WHAT IS A GHOST?
That question is a matter of opinion. For some, a ghost is the spirit of a dead person that is "Earthbound" or is still walking the Earth. For other's, they are dangerous demonic entities that are the embodiment of the devil (some religions subscribe deeply to this). Others simply shrug and say they don't exist. Some just want to know what they are.
For our purposes, we categorize the ghosts that we have studied under three categories...
An apparition is the most spectacular "ghost" as it is an actual vision of a person or (in some cases) thing. Apparitions seem to take on either human form or the form of "blobs" or orbs of light. When someone says they saw their Grandma walking down the stairs of their house two weeks after poor old Grandma passed away, they saw an apparition.
German for noisy ghosts, poltergeist activity can range from simply hearing strange noises that cannot be attributed to "natural" or normal causes to furniture being flung about a room. Most poltergeists resign themselves to simply opening and closing doors or walking up and down stairs. It is also common to hear voices or breathing sounds even though no human could be making the sounds. Again, no one sees the "thing" that makes these noises, only hears them. So if a friend says that he/she heard heavy footsteps on the stairs in the middle of the night but no one was there to make them or she/he tells you that they noticed a cup fly off a shelf and no one hit it nor did it simply "fall", they have a poltergeist.
Another Germanic word meaning "Doubles"... A doppelganger is like an apparition or poltergeist except that the person in question is not dead. The Anglicized version of this phenomena is "crisis apparition". (Usually, "X" person is in big trouble and their "ghost" appears to "Y" person even though "X" person survives the ordeal, "Y" person is sure of seeing "X" person's ghost.)
By far, poltergeist activity makes up the lion's share of reported hauntings that we have encountered. It is very common to hear reports of water faucets turning themselves on or off and doors opening and closing of their own volition than the sighting of a ghostly figure.
What's interesting about apparitions is that we have NEVER come across a case of what I call the "Classic Casper" ghost... Not once have we found a single haunting report about a sheet-covered figure jumping out of a closet or such yelling BOO! More often than not, apparitions seem to be doing what they did when the person they represented was alive. For example, a common haunting situation (I have read several accounts such as this and even have investigated this type of situation) is seeing a lady "in old fashioned dress" in the kitchen by the stove. A case (from our own cases) of this situation is a story that went something like this...
A couple bought a new home in Rosedale that had a beautiful backyard. One day, the gentleman of the house decided to build a tool shed out back. While collecting the materials for the shed, he looked out a rear window in the house and noticed an elderly man tending the garden in the backyard... The owner did not know what to make of this and assumed a neighbor was helping out or some such story so he went out to say his hellos.
As he went to the rear screen door, he glanced out again through the screen (before exiting the house,) only to notice the old man had disappeared. The owner quickly shrugged off the experience as a hallucination or a trick of the light. He continued his building without disturbance.
Two weeks later, the lady of the house was watering plants and noticed the elderly man weeding the back lawn. Not knowing what her husband had seen, she also made the same assumption and went out to say hello. She actually excited the house and standing on a small porch she called out a hello but the man did not respond. In her own words, she decided to go out closer to him in case he was hard of hearing and "only took (her) eyes off him for a second" and when she looked back, the man had vanished. There was also no sign of any "weeding" as well... no weeds, no sod, no grass pulled up but she swore she saw him pulling up weeds from the lawn.
She mentioned the incident to her husband who told her his story. They decided to wait and see if the man appeared again. About two weeks after that, (the couple looked out to the backyard constantly waiting so it was pretty well under constant surveillance,) the man appeared again. This time, he was sitting just behind the new shed on the ground apparently pruning a non-existent plant. The husband tried to get outside to "catch" the man in the act but again came up empty with no trace of the man.
The couple called a few colleagues and me and I started our homework. The people they had originally bought the home from were now both very well and quite alive in a condo in North York but they had bought it from a middle-aged man who inherited the house from his father. The story went like this, the man had moved away from home to attend University in British Colombia and his parents decided to stay in the house despite it being very large for an older couple. The garden in the back was his mother's pride and joy and she tended it regularly right up until her death seven years later. Her husband then (we assume out of grief for his wife) continued tending to the garden until he passed away not two years after his wife.
When we contacted the son, we also asked for a photograph of his father and he obliged by scanning one and sending it via e-mail. We didn't tell him why we needed it nor why we asked for the history (other than we were interested in his connection with the home for a historical background,) but when we printed then showed the couple the photo, they identified the man that was working in their garden as the man in the picture. I informed them that he had died (in a hospital) 12 years prior to them moving in. This did not sit well but it did seem to ease their mind as to who the man might be.
I re-contacted the previous owners and they said they had not experienced anything out of the norm when they lived in the house.
This could be a case of a ghost simply continuing what he did in life. Keeping his work up, so to speak.
Or is it?
Could it also be some kind of "recording"? Did the people that saw the man simply pick up some kind of strange-recorded movement and image because it had been so common to see it in the past? I often point out to people that the human body has a constant current of electricity running through it when we are alive but when we die, none. Scientifically, electricity must either be spent or transferred, It cannot simply disappear. Could it be that on the right kind of day with the right kind of atmosphere the energy of long ago collects and produces a visual or audible entity?
