It is currently October, which means it's the time of year where people begin talking about ghosts, ghouls, goblins and other spooky things. And it's not just all for fun either. A 2017 survey found that 52 percent of Americans believe places can be haunted by spirits, and many people believe they've encountered ghosts in the past. And while some of these may or may not have practical explanations, there are several scientific explanations for many paranormal encounters.
Here's a look at six of them:
1. Electromagnetic Fields
A Canadian neuroscientist actually performed an experiment that people put in the presence of weak magnetic fields will feel an invisible presence like someone else is in the room. He hypothesized that many stories of people feeling spirits or ghosts in their presence were actually being exposed to pulsating magnetic fields.
Infrasound is a noise at a level so low that humans cannot hear it. While we may not be able to hear it, the low frequency vibrations can still be felt by a human, and can cause physiological stress. They can even cause people to see or hear things that aren't really there. So the next time you think a ghost is in a room, it may just be nearby traffic creating infrasound.
Some researchers have begun exploring haunted houses not to look for ghosts, but rather for toxic mold. Mold can create symptoms in humans similar to ghost sightings, such as irrational fear and dementia. It's also no coincidence a lot of these haunted houses are older houses which are more prone to mold growth than newer buildings.
4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
We can actually go all the way back to 1921 when a doctor published a story in a medical journal about a family experiencing spooky phenomena and believing their house was haunted by ghosts, only for them to discover their furnace was leaking carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause many of the psychological symptoms we associate with hauntings.
5. Herd Mentality
Herd mentality is the idea that humans adopt a certain type of behavior because others are doing it. The same can work with paranormal experiences. Experiments have shown that when viewing a video of a psychic making a key bend, participants were more likely to say they saw the key bend if they watched the video with someone who also said they saw the key bend. So it's possible many ghost sightings are simply the result of one person saying they saw a spirit and others in their presence going along with it.
6. We Want to Believe
Very simply, we believe in ghosts because we want to. People don't want to die, and they want to believe that life continues after death for themselves and their loved ones. So when stories or evidence of ghosts appears, we are more prone to believe it because we want it to be true because it means there may be an after-life for us as well.
(h/t Mental Floss)