The pathology of ghosts

Adenosine triphosphate

Adenosine triphosphate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SYNOPSIS: The existence of ghosts has been up to much debate for centuries – you may know of a family member, friend, or other individual who has had a ”ghost experience” – but the question lies; are ghosts actually possible? There exist many explanations to observed ”paranormal” phenomena in favour of such supernatural explanation.


Ghosts are assumed to be composed of energy – however, ghosts are an implausible and inaccurate portrayal of the properties of energy, which is defined as the capacity of a physical system to perform work. Energy exists in several forms such as heat, kinetic or mechanical energy. Energy dissipates, wherein energy is transformed into a final form, the capacity of which is less than that of the initial form – an example would be the transfer of energy as heat – it transfers from a hotter body to a colder one, and the second law of thermodynamics implies that this results in a reduction of the two bodies to perform mechanical work.

If ghosts are composed of merely energy – why does it appear that such energy is not being dissipated, and that it is self-aware? This is not consistent with the known physics of energy. Additionally, a further problem is presented – that when a human being is deceased, oxidative phosphorylation comes to a stand-still, resulting in the death of the specialized neuronal cells (called mirror neurons) responsible for consciousness. There exists no evidence that consciousness is more than just the act of action potentials derived from concentration gradients of sodium, chloride, and potassium within neuronal cells. Once these specialized cells suffer from apoptosis, no further electrochemical energy can be produced, and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is generated by oxidative metabolism, neurons critically depend on mitochondrial function and oxygen supply to function.


Ghost sightings are a prime example of apophenia – in which insignificant, or non-existent patterns are subconsciously converted into significant and meaningful patterns. This is a trait that was brought down by human ancestors, where it was a survival tactic to be able to recognize human shapes, or faces, and occasionally this tactic works too well. Blobs, or smears on a lens are mistaken for evidence of the paranormal, when in reality, such entities do not resemble human figures, except to those who seek non-existent patterns. Slight vibrations of an oncoming truck or heavy vehicle can result in objects on shelves moving or falling, as well as wind acting upon certain objects, however, humans are pre-disposed to ”filling in the gaps” towards experiences that they cannot explain, an example of this is the phrase ”Here Be Dragons” written in unexplored locations of land or ocean in the early centuries.

That is not to say that some individuals who experience ”ghost sightings” truly are not observing what they think – there exist many medical reasons for both visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as physiological reasons, for example infra-sound within the range of 17.5-18.5 Hz, which is on par with the resonance frequency of the human eye, resulting in visual hallucinations manifesting themselves as ”ghosts” or irregular-shaped entities.

On occasion, photographs of transparent humans appear on the internet, which are then dubbed as ”ghosts” or ”spirits” of the deceased. This is actually a trick of photography known as a ”double exposure”, or the repeated exposure of a photographic plate or film to light, often producing ghost images such as transparent objects or people, particularly if an individual were to move into the field of view as the exposure is being processed.


The human brain presents a remarkable ability to observe patterns which are non-existent. This can be furthered by pre-assuming, or expecting an object or individual to be there. Patterns which do not correspond to the patterns that the individual wishes to seek are disregarded, whilst the patterns which do correspond somewhat to the expectation are viewed as significant, even though the patterns may have been the result of chance – the ”observations” are then subconsciously distorted to fit the expectations of those who assume that they have witnessed paranormal activity – especially when they are pressured by others to ”see” paranormal activity, even though such observations are moot.


The subject of ghosts has existed for centuries, however it is important to note that despite this there still does not exist any solid evidence in favour of their existence. Less fantastical explanations can be furthered by alleged paranormal experiences.



Article written by Miles B. Please credit both the author’s and the domain’s name in references. 




3 responses to “The pathology of ghosts

  1. Well put, but you could mention the phenomenon that make people believe that they see things that they are not there, because other people told them what to see. i.e if you’ve heard the legends about the ‘White/Brown/Black Lady’ you’re more likely to believe you saw her too.

  2. Hello, and thank you for reading my article – I do appreciate that my work gets noticed and evaluated. I shall heed your input and shall edit this article later with your suggestion.

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