Ghost Mania – Rising Prevalence in the 21st Century (and the many faces of the dearly departed)


Guest Post by HalloweenCostumes.com

Ghost on StairwellIn June 2005, a Gallup poll showed that 37% of Americans believed in haunted houses.[1] 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.”[2]

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?

Ghost-Tech

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.[3] While outside of the scope of this article, this is a solid point worth mentioning and exploring in more depth in the field.)


[2] del Pilar Blanco, M. (2010). Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.

[3] 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.[1] 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.[2] “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.[3]

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.[4] 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.


[1] De Vos, G.A. (2012). What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture. ABC-CLIO, LLC.

[2] Gudgeon, C. (2010). Ghost Trackers: The Unreal World of Ghosts, Ghost-Hunting, and the Paranormal. Tundra Books.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

Sources:

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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About SPIRIT Seekers
Spirit Seekers is a Paranormal Research Team located in Arkansas, dedicated to investigating and documenting the spirit world around us. Our Team is committed to the research, documentation, education, and investigation of ghostly phenomena recorded through EVP, digital, film and video photography. Spirit Seekers consists of professional people who believe there is far more to the world around us than meets the eye. We believe that our spirits enter into another plane of existence upon physical death. For any number of reasons, some have elected to stay here or have been anchored here, unable to move on. We, as a whole, desire the knowledge and understanding of life after death. One of our main goals is to assist those who are experiencing paranormal phenomenon. We will look for authentic evidence of the paranormal and try to determine if the location is haunted. We do not charge a fee for our services. Please feel free to contact us if you need our assistance.

2 Responses to Ghost Mania – Rising Prevalence in the 21st Century (and the many faces of the dearly departed)

  1. I also find that times of greater uncertainty breed a desire to embrace with and entertain thoughts of an afterlife; a yearning to know that there must be more to life than the current treadmill of debts and financial debilitation. Ghost stories themselves offer a conduit for investigations of the human condition in all its spectral shades of beauty and beast. They are pure escape but unlike the average dose of mindless celluloid tat they leave enough uncertainty in the mix to invest our emotions and beg the question, what if….

    • Before I respond, as the webmaster, I want to make it clear that I am not the author of this particular article, though I have written 98% of all articles on this blog. So my response below is not affiliated with the author of this entry and I am not permitted to speak on their behalf. My personal opinion on the matter though is this:

      Very well said! I think a majority of people want to believe that we have a reason for being here and that we continue in one form or another after we shake off our mortal coil. Because people want to believe this, that we ascend to heaven or wherever our “final destination” should be, they have to believe that there is a way back, a way for those we have loved and lost to find their way to us and communicate.

      Personally, I don’t know. I am a skeptical atheist. But I entertain all kinds of possibilities.

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