Anatomy of a Ghost: How Do Ghosts Manifest and Affect the Physical World?
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form...
being is born from non-being, and fulfillment is born from emptiness
a tough issue. Paranormal researchers have evidence that ghosts exist, and that they interact with the physical world-not
just by manifesting as sometimes shadowy figures or disembodied voices, but by actually moving physical objects or touching
How do they do it?
This is a question that's been plaguing paranormal researchers for years, and with good reason.
It's fine to say ghosts dwell on some plane of existence or vibratory rate that puts them beyond our everyday senses-but
then, how do they interact with the world that is apparent to our senses?
We can't just say "they're invisible". It would explain why we don't see them, but how
do they move objects and make noises like knocks and raps? If they are made of some sort of physical substance that can bend
light around them, or if they are simply transparent, why don't we bump into them? And if they are invisible and indiscernible
physically because they are oscillating at a wavelength we can't see, like microwaves or gamma rays, it still doesn't
explain how they can act on physical objects. When I turn on the microwave oven, the dish inside doesn't jump around from
the microwaves pushing it.
How ghosts can interact physically with our world is still a mystery, but it's possible to put
together some workable theories. Let's look at what we do know.
investigators point to cold spots in a room as indications that spirits are trying to draw in thermal energy to help them
manifest. They also believe anomalous EM fields indicate a spirit is trying to manifest (or maybe that the fields just indicate
the spirit is there, depending on the range of the fluctuation and what's going on at the time.)
Let's look first at whether heat is a viable source of energy to help ghosts manifest
and perform physical activity.
When any object absorbs heat energy,
it means that object is in a less energetic state than whatever is providing the heat, be it a human or just the air in a
room. If a spirit is in thermal equilibrium with the heat source-for example, a human-not only would it not benefit from drawing
in heat energy, it would be impossible for there to be a heat transference. Heat doesn't pass between two objects
of the same temperature.
On the other hand, if a spirit had a higher
level of thermal energy, we might detect warm spots in the room, as well as a rise in temperature the closer we got to the
spirit (because some of the thermal energy would radiate from the spirit into the room).
So if spirits are drawing in heat, we can infer that they must intrinsically be at a less dynamic
energy level than humans. In this sense, the old conception of ghosts just being "shades" or shadows of humans,
pale reflections of what they were in life, might not be far off the bat.
Would drawing in heat give ghosts enough energy to manifest?
answer is that it's unlikely to allow them to directly manifest. In order to give off its own light, an object has to
be at least 900 degrees Kelvin, which is about 627 degrees Celsius or 1,160 degrees Fahrenheit. And, this "light"
will be at wavelengths that would be too low for the human eye to see. Filament light bulbs are much hotter than this, yet
most of their light is still in the infra-red range. A light bulb isn't really that hot unless you're up close to
it, but that's because the filament is safely encased in glass.
a ghost was radiating its own light, you might have to settle for observing it from a distance because it would be too hot
for you to be in the same room with it. However, it's really unlikely the entity would be able suck enough thermal energy
from most locales, short of a volcano, to achieve their own luminosity strictly through heat energy.
There are also certain chemical reactions which generate light, such as the biochemical reactions
that allow lightning bugs and glow-worms to light up, but these don't really apply to ghosts.
Most objects don't radiate their own light. Instead, photons generated by an external source
(the sun, light bulbs) bounce off them and are detected by our eyes. Depending on the wavelength of the photons, we see different
colors, and depending on the pattern in which the photons are deflected, we perceive shapes.
This means that the ghost would either have to have some way for becoming semi-solid, and thereby
deflecting photons, or would have to be able to distort electromagnetic fields around it enough to approximate some sort of
shape and warp the trajectory of photons to deflect them. In either case, it would seem impossible for mere thermal
energy to accomplish the task.
So if the ghosts can't use heat
to become visible, why would they draw it in from a room? Remember, the fact that they can draw in heat at all means they're
at a lower energy level, so it's possible that they're engaging in behavior similar to a reptile sunning itself. Because
reptiles don't have the same internal heat source that mammals do, they have to engage in this behavior after being in
cold temperatures, because their metabolism slows down so much.
the same way, ghosts may need to "warm up" before having any sort of interaction with the physical world. Under
basic laws of physics, objects at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. If the ghost's natural "rest
state" is too low to allow it interaction with the physical world, it only makes sense that it would need to gain energy
somehow in order to perform some action.
