Spooky appearance

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Artist's impression of a ghost

Spook is a term for eerie phenomena that cannot obviously be scientifically explained . Science explains spooky with natural causes, as an illusion or a psychological effect . According to parapsychology , however, even after applying all natural explanations, a residue of inexplicable phenomena remains, which is interpreted as "repetitive spontaneous psychokinesis " (English "Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis", RSPK for short). Parapsychologists also point out that it has occasionally been possible to objectify spooky phenomena using sound and image carriers.

Furthermore, haunted phenomena (for example ghosts ) are a scientific object of investigation in folklore or cultural history .

Word origin

The High German word "Spuk" was taken over in the 17th century from synonymous Low German spōk or spūk. The Germanic root is * spōk, from which also Danish spøg “ghost; Ulk ”, and, conveyed via Dutch , English spook “ Ghost, Spook ”. Perhaps it is based on the Indo-European root * (s) peg-, * sp (h) eng- "radiate", to which extra- Germanic old Prussian spanksti "spark", Lithuanian spingu "seem", Latvian spigana "dragon, witch" and spiganis "will- o'-the-wisp “Can be asked. A derivation from the Low German word spōk or spök is also the noun Spökenkieker "Geistergucker, Clairvoyant".

Person- and place-bound spook

Parapsychology differentiates between person-bound and place-bound spooks. In the case of person-related spooks, a person - often either pubescent or dying - can be assumed to be the agent of the spooky phenomena. The local ghost occurs, apparently without a living agent, over years, decades or even centuries in the same place. One example is the White Woman repeatedly observed in some castles . Person-related spook with its rather short duration is also referred to as a poltergeist phenomenon, especially if it is of a physical and acoustic nature , while location-related spook, often without personal reference to or without direct communication with the observers, sometimes also as spook in closer detail Meaning is understood.

Natural explanations

Physical causes

Eerie noises in buildings are often e. B. caused by animals such as mice, rats or martens (z. B. in the roof truss), by gusts of wind or by material stresses due to temperature and moisture-related expansion and shrinkage processes.

Closing doors and windows, swaying curtains and similar phenomena can in most cases be traced back to air currents due to temperature or pressure differences.

Psychogeographic explanation

The psychogeographic theory is based on the conviction that haunted houses and castles often have an “eerie” atmosphere that affects the psyche and perception of people. If you are tense as a visitor to such a place, physical effects such as a cold draft, magnetic fields or infrasound can easily trigger anxiety. This explanation has been confirmed by large-scale scientific studies at Hampton Court Palace and Edinburgh Castle under the direction of the British psychologist Richard Wiseman .


Some reported "haunted phenomena " such as some poltergeist phenomena (e.g. choppers ) can also be traced back to manipulations fraudulently carried out by living people. In addition, falsehoods and newspaper ducks are also accepted as sources of information about spooks.

Supernatural explanations

In parapsychology, the following theories were developed in order to interpret those haunted phenomena that, in their opinion, cannot be scientifically explained:

The animistic theory

The animistic theory (from Latin anima "soul") explains spooky phenomena as being caused paranormally by the living . This is said to apply to many poltergeist phenomena; However, in the case of localized and sometimes spooky spooks such as the “ white woman ” in so-called haunted castles, the animistic interpretation becomes more difficult.

The spiritistic approach

The spiritualistic theory (from Latin spiritus "spirit") assumes that spooks are caused by independent beings (spirits), specifically by the souls of deceased who are still on earth and are not ready to let go or die.

The followers of Jakob Lorber take this position. They assume that no believing “Christian soul”, on the other hand, more often “unbelieving human souls” make themselves “noticeable” in whatever form after their physical death in their usual place of life.

Independent psychological parts

The Austrian psychologist Alfred Freiherr von Winterstein (1885–1958) as well as Marie-Louise von Franz independently formulated the theory that spooky phenomena are caused by the deceased's psychological complexes that have become autonomous. After citing some case studies, Winterstein drew the conclusion in an essay: The spooky phenomena with their monotonous, automatic repetition of one and the same action give the impression that this is not about the survival of the whole psyche, but only of an autonomous complex of ideas, a fixed one Idea, an obsession, which pushes for continuous removal and realization through the haunted phenomena [...].

Marie-Louise von Franz wrote similarly , based on CG Jung : Spook is caused by partial souls that have become independent or separated psychological complexes of the living or the deceased who behave half intelligent, half senseless or disturbing.

Saved psychological impressions

The English parapsychologist Eleanor Sidgwick took the view that objects or houses could absorb emotional energy and transfer it to sensitive people. In a slightly different way, Henry Habberly Price assumed that emotionally charged psychic impressions were not stored in the substance of buildings, but in a “psychic ether” between spirit and matter (English: Psychic-ether-hypothesis ). The impressions stored in this way could be perceived again and again; this would create the typical phenomenon that many ghost phenomena repeat crisis events. The scientist Fanny Moser explains the so-called mimicry noises that occur in some haunted cases - noises that imitate the previous occupation of a deceased person, such as B. steps, the back of chairs, etc. - so that everyday objects could absorb psychic energy. Hans Bender took the view that violent emotions could create a localized atmosphere that exists independently of humans and causes or promotes paranormal events.

