(appeared in "Dead in the Water", "Asylum", "Route 666", "Provenance", "The Usual Suspect", "Houses of the Holy", "Road Kill", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Bedtime stories" and "Red Sky at Morning"episode)
|This ghost photo is known as The Brown Lady and is probably the most famous ghost picture ever taken. (ghost of Lady Dorothy Townsend who lived in Raynham Hall Mansion in Norfolk, England)|
The belief in ghosts as souls of the departed is closely tied to the ancient concept of animism, which attributed souls to everything in nature, including human beings, animals, plants, rocks, etc. As the nineteenth-century anthropologist James Frazer explained in his classic work, The Golden Bough, souls were seen as the creature within that animated the body:
"If a man lives and moves, it can only be because he has a little man or animal inside, who moves him. The animal inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the soul. And as the activity of an animal or man is explained by the presence of the soul, so the repose of sleep or death is explained by its absence; sleep or trance being the temporary, death being the permanent absence of the soul... "
Although the human soul was sometimes symbolically or literally depicted in ancient cultures as a bird or other animal, it was widely held that the soul was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, even down to clothing the person wore. This is depicted in artwork from various ancient cultures, including such works as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which shows deceased people in the afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style of dress.
Another widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they were composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologistsspeculate that this may also stem from early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person, most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of "breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin spiritus and the Greek pneuma, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible, Godis depicted as animating Adam with a breath.
Although the evidence for ghosts is largely anecdotal, the belief in ghosts throughout history has remained widespread and persistent.
In many historical accounts, ghosts were thought to be deceased people looking for vengeance, or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. Most cultures have ghost stories in their mythologies. Many stories from the Middle Ages and the Romantic era rely on the macabre and the fantastic, and ghosts are a major theme in literature from those eras.
Ghost stories date back to ancient times, and can be found in many different cultures. The Chinese philosopher, Mo Tzu (470-391 BC), is quoted as having said:
"The way to find out whether anything exists or not is to depend on the testimony of the ears and eyes of the multitude. If some have heard it or some have seen it then we have to say it exists. If no one has heard it and no one has seen it then we have to say it does not exist. So, then, why not go to some village or some district and inquire? If from antiquity to the present, and since the beginning of man, there are men who have seen the bodies of ghosts and spirits and heard their voices, how can we say that they do not exist? If none have heard them and none have seen them, then how can we say they do? But those who deny the existence of the spirits say: "Many in the world have heard and seen something of ghosts and spirits. Since they vary in testimony, who are to be accepted as really having heard and seen them?" Mo Tzu said: As we are to rely on what many have jointly seen and what many have jointly heard, the case of Tu Po is to be accepted." (note: King Hsuan (827-783 BC) executed his minister, Tu Po, on false charges even after being warned that Tu Po's ghost would seek revenge. Three years later, according to historical chronicles, Tu Po's ghost shot and killed Hsuan with a bow and arrow before an assembly of feudal lords.)
One of the earliest known ghost "sightings" in the west took place in Athens, Greece. Pliny the Younger (c. 63 - 113 AD) described it in a letter to Licinius Sura: Athenodoros Cananites (c. 74 BC – 7 AD), a Stoic philosopher, decided to rent a large, Athenian house, to investigate widespread rumors that it was haunted. Athenodoros staked out at the house that night, and, sure enough, a disheveled, aged spectre, bound at feet and hands with rattling chains, eventually "appeared". The spirit then beckoned for Athenodoros to follow him; Athenodoros complied, but the ghost soon vanished. The philosopher marked the spot where the old man had disappeared, and, on the next day, advised the magistrates to dig there. The man's shackled bones were reportedly uncovered three years later. After a proper burial, the hauntings ceased.
Many Eastern religious traditions also subscribe to the concept of ghosts. The Hindu Garuda Purana has detailed information about ghosts.
The Hebrew Torah and the Bible contain few references to ghosts, associating spiritism with forbidden occult activities cf. Deuteronomy 18:11. The most notable reference is in the First Book of Samuel (I Samuel 28:7-19 KJV), in which a disguised King Saul has the Witch of Endor summon the spirit of Samuel. In the New Testament, Jesus has to persuade the Disciples that he is not a ghost following the resurrection, Matthew 24. In a similar vein, Jesus' followers at first believe him to be a ghost when they see him walking on water.
The Child ballad Sweet William's Ghost recounts the story of a ghost returning to beg a woman to free him from his promise to marry her, as he can not, being dead; her refusal would mean his damnation. This reflects a popular British belief that the dead would haunt their lovers if they took up with a new love without some formal release.
The Unquiet Grave expresses a belief even more widespread, found in various location over Europe: ghosts can stem from the excessive grief of the living, whose mourning interferes with the dead's peaceful rest.
"The Frighteners," a 1996 film directed by Peter Jackson and starring Michael J. Fox, explored the possibility that ghosts of serial killers might try to complete their goals of killing more people than any other known serial killer, by continuing to kill people even after they, the serial killers who died and became ghosts, had died and become ghosts.