Terror Thursday: Are Ghosts Real?

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Have you, or anyone you know, experienced spooky stuff? In a country as superstitious as Singapore, it’s no surprise that many people believe in ghosts. But have you considered that there might be a scientific explanation behind them?

Seeing things
Have you ever seen an apparition in the corner of your eye, and then it vanishes when you turn to look at it?

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When researcher Vic Tandy saw a grey ‘ghost’ near his desk, he discovered that the vibrations from a fan one floor below were causing a ‘silent’ noise (anything under 20Hz). Called infrasound, it causes a whole host of strange things to happen to your body, including the vibration of your eyeballs; human eyeballs resonate at 18Hz, and exposure to infrasound of that frequency can cause hallucinations.

Infrasound can be created by a whole host of events – traffic, lighting, the weather, even animals. You can’t hear infrasound because our ears can only register vibrations of 20Hz or more.

Also, if you’re sleep deprived or doing a routine boring chore in a daydream state, your mind will fill in some creative blanks (a lady in red, perhaps?) just to spook you.

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Paralysed in bed
Have you ever felt paralysed while lying in bed wide awake, with someone trying to strangle you or drag you across the bed, but you’re unable to scream?

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This phenomenon is all part of sleep paralysis, which happens when there’s a disconnect between body and mind while coming in and out of REM sleep, and has been recorded countless times over the centuries. This paralysis mainly renders us helpless in a threat situation (some people experience vibrating beds), and could even explain alien abductions or that apparition in the corner.

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Someone next to you
We’ve all heard spooky tales of people being shadowed or visited by a dark being.

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In one Swiss experiment, a woman stated that a shadow copied her every move and even ‘held’ her. That’s because the scientists electrically stimulated her brain and it subconsciously created a “copycat” person. In another similar experiment at Laurentian University, participants reported the presence of ‘people’, and in one case, a volunteer felt her leg ‘dragged up the wall’. It’s one reason not to play with electric currents!

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The House of Horror
If you’ve watched Poltergeist or any horror flick, you’ll be familiar with footsteps in empty rooms, dying plants and random apparitions.

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In one explanation, a “Poltergeist” house had a faulty furnace that leaked carbon monoxide (CO). CO poisoning can lead to symptoms like hallucination (before you die, that is).

Another cause for Poltergeist could be electromagnetic (EMF) pollution. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger found the correlation between locations with reported hauntings and places with increased geomagnetic activity.

In 1996, a home reported heavy paranormal activity including electrical items switching on and off, vases of flowers flying across a room and a heavy table that overturned itself regularly. Probably cause – high levels of EMF were emitted from a nearby 40ft radio mast. Maybe that’s why Bukit Timah’s so spooky…

Magnetic fields don’t just affect metal objects – acoustic levitation happens when sound waves (like ultrasound) are able to move objects.

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