William G. Roll , head of the Psychical Research Foundation in Durham , North Carolina, expanded the theory of stored psychological impressions to a spectrum theory : Spook could indeed be traced back to memory-like traces in the material environment; In addition, however, many spooky phenomena would also be unconsciously generated by the perceiver in order to satisfy emotional needs. Because even if haunted frightens some recipients, many people are happy with their haunted phenomena. Therefore there is a spectrum with the paranormal impressions on the one hand and the needs of the recipient on the other.

Post-death contact and medium

Some believe in post-death contacts or that so-called media can establish contact with deceased people or ghosts who can haunt people. This so-called mediumism is particularly widespread in Europe in England, Wales and Switzerland. In England and Wales, the medium is a recognized profession with its own union and schools and training centers. In England and Wales, media appear in many churches. In Switzerland, many media have their own practices, appear on large stages and on television, and work, among other things. a. cooperate with the police for investigative work. In Brazil, media are recognized by the state and their capabilities are used. In individual cases, statements from the media in court are accepted there (see Medium ).

Parapsychological advice center

The parapsychological counseling center in Freiburg is a state-subsidized counseling center for people who want to find out more about spooks, ghosts, esotericism, etc. B. feel threatened by it and need advice. Walter von Lucadou is the head of this advice center, who thinks that such phenomena are very common and that the people who experience them are not “crazy”, as is usually assumed. Those seeking help can contact the counseling center directly by phone.

Film documentaries


  • Werner F. Bonin: Article Spuk , in: Lexikon der Parapsychologie. Munich: Orbis-Verlag, 1988, p. 465f.
  • Fanny Moser: Spooky. A riddle of mankind. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1985.
  • Otto Piper: The spook. 250 stories of all kinds and times from the world of the supersensible. Cologne: Bachem, 1917, 2nd edition 1922, reprints Greiz: König, 2010; Vienna: Sarastro, 2012.
  • Alfred Winterstein: On the psychoanalysis of the spook , in: Neue Wissenschaft: Zeitschrift für Grenzgebiete des Seelenleben , 14th year 1966, pp. 37-49 online

supporting documents

  1. Bonin, Spuk (see literature), p. 465. The term “Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis” was coined in 1958 by William G. Roll, cf. Scarlet Cheng et al: ghost phenomena . Cologne: eco-Verlag 1999, p. 73.
  2. Bonin, Spuk (see literature), p. 465.
  3. ^ Kluge, Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 23rd edition Berlin 1995, p. 784.
  4. Niels Åge Nielsen: Ordenes historie. Dansk etymologisk ordbog . Copenhagen 4th ed. 1989, p. 412 and etymonline on the lemma "spook"
  5. Duden, The large dictionary of the German language in ten volumes , Vol. 8, Mannheim 3rd ed. 1988, pp. 3658f.
  6. Bonin, Spuk (see literature), p. 465.
  7. Even if not impossible, cf. on this Bonin, Spuk (see literature), p. 465: Some authors suspect an “impregnation” of the locality concerned; the "pure" ASW hypothesis assumes that the memory of a paranormal experience is passed on telepathically or that the experience can be experienced retrocognitively and leads to a new triggering of the spook with appropriately qualified potential agents. Cf. also Werner F. Bonin: Article Animism , in: Lexikon der Parapsychologie. Munich 1988, p. 26f.
  8. Cheng et al. a .: Geisterphänomene (as note 1), p. 22. Cf. also Werner F. Bonin: Article Spiritismus , in: Lexikon der Parapsychologie. Munich 1988, p. 463.
  9. Winterstein, Psychoanalyse des Spuks (as in the literature), p. 46.
  10. ^ Marie-Louise von Franz : Number and time. Psychological considerations for an approximation of depth psychology and physics . 2. Aufl. Stuttgart: Klett, 1990, p. 248, where it says: “ In fact, once I was able to observe in the analysis of a woman whose brother “ disintegrated ” in an incurable schizophrenia , how, so to speak, part-souls of this brother in parapsychological spooky phenomena caused the patient's environment, and when I informed Jung of this, he told me that he had often observed similar things and therefore considered it possible that sub-complexes could also “haunt” a living person ”(see also Jung's dissertation, Zur Psychologie and pathology of so-called occult phenomena, Leipzig 1902). If further observation proves to be true, it would shed new light on one of the greatest problems in parapsychology, namely, why "ghosts" and "spooky phenomena" often seem to behave so foolishly, half intelligent - half senseless. If they are only partial souls, this would be explained, because we can prove of the psychic complexes that on the one hand they can develop a certain intelligence of their own, but at the same time love to practice senseless disturbing maneuvers par excellence in the psychic context. The question so often discussed whether certain unconscious complexes of the circle participants or “real spirits” appear in spiritualistic sessions would be obsolete from this point of view; they would simply be autonomous complexes that could either belong to the living or to the deceased.
  11. Cheng et al. a .: Ghost phenomena (see note 1), pp. 23, 30, 32.
  12. HH Price: Haunting and the "Psychic ether" hypothesis: with some preliminary reflections on the present condition and possible future of psychical research , in: Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 160 (1939), pp. 307-343; see. Cheng et al. a .: Ghost phenomena (see note 1), pp. 23, 37.
  13. Fanny Moser: The occult. Deceptions and facts. Volume 2, Munich 1935, p. 929.
  14. Cheng et al. a .: Ghost phenomena (see note 1), p. 32f.
  15. Cheng et al. a .: Ghost phenomena (see note 1), pp. 23, 37.

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