How about this... Why did the last couple living (and still living) in the home see the phenomena but not the one before them? Could it be some people are more finely tuned into this kind of phenomena? Maybe ghosts are psychic recordings that only play out in the minds of those they can connect with. That would certainly explain why some people see things and some people don't. This certainly does seem to be the case in most doppelganger sightings.
Or is it that the "spirit" or "soul" does either have its choice or can get lost making the transition from life to death. I do find it incredible that throughout history, humans have found it inconceivable that we just die. To paraphrase Dr. Hans Holzer, are our egos so big that we MUST survive death?
The juries out and although I personally believe that ghosts exist... I'm not sure what they are.
Another interesting thing I have personally picked up from my own studies is that a lot of the "violent" poltergeists (ones that throw things and make terrific noises) tend to centre around pubescent humans. Although the classic door-slammers and stair-walkers appear almost anywhere, the furniture throwers and the glass smashers seem to follow this trend. Is this the release of some kind of psychokinesis? Again, who knows.
Here's an interesting tidbit... 99% of the time when a ghost "walks through a wall", when you do a historical background of the building, where the ghost just walked through used to be a door or opening. To the ghost, he/she is simply stepping through the doorway but to you, through a solid wall. Same goes for "floaters"... usually you will find that the area they are floating through has a lower floor than it used to. Headless ghosts? Check for a lower ceiling. Do ghosts follow patterns? It seems to be the case. If the person the ghost is (or represents) did it, so will the ghost.
Another area that has yet to appear to me other than as the kind of "I have a friend that knows a buddy that has a sister that KNOWS this happened!" scenario is the warning ghost or as I call them, "ghosts with a message."
You know the stories, The ghost floated in the bedroom, pointed at the goldfish and wailed to the sleeping person "The fish will DIE!" and the fish died the next day! Now, I won't say that this NEVER happens (well, I'm willing to bet on the fish scenario never happening!) but I will say that this is VERY difficult to study as they always seem to be "one-off" events. Although I personally have never truly encountered this, many people have and we still do not take them lightly. Tanya Bellas is currently developing a section of our site devoted to this and other types of "one off" or specialty types of hauntings.
More common is the footsteps up the stairs with no human walking around to make them or the old lady seen in the hallway who disappears.
WHAT CAUSES A GHOST?
There are a number of ideas on this the easiest is the simply, ghosts DON'T exist. They are simply our own imagination. This is how many non-believers feel and they could very well be right.
Of course, there are other possibilities that need to be addressed.
The classical ghost from stories both fact and fiction are ghosts with something to finish or at least "do". People that died with a task that needed completing so they are continuing to work on it after they are dead.
Another type is the idea that the person who is now the ghost is simply unaware that they are dead and are going about their work or whatever oblivious to the fact that things have changed.
The last type is usually seen as either an angel or demon depending on who you ask and that is a ghost that does seem to know where and when it is and is looking out for a particular person.
The most commonly thought idea on how a ghost is created is by someone passing away (dying,) who either does not want to die and therefore somehow manages to hold on to a little bit of this life or by a sudden and usually tragic death. Again, the person may be unaware that they have died.
Of course, you should allow for the thought that ghosts really DON'T exist... outside our own minds. A "psychical playback" if you will. Your brain is picking up a bit of energized history like a tape recorder plays a cassette tape.
One thing that is VERY important is to not assume EVERYTHING is a ghost. Many hauntings and phenomena have very logical and natural explanations that are either found in the environment or even in one case in the person's health.
Please note, one of the more commonly described "haunting phenomena" is waking up with a pressure on the chest, unable to move, speak, yell, scream or breath as the "apparition" or whatever plays havoc. This, more often than not, might be a case of sleep paralysis. Please read through the Yahoo! directory of Sleep Paralysis for more information.
Granted, that is not the only answer and as far as what ghosts are and what causes them will likely remain a mystery. A good question we often avoid is "Do you believe in ghosts?"
For this, I'll quote the philosopher C.J Jung... "I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud."
HOW WOULD I GO ABOUT SEEING A GHOST?
This is a tough question and not easy to answer no matter what.
Your best bet is to spend time in places that have a reported haunting in them. Do not assume that if you spend one night (or one afternoon,) that SOMETHING is going to happen. Most ghost research that's done on-site is hours and hours of very boring, very tedious waiting for something to happen.
The way we usually describe it to people is it's like if someone want's to see a wild bear, the woods is a good place to start but it's not guaranteed you will ever see a bear in the woods you are in and even those that DO have a reputation for being good "bear sighting" places would never have a guarantee!
Patience and travel are your best bets.
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF A GHOST?
Neither the GHRS or PSICAN groups EVER clear homes for various reasons but we do have an excellent page dealing with clearing homes.
ARE GHOSTS DANGEROUS?
Some people say definitely! They feel that ghosts and hauntings are demonic in nature and messing with the devil is always bad.
