Monday, November 23, 2009

Fear of Ghosts

There seems to be good evidence that fear of ghosts is innate. This evidence consists of reports of apparitions causing terror in animals. A number of these are recounted in Miracles and Modern Spiritualism by Alfred Russel Wallace (co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection). They are told in the section "Are There Objective Apparitions" in the subsection "Effects of phantasms on animals". Here are a few examples:

I have already mentioned the case of the female figure in white, seen by three persons floating over a hedge ten feet above the ground, when the horse they were driving suddenly stopped and shook with fright.


In the remarkable account of a haunted house during an occupation of twelve months by a well-known English Church dignitary, the very different behaviour of dogs in the presence of real and of phantasmal disturbances is pointed out. When an attempt was made to rob the vicarage, the dogs gave prompt alarm and the clergyman was aroused by their fierce barking. During the mysterious noises, however, though these were much louder and more disturbing, they never barked at all, but were always "found cowering in a state of pitiable terror."


In the account of haunting in a house at Hammersmith near London, which went on for five years, where steps and noises were heard and a phantom woman seen, "the dog whined incessantly " during the disturbances, and " the dog was evidently still afraid of the room when the morning came. I called to him to go into it with me, and he crouched down with his tail between his legs, and seemed to fear entering it."


In the remarkable account by General Barter, C.B., of a phantasmal pony and rider with two native grooms seen in India, two dogs which immediately before were hunting about in the brushwood jungle which covered the hill, came and crouched by the General's side, giving low, frightened whimpers; and when he pursued the phantasm the dogs returned home, though on all other occasions they were his most faithful companions.

If animals are naturally afraid of ghosts, then people might be also. There are certainly many cultural influences that may cause people to be afraid of spirits. Scary ghost stories, horror movies, and religious admonitions against communing with spirits are some of them. However, an innate fear of spirits may be the underlying reason people are afraid of spirits and that might be the reason these cultural influences got started in the first place.

I think fear of spirits is unfortunate. It's a form of prejudice. Many people don't realize how hard it can be for a spirit to communicate with a loved one who is still on the earth plane. Sometimes the best the spirit can do is to tap on the wall or turn the lights on and off. And what happens? The people in the vicinity become terrified. Sometimes they move to a new home. Other times they call an exorcist. Either way, a new story about "evil spirits" starts making the rounds - even when there is nothing evil about the spirit.

Isn't that a terrible way to welcome Grandma who might be trying to see how her beloved grandchildren are doing? As a society we have a lot to do to learn to accept spirits and treat them fairly, the way they deserve.

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