Should You Be Afraid of Ghosts?
Do you fear the spirit world? Is that fear justified?
By Stephen Wagner, About.com Guide
THE GHOST PHENOMENON has become so closely associated with the instinct of fear that it's almost a given that, if asked, most people would admit that of course they would be frightened if they encountered an apparition. Even many seasoned ghost investigators have been known to run like scared rabbits when they see or even hear something unexpected.
Why? Have ghosts really earned the reputation of being harmful to humans?
If you were walking unarmed in a dense tropical jungle that you know is inhabited by tigers and large snakes, you'd undoubtedly be petrified. The threat to your life and well-being is quite real and your fears justified. Tigers and snakes can and do kill.
Now place yourself alone at night in a house that has the reputation for being haunted. Most people would probably experience the same fear. Yet, according to most authorities on the subject, the fear is not justified. Ghosts, by and large, are harmless. The true behavior of ghosts, as evidenced by many thousands of investigations and case studies conducted by paranormal experts, overwhelmingly contradicts the common idea that they are to be feared.
Veteran ghost investigator Hans Holzer, in his book Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997), emphasizes "...the need to forget a popular notion: that they are always dangerous, fearful, and hurt people. Nothing could be further from the truth.... Ghosts have never harmed anyone except through fear found within the witness, of his own doing and because of his own ignorance as to what ghosts represent."
Loyd Auerbach, another respected ghost hunter of many years, agrees: "In many cultures and religions around the world, ghosts are thought to harbor ill will towards the living. This is unfortunate, since the evidence from thousands of cases...suggests that people don't change their personalities or motivation after death... nor do they turn evil." (Ghost Hunting: How To Investigate the Paranormal, Ronin Publishing, 2004.)
ROOTS OF FEAR
So why do we fear them? There are probably two main reasons.
Fear of ghosts - also known as spectrophobia or phasmophobia - most obviously stems from our fear of the unknown. This is a deep-seated fear that is hard-wired into our genetic makeup. The primitive parts of our brain that respond to instinct - a holdover from our cave-dwelling ancestors - flushes our bodies with adrenaline when we encounter a threat, preparing us to fight or flee. And when that threat is something unknown that might leap out of the darkness, we'd just as soon flee.
There's another component to this fear when that something in the dark is perceived as a ghost. After all, a ghost is the manifestation of a person who is dead. So now we are confronted not only with what we think is a threat to our lives, but a representative of death itself. Not only is it an entity that we don't understand, it is also a resident of the place many of us fear the most - the mysterious land of the dead.
Next page: What about poltergeists?