Updated: Apr 21
Since the beginning of recorded history ghosts has haunted us. The religions of Assyria, Babylon, Sumer, and other religions considered ghosts to be created when someone dies. In Egypt, the belief is a continued existence of the soul after death with the ability to affect the living with the possibility of a second death.
The Greeks and Romans accepted spirits were of the dead who kept on wandering the earth and could hurt or upset typical life. They were regarded with banquets and forfeits to keep the soul from frequenting the living. The perished were covered outside of town almost an intersection of a few streets to befuddle the soul.
Now, in medieval Europe spirits fell into two categories, souls of the dead and demons. One could tell them apart by demanding their purpose in the name of Jesus Christ. The soul of the deceased person would reveal their mission, while the demonic ghost would use trickery.
The earliest account of the study of paranormal activity was in Athens in 50 A.D. Pliny the Younger reported a ghost that rattled chains. It was so active no one would occupy his property. Athenodorus the philosopher investigated the property and discovered a shackled skeleton buried in the garden.
Giraldus Cambrensis, in the twelfth century, wrote “Journey Through Wales” and spoke of many unclean spirits. One, in particular, was of William Not. The story is very close to a poltergeist type haunting. He also wrote of the “Corpse Candle”, small glowing balls of light. Today we know them as orbs. Giraldus is noted as taking pains to visit the location and speak to the afflicted to obtain better information.
English philosopher and Fellow of the Royal Society John Aubrey published “Miscellanies” in 1696 which he wrote about many historic and contemporary accounts of spirit activity and other ghostly phenomena. This included disembodied sounds, brief accounts of Ghost haunting tools and was a valuable resource for researchers of the time.
Daniel Defoe, in 1727, writing under the pseudonym of Andrew Moreton wrote “The Secrets of the Invisible World Disclosed”. He cautioned not to blindly accept everything as supernatural as there may be a more reasonable cause. And that only through the process of investigation can we differentiate them.
Later in 1819, Pierre-Simon Marquis de Laplace (remembered as a great scientist) wrote the Analytic Theory of Probabilities where he discussed spirits and the need for careful investigations to be performed.
The calls for science to take an interest in paranormal studies started to take hold. Much of the scientific interest was driven by the claims of the Spiritualist Movement which began in 1848 in America. As instruments to measure the natural world began to manifest, it was not long that these instruments would be used to measure the reported spirit activity. In 1855 skeptic Professor Robert Hare wrote “Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestation” where he conclusively proved that power and intelligence were at work.