PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Ghosts, Hauntings & Related Phenomena

Written by Matthew James Didier

GHOSTBUSTING - Top Ten Ghost Investigation Myths

#1: Ghosts will hurt and/or kill you.

No, they won't. In fact, the vast majority of injuries sustained that can be "blamed" on ghosts are from people escaping them. Things like running from they think might be a ghost and in the process, banging their heads or tripping.

To date, in two-hundred years of written/investigated reports, there is only ONE death "possibly" blamed on a ghost... and that was The Bell Witch case in Adams, Tennessee, that happened in 1820... and even it is STILL hotly debated.

The only properly recorded case of someone being injured and being medically examined after an encounter with a ghost (again, in the last two-hundred years,) is The Entity Case in California in the 1970's. This is also debated.

Sadly, there are a plethora of deaths, disfigurements, and injuries that are related to ghosts and hauntings... some being from would-be thrill-seeking ghost hunters taking dangerous (and unnecessary) risks, and far too many from "exorcisms" and otherwise attempts to "clear" ghosts.

I could also include the damage done to people's finances and well being by charlatans and frauds claiming to be able to assist with a ghostly situation for fees... and that is scary. If someone offers to help you with a haunting for money, that's when it's best to turn and run.

These are facts... and they are documented. Realistically, your chances of being permanently hurt by a ghost are far, far worse than winning over one-million dollars in a lottery.

#2: Ghosts only come out at night.

Again, not true. About 40% (38.7%) of the collected reports to PSICAN's main page and through Torontoghosts/Ontarioghosts happen in daylight hours. This still seems odd, as that means over 60% of the reports happened in the evening, so how can we say that night time is not necessarily "best" for ghosts to be experienced?

Simple, really.

When looking at reports from "public access" (and private business) sites, hospitals do make up the lion's share of reports... but private homes and spaces are still the most common place to hear stories from. Now, even in most homes, an odd shadow, strange noise, or even weird light will go almost completely unnoticed at three in the afternoon... but when people are awake at three in the morning, when there is very little background noises outdoors, most people asleep, and very few "living bodies" wandering around to cast shadows and stir any of the senses of a witness, every sound seems almost amplified and therefore, odd or "displaced" things are that much more noticeable. Also, keeping this in mind, how many people are even at their homes between 9am and 6pm?

Realistically, however, there are very few "haunted locations" that don't also have things happening in broad daylight... they may be "easier to notice" in the wee hours, but if something is there and people are looking for it, they will find, without a doubt, that whether the suns out or not makes no difference.

#3: Ghosts are transparent.

Actually, most of them don't seem to be at all.

Isaac Asimov once said, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" The same can be said about seeing a ghost, in many ways.

Now, I should caution, that we are talking about "apparitions" here... not poltergeists. The former represents seeing a person or thing that, realistically, should not be there and would be considered "ghostly". The latter represents things that aren't seen at all (invisible) but are felt, heard, or seem to move things without any sort of visible means.

The majority of sightings of apparitions are indeed, as solid as you and I... assuming you're solid... and in many reports, we hear and read things like, "I saw a woman standing near the window... I didn't think too much about it, and when I realised she shouldn't be there, I looked back and she'd vanished."

It's the "I realised that ___ shouldn't be there" that's the clue... Usually it's because they're dressed oddly... sometimes it's because they do something weird or strange... like appear to be open the window (unsuccessfully) using a crank, when it's a normal sliding thermal window...

...but again, it's usually not a horrifying or terrifying experience, but one of gentle surprise that turns into a situation of concerned wonderment.

One of the MOST important questions for an investigator or researcher to ask someone who's seen an apparition (after establishing that it's not likely a "mistaken" identity of someone else who's very much alive and was in the vicinity,) is "Did the apparition break the light? Did it cast a shadow?"

Overwhelmingly, the answers to at least one of these questions is "Yes." As such, it is tantalizing for us, as mass (needed to break the light and/or cast shadows,) means there SHOULD be some form of measurable energy involved... but we're still looking for it.

Either way, indeed, after a quick round-up of apparition sightings from our own reports since 1997, 97.89% of the reports say that the sighting was of something seemingly "solid"... not translucent or "see-through".

Those are mostly just the Hollywood ghosts.

#4: Ghosts that cause damage or any sort of trouble are demons.

This is more something of faith than of fact... and there's little point in arguing someone's belief structure... but...

Assuming that "ghosts" are somehow related to or involved with the residual "something" from a person or being that has passed on, as many do, or even that there's a chance RSPK (recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis) is at work, then it would also be safe to say that "whomever" this was or is, is now indeed a demon.

Again, using that logic, if a three year old throws a fit and tosses everything in front of them all over the place, are they demonic? If there's a car accident, and in the process, pieces of car are flung about violently, was this caused by demonic forces? I know I've gotten very upset at things I've been working on and have flung them to my desk in exasperation... am I demonic?

There are SOME that would say yes...

Would you?

#5: A psychic, sensitive, or shaman can get rid of a ghost for you.

Though some claim this ability, we have to report that we have not had heard (in our twelve years of study - at the time of writing this,) a case where this has been completely true.

There have been some reports of someone being able to weaken the intensity of some phenomena... and there have been reports of people being able to cause a pause (even long term) in the amounts of phenomena... but it always seems to return to one degree or another.

Most people that do try to "rid" themselves of things end up realistically simply learning ways to live with it and work around what's happening.

