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Pirate Spirit by Howard Pyle .

As a ghost who describes popular belief , a mostly equipped with supernatural abilities, but also with human provided properties spirits , the "haunted" - so people in any way "appears". Its temporary appearance often takes place in a hazy, transparent, implied human or non-human form. There are ghosts in the imaginations of different cultures .

In the narrower sense of the word, ghosts are only the spirits of the dead .


There is no materialistic - empirical evidence for the existence of ghosts.

natural Science
From a scientific point of view, the existence of such phenomena is therefore not recognized. From a historical perspective, alleged ghosts are often explained as a subjective, unintentional misinterpretation of natural phenomena that have not yet been recorded.
From a psychological point of view, ghosts are interpreted as phenomena that are present in the imagination of those who perceive them.
From a medical-neurological point of view, ghosts are explained as hallucinations or the result of incorrect processing of sensory stimuli in the brain . In a dissonance experiment (Olaf Blanke, 2014), Swiss neuroscientists at the Technical University of Lausanne succeeded in deliberately evoking a ghost appearance under laboratory conditions. Hand movements carried out by the test participants were repeated asynchronously in time on their back by a robot hand. The resulting discrepancy in the sensorimotor brain signals led to impaired proprioception, and as a result the participants reported the illusion that they had perceived another person in the test laboratory.

The idea of ​​the existence of a spirit world can be viewed as prehistoric. They presuppose early religious interpretations and mythologies. In a broader sense, ideas of spirits of the dead or other ghosts are added to this world of nature spirits .

The belief in ghosts in the narrower sense, as a result of a distinction between gods and spirits, can often no longer be assigned to the realm of religion . From Enlightenment view is, in a negative rating, simply to superstition .


Numerous alleged ghost phenomena are based on an illusion . Hardly perceptible physical effects have reproducible effects on many people: a sudden drop in temperature inside buildings is perceived by many people as a touch stimulus. An example of the physical causes of ghost sightings is the Brocken Ghost . By cleverly arranging a magnetic field, one can fool a person's brain into such a way that chimeras form. So the person then imagines they see a ghost or hear a breathing. Recent research has also shown an interplay of various physical phenomena, such as the air vibrations at low frequencies (wind against stronger castle walls) and the natural resonance of the eyeball (seeing white spots).

Many alleged ghostly apparitions are deliberate frauds and deceptions. One such fraud was the " Chopper " that appeared in 1982 in a Neutraubling dental practice .


Classifications of the ghost world are questionable insofar as they relate to assumed actual phenomena. Some differentiate between so-called demons , elementals , angels and familiars . According to George Tyrrell (see the "Literature" section ) and others, there are four or five main categories of ghosts or ghosts:

  1. Experimental spirits, in which the spirits of living people are caused by mysterious forces to appear to others in different places.
  2. Crisis ghosts, the relatives appear when their relatives are threatened with a terrible fate with fatal consequences.
  3. “Post-mortem” spirits that only appear after the death of a person, but are so similar to the deceased that they usually cause a deep shock in the person they appear to be.
  4. “Real” ghosts that appear most frequently and are seen by people who have absolutely no connection with them. They can appear centuries after the death, but are generally tied to a specific setting, such as an old haunted castle .
  5. "Astral spirits" ( star or air spirits ), in the ancient oriental religions they were the spirits of the stars thought to be animated. In the demonology of the Middle Ages, astral spirits are both fallen angels and souls of the deceased as well as spirits created from fire, which, hovering between earth, heaven and hell, do not belong to any of these three realms.


The spiritualism assumes that the souls of the dead ghosts are in the afterlife exist and can appear in this world. Such spirits of the dead not only appear randomly and unpredictably, for example to frighten people or to convey messages to them, they can supposedly also be conjured up by so-called media through materialization and then have superior knowledge of past or future events in the expectation of their listeners.

Ghost of a Murdered Man by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)

Local ghost phenomena are often interpreted as the attachment of an “unredeemed” soul to a specific location, such as the scene of a crime committed or suffered. The clarification of the fact can lead to the redemption of the ghost. Even a burial that is not ritually performed correctly can lead to the appearance of a spirit of the dead.