They might be right but our experience has shown that so far, ghosts have been relatively harmless to us and our teams other than spooking and scaring us now and again. So our answer is most likely not.
We are far more worried and frightened about what the living can do to us than the dead.
Still, regardless of your beliefs, one should ALWAYS show respect for things and people and a little caution and politeness goes a long way.
IS [BLANK] HAUNTED?
People ask us all the time about places and if they're haunted. Basically, if we've heard about it, it's on our website! http://www.torontoghosts.org or http://www.ontarioghosts.org
WHAT IS DEFINITE PROOF THAT GHOSTS EXIST?
There is no definite proof that ghosts exist and no matter what kind of proof you can think of finding or capturing, there will be people who will tell you that it is NOT a ghost.
Photo's can be faked, same with tape recordings. Even if you were to "capture and contain" a ghost for questioning by scientists, they'd still tell you it wasn't a ghost because it is not behaving like what we have expected a ghost to be.
This is why we are not trying to PROVE that ghosts exist. We're (GHRS,) simply telling the story, legend, myths and first hand accounts.
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A GHOST?
The TGHRS and GHRS will probably never say that we've "seen" a ghost but we have observed many unexplained phenomena that is "ghostly" in nature. Prime examples of this are Merritt House and The Baptiste Lake Inn. Please click the links to read about them.
WHY ARE PEOPLE SCARED OF GHOSTS?
As covered above, some people think that all ghosts (even friendly and happy ones... and yes, I believe that "friendly and happy ones" exist,) are demons or "familiar spirits" meant to trick you into worshipping or following Satan.
For the majority though, the fear stems from the unknown. We don't know WHAT a ghost is so we're afraid of it.
Another idea is that ghosts represent death. Our own mortality and one of all human's biggest fears.
All of these are factors as to why most people are afraid of ghosts.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST GHOST STORY?
Humans have believed in ghosts as long as we have been keeping track of our own history. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Aboriginal Americans, Romans and pretty much every other group had stories of the ethereal spirits of the dead returning to the living for any number of reasons.
Shakespeare made use of ghosts in many of his plays and the Victorian era was when "spirituality" made it's first major presence felt with seances and psychics.
It truly seems that as long as mankind had faced death, we seemed to have faced ghosts!
WHERE ARE ALL YOUR (GHRS and PSICAN) GHOST PICTURES?
The Ontarioghosts, Torontoghosts and Paranormal Studies and Investigations Canada as a general rule only display pictures taken by our team or sent in to us. These can be found on our site and are not "sitting on" dozens and dozens of fabulous, unposted images.
WHAT IS ONTARIO'S MOST HAUNTED PLACE?
As for the sheer number of ghost stories, the city of Toronto wins but then again, it is the largest city in Canada in population so there are more people to report ghostly goings on.
Per capita, Niagara-on-the-Lake has the most ghostly legends for the amount of people and structures it has.
As for a specific location, that's too hard to tell. The most commonly reported site for us has been The Former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital in Etobicoke and as for outside Toronto, Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake has been a big subject for us too.
As for the most interesting and busy haunts, Ireland House in Burlington and Merritt House in St. Catharines are favourites of our site. No one site can ever claim it is more haunted than others, but some places have more reports than others.
WHY DO GHOSTS ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT?
They don't. This is a myth that only makes some "ghost stories" more interesting. We have many reports of phenomena that happens during the day and have done several investigations that people have experienced things in the daytime too.
The reason most people report ghosts at night is because we are more likely to notice things at night when things are usually very quiet and we are already a little bit more alert for strange things.
Think about this... If you were walking through a school hallway at 3:30pm, would you notice an "extra" set of phantom footsteps? Probably not BUT at 3:00am when you're probably alone?
I'M INTERESTED IN THE REPORT/STORY ON *THIS PLACE*, HOW CAN I CONTACT THE PERSON THAT SENT IT TO YOU?
Best bet is to write to us and we'll TRY to contact the person for you. Keep in mind we do have a non-disclosure agreement with the people that write to us and the original person who wrote to us may not wish to respond or may not be available. We will try for you but no promises.
HOW DO I GET MY REPORT/STORY ON YOUR SITE?
Next thing, is DON'T WORRY, we won't "publish" anything unless your okay with it (give your permissions), let us know when and where it happened... Again, don't worry, we won't put anything up without your permission.
There are other "criteria" (things,) we do look into before we put your story or report online but we don't put these online or give them out. This is because too many people for whatever reason want us to put up fake or phony stories so we do have to have SOME secrets. Sorry.
WHAT PROOF DO YOU HAVE THAT GHOSTS REALLY EXIST? ARE YOU PULLING A HOAX?
Since we're not ghost "busters" (people who 'clear homes' or get rid of ghosts,) and we're not ghost "hunters" (people who are trying to capture 'proof' that ghosts exist,) and since we do not charge or make any money for doing this, it's safe to assume that we're not pulling a hoax or fraud.
Basically, we're just looking into the legends, history, myths and first hand accounts of Ontario's ghosts and then telling the story behind the 'ghost'.