The Science Behind Ghosts

What does science say about ghosts?

Science does not provide conclusive evidence for the existence of ghosts. The scientific community considers ghosts to be a matter of belief. Or folklore and personal experiences rather than a scientific phenomenon. Scientists link ghostly encounters to psychological and environmental factors. Some factors include suggestions and sleep disturbances. Others are electromagnetic fields, infrasound, and the power of suggestion.

The science behind ghosts

Peoples claims

Some people claim to have had ghostly encounters or experiences. But these accounts are typically anecdotal. And they lack empirical evidence that’s verified through the scientific method. Scientists rely on evidence and testable hypotheses to investigate and understand the natural world. And the existence of ghosts falls outside the scope of current science.

Our thoughts

Science does not support the existence of ghosts and supernatural entities. Scientists consider such claims to be matters of personal belief. In contrast to proven and established phenomena. This is because scientists need to be able to prove ghosts exist in a laboratory. And in a controlled, confined and monitored environment. They need the results to be repeatable and verifiable. Due to the nature of ghosts and the randomness of paranormal activity, this isn’t possible. A ghost isn’t going to follow a scientist down to a lab and say “BOO!” every time it’s asked to do so. And even if that did happen, other scientists would carry out the same tests and get different results. And this is what I mean by the results needing to be repeatable.

Scientific explanations for strange activity

Next, we will look into different types of paranormal activity and rational explanations. We are not suggesting paranormal activity isn’t real. We are just listing possible rational explanations.

Apparitions

Seeing the transparent or semi-transparent form of a person or figure.

Causes:

  • Optical Illusions
  • Pareidolia
  • Sleep Paralysis
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic States
  • Drug or Medication Effects
  • Mental Health Conditions

Strange Sounds

Unexplained noises include footsteps, whispers, voices, knocking, or music.

Causes:

  • Natural sounds
  • Structural settling
  • Animal noises
  • Plumbing and pipes
  • Acoustic resonance
  • Cognitive factors
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Pranksters and hoaxes
  • Equipment malfunctions

Cold Spots

Sudden drops in temperature in localized areas, known as “cold spots.”

Causes:

  • Drafts
  • Insufficient insulation
  • Air conditioning or heating system
  • Temperature variations
  • Weather conditions
  • Human perception
  • Mental factors
  • Building materials and construction
  • Measurement errors

Disembodied Voices

Hearing voices or people talking when no one is present.

Causes:

  • Pranksters or hidden speakers
  • Nearby people talking or making noise
  • Wildlife sounds
  • Equipment malfunctions
  • Interpreting random sounds as voices
  • Cerebral factors
  • Sleep-related experiences
  • Electronic interference
  • Acoustic anomalies

Objects Moving

Items being moved or displaced without any apparent physical cause.

Causes:

  • Drafts or air currents
  • Vibrations or seismic activity
  • Structural issues in the building
  • Pets or animals
  • Pranks or hoaxes
  • Changes in temperature and humidity
  • Unbalanced or unstable objects
  • EMF interference
  • Natural phenomena (e.g., settling of foundations)
  • Mental perception
  • Misinterpretation

Electronic Interference

Faulty electronic devices, lights flickering, or interference with electrical equipment.

Causes:

  • Electrical wiring issues
  • Electronic equipment issues
  • Radio frequency interference
  • Interference from nearby devices
  • Natural factors (e.g., weather conditions)
  • Power surges or fluctuations
  • Faulty or outdated electronics
  • User error or misuse of equipment
  • Interference from external sources (e.g., cell towers)
  • Cross-talk or signal overlap

Unusual odours

Experiencing unexplained and often unpleasant smells, like perfume, flowers, or rotting.

Causes:

  • Mold or mildew growth
  • Pest infestations (e.g., rodents, insects)
  • Decaying organic matter (e.g., dead animals)
  • Poor ventilation or stagnant air
  • Chemical exposure or spills
  • Nearby industrial or farming activities
  • Polluted water supply
  • Personal hygiene issues
  • Allergies
  • High sensitivity to certain smells
  • Pranksters or practical jokes

Feelings of presence

Sensations of being watched or not alone, even when physically alone.

Causes:

  • Mental factors (e.g., stress, anxiety, paranoia)
  • Sensory deprivation or isolation
  • Overactive imagination
  • Sleep-related experiences (e.g., sleep paralysis, hypnagogic/hypnopompic)
  • Medications or drugs
  • Neurological conditions or disorders
  • Natural factors (e.g., lighting, temperature)
  • Suggestion or expectation
  • Social influence or suggestions from others
  • Religious or spiritual beliefs and experiences

Touch Sensations

Feeling a gentle touch, a pat, or a brush against the skin when no one is there.