The assumed abilities of ghosts include floating weightlessly and penetrating walls or people. Some ghosts can generate noises, communicate verbally, make them visible or invisible, or take on different external shapes. Their appearance often triggers a strong sensation of cold (grave cold). All in all, the encounter with ghosts is eerie and frightening, although it remains unclear what exactly the specific danger is.

Examples of alleged hauntings in recent times

Even in modern times there are reports of ghostly phenomena. The following examples from more recent times make it clear, however, that such phenomena are usually based on rational causes.

  • The unhappily married royal consort Catherine Howard sought refuge with a courtier at Hampton Court Palace , England . King Henry VIII noticed his wife's infidelity, had her imprisoned in the castle dungeons and finally executed in 1542 for adultery. Numerous visitors and the staff of the castle have reported strange apparitions again and again in recent times. These allegedly occurred at the entrance to the king's chamber, to which Catherine Howard is said to have run shortly before the execution while fleeing from the palace guards to beg her husband for mercy. The psychologist Richard Wiseman , known in Great Britain as a “ghost skeptic” , started a large-scale experiment in 2000 on behalf of the palace administration, which was supposed to explain the ghost in Hampton Court Palace. Around 500 volunteers between the ages of 7 and 82 were sent individually through the corridors of the castle in order to collect impressions for about ten minutes and to describe any phenomena that might occur in a questionnaire. Over half of the test subjects actually had strange experiences during the tour. The spectrum ranged from the sudden feeling of presence, anxiety, panic attacks and chills to the firm conviction that clothing had been touched. During their investigations, the scientists identified strong temperature fluctuations that resulted from the architecture of the building as a trigger: the wind flowed in from the outside at porous points in the masonry, and numerous small circulations formed. In other areas, on the other hand, the air seemed to stand still, could not warm up, and suddenly it became cold. Measurements also showed a slightly stronger magnetic field than in the rest of the castle, especially in the particularly “haunted” places . Richard Wiseman saw the effect of these effects on the psyche as the key to the alleged ghost appearances.
  • In April 2001, another “ghost hunt ” under the direction of Wiseman took place in the legendary vaults of Edinburgh , notorious for their spooky phenomena . As part of this experiment, a young volunteer was locked in one of the dungeons for 20 minutes, alone and in complete darkness. An installed infrared camera recorded the event. After five minutes, the test person believed he heard breathing noises in the vaulted cellar, which seemed to become more and more threatening. When the subject stared into a corner of the room, she saw a red glow and ran away in a panic. The attempt had to be stopped. However, the images from the camera did not show any abnormalities. In the opinion of science, magnetism and air movements only play a subordinate role in such locations. Rather, moisture, cold and darkness are seen as decisive fear factors, which create an extremely eerie aura. Such an oppressive impression puts the human psyche on alert and easily provokes hallucinations. "Under certain circumstances, these ideas can be extremely real," says Richard Wiseman.
  • In a university building in Coventry , engineer Vic Tandy, who was working alone in the laboratory that night, suddenly thought he saw a figure scurry past. After the same phenomenon occurred the following night, he tried to find out why. Finally, the scientist tracked down the cause: a fan in the wall emitted inaudible infrasound at a frequency of 18 Hz, which set the eyeball vibrating and thereby sending false information to the brain. Since infrasound also occurs in nature, a further scientific explanation was provided in this way, which could also apply to many other spooky cases.
  • There is a centuries-old paranormal phenomenon in the Munich Residenz . Since the beginning of the 18th century and for the last time in 2014, the "Black Woman", who allegedly announced deaths in the house of the Wittelsbach family, has appeared at irregular intervals.

