10 scientific explanations for paranormal phenomena - from demons to ghosts

We live in a rational world. In a world where there are no ghosts, angels and demons, and the creaks of floorboards at night are the result of poorly laid flooring, and not the next visit of a recently deceased grandmother. But if ghosts and everything else is not real, then why are so many people convinced that they have somehow witnessed something otherworldly? The answer to this question lies in the features of our brain. Science is able to find answers to sometimes very strange questions, but when it comes to paranormal phenomena, the scientific justifications for these events are sometimes even more fantastic than the myths themselves.


  • 1 Ideomotor effect: how the wija board works
  • 2 Phillip experiment: an even stunning result
  • 3 Henry IV Placebo Experiment: How Exorcism Works
  • 4 Forer Effect: why do people believe in their horoscopes
  • 5 The Paradigm of False Fame: Why People Believe in Past Lives
  • 6 Experiment on a sense of presence: why people feel an ominous presence
  • 7 Why do people feel like floating above their bodies
  • 8 Mourning Widows: Why People See Ghosts
  • 9 Lucid Dreams: Why People Think They Have Been Abducted by Aliens
  • 10 Infrasound: why it seems that there are ghosts in the house

Ideomotor effect: how the wija board works

Gathering in the company of friends and deciding to holda septic session using a wiji board, you may notice that a tiny plastic (or wooden) pointer at some point starts to move on its own. Moreover, people who touch and actually move it will be sure that they do not. Although, of course, they will. They simply will not be aware of this. This is called the “ideomotor effect”, and to demonstrate it, there is a very interesting experiment that you can independently conduct at home.

Take a thread, hang on it someweight. Grab a thread with a suspended weight and hold it tight. Now ask yourself a question and tell yourself that if the answer to this question sounds “yes”, then the weight will begin to rotate clockwise, and if the answer is “no”, then counterclockwise. If you believe in magic, then the weight should really change the direction of rotation depending on your answer. Moreover, you will be sure that he does it himself, and not your hand.

This is explained by the fact that our bodies create hardlysubtle unconscious movements. When you ask yourself a question, your subconscious mind answers it and barely noticeably makes the muscles move without your conscious participation. As a result, your fingers will move by themselves, unwinding the weight and trying to answer the question. It will seem to you that the weight is spinning on its own.

Absolutely the same effect occurs with the Uij board. Your subconscious, imperceptibly from you, begins to move a plastic pointer, and it seems to you that it moves itself.

Phillip experiment: an even stunning result

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In 1972, a group of psychologists gathered eightman and told them a story about a man named Philip Aylesford, and then invited the assembled people to call his spirit through a spiritualistic session. The room was dimmed, they sang songs and began to ask Philip questions. To the surprise of people, unusual things began to happen.

At first the table began to move. At some point, one of his sides bent over, and he remained only on two legs. Then it began to seem to people that the lighting in the room had acquired a kind of flicker. After that, the audience began to hear some tapping sounds and felt that in this way Philip answered their questions. Moreover, he answered correctly to each of the questions asked. In any other situation, this would be direct evidence of the existence of the other world of spirits and the invocation of the ghost of a dead person, if not for one thing: no Philip Aylesford has ever existed.

Philip's identity was completely inventedpsychologists. Every detail of his elaborated biography was an invention of scientists. Nevertheless, a group of people gathered somehow managed to convince themselves that they really had called his ghost.

The experiment organizers used severalother psychological effects (tapping sounds and flickering of light), but in general everything that happened can be called the same ideomotor effect. People themselves moved the table at an unconscious level.

Psychologists have published the results of theirresearch. Later, the experiment was repeated several times with other participants and organizers. The effect was the same. Volunteers participating in the experiment were fully confident that they had invoked the spirit of a man who never existed.