Also, remember what I said above about being "hurt by a ghost"? About "damage done to people's finances"? Rule one is always DON'T OPEN YOUR WALLET. There's PLENTY of ways of dealing with these things that are COST FREE and those paths should always be your first and last resort if you're looking towards this "solution". Information on these ideas, suggestions, and even contacts is available at

Don't let ANYONE fool you... because, indeed, this field is fraught with those who are less then genuine, sad to say.

#6: Ghost hunters have ghost detectors that find the ghosts.

No. In fact, no one does.

People assume that EMF meters and "Tri-Field" meters (common hand-held electronic instruments used by ghost investigators) somehow "detect" ghosts... they don't. They note variations in the ambient electro-magnetic fields in and around the vicinity where you take your reading. To date, there's been zero correlation between drops and spikes in electro magnetic fields and supposedly haunted locations or events... save the work of Dr. Michael Persinger of Laurentian University who's findings were that high ambient EM after a time will cause hallucinations that are based from a reaction in the temporal lobe of the human brain. The comedic element of this is that those "ghost hunters" who go "gaga" over high EM readings with their meters might only be proving they're more susceptible in that location to a hallucination.

The truth is no one knows what ghosts are "made of"... and without that information, it is impossible to "detect" a ghost.

#7: Photographs that show weird balls of light prove that there's ghosts around.

This was an extremely popular thought in the late 1990's and the early part of this century... but sadly, it's been all but completely debunked.

With the "weird balls of light" (or 'orbs') it's a 99% given chance that what you're looking at is airborne particles caught near the lens by the flash of a camera. In recent years, flashes and lenses have been constructed closer together (both to shrink the size of the units and to point the flash downwards to avoid issues like "red eye" in the images,) and this has led to more and more things being seen in photos as "glowing balls of light". Torontoghosts was one of (if not the first) ghost-related websites to tell people this in great detail (you can see it at ) the article includes diagrams et al if you're want more information.

We have even offered people ideas to "debunk" our "debunkning"... sadly, there's been no one who has yet to do so... and as such, our feelings on the matter stand and stand with evidence.

For how to "debunk" our "debunking", see on Stereo Cameras and on the "obscured" orb.

#8: Science says that ghosts do not exist.

This is not true. Right now, there is no empirical evidence to show that ghosts do or do not exist... but there is witness testimony and evidence which is still being argued over and speculated about.

True science has not passed judgement as there's nothing to indicate ghosts exist or do not exist... and science needs evidence... not simple faith, belief, or proclamations.

#9: Science says that ghosts exist.

This is not true. Right now, there is no empirical evidence to show that ghosts do or do not exist... but there is witness testimony and evidence which is still being argued over and speculated about.

True science has not passed judgement as there's nothing to indicate ghosts exist or do not exist... and science needs evidence... not simple faith, belief, or proclamations.

(This was really just to show that this sort of thing works both ways and to ensure that people understand that science is and always should be neutral and "agnostic" to things without empirical evidence in any direction.)

#10: Abandoned and spooky looking places are usually haunted.

First thing people should understand is that no place is truly "abandoned". Someone owns pretty much everything. In Ontario, for example, the large forests you can find especially in our North that SEEM abandoned are owned by "The Crown". This means, in essence, that it is owned by the government.

Almost every house, regardless of it's condition, is owned by someone... and being "abandoned" does not mean (at all) that it's haunted OR has some sort of dark history behind it's current condition. The most common causes of "abandoned" homes is because of ownership disputes, structural integrity issues, and sometimes, simple abandonment in favour of another structure on the same property or owned by the same people.

At the time of writing this, there's an entire block of "abandoned" homes on the North side of Bloor Street West in Toronto, just North of High Park... which really aren't abandoned. They were purchased by a developer to be torn down for a new condominium complex... but, because some of these homes are almost a century old and are "boarded up", there's probably people that assume that they are somehow truly abandoned and/or "cursed" in some form. (In fact, someone DID write to us to tell us about them claiming that the owners had "really let them run down" and had been "evicted" because of this... which is not true as there's only one (corporate) owner... and they're simply waiting for plan approval.)

Anyway, usually as (especially older) sites become more decrepit, the rumours begin... but in all honesty, if "Old Man Jenkins" really did murder his entire family in the old abandoned farm house eighty years ago, then it still would have made the papers and/or court documents... and information would be available online via a Google search on the address of said farm house.

More often than not, "dark histories" and even "ghost stories" from places that only LOOK haunted are nothing more than wishful thinking... really, just a way for thrill seekers to justify wandering through the sites. Sadly, more often than not, these people go in to these places without permission and without safety precautions being taken... and indeed, there have been several deaths and injuries in North America over the last fifteen years that trace back to "ghost hunting" and "abandoned place" being synonymous in many people's lexicon.

The truth is any place can have reports of ghostly activity... and really, if it's ghosts you're interested in, these are the places you should go to look into things. Places with existing reports you can find either online from multiple sources or in books.

I've said it before, I'll say it again... You may think it takes a certain "intestinal fortitude" to venture into the cold, dark, scary old house... but it takes a SERIOUS pair of stones to walk into a historic site or museum and actually tell the people working there you're interested in the ghost stories you've heard about their site (if any) and actually get the details and look into actual events.

Now that you're armed with the facts behind these "tall tales", you can really get into ghost investigation and research... and be armed with truth instead of popular myths.