Last May, I visited Melbourne. Based in Sandhurst I would catch the Frankston train to platform 6 and 7 at Flinders Street Station to explore the CBD and attend services at the Anglican Cathedral opposite. Recently after returning to home to Queensland, (to my surprise) I read reports of a Ghost haunting the platform I’d been on months before.
The story goes, often late at night (and at times after a big night), witnesses catching the Frankston train report a man (christened George), seemingly confused and out of place – holding paddles and a fishing rod looking longingly towards the Yarra. After a while, he would start to walk in its general direction before disappearing into nothingness. Variations on this story include George being seen on platform 10, and from the window of an express train.
Reports indicate that George seems to be unaware of his condition and soundings being a train station, there are no known reports of him talking, attempting to interact with or harm station staff or users.
As many long-time commuters and station employees report not to have seen George (or any other Ghost), and with the only corroborating evidence to date being second-hand reports, it is hard to see George as being anything other than a tale doing the rounds of Ghost related Facebook groups and websites. However, it is an entertaining story, that asks what causes Ghostly apparitions.
While cultural reporting of Ghosts or similar entities stories such as this are common, for many they are a form of entertainment, others they provide hope and comfort for those who are either fearful of their own mortality or have lost someone close to them. Generally, there is a reason for their experience.
Essentially a Ghost sighting is a perception based experience where the person sees or senses a person, animal or sometimes object (such as a ship) that isn’t physically there. Its causes are varied but are typically dependant on the belief that there is some part of us that transcends physical death. Parapsychologists studying ‘Apparition experiences’ tend to link Ghosts with out-of-body and near-death experiences.
While there is no correlation between gender, age, race, religious belief and experiencing a haunting there are two factors of statistical significance, those who report sightings tend to be of low educational background and where widows (who commonly reported sensing the presence of their spouse, often as a comforting experience).
Why we may experience Ghosts falls into five broad categories. Spirit theory posits that a Ghosts are the soul or essence of an individual that has transcended their physical death. While some accept this theory, others find dubious that the Ghost is often seen with non-living items (i.e. clothes, paddles, fishing rod) that do not have a soul capable of transcending death.
Telepathic Hallucinations was a theory posited in the late 19th Century states that ghosts are hallucinations created by a telepathic transfer of information from the living or dead via extrasensory methods that are somehow given the conscious form of the individual transferring the information.
Hallucinations, mistaken interpretation or as the product of an individual’s imagination, suggestion and social condition may are other common causes of Ghostly sightings, a 2003 experiment found that those attending locations famous for being haunted where more likely to experience something if they believed in Ghosts compared to those who didn’t.
The Neuropsychology theory indicates that Ghosts may be a result of the unconscious brain playing tricks on us. Our sense of self is closely linked to language centres in the brains commonly found in left hemisphere, with those in the right creating a feeling or sense of presence that lies somehow beneath or beyond our conscious knowledge.
Certain individuals may be more sensitive to environmental factors such as electromagnetic or geomagnetic fields possibly affecting the temporal lobes in ways that create Ghostly visions, combined with certain low-frequency sounds (infrasound) may result in natural events in our environment causing individuals to believe they have has a paranormal experience, such as seeing a Ghost.
It is easy to write off those who believe in Ghosts as being gullible, simple individuals who are foolish for not seeing our version truth, rather we should consider that our experiences are often caused by many different and complex factors that often can’t be attributed to one cause. While there is no compelling evidence that George, like any other Ghost exists we should not write off others beliefs because they differ from the popular consensus but seek to examine ourselves and those of the world around us.