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Mysteryshopper
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Matt.H wrote:I would argue
Matt.H wrote:

I would argue that the principal current definition of a "ghost" concerns the dead, and so is an echo of the past. This is evidenced by the use of the word "ghost" in literature as a metaphor for the past.

There have been many apparitions of the living, particularly crisis apparitions. The 'dead' connection is purely a cultural / legendary one. There is no evidence to support it. If I saw a ghost I didn't recognise today I would have no evidence to decide whether the figure is of a living or dead person or even a hallucination of 'someone' who has never existed.

Matt.H wrote:

I'm not sure you could limit ghosts to just those that aren't physically present - amongst road ghost reports, for example, there are plenty where the witness has been certain they have hit something or someone.

I think if you ran over a hallucination you would be convinced you had 'hit' them, in the same way as things that happen in dreams can appear perfectly real. The fact that when someone runs over a road ghost, they never find any trace of the collision or 'victim' afterwards will, I think, convince them that there was no one physically present. Just before the 'accident' they may well think the ghost is real and react accordingly. They may well be shocked but there is no evidence found afterwards that the ghost was ever physically present.

Matt.H
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Hi Mysteryshopper,I agree

Hi Mysteryshopper,

I agree that the "ghost-as-from-the-past" definition is flawed. I don't agree with it myself, but I feel that in terms of the current popular cultural perception, a ghost is a haunting from the past.

I'd argue that crisis apparitions and the like aren't ghosts at all, and need to be classed differently. I don't know how you'd do this, but then that was the problem Ian raised in the first place.

Perhaps the road ghosts angle wasn't the best to articulate what I meant about the physicality of ghosts. A better example may be how ghosts are said to be able to interact physically - hair pulling, doors opening, moving objects. In this respect, I'd say using a definition that includes an assertion of physicality is problematic.

Mysteryshopper
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Matt.H wrote:Perhaps the
Matt.H wrote:

Perhaps the road ghosts angle wasn't the best to articulate what I meant about the physicality of ghosts. A better example may be how ghosts are said to be able to interact physically - hair pulling, doors opening, moving objects. In this respect, I'd say using a definition that includes an assertion of physicality is problematic.

Ah, the nitty gritty! You're assuming ghosts CAUSE these phenomena. However, so far as I am aware, no ghost (as per my definition) has ever been SEEN to open doors, move objects, etc. I think it's a crucial point! (Like the dog that didn't bark in the night time). Those physical phenomena are certainly symptoms of a haunting but there is no evidence that a ghost actually does them.

Ghosts are only seen in a minority of haunting cases. There is, therefore, no obvious reason from the evidence to assume that they are essential to a haunting. Furthermore, ghosts are not seen to interact either with the witnesses or the environment. I therefore think that ghosts may simply be just another symptom of hauntings, like cold spots, rather than their cause. The idea that hauntings are caused by ghosts is, once again, tradition and legend with no real evidence to support it.

Matt.H wrote:

I agree that the "ghost-as-from-the-past" definition is flawed. I don't agree with it myself, but I feel that in terms of the current popular cultural perception, a ghost is a haunting from the past.

I think we really need to leave these cultural ideas of ghosts and hauntings behind once and for all. They do not fit the evidence and they never did. They simply hold back the entire subject which, as we know, hasn't moved forward much in over a century, possibly for this very reason.

Matt.H wrote:

I'd argue that crisis apparitions and the like aren't ghosts at all, and need to be classed differently.

Maybe so, though my definition of a ghost does not exclude crisis apparitions. If anyone has a better definition of a ghost then please suggest it. I would caution, though, that such a definition should rely on the evidence we have and not on popular culture otherwise we're just stuck where we started.

Matt.H
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I wasn't suggesting that

I wasn't suggesting that there was any evidence to prove or disprove that ghosts cause physical activity, merely pointing out that this is one theory. Indeed, in the absence of any definite evidence either way surely it's best not to limit a defintion to either the physical or metaphysical? This was what I meant when I said it's problematic!