But overall, thermal energy
seems to be an unlikely source of energy for ghosts trying to manifest. Actually affecting the physical environment
is much more difficult. If our warmed-over ghost really wants to make itself known with physical activity, it would have to
get even stronger.
Some paranormal investigators believe this could
be done by siphoning EM energy from appropriate sources. A common theme in paranormal investigation is unusual battery drains
that affect equipment. Investigators also report odd fluxes in the EM fields at the investigation site. Some investigators
theorize that spirits are trying to take the energy to allow some sort of manifestation or activity.
Would accumulation of electromagnetic energy be enough to allow a non-corporeal being to influence
the physical environment? Again, it's a questionable prospect. It is true than under the right circumstances, electromagnetic
energy in the form of photons can have an influence on physical objects, even though photons themselves have no mass.
The radiometer invented by William Crookes gives an interesting illustration of how photons can indirectly cause an object
to move, but it only works because it's a near-vacuum environment and the actual mechanism involved is thermal reaction
to the photons, not the light itself. Not much help in the case of paranormal physical activity: we don't live in
a vacuum, and the objects moved in paranormal phenomena are a lot heavier than the paper fan in a radiometer!
Assuming a ghost could accumulate significant amounts of photons from available EM fields,
would it be able to use them to affect the environment? Even if the ghost was able to send out a blast of photons, it
would not really have an effect on solid objects. Photons have no mass, so the impact would not be strong enough to account
for raps or knocks, nor would such an event be able to cause the apparent controlled movement seen in some cases.
In one episode of the television show Ghost Hunters, a picture frame was seen
to move twice in jerky motions across a dresser. In another, a chair was dragged across the floor of an old lighthouse. A
blast of particles, if they affected the objects at all, would most likely have simply knocked them over.
If a small object like a picture frame is made of metal, there is always the possibility
that some sort of magnetic field could have caused the motion, so if a ghost is capable of accumulating EM energy perhaps
it can manipulate those fields to move an object. But the strength of the field required to do that would be a lot higher
than you would encounter in a normal environment, and one would have to ask where the ghost got that much EM energy without
draining all the electricity from the house (and, more importantly, the batteries powering the camera that caught the Ghost
Hunters event on tape!). If ghosts had their own independently generated magnetic field strong enough to move objects
like picture frames, it would be easy to track them... metal objects like paper clips, nails and pins would stick to them
and reveal their presence and movement.
Also, we have to remember
that many of the objects which are apparently affected by ghostly activity, such as, doors, furniture, etc. do not contain
significant amounts of metal. So, magnetic fields would not really have any influence on them. That rules out magnetic
fields, at least as a singular source for ghostly interaction with the physical world.
The one area where EMF siphoning could come into play (finally!) is some episodes of manifestation.
If a ghost is able to accumulate enough static electric charge, it might be able to generate a very basic shape (perhaps even
with some details, such as rough facial features) by drawing dust to itself. Static is what makes TV screens and computer
monitors get dusty so quickly. There's plenty of dust even in the most immaculate homes.
Many descriptions of ghostly manifestations discuss vaguely human shapes, often monochromatic
and, most importantly, semi-transparent. An entity whose shape is loosely outlined and roughly filled in with dust would appear
to be one color, and would not be solid. Yet our brain could insist on finding some way to try to interpret it as solid.
The best way for it to do that is to interpret the image as semi-transparent.
This does not really provide a satisfactory explanation, though, of much more vivid manifestations. And certainly
a cloud of floating dust cannot knock loudly in answer to questions or move a chair.
So do we have to chalk those up to truly supernatural antics? Not yet, because science has one more trick up its
Enter the Higgs field.
This is still in the realm of theoretical physics, but researchers hope that new generations of particle
accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider in Europe will allow them to finally isolate Higgs particles, which make up
Basically, the Higgs field is believed to be the
thing that gives all matter its mass. This is under one set of theories, anyway. Other theories such as string theory have
different explanations for how particles get their particular characteristics, but those are a little difficult to get into
In our limited physical existence, we cannot perceive the
Higgs field, which (theoretically) permeates the entire universe. The models involving this unusual field predict it
is the same strength everywhere.