Henry IV Placebo Experiment: How Exorcism Works

Demon possession is one of the mostpopular explanations of many things. For decades, people have attributed schizophrenia, epilepsy, and lots of other mental disorders to the fact that demons have infiltrated humans. But if this is not so, then how can one explain exorcism? If the whole thing was schizophrenia, then why were people cured of incomprehensible spells in Latin?

The answer lies in our minds. At the end of the 16th century, King Henry IV assembled a council to conduct an experiment on a woman who claimed to be obsessed with demons. The woman was told that the assembled were exorcist priests, and it worked.

First, the woman was given holy water from the church. They poured it into a regular mug and said that it was plain water. True holy water had no effect. Then the woman was given plain water, but they said that it was holy water, and the woman shook with pain.

Then they put a piece of iron on the woman and saidthat it is part of the true cross. The woman began to roll on the floor in agony. In addition, they tried to read a book in Latin, saying that it was the Bible. The woman began to shake again, although they read Virgil's Aeneid.

And this was not pretense at all. This was a consequence of her imagination. And almost every person can be convinced that something affects him. More recently, a group of psychologists undertook to convince several skeptics of the reality of demons. By the end of the experiment, 18 percent of the subjects not only believed in demons, but were also convinced of their own obsession.

Forer effect: why people believe in their horoscopes

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Once, someone Michael Gaukelin postedannouncement, offering everyone to do for free an individual analysis of their personality, based solely on their astrological sign. All that was required was to send him the date of his birth. On its basis, a person was ready to give an exhaustive answer to the question of what kind of person you really are. Incredibly, 94 percent of those who went for it said that Gaukelin described them very well.

And this is strange, because Gaukelin sent to everyonethe same analysis. In fact, his guessing of personal character traits was not based on horoscopes. He simply used very vague formulations, and everyone found what they wanted in them.

This is called the Forer effect. It can be described by an attempt of the brain to attach an unrelated event to the desired result. The phenomenon is named after Bertram R. Forer and his experiment.

He gave a group of students identical descriptions of theirpersons who said: "You have a great need for other people to love and admire you." 85 percent of his subjects were sure that this was their description.

False Paradigm: Why People Believe in Past Lives

The reason why some people are convinced that they are able to remember how they were Joan of Arc or the ancient Egyptian workers can be very simply explained: they have a very bad memory.

A group of researchers from MaastrichtUniversity conducted a test called "The Paradigm of False Fame." Several groups of people took part in it, confident that they could remember their past lives. The participants were given a list of names. Then, the next day, they read out a list of names in which unfamiliar names interspersed with yesterday. People who believed that they remember past lives insisted that yesterday's invented names were the names of famous personalities.

In other words, the memory of these participants was notvery sustainable. When they could not remember where they heard some familiar name, their brain invented a story to explain who these fake people were. It is believed that a similar thing happens when people make up stories about past lives.

A sense of presence experiment: why people feel an ominous presence

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Here is another unusual experiment with even moreunusual results. A group of scientists blindfolded people and placed them between two robots. The fingers of people were attached to the robot in front of them. The machines were set up so that whenever people moved their hands, robots behind their backs imitated these movements on their backs.

At first, it did little. People tapped their fingers and felt a robot finger tapping on their back in the same way. But in fact, they did not care at all.

Oddities began to happen when researchersadded a delay to the system. When the finger of the robot began to respond with a delay of half a second, people began to feel that someone was standing behind them. Some even felt that they were surrounded by several invisible people at once, while others were so excited that they asked to stop the experiment.

Researchers believe that this is becausethat people have lost a sense of control. When they added a delay, people stopped feeling an immediate response to their movements. The brain perceives the inability to control the effect of its own movements as a sign of someone else's presence.

Researchers think something like thisoccurs with schizophrenics, as well as gaunt people and those who have experienced severe stress. They lose their ability to track the connection between their thoughts and movements, and this makes them feel that someone else is in the room with them.

Why do people feel like floating above their own bodies

A lot of people felt like theywould hover over their own bodies, looking at themselves. Most often, this was observed in a near-death state, when people were on the verge of life and death. But is this really happening or is it just our imagination?