To be brutally honest, is chasing a definition of such a culturally loaded and apprently diverse word as "ghost" really the best way to categorise these phenomena?

I agree that there's little evidence to support traditional theories as to the cause behind "ghosts". My own opinion is that we as humans intepret paranormal phenomena through our own cultural perceptions, and I reckon that at some point we will find the mechanism behind ghosts, UFOs, fairies and the like to be strikingly similar.

Are we not better served accepting that "ghost" will always be a rather slippery concept and instead concentrate on classifying phenomena rather than the manifold intepretations of the causes behind them?

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Ian Topham
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"The visible disembodied

"The visible disembodied soul of a dead person" is a definition I have found for a ghost and one I think we can ignore. But it does illustrate Matt's point that culturally the term ghost is related to dead people and is associated as such by the the general population.

As people who have looked more closely into hauntings as Mysteryshopper is saying we can see that there is no evidence really to associate ghosts with the dead. So should we be using the term ghost? Should we just stick with apparition? This restricts it to just one aspect of a haunting, the actual visual experience.

Quote:

I think definitions of types must rely on witness descriptions. This isn't unscientific - animal species were originally described purely on appearance and behaviour.

Of course you are right with your comment on observations, but I think the quality of the descriptions have to play a key part if it is possible to narrow catagories down further.

Mysteryshopper
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Matt.H wrote:Are we not
Matt.H wrote:

Are we not better served accepting that "ghost" will always be a rather slippery concept and instead concentrate on classifying phenomena rather than the manifold intepretations of the causes behind them?

Ian Topham wrote:

Of course you are right with your comment on observations, but I think the quality of the descriptions have to play a key part if it is possible to narrow catagories down further.

I believe we have reached some sort of agreement that any definition of paranormal phenomena should be based on observation rather than on supposed explanations, whether from popular culture or not.

So, Ian, do you still want to classify types of ghost or should we be looking more widely? Personally, I think the concept of a haunting, whether it includes apparitions or not, is a phenomenon that can be usefully defined. The most important point about it is that it stays in one location which is surely important to understanding its true nature.

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Agricola
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How about;Ghost - the

How about;

Ghost - the appearance of a non-corporeal entity formerly believed to have previously been living.

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Ian Topham
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Mysteryshopper wrote: So,
Mysteryshopper wrote:

So, Ian, do you still want to classify types of ghost or should we be looking more widely?

I'd be happy to carry on trying to define the whole haunting experience. However, whilst having a bath, re-enacting the battle of Trafalgar with my glow in the dark Darth Vader Rubber Ducks (yes plural) and trying to remember the Rubby Ducky song I learned from Seaseme Street as a kid, I had a thought. What about ghost ships as are reputed to haunt the Solway Firth

And what about ghostly aircraft and carriages? Do we need to change the definition to include inanimate objects? Does anyone know of a recent sighting of a ghost ship, carriage or aircraft? Are all ghost aircraft from WWII? Phantom vehicles would probably make a great topic to discuss on their own. If we are talking hallucinations then technically there is no limit to what can be experienced, person, animal, vehicle, ghostly vegetable even.

Mysteryshopper
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Agricola wrote:How
Agricola wrote:

How about;

Ghost - the appearance of a non-corporeal entity formerly believed to have previously been living.

If I saw a ghost, I wouldn't 'believe' it had been previously living. That's because I know (i) there are ghosts of the living and (ii) that I can hallucinate an entity that has never existed, from my brain.

Does that mean I am destined never to see a ghost? And if I see a human figure in front of me that subsequently vanishes, what do I call it?

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Agricola
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Mysteryshopper wrote:Does
Mysteryshopper wrote:

Does that mean I am destined never to see a ghost? And if I see a human figure in front of me that subsequently vanishes, what do I call it?

An apparition?

And don't forget animals!



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