Ghosts: How Do We Perceive Ghosts?

Barry Taff, a noted parapsychologist (with a doctorate in psychophysiology and a minor in biochemical engineering), asked a pertinent question during a documentary about ghosts.  He wondered whether, when we see a ghost, we are actually seeing something through our eyes and optic nerves – or whether something “directly stimulates the brain of the observer to impose an image on it.  We don’t know.”

This is a great question.  How indeed?  Think about it.  It’s not so easy to say or prove either way.

Taff also makes the point that ghosts are notoriously difficult to record with equipment, that when one is set up in one place, they will manifest in the next room over, etc.  A filmmaker who worked on the documentary (I’m sorry I can’t remember which one) discussed a few cases – when the ghost was mentioned, the lights would turn off (and batteries would wear down in fifteen minutes instead of five hours).  There was some footage of people discussing ghosts and the lights going off as they spoke and named the ghost.

These physical manifestations (another ghost pulled a window shade up and down) would seem to indicate something external to the mind.  It still doesn’t answer the original question, whether we “see” ghosts with the eye or with the “inner eye” of the mind/brain.

Taff is a well-educated and very experienced parapsychologist.  His question about through which sense/in which way we perceive ghosts is a good one.  A note: to say we perceive it in the mind/brain doesn’t mean we are making it up – it just means that it somehow is sensed directly by the mind, not filtered by the eyes.

For more ghosts, fact or fiction, paperback or kindle e-book, see:

ghost book covers



4 thoughts on “Ghosts: How Do We Perceive Ghosts?

  1. A well written and thoughtful piece 💚 — the question of how much is “external” to us and how much is “internal.” It reminds me of cosmic rays, because when you’re in a dark room for a long time and very patient you can see the flashes of light caused by these high energy particles striking the retina. But they might also strike synapses in the brain and do something … unknown. In my case, probably make me think of coffee. ☕️😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Steve – thanks as always for reading, and for your observation. What I meant to convey was not that the “ghost” phenomena were internal or external: they’re external (although their causation in some cases can be internal). Ok – still with me ? 🙂 it’s the way in which we sense ghosts that Dr. Taff discusses: whether they are perceived by the brain directly or via the optic sensory network, the way we “see” usually. It’s quite an intriguing question. (I do get it about coffee 🙂 Also, the answer might well be that ghosts are perceived both ways: visually and also as a kind of direct brain imprint or impression. Your cosmic rays are a great analogy of an external thing observed in different ways. Food for thought, eh!

      Liked by 1 person

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