• We have updated the guidelines regarding posting political content: please see the stickied thread on Website Issues.

Ghost Evolution

Tunn11

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Nov 23, 2005
Messages
2,363
Location
Under the highest tree top in Kent
Is it just me or are ghosts changing or evolving?

In most of the ghost stories and few pictures that I recall from ghost books and programmes of yesteryear the ghosts were: transparent, looked like people or were described as if they had some colour or substance e.g. Red ladies, etc. Photos showed effects that, if one were being uncharitable, looked like intentional or unintentional double exposures.

The majority of filmed or photographed ghosts now seem to be what were initially called shadow people. Usually a black or very dark shape scuttling across a view or peering round something. No detail and not transparent.

I’m excluding orbs which IMO seem to generally be products of dust etc on digital devices and security camera footage which, in the main, seem to be out of focus insects etc.

So we have film which gives rise to ghosts that look like double exposures or long exposures where the subject has moved or walked into shot and digital which gives rise to orbs and dark figures with no features.

Am I being unduly cynical or are ghosts evolving? Or could the different properties of film and digital be recording things in a different way or is the phenomenon itself changing?
 
Not just the pictures, but the descriptions - in the past ghosts were humanoid shapes (sometimes even mistaken for real people), that revealed their 'ghost' status by vanishing, or turning to smoke and blowing away or just not being there a second later.

Nowadays it's all about the shadow people and the night crawlers and more 'horror' inspired tropes.

So is what we see influencing what we capture on camera? Or the other way round?
 
I think you're right. In my ghost survey, there are very, very few recognisable apparitions: by this, I mean spectres that are obviously human or animal.

What I'm seeing large amounts of are black shapes or figures, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. By coincidence, I interviewed the manageress of a London pub this afternoon and this is one of the phenomena she reported.
 
I think you're right. In my ghost survey, there are very, very few recognisable apparitions: by this, I mean spectres that are obviously human or animal.

What I'm seeing large amounts of are black shapes or figures, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. By coincidence, I interviewed the manageress of a London pub this afternoon and this is one of the phenomena she reported.
Do you have any theories on why, DrPaulLee? Cameras now seem to be recording what people are saying that they're seeing; so possibly not an artifact of using digital rather than film?

I sometimes see dark shapes, usually looking like a small animal but I know that I have a floater that gives this momentary effect when I change position of my head quickly. Perhaps I should try and film it? Mind you if it showed on film I'd have a bit of a shock!!

Thinking back I also remember lots of tales where ghosts spoke to people, not as disembodied voices but actually appearing and speaking. Many seem to be more like folk tales but that isn't something you hear about any more.
 
I was partially quoted in the mainstream press and lambasted by spook chasers for saying that ghosts are fading away. My theory is that ghosts are simply fading away due to waning energy. Most reports these days are of very low level events, poltergeist like.

Your mention of ghosts speaking reminds me of the interview today. The lady had gone down into the cellar but had forgotten why. She said out loud to herself, "Am I needed here...?" and a male voice right behind her said, "YES!"
 
I sometimes see dark shapes, usually looking like a small animal but I know that I have a floater that gives this momentary effect when I change position of my head quickly. Perhaps I should try and film it? Mind you if it showed on film I'd have a bit of a shock!!

ok, you have officially given me the grues! :twothumbs:
 
Is it not simply the case that there are probably now far more reports made, even of "very low level events"? Were there ever that many obvious 'apparitions' reported in the first place, or perhaps just enough to establish the popular image of what a 'ghost' should look like?

If - thanks to social media etc - any member of the public can now easily report every single odd feeling, unexplained draught, or half-glimpsed shadow, it strikes me that you'd naturally get a preponderance of this kind of report. Whereas in previous centuries, or decades, the only stories that would have made it into oral tradition or the printed record would have been the really spectacular ones (interestingly the two ghost stories given to me by relatives were of clearly recognisable apparitions of humans).
 
Is it not simply the case that there are probably now far more reports made, even of "very low level events"? Were there ever that many obvious 'apparitions' reported in the first place, or perhaps just enough to establish the popular image of what a 'ghost' should look like?

