Since the most ancient times, people have believed in ghosts, or spirits of the dead. Haunted places are a mainstay of folklore, and today so-called ghost hunters are using often-sophisticated equipment in claiming that ghosts are the real (or at least surreal) McCoy. Yet their work appears more mystical than scientific, and it raises the question: Is there really a "life energy," as many postulate, capable of surviving death? If not, then how do we explain the various experiences and phenomena associated with ghosts?
From legendary tales, near-death experiences, past-life memories, and apparitional encounters, to spirit manifestations, claims of psychics, and much, much more, the evidence regarding ghosts represents at once a delicious mystery and an essential life-or-death matter.
In investigating ghosts we have a decision to make: Do we start with a belief, then seek to find justification for it? Or do we examine real cases with the intent of solving them, seeking the best evidence and letting it lead us to an answer that we then believe on the evidence? I have chosen the latter path--"the one less traveled by."
I began my work in 1969 when I sat in my first séance to contact the alleged spirit of Houdini. At that time, there were no comprehensive books that addressed the myriad issues involved. So The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead [Prometheus Books, $18] is the book I wanted so much to have as a young investigator that at last I had to write it myself--more than four decades later.
Here is a small sample of that book--a selection of nine pictures and brief accompanying texts to help us decide, from a scientific approach, whether there really are haunted places--or only haunted people.
Correction: The original image for Castillo de San Marcos was incorrect. It has now been changed.