I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be incredible to have the definitive answers, to know exactly what causes those bumps in the night, but once we know, does anything really change?
Millions of people enjoy seeing the likes of Zak Bagans, Katrina Weidman and Barri Ghai hunt for ghosts on television, supernatural movies like ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ occupy one of the biggest film genres, and there are countless books, both fact and fiction, with a supernatural theme.
It’s not just the world of entertainment, the potential existence of ghosts encourages us to debate the meaning of life and life after death.
So, is proving that ghosts do or don’t exist actually necessary?
We already have some clues to answer this. We live in a world where some people believe in ghosts and some don’t. It’s like a Schrödinger’s cat scenario. If we base the existence of ghosts on the beliefs of society, then ghosts both do and don’t exist simultaneously.
Those opposing beliefs are strong. As the American economist, social theorist and writer Stuart Chase wrote, “for those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
This strong and opposing duality in beliefs across society shows us that it doesn’t matter if ghosts exist or not, because in society paranormal themed entertainment is widely enjoyed, works of supernatural fiction are profitable and the debate over the afterlife rages on.
Ghost hunting shows on television are already prefixed with the disclaimer that they are for ‘entertainment purposes only’, yet fans of the genre still religiously watch these shows each week. These shows aren’t just watched by hardcore believers, many skeptics also watch them for entertainment value, as well as the curious who wonder ‘what if they do capture something?’
Movies like ‘Ghostbusters’ are a valid source of entertainment in a world where there’s a division in the belief over the existence of ghosts. Even if undeniable proof was presented that ghost don’t exist, we would still get new supernatural movies, because people love them. It doesn’t matter that ghosts are not real, it’s simply entertainment. The same is true of superhero movies, which fall into another popular genre, despite the fact that superpowers don’t exist.
For someone who is skeptical about the existence of ghosts but enjoys paranormal themed-entertainment, it’s already pretty easy to lump ghost hunting shows like ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Paranormal Lockdown’ together with supernatural movies like ‘Insidious’, ‘The Sixth Sense’ or ‘Paranormal Activity’. It’s possible for them to enjoy both.
However some believers might take a different view, while they might still enjoy creepy movies, for them fictional Hollywood scares are a world apart from the reality of television ghost hunting, but the point remains – whether ghosts are real or not, it’s still entertaining.
It’s not just movies and television that has become the home of ghosts, paranormal podcasts are now a booming genre, as evidenced by the breakout success of ‘Uncanny’ in the UK. The supernatural series is hosted by Danny Robins and relies upon ghost stories told by normal people. Quite a community has formed around this podcast, with skeptics and believers alike coming together online to discuss the hauntings featured in each episode.
Ghost stories define cultures and have strong ties to history, in many cases making history more palatable and fantastical. If you’ve ever been on a guided ghost walk around the city you live in, you’ll know these tours are popular nights out. What’s also apparent is that guided walks don’t just tell you about the city’s spooks, but the local history. A tour guide can’t possibly tell you the tale of a resident spook without them first telling you about the building it’s said to haunt’s former inhabitants or uses.
Some might end these walking tours satisfied that they’d learnt a little bit more about the history of the place they live and enjoyed some atmospheric tales of local myths and legends, while others will accept the claims of the tour guided as valid accounts of paranormal activity.
But what if you work in one of these haunted buildings and you’ve seen one of its resident ghosts firsthand? Surely then it matters whether ghosts are real or not? Well, it could be argued not really. The situation is the same. The fact you’ve seen a ghost confirms your belief and gives you a valid explanation for what you’ve seen. This is a perfectly reasonable way to feel if you’ve experienced something unexplained.
However, a skeptic might argue that the real cause of your experience isn’t the spirit of a dead person, but a psychological trick or an environmental factor that’s causing you to see things that aren’t really there. The thing is, whether they are right or wrong, it doesn’t change what you experienced.
Even the question of whether ghosts exist or not doesn’t change what you experienced. Of course it might bring about the realisation that the cause of your experience wasn’t what you originally thought it was, but the memory of the experience itself will remain unchanged.
The paranormal world is more than just a field of research. It’s more than just a fringe belief crying out to be debunked. It’s more than just a genre of movies, television shows and books. The paranormal world is all of these things and more, and ghosts may or may not exist depending upon who is observing them.
From hard-nosed paranormal investigator to casual Saturday night ghost hunters and fans of ghostly fiction, the paranormal isn’t any one thing and no single group of people has a claim over it regardless of their beliefs or experiences.
Whether ghosts are proven to exist or not is irrelevant, the tangled world of ghosts and hauntings that we all contribute to and feed off of in our own different ways definitely and irrefutably exists.