If - thanks to social media etc - any member of the public can now easily report every single odd feeling, unexplained draught, or half-glimpsed shadow, it strikes me that you'd naturally get a preponderance of this kind of report. Whereas in previous centuries, or decades, the only stories that would have made it into oral tradition or the printed record would have been the really spectacular ones (interestingly the two ghost stories given to me by relatives were of clearly recognisable apparitions of humans).
Co incidentally, last night I was listening to 'The Idiot Brain' by Dean Burnett, and there was a part about the human brain being conditioned to paradolia and seeing black shapes and movement. Being not very well, I was half listening and half thinking about this thread and in my mind it made some kind of sense that nowadays people interpret every shadow or flittering darkness as a 'ghost', because horror films have conditioned them to see things that way. When really they are normal glitches in human brains and eyesight. But nowadays so few people know what the human mind is capable of (and also, incidentally, how the human eye works) that they leap straight to 'odd black shape = ghost/creeper/ghoul/demon.'
 
Is it just me or are ghosts changing or evolving?



The majority of filmed or photographed ghosts now seem to be what were initially called shadow people. Usually a black or very dark shape scuttling across a view or peering round something. No detail and not transparent.
Perhaps historically "shadow people" were reported as demonic manifestations, rather than "ghosts"? That would make it a change in how people would report what they saw rather than a change in what was appearing to them.
 
I remember having read in several French history books, that before the 11th century, the proportion of "fully fleshed" ghosts in written sources far outweighted the shadowy kind of spirits.

In fact, ghost stories were more about "revenants" than ghosts. It was especially the case in North European folklore, with the "draugr" of the Icelandic sagas, who are more akin to zombies endowed with a superhuman strength. Other icelandic ghosts were described as coming back to their homes at night to physically enjoy the company of their wives (to the ladies' dismay) ! So they were certainly not "shadowy" and immaterial !

The catholic Church had an issue with this, as it contradicted the idea that once you're dead you're dead, and that the only resurrection you can expect is the god-sponsored, end-times, one. So prominent clercks started to campaign against any belief in revenants, and promoted the "modern" immaterial version of ghostliness. It is roughly at this time that the concept of a "purgatory" of souls was created. It did not completely eradicate the ancient "revenant" figure, as it survived in several areas as the "vampire" or "vroukolak", and we keep finding medieval tombs where bodies have been nailed to the ground to prevent their return among the living. However, this campaign certainly had an influence on what we expect of ghosts, as after the 11th century, we find more and more immaterial apparitions in litterature.

So, if this theory is correct, it appears that the idea of what a ghost is has never stopped evolving.

On this "historical" vision of ghosts, you may read Claude Lecouteux's books. Lecouteux is an historian, folklorist and a specialist of German medieval litterature. Many of his works have been translated into English and if my memory is correct, he is one of those historians who developped this theory. In French language, I remember his earliest books as very pleasant reads. Lately, he switched to compiling catalogs of charms, tales and so on. It may be useful as a compendium of sources, but it makes a much less pleasant read.
 
Co incidentally, last night I was listening to 'The Idiot Brain' by Dean Burnett, and there was a part about the human brain being conditioned to paradolia and seeing black shapes and movement. Being not very well, I was half listening and half thinking about this thread and in my mind it made some kind of sense that nowadays people interpret every shadow or flittering darkness as a 'ghost', because horror films have conditioned them to see things that way. When really they are normal glitches in human brains and eyesight. But nowadays so few people know what the human mind is capable of (and also, incidentally, how the human eye works) that they leap straight to 'odd black shape = ghost/creeper/ghoul/demon.'

Another thing I had thought is that the now almost extinct phenomenon of the Will-o'-the-wisp, or corpse candle, must have had a large influence on our understanding of some ghosts appearing as luminous mists - particularly as they were once associated with graveyards, old battlefields, and the like.

The conditions that seem likely to have favoured the chemistry required (poorly drained, waterlogged burial grounds; pre 18th century burials 'in woollen', rather than in a coffin etc) are now very rare, so I suppose this type of 'ghost' is now equally scarce.
 
(interestingly the two ghost stories given to me by relatives were of clearly recognisable apparitions of humans).
Have you posted them on here? If not will you, they sound interesting.
 
So, to sum up, basically we are seeing what we expect to see, or what society has conditioned us to expect to see.
 
Have you posted them on here? If not will you, they sound interesting.

Well, so as not to interrupt the thread too much, here's one in brief. It's in all respects a 'classic' ghost experience: in fact I'd have said it was suspiciously literary if I hadn't heard it from the witness herself.

She was in her teens at the time and had a position as a general maid in a large house in (I think) the early 30s. One morning she was going down the main hall staircase and at a landing passed a woman going up - not someone she immediately recognised and wearing notably dated clothing (I seem to remember she talked about the clothing of 40-50 years previously). Obviously as a member of the 'staff' it was rude to stare, so she waited until turning on to the next flight a moment or two later to get a proper look at the woman's back. As you'd expect from my introduction, she was nowhere to be seen, and there was nowhere she could have vanished to.
 
