Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us have probably wondered if a bump in the night was actually a ghost at one time or another.
And if you’re really unlucky, you might even believe you’ve seen a ghost in the flesh.
But what exactly makes us feel like we’re in the presence of something beyond the grave?
Exploding head syndrome, sleep paralysis and even fungus can be the cause of a chill down your spine or the suspicion that someone is watching.
So brace yourself, because MailOnline explores five possible scientific explanations behind experiences of paranormal activity.
Exploding head syndrome, sleep paralysis (stock image) and even fungus can be the cause of a chill down your spine or the suspicion that someone is watching you
1. Sleep Paralysis
In 2015, a woman shared a chilling experience she had when she went to bed one night.
As she lay down next to her husband – who was snoring as usual – the 62-year-old was tapped on the shoulder by someone who whispered, “I’m cold, can I come in?”
What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis occurs when you can’t move your muscles while you wake up or fall asleep. This is because you are in sleep mode but your brain is active.
It’s not clear why sleep paralysis can occur, but it has been linked to:
- disrupted sleep patterns – for example due to shift work or jet lag
- narcolepsy – a long-term condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- generalized anxiety disorder
- Anxiety Disorder
- a family history of sleep paralysis
The woman said yes, thinking it was one of her daughters, but when she opened her eyes she saw it her seven-year-old son – who was killed several months earlier.
This frightening phenomenon is known as sleep paralysis and is often cited as an explanation for sightings of paranormal activity.
While doctors aren’t sure exactly how this happens, it’s generally believed that it happens when a person reaches a stage of rapid eye movement sleep (REM) — during which you’re likely to have vivid dreams.
Those who suffer from sleep paralysis often feel awake, but may feel pushed down or see hallucinations in their room.
According to Dan Denis, an expert from the University of York, there are three types of hallucinations that can be experienced.
Writing for The Conversation, he explained, “Intruder hallucinations consist of a sense of evil presence in the room, which can also manifest in hyper-realistic multisensory hallucinations of a real intruder.
Incubus hallucinations often co-occur with intruder hallucinations and describe a feeling of pressure on the chest and a feeling of suffocation.
“The third category includes so-called vestibular-motor hallucinations, which usually do not occur with the other two, and consists of ‘illusory movement experiences’ such as hovering over the bed.”
To get rid of sleep paralysis, the NHS recommends getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep a day, as the condition can be caused by insomnia.
Regular exercise can also help, but not in the four hours before going to bed.
You may be surprised to learn that scientists have also drawn the dots between ghost sightings and poor air quality.
It turns out that toxic mold spores can cause mood swings, irrational anger, and even cognitive impairment if you’re exposed to them for too long.
You may be surprised to know that scientists have also drawn the dots between ghost sightings and poor air quality (stock image)
Symptoms of brain inflammation and memory loss have also emerged in recent studies, as have increased anxiety and fear.
Researchers argue that these traits are oddly similar to those who claim to have experienced paranormal activity and suggest there could be a connection.
Professor Shane Rogers of Clarkson University in New York previously said: ‘Experiences reported during many hauntings are similar to mental or neurological symptoms reported by individuals exposed to toxic molds.
‘The psychoactive effects of some molds are known, while the effects of others, such as indoor molds, are less researched.
“While allergy and asthma symptoms and other physiological effects are well established, there has long been controversy about the effects of indoor mold exposure on cognitive and other brain functioning.”
3. Exploding head syndrome
Exploding head syndrome may sound like a made-up condition, but it’s actually a very real and terrifying sensory disorder.
According to Goldsmith Universityit is characterized by ‘the perception of a loud noise or a sensation of explosion in the head, usually when going in or out of deep sleep’.
This could be anything from a literal explosion to a gunshot or even a scream.
Two years ago, A study found that 44.4 percent of patients experienced significant anxiety during these episodes, with a small proportion believing it was caused by something supernatural.
Exploding head syndrome is characterized by “the perception of a loud noise or sensation of explosion in the head”
“Previous research has suggested that a substantial proportion of the world’s population will experience EHS at least once in their lifetime,” says Goldsmiths Professor Chris French.
“So while only a small percentage of our sample chose unconventional explanations such as ‘something supernatural’ or the effects of ‘electronic equipment,’ this phenomenon is likely to be explained in such terms by many millions of people around the world.”
Psychologist Dr Louise Goddard-Crawley also told MailOnline: ‘These hallucinations can be dream-like and range from seeing flashing lights, shapes or people to hearing voices, music or other sounds.
“The content of these hallucinations can be varied and sometimes bizarre. They can be quite realistic and immersive, making them difficult to distinguish from actual perceptions.’
4. Carbon monoxide
The links between carbon monoxide and paranormal experiences have been considered since before World War II.
In 1921, the American journal of ophthalmology told of the chilling experience of a woman known only as “Mrs. H.”
After moving into a new home, she and her family started hearing strange voices and even felt like they were being held in their beds.
This was accompanied by a feeling of weakness and a headache, which actually turned out to be the result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
This poisonous gas (CO) is a tasteless, odorless menace that can cause lasting damage even at low concentrations to people who breathe it in.
It often stems from burning fuels such as gas and propane, as well as wood-burning fireplaces and clogged chimneys.
In Mrs. H.’s case, these emissions came from a furnace, and once it was repaired, her family’s illnesses stopped.
The combustion of any fuel, from propane and charcoal to gasoline, releases toxic carbon monoxide
More recent research has shown that carbon monoxide poisoning has also produced a state of psychosis in some patients.
More than six weeks of exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and even anxiety cognitive dysfunction.
Dr. Albert Rizzo, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association, previously told DailyMail.com, “Because it is odorless