Are ghosts and the paranormal fact, or fiction?

BURNED OUT REMAINS of the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

By Candice Chandler
Western Sun Staff Writer

Is death the end, or is there some form of life beyond? The idea of ghosts, the spirits or souls of deceased beings, has interested believers and skeptics alike since the dawn of human history. Is there anything to the paranormal, or is it all in our heads?

I faced a paranormal experience of my own when I was 13, which solidified my stance as a believer. My now-retired father was a Navy Diver then, stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where the U.S.S. Arizona and its 1,177 crewmen perished in the historical 1941 attack.

During a family trip to visit him, my brother and I were met with an eerie encounter. At night, the temperature of our room plummeted, and we heard strange noises like the shuffling of feet. We both felt something strong there, and found no explanation.

The next morning, we told our dad what happened, and with a smirk he walked into the bathroom and retrieved a hidden metal chunk of the U.S.S. Arizona he had claimed during a dive. I’m convinced the encounter was some sort of paranormal phenomenon, and many others have had similar experiences and share my beliefs.

A 2005 Gallup poll showed that 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts despite the lack of hard evidence science demands. Belief in the supernatural is defined by uniquely personal, unexplainable experiences that are all the evidence the individual needs to draw their own conclusions about what’s going on.

Supernatural phenomena have been a part of folklore and popular culture for a long time, and the accounts of those with paranormal experiences are numerous. They are unique in how each person perceives the events. Some people become convinced that it is something otherworldly, while others are quick to offer denials or diminish it to a neurological side effect.

In a study on language processing, Swiss neuroscientist Olaf Blanke produced an accidental side effect. While using an implanted electrode to stimulate a specific section of the brain, Blanke’s subject began experiencing an electrically stimulated “haunting,” sensing a presence and becoming convinced it was something paranormal.

Blanke explained that this discovery proved that ghost encounters were merely the trickery of this part of the mind. But why would we have that sensor in the brain to begin with? This study actually seems to prove that we are wired to detect these “footprints” of the supernatural.

By definition, the supernatural cannot be confined to the standard expectations of how nature behaves, which is the fundamental foundation of the scientific method, and testing it in this way will always be unfit.

Science, though accurate and dependable where it fits, cannot be used to write the book on the dead. Paranormal phenomenon just don’t fit within the confines of the scientific approach because they lack a common order on which to build a theory. Each experience is uniquely defined by the way it is perceived.

My brother and I are convinced our night with a ghost was supernatural. It was a random encounter neither of us could predict. My father never told us he had hidden the twisted hunk of metal in our bathroom as a silly prank, and the whole experience evaporated any skepticism I had concerning ghosts and the possibility of life after death.

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THE WESTERN SUN is published bi-weekly on Wednesdays by the newspaper production classes of Golden West College. All opinions expressed in The Western Sun, unless otherwise indicated, are those of the individual writer or artist and do not necessarily reflect those of the college, district, or any other organization or agency. The Western Sun is a member of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges and the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association.