Literary and cinematic processing

"Appearances are deceptive": photomontage of a ghost apparition

There are numerous descriptions of ghosts in folk tales , mythological texts or fairy tales , including the jinn from 1001 nights . They also appear in classical and romantic literature ( Shakespeare's Hamlet ; Goethe's Bride of Corinth ) or in ghost stories , ghost novels and ghost thrillers (e.g. ghost hunter John Sinclair and in the television series Supernatural, where the brothers Sam and Dean hunt ghosts and other phenomena ; partly also in "Christoph Schwarz - Detective of the Supersensible"). Friedrich Schiller's fragment of the novel " Der Geisterseher " ( The Ghost Seer ) deals with the deception by an alleged spiritualistic medium. Heinrich Heine picks up on a “ghost phenomenon” in his story “ Die Harzreise ” in a particularly “witty” way : the first-person narrator spends the night in a strange guesthouse room when the moon is full. He's reading a ghost story. At midnight sharp, the ghost of the recently deceased Saul Ascher appears to him and, quoting Immanuel Kant , proves that there can be no ghosts. Nevertheless, the phenomenon only disappears at one o'clock sharp. The lesson of history is that the knowledge of the non-existence of ghosts does not make their perception disappear if the fear is greater than the will to reason. Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost takes up the subject satirically . For children, Otfried Preußler tells about the little ghost . And the series of radio plays and the film “ Hui Buh das Schlossgespenst” by Eberhard Alexander-Burgh is also about a ghost that is up to mischief in a castle. With his play The fearful ghost , Friedrich Arndt created a milestone in modern puppetry for children and a bestseller as a radio play .

The film industry finds a rich supply of material in the belief in ghosts, but also enriches the imagination of its consumers. The Ghostbusters cinema films, in which para-scientists in New York captured various ghosts with proton beams and ghost traps , provided a humorous portrayal of the subject . The ghost is the title of a tragicomic film by Herbert Achternbusch , shot in 1982 , in which a life-size figure of Christ can no longer stand on the cross, but rather as a " waiter " who has come to life into the bed of a matron or as a waiter in a monastery tavern Trouble with the police , with which Bishop and Munich causes passers-by. The film raises the question of how Jesus would be treated if he showed up in Bavaria today, and provoked violent protests from the German bishops over allegations of numerous bad taste, so that the public prosecutor had to deal with him. Bruce Willis ' protégé has to deal with spirits of the dead in " The Sixth Sense ". The film “ The Others ” also takes a slightly different approach, turning the classic spook upside down at the end. Nicole Kidman stars in this 2001 film. Ghost Hunters is a docu-soap in which a team of self-proclaimed ghost hunters visit places that are supposed to be haunted. There they investigate to prove (sometimes disprove) the ghost. In the 2008 comedy film " Who the Ghosts Love ", a dentist played by Ricky Gervais has to help ghosts with their unfinished business so that they can die for good.


Popular belief, vernacular and the arts have taken up the "ghost" again and again. Probably the most famous relevant quote opens the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels :

"A ghost is haunting Europe - the ghost of communism."

- Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels

Causes of Belief in Ghosts

The purely formal psychology explains the belief in spirits as a personification of death or the soul .

See also


  • Eberhard Bauer, Michael Schetsche (ed.): Everyday miracles  : experiences with the supernatural - scientific findings. Ergon, Würzburg 2003, ISBN 3-89913-311-0 .
  • Michael Schneider: Mysterious world - mysteries and riddles of our time . Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2004, ISBN 3-8334-2058-8 .
  • George Tyrrell: Apparitions and Visions in the PSI Field . Walter, Olten 1979.

Web links

Commons : Ghosts  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ghosts  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Ghost  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Olaf Blanke, Polona Pozeg, et al .: Neurological and Robot-Controlled Induction of an Apparition published in Current Biology, loaded on November 12, 2014
  2. ^ Palace ghost laid to rest. BBC News , accessed September 18, 2011 .
  3. Hauntings: Hampton Court. Richard Wiseman , accessed September 18, 2011 .
  4. ^ Hauntings: The Vaults. Richard Wiseman , accessed September 18, 2011 .
  5. Ghost buster. The Guardian , July 11, 2000, accessed September 18, 2011 .
  6. ^ The fear frequency. The Guardian , October 16, 2003, accessed September 18, 2011 .
  7. Gudrun Passarge: Veiled Apparition . In: sueddeutsche.de . 2017, ISSN  0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de [accessed on May 26, 2018]).
  8. Munichkindl * portal on Munich's city history. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  9. ^ Deutschestextarchiv.de: Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich: Manifesto of the Communist Party. London, 1848
  10. Ghosts and horrors. Retrieved November 17, 2015 .