the physical realm and spirit (such as guides, angels, etc.) outside of this physical realm.
Why do ghosts slam doors and turn off lights? There are many reasons for this. In some cases they may be trying to get someone’s attention, but more often they are exerting a pulse of energetic release that manifests in such a way. The phenomena that is experienced in this way is real whether it is being generated by the ghost itself or the human that experiences it. Sometimes a human is the one that is creating the experience of doors opening and closing or lights going on or off or even objects moving. They may not realize that they are the one creating this activity but it does occur.
Ghosts and spirits can write letters and talk to us, it is just that it happens in a different way than we might think. It is important to recognize that although there is a link and connection from the physical to the spiritual, the methods of being in each is different. So, one should not expect the other to behave (operate) in the same fashion. In this sense, writing can come in the form of automatic writing and talking can come in the form of intuitive knowing and prompting or even as communication to us through songs, books, television and so on (hearing a song at just the right time or reading something that was exactly the message you needed at that moment). The key is in having faith and trust in the experiences that happen. We have all experienced synchronicity or coincidence, and yet many people don’t see it as anything extraordinary and push it aside. And yet the more that we pay attention to these moments, the more we notice the frequency in which they happen, the more we begin to see a connection to something beyond the physical realm.
We all have the ability to communicate with ghosts and spirit(s). The issue is more one to do with understanding and trusting in the way that we individually process and receive those messages. For some it may simply be gut feelings or intuitive prompting, for others they may naturally have their sixth sense of hearing or sight ability opened. Either way, each and every one of us can develop these abilities and fine tune to a degree that we bridge the communication between the physical and spiritual realms.
Ghost (the film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore & Whoopi Goldberg) was the
highest grossing movie of 1990
ILLUSTRATION: Yulia Goldman