Ghosts-Do You Believe?

Calista Freeland, Writer/Editor

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Ghosts have haunted people for years, that is if you believe in them. At Righetti alone, over half of the people that we interviewed believe in ghosts. Comparing that to a 2013 survey, over 45% of Americans believe in ghosts. What does this say about our community and our country as a whole? Where did these beliefs come from? Most importantly, why do people have these beliefs?

We, as humans, have a desire to explain the unexplained. Hence the countless myths many still believe today. Humans also want to feel that when they die, there is something more for them and their loved ones. Many societies use the idea of ghosts as “lost souls” or people who committed crimes who stay on Earth as punishment instead of going to a heavenly or spiritual place. This re-established the idea that your actions have consequences and that it is important to live your life with dignity.

Many people also enjoy the thrill of ghost stories and legends. Much like people enjoy horror movies or rollercoasters, people enjoy the fear of the dead and find it exciting. According to Dr. Margee Kerr, a staff sociologist at Scarehouse (a haunted house located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) some people enjoy the concept of fear because it causes a person to feel a natural high. It also is based on a person’s chemical response to fear through the release of dopamine. People who produce more dopamine will most likely find fear more thrilling, while people who produce less will not.

Have you ever wondered where these beliefs came from? Often, this idea seldom crosses our minds. However, whether you’ve thought about it or not, learning where these beliefs came from can help us better understand the reason why people still believe in the paranormal today. The earliest recorded belief in ghosts dates back to the first century A.D. when Pliny the Younger, a Roman author, included ghost stories in his letters, while Plautus and the Greek writer Lucian similarly wrote of ghost encounters.

When we think of ghosts, many of us also think of holidays such as Halloween or Día de los Muertos. Halloween derived from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when the ghosts of those who had passed returned to Earth, which was eventually incorporated with the concept of the Catholic All Saints Day, taking place on November 1st. The day before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, which was later adapted into Halloween. Día de los Muertos originated from the Aztec rituals of Latin America. Much like Halloween, Día de los Muertos coincides with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, concepts or holidays brought to Latin America by Spanish conquistadors. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are awakened from death to spend time with loved ones and celebrate life. Spirits are portrayed as skeletons celebrating life and are depicted through food, decorations, and celebrations.

People around the world have believed in ghosts for centuries. Whether it is for the thrill, the reassurance of life after death or the belief that there is proof, the concept of ghosts has maintained its popularity for centuries. Many people also have these beliefs due to tradition and the ability to feel connected to their families. Whatever the reason, these beliefs aren’t dying anytime soon!