Ghost Mania – Rising Prevalence in the 21st Century (and the many faces of the dearly departed)
December 10, 2012 2 Comments
Guest Post by HalloweenCostumes.com
In June 2005, a Gallup poll showed that 37% of Americans believed in haunted houses. Another 16% weren’t sure and 46% of respondents did not believe. When asked if “spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations,” the breakdown of respondents was similar (32%; 19% and 48%, respectively).
If nearly one in three Americans believe in ghosts, perhaps that explains why ghost culture has been on the rise in pop culture in the half-decade or so. But beyond such high numbers of believers, what is at the root of this ghostly uprising? Why are ghosts so popular today?
Friction Sparks Popularity
According to Maria del Pilar Blanco in Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture, “The popular, precisely by virtue of concerning that which is appreciated by many…is considered as a dynamic realm of contestation between various cultural forces in which hegemony and resistance, conformity and subversion, may be produced.”
Simply put, it’s the very division and friction evident in the 2005 Gallup poll that continues to fuel public interest in ghosts. Fascination isn’t roused by the agreeable and certain; mystery and disagreement are thus at the crux of rising ghost popularity. At least, that is surely a part of the puzzle.
Yet people throughout time have argued about many things paranormal, and debates over the afterlife are nothing new. Why now of all times are the embers of this debate burning hottest?
One thing that stands out without question is that technology has certainly played a role.
The ghost hunter’s tool belt is bulking with goodies in the 21st century—laser grids, ghost boxes, digital recorders, full spectrum cameras, infrared devices, sensory deprivation equipment and the like offer new and exciting avenues for exploring paranormal phenomena. In summation: the days of resting solely on mediums speaking in tongues or Ouija boards for highly contested, objectionable evidence, are over.
Instead, electronic voice phenomenon (EVPs), videos of orbs, shadows and apparitions, spikes or drops in temperatures, electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and other tangible evidence can now play directly into the “show me” paradigm of the 21st century. (However, while all of this evidence can be tantalizing and exciting, it is important to note that evidence gathered by technological means is subject to an unproven assumption; as stressed by author, professor and paranormal expert, Loyd Auerbach. The assumption: That spirits leave behind measurable energy signatures. While outside of the scope of this article, this is a solid point worth mentioning and exploring in more depth in the field.)
 del Pilar Blanco, M. (2010). Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.
 Auerbach, L. and Marlon Heimerl. (2012) “Guest Post: Measuring the Immaterial.” http://mindreader.com/2012/10/05/guest-post-measuring-the-immaterial/
To point, whether evidence gleaned from technology is credible or not, this new brand of interaction has certainly added credence to further investigations and debate. It also contains a certain level of entertainment value, which in turn has proliferated rising popularity and interest in ghosts in general.
What’s more; technology also lends the unique opportunity for commoditization. A ghost story today can be packaged and repackaged when it is caught on tape. This has led paranormal studies from the realm of hobbyists and tourists to legitimate businesses and full-time careers, whereby celebrity ghost hunters can regularly deliver evidence that is both compelling and entertaining.
Indeed, anyway you dice it; technology has contributed to the cacophony of discussion, busying the web and Friday night cable TV on the subject at an increasing rate.
Delineation and Categorization Add Credibility
Another force at work is an increased delineation of the different ‘types’ of ghosts and spiritual energies, perpetuated on television, books and the radio. While some of the names of the categories continue to vary by sources, their characteristics are generally consistent, albeit theorized.
The primary categories of ghost theory include residual ghosts, intelligent spirits, transient hauntings and poltergeists. For some background, definitions are offered:
Residual Ghosts: A residual ghost is one of the most common forms of reported hauntings. “Many researchers believe that seeing a residual ghost is really like watching a movie play out in real life,” writes Chris Gudgeon in Ghost Trackers: The Unreal World of Ghosts, Ghost-Hunting, and the Paranormal. Residual ghosts are often associated with a trauma or a large release of emotional energy wherefrom an imprint on the location was made. Caught in a ‘loop’ of sorts, residual ghosts cannot be influenced or communicated with and are specifically associated with an object or location alone.
Intelligent Ghosts: In short, an intelligent ghost is a ‘self-aware’ entity that is also familiar with its environment and the people within in it. An intelligent ghost, much like a living person, can choose to interact with the living in real-time. Yet while aware and alert, theories state that intelligent spirits may or may not be aware that they are actually dead.
Transient Hauntings: “The transient haunt is an earthbound ghost but one that is not bound to a single location,” writes Markey Gibson, Patrick Burns and Dave Schrader in The Other Side: A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal. “This entity is able to roam almost anywhere on the earth’s surface.” For locations where a haunting may be inconsistent or sporadic, a transient haunting is one possible theory.
Poltergeists: Often associated with a person rather than a place, poltergeists are sometimes ascribed to psychic energy, where a young person (often stressed) is the agent from which the poltergeist derives its power. People have theorized that poltergeists are manifestations of the living (subconscious), while others will argue that they are separate, independent entities that feed off the stress of the living. They are known to be noisy, moving or throwing objects, and cause destruction and disarray.
 De Vos, G.A. (2012). What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO, LLC.
 Gudgeon, C. (2010). Ghost Trackers: The Unreal World of Ghosts, Ghost-Hunting, and the Paranormal. Tundra Books.
 Gibson, M., Patrick Burns and Dave Schrader. (2009). The Other Side: A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
 Garbe, S. (2011). Ghostly Encounters. Capstone Press.
Upon closer examination, one could certainly argue that increased categorization has implicitly added credibility to the existence of ghosts in the public eye. Indeed, a specific scientific quality follows in the wake of something that is carefully delineated and categorized. Categories carry implications of surplus; where a body of evidence exists in a volume worthy of ‘clear lines’ and divisions that may be drawn.
Again, everything pertaining to these categories is purely theoretical, yet it has certainly fanned the flames of the debate and made once obscure paranormal words and phrases far more pervasive in mainstream media.
End of the Line
Despite the many forces feeding interest in ghosts, perhaps the ultimate reason for the growth in the collective interest of ghosts is simply that death remains a mystery of great allure. It is the one place everyone ‘goes’ that no one has proven definitively ‘what’ or ‘where’ it is (or if it is ‘anything’ or ‘anywhere’ at all!).
In a world where the continents are mapped, the Hubble Space Telescope is photographing the vastness of space and submarines are delving deeper into the ocean than ever before, we continue looking for mystery in an increasingly quantified and documented world.
Perhaps in the end, this final mystery is better left undiscovered, so each one among us may theorize our own picture of what lies beyond the veil.
Auerbach, L. and Marlon Heimerl. (2012) “Guest Post: Measuring the Immaterial.” http://mindreader.com/2012/10/05/guest-post-measuring-the-immaterial/
del Pilar Blanco, M. (2010). Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.
De Vos, G.A. (2012). What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO, LLC.Gallup Poll (2005): http://www.gallup.com/poll/17275/onethird-americans-believe-dearly-may-departed.aspx
Garbe, S. (2011). Ghostly Encounters. Capstone Press.
Gibson, M., Patrick Burns and Dave Schrader. (2009). The Other Side: A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Gudgeon, C. (2010). Ghost Trackers: The Unreal World of Ghosts, Ghost-Hunting, and the Paranormal. Tundra Books.
About Our Guest Columnist: HalloweenCostumes.com
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