The reason this field is
so important is that mathematically, it is the only way to explain why certain particles known as intermediate vector bosons
have mass when they should be massless like photons. (The IVBs were supposed to be direct counterparts to photons in formulas
meant to show parallels between electromagnetism and the phenomenon called the weak force, which is involved in some forms
of radioactive decay. If complete parallels are found, the formulas explaining such forces are said to be unified, which is
a highly desirable thing in physics.)
This is all complex, and the
really important thing to understand is that thanks to the Higgs field, particles that mathematically should be massless may
have a way for gaining mass.
Aha. Mass. The property that makes physical
things... well, physical. As near as we've been able to observe, ghosts have no mass, which is why it's been
so problematic to explain how they can interact with the physical world.
So here's a possible mechanism to explain it. If ghosts are coherent, intelligent collections of energy, they
may be in a state that allows them to access the Higgs field. What we cannot perceive in our limited physical state may be
readily apparent to -and more importantly, capable of being manipulated by-spiritual beings. This would provide an exciting
new window into physics, because it would open up the possibility that under certain circumstances, particles like photons
which don't normally interact with the Higgs field may be able to have such interactions, and so gain mass.
How does this relate to ghosts? Remember that entities like ghosts are believed to be
able to either generate their own anomalous EM fields, or to interact with EM fields to produce unusual fluctuations and power
drains of batteries. One way they could affect EM fields in this way is if they are made of photons... the particles
that carry the electromagnetic force. Doing this would allow photons to gain enough energy to oscillate at visible light wavelengths...
thus allowing manifestations.
Yet photons have no mass, so we're
still left with the problem of how ghosts could directly affect physical objects.
But suppose ghosts have a way to generate an interaction with the Higgs field, allowing a portion of
themselves to gain mass to initiate physical activity such as knocks, object movement, etc. Let's also suppose some of
this interaction bleeds over into the immediate environment. If the photons in ambient EM fields and batteries suddenly gain
mass, they're no longer photons. Boom. No energy for the equipment. Also, EMF fields that would normally be steady will
fluctuate, because the number of photons in the field will be fluctuating based on how much interaction there is with the
Of course if we're just concerned about the concept
of ghosts having no intrinsic mass, we don't have to limit ourselves to photons. Neutrinos are also essentially massless
(although recent data indicates they may in fact have some small mass, yet still behave as massless entities). There
is also a particle called a graviton, which is responsible for the gravitational force in some theories, and is believed to
But neither neutrinos nor gravitons interact with electromagnetic
fields... so this rules them out if we consider ghosts capable of affecting EM fields in an area.
It's always possible there is another sort of massless particle that can interact with electromagnetic
fields but is not commonly found in the physical world as we know it. Perhaps this particle naturally exists in large quantities
on the plane in which ghosts exist, and it allows them to maintain a cohesive energy structure. We might call it a phantreme-for
"phantom extreme" particle.
There is one more point to
this speculation which touches on the deepest spiritual beliefs of many traditions. It would be extremely enlightening to
find out ghosts are made of massless particles.
The heavier a particle
is, the more intrinsic energy it has and the faster it decays. This is why sub-atomic particles such as pions and kaons are
not very common: they are only produced at very high energies not found in everyday life here on earth. They are very heavy,
as particles go, and they quickly decay into particles that are less heavy, less energetic, and therefore more stable.
As near as we know, massless particles such as photons are the most stable particles
of all. In other words, they never decay.
Therefore, if ghosts are
made of some form of massless particles, they truly could be eternal beings.
A final thought: it's still unclear whether ghosts are trapped in this world, or dwell in some sort of intermediate
state between this world and another, or whether they actually exist mostly in that different world and only occasionally
come into ours. We cannot rule out that the entities we call ghosts, demons, angels and elementals may be comprised of some
hybrid material capable of switching between pure energy and physical matter. That is not at all beyond the realm of physics.
After all, E=mc²... energy and mass are essentially the same.
We simply may have to accept that while there are good theories, there is no firm explanation, under our current
understanding of the universe, to tell us where ghosts come from, where they dwell, and how these entities can become solid
enough to affect the physical world we live in.
copyright 2008 by Keith Schulenberg