I was partially quoted in the mainstream press and lambasted by spook chasers for saying that ghosts are fading away. My theory is that ghosts are simply fading away due to waning energy. Most reports these days are of very low level events, poltergeist like.

Your mention of ghosts speaking reminds me of the interview today. The lady had gone down into the cellar but had forgotten why. She said out loud to herself, "Am I needed here...?" and a male voice right behind her said, "YES!"
Hmmm… but haven’t full apparitions always been rare…? So if you became interested in ghosts in say, 1997, then despite said rarity you have hundreds of years of reported sightings to look back upon, but only a trickle in the future

Also, nowadays people are spending much more time being entertained in their own sitting rooms and simply aren’t going to pubs and finding themselves in other haunted places to the extent they used to be.

Moreover, the manner in which witnesses report their ghost experiences has changed since the advent of the internet and might get posted on Mumsnet, for example, rather than to the Ghost Club. It does seem that when forum member and author Ruth Roper-Wilde delves into a particular area then all manner of new hauntings and apparitions are related to her, with many from the 21st Century
 
Last edited:
Exactly. If they're rare then, they're rarer now.
My ghost survey covers the last few years prior to covid, and I've asked proprietors if they, their staff or visitors have experienced anything and the majority say no. I even had a few people (including the head curator of the Treasurer's House in York) note this fact.
 
Exactly. If they're rare then, they're rarer now.
My ghost survey covers the last few years prior to covid, and I've asked proprietors if they, their staff or visitors have experienced anything and the majority say no. I even had a few people (including the head curator of the Treasurer's House in York) note this fact.
It is often overlooked that Harry saw the Roman soldier ghosts whilst he was making alterations to the building:

"In February of that year, he had to make a hole in the ceiling of the cellar of the Treasurer's House to take a new central heating pipe. The old curator didn't really want Harry there, but the job had to be done. Harry stood his ladder on a section of old Roman road, about 6 feet in diamater, which had been excavated in the centre of the cellar floor at a depth of about 18 inches."

http://www.ciaranbrown.com/martindale.html

There is a good body of evidence that hauntings and apparitions are triggered when changes are made to buildings. In 2005, I found myself doing some work for the owner of the Globe Inn in Milverton, Somerset a couple of years after the building had been refurbished. He and the staff confided in me that the alterations had unleashed some quite nasty poltergeist activity and they had resorted to calling in a Priest.

So perhaps having people walking around the Treasurer's House is not enough to trigger an apparition or other activity. Thus if no work has been done in recent years you have no apparitions.
 
Yes, but as the curator remarked, they have ghosts other than the Romans. They are so infrequently seen that he was under the impression that they had only been seen once.
 
I have been briefly thinking about the problem with waning ghosts. We now, in many parts of the world, have light pollution, the world is faster (travel is planes, trains and automobiles), and many people have less down time, etc.

I wonder if some of these societal factors make it more difficult for people to recognize that they've seen anything that is different. I think you do need some time to actually be observant of your environment.

And the "energy" element is interesting. As in Neil Gaiman's novel "American Gods" (which I love), all of the old gods have lost their influence/power as they have been forgotten. People no longer recognize them.
 
Here's a thought, modifying what others have speculated. It could be the "out of time" ghosts like cavaliers, monks etc. and phantoms from centuries ago have just faded. All we are left with are modern day ghosts, and they may walk among us - but we just don't know as they don't stand out.
 
Last edited:
Here's a thought, modifying what others have thought. It could be the "out of time" ghosts like cavaliers, monks etc. and phantoms from centuries ago have just faded. All we are left with are modern day ghosts, and they may walk among us - but we just don't know as they don't stand out.
I could see this. As a kid (about 8 years old), I saw my youngest brother in his pj's standing beside my bed looking at me (I posted this somewhere else) clear as day. When I spoke to him, he slowly faded away. To this day, I wonder if he was astrally projecting or what. At the time, I knew nothing about astral travel nor OBEs.
 
Re: building work being a catalyst for invoking spectral infestations. It also works the other way round; construction activity can sometimes see off the phantoms. So, you really can't win. They play by their own rules and we can only guess as to what they may be.
 
Here's a thought, modifying what others have speculated. It could be the "out of time" ghosts like cavaliers, monks etc. and phantoms from centuries ago have just faded. All we are left with are modern day ghosts, and they may walk among us - but we just don't know as they don't stand out.
Wouldnt we just have "out of time" ghosts from more recent centuries? Top hats and horse carriage figures or something, or frontier folk for Americans, and the like
 
Back
Top