Causes:

  • Mental factors (e.g., anxiety, stress)
  • High sensitivity to natural stimuli
  • Overactive imagination
  • Brain conditions or disorders
  • Skin conditions or allergies
  • Drafts or changes in temperature
  • Fabric or clothing sensations
  • Static electric
  • Suggestion or expectation from a paranormal context

Shadow Figures

Seeing dark, shadowy figures or silhouettes.

Causes:

  • Low lighting or darkness
  • Play of shadows or objects
  • Overactive imagination
  • Visual disturbances
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Mental health issues
  • Eye conditions or floaters
  • Suggestion from a paranormal context

Poltergeist Activity

Instances of objects getting thrown, furniture moving, or disruptive physical actions.

Causes:

  • Natural events (earthquakes and tremors)
  • Pranks
  • Hoaxes
  • Unconscious human actions
  • Emotional distress
  • Environment factors
  • Vibrations
  • Seismic activity
  • High EMF fields
  • Air currents
  • Drafts
  • Animal behaviour
  • Mental factors

Disappearing or Appearing Items

Items disappear and reappear later in random places.

Causes:

  • Misplacement
  • Human error
  • Hidden compartments or storage
  • Pranks or hoaxes
  • Memory lapses
  • Blindness
  • Stress
  • Distraction
  • Ageing
  • Cognitive decline
  • Unusual item shifts or vibrations

Apparition of Animals

Seeing ghostly animals or pets.

Causes:

  • Natural animals
  • Illusions
  • Cerebral factors
  • Sleep disorders
  • Dreams or nightmares
  • Pranks
  • Hoaxes
  • Environment influences
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Medication side effects
  • Perception errors

Altered or Distorted Reflections

Distortions in mirrors or reflective surfaces.

Reasons:

  • Poor lighting
  • Dirty surfaces
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Optical illusions
  • Mental perception
  • Eye or vision problems
  • Unusual angles
  • Mirrors
  • Environment factors
  • Refraction of light
  • Distortion of light

Vivid Dreams

Experiencing vivid dreams or nightmares related to a specific location or entity.

Reasons:

  • Normal dreaming processes
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Medications or substances
  • Sleep disorders
  • Emotional experiences
  • Diet and food choices
  • Personal beliefs and experiences
  • External influences like media or reading material

Feeling of Fear or Dread

Sudden and unexplained feelings of fear, dread, or discomfort in a particular area.

Reasons:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Phobias
  • Fear
  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Past traumatic events
  • Negative experiences
  • Instincts

Unexplained Touch Marks

Discovering unexplained bruises, scratches, or marks on the body.

Reasons:

  • Skin conditions
  • Self-inflicted
  • Objects
  • Clothing
  • Insect bites
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bruises
  • Pressure marks
  • Contact with rough surfaces
  • Scratches from pets
  • Health conditions

Persistent Hauntings

Consistent and long-term occurrences of paranormal activity in a location.

Reasons:

  • Mental factors
  • Natural events
  • Sleep disorders
  • Pranks
  • Hoaxes
  • EMF fields
  • Drugs or medications
  • Environment contaminants
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Group influence
  • Sensory deprivation
  • Mental health conditions
  • Vivid dreams
  • Nightmares
  • Weather conditions
  • Structural issues in buildings
  • Animal activity
  • Power outages
  • Electrical problems
  • Memory distortion

Psychic or Intuitive Experiences

Sensing or having a strong intuitive feeling about a presence.

Reasons:

  • Coincidence
  • Intuition
  • Gut Feelings
  • Subconscious perception
  • Memory bias
  • Selective attention
  • Emotional state
  • Mental factors
  • Suggestion
  • Expectation
  • Cold reading techniques
  • Ideomotor effect
  • Random chance
  • Forer Effect (Barnum Effect)
  • Mentalist tricks
  • Hypnosis or suggestibility
  • Social and Cultural Influences
  • Wishful thinking

Physical Manifestations

Seeing a solid ghost, appearing solid or interacting with objects.

Causes:

  • Temperature changes
  • Air currents
  • Humidity changes
  • Infrasound (low-frequency sound waves)
  • EMF fields
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Mold or toxins in the area
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory deprivation
  • Optical illusions
  • Allergies
  • Vibrations or tremors
  • Earthquakes
  • Tectonic activity
  • Carbon Dioxide Levels

Summary

Science does not back up the theory of ghosts. And, likely, it may never be supported by science. But this doesn’t mean ghosts do not exist; it means they can’t be proven to exist in a lab. While this may not change, most people still believe in them. While ghosts may be able to create strange activity, you should always be sceptical. Look for normal reasons for the activity before jumping to conclusions. We will continue to aid in the research of unexplained activity. If you’re keen to learn more about ghosts, we have plenty of articles on the topic, including, how to summon a ghost.

Sam Ashford
Sam Ashford - Author

Hey, I'm Sam Ashford! I'm a ghost-hunting expert, writer and founder of SpiritShack. My mission is to help people like yourself learn about spirituality and how to hunt ghosts!