TWO scientists have provided five rational explanations for why people see ghosts, which – while abnormal – are not paranormal.
Their findings form part of a BBC Three investigation, which has become the latest attempt to try to find a scientific explanation for ghosts and ghouls.
Many ghost stories can be explained by sleep paralysis, according to Dr Chris French, who heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at London's Goldsmiths University.
As people fall into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, their bodies remain frozen in sleep mode while their brain is active.
This is when people can find themselves awake but unable to move.
According to the NHS website, it feels like someone is in your room, or like something is pushing you down.
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Hallucinations can also arise in a "small percentage" of sleep paralysis cases, French explained.
“Sleep paralysis is a kind of glitch in the normal sleep mechanisms,” he explains.
“It can be terrifying. One student of mine told me about waking up and there’s a black cat by the side of the bed hissing at him.
"But it had an inverted cat skull with black goo dripping from its mouth.”
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Prior Belief, Context & Hallucinations
There's a three psychological reasons why people might believe in ghosts: prior belief, context and hallucinations.
If someone tells you a place is haunted, you'll notice every chill, creak and shadow.
It makes psychological sense.
It's like when you learn a new word, and suddenly see it everywhere.
“When people hear the word ghost… you visualise ghosts walking through walls rattling chains," French continued.
"People do report stuff like that, but it's very rare.
“It's much more likely to be more vague sensations.
"A sense of presence. Feeling dizzy, changes in temperature, shivers up the spine."
Context is also key, French explained.
“If you’re shown around an old building and somebody says it’s haunted… you'll notice every little creak and change in temperature in a way you wouldn't have done otherwise.”
While hallucinations are more common than you think.
“Anybody can hallucinate under conditions like extreme sleep deprivation, high stress or high temperature," he added.
Electromagnetic fields are invisible areas of radiation that travels in waves.
They can comes from both natural and man-made sources.
But in rare instances, they can cause disturbances in people’s brain signals, prompting hallucinations.
The world is a nosy place, and much louder than humans can hear.
There are a multitude of audio waves that are too low (or high) for humans to hear.
But these low frequencies – around 19 hertz – can cause the human eye to vibrate slightly, causing optical illusions.
French and his team investigated the effects of electromagnetic fields and hidden sounds on people's belief in ghosts, by exposing participants to infrasound and electromagnetic activity.
"People did report unusual sensations in the room," said French.
"Eight per cent of people even reported feeling terror.
“The problem was when we analysed the results, it didn't matter whether the infrasound and the electromagnetic fields were on.
“If you say to a bunch of people, ‘if you go in that room, you might have some weird experiences,’ the more suggestible ones do.
"But it's the power of suggestion and nothing else.”
One thing many ghostly sightings have in common is our dear fungi friend: mould.
'Haunted' houses tend to have more mould, according to Dr Shane Rogers, a civil and environmental engineering professor at New York's Clarkson University.
The professor noticed "strange behaviour" from his children after they were exposed to mould in the basement of their home.
After watching a string of TV shows diving into supposedly haunted houses, Rogers noticed many of these old, creaky buildings had signs of mould.
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Aspergillus mould, commonly found in damp buildings, can cause shortness of breath and dark shapes to float across people’s vision due to optic nerve inflammation.
While Stachybotrys, also known as black mould, can instill a feeling of fear in mice, lab results have revealed.
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