To find out, a group of researchersI wrote a message on the card and put it on top of the device in the hospital room. Then, when the patient left this room, they asked if the person had a feeling that he was floating above his own body, and if so, what was written on the card. Three people reported that they had such moments, but not one of them could remember the card.

The strangest thing is that these people are notpretended to be. Another group examined a woman who claimed that she could optionally make “astral travels” by leaving her own body. The woman was connected to a device that records the activity of the brain, and was asked to "get out of the body" to look at the reaction of the brain in this case.

The part of the brain responsible for vision is almostcompletely deactivated, and those parts that are associated with mental images flashed, and this meant that the woman was not completely lying. She really began to see her body from the side. But, based on the data of her brain, it can be concluded that in reality the woman did not leave her body, but spontaneously caused hallucinations.

Mourning Widows: Why People See Ghosts

Not all who claim to have seen ghostslie. Some people really believe that they saw dead people next to them or how God came down from heaven to talk. And this is not necessarily schizophrenia.

It’s rather difficult to explain, butThis phenomenon, psychologists have noticed one pattern. In most groups of people, finding someone who saw a ghost is quite difficult. But with older widows, the picture is completely different. According to surveys, about 50 percent of older American widows saw their dead spouses.

Most often they turned out to be widows who leadan isolated lifestyle, and these phenomena are associated with some period of extreme stress. By the way, this is almost always the case; other people also see ghosts under similar circumstances. Almost all of them are lonely and find themselves in an unusual setting or under intense stress.

Psychologists believe that this is realthe reason these people see ghosts. It’s not that the dead husbands come. Just extreme stress and loneliness can trigger the appearance of hallucinations.

Lucid Dreams: Why Do People Believe They Have Been Abducted by Aliens

The reason many people think at nightthey were abducted by aliens, it can be much easier than you imagine. The findings of one experiment suggest that these people simply dreamed about it.

The researchers gathered a group of 20 people,who have mastered the technique of lucid dreams (the ability to control their dreams). They were given the task: when they take control of their own dreams, they had to separate themselves from their bodies and find a UFO.

Among the participants in the experiment, 35 percentsaw in a dream how aliens come to them and try to abduct them. All they had to do to do this was to think about aliens before going to bed, then the brain itself composed the story of the alien abduction.

It’s believed that the same is probably happeningand with people who believe that they were abducted. Most often this happens at the time of the so-called "carotid paralysis", when muscle paralysis occurs before falling asleep or awakening occurs before it falls. This gives rise to hallucinations that intruders are coming to your bed.

Several hundred years ago, people with sleep paralysis reported that they were attacked by demons at night. Demons are not in fashion today. Therefore, instead of demons, aliens now “come”.

Infrasound: why it seems that there are ghosts in the house

While working in a factory where rumored to bethere were ghosts, a scientist named Vick Tandy experienced strange sensations. Suddenly he was overcome by chills and apathy. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that some gloomy figure was watching him. All this was so frightening that it took a person time to pull himself together. When he managed to do this, the ghost disappeared.

Most people would just run away to saveown life. However, Thandy was a scientist, so he decided to test one theory. He was sure that all these strange phenomena were the result of the influence of infrasound - sound waves whose frequency is lower than human hearing is capable of perceiving. He turned off the ventilation, which, in his opinion, could be the cause of infrasound. And, of course, as soon as the ventilation was turned off, ghosts ceased to appear at the factory.

A few years later, the researchers decidedcheck out the tandy theory. When people wandered along the winding corridors, some of them were affected by infrasound. Those people who were exposed felt a change in temperature and in some cases saw strange phenomena. All the rest did not see anything.

But this is only a partial reason, although the mostthe main one. An additional impact was the fact that employees of the same factory already spoke to Thandy about ghosts. That is, most often people see ghosts precisely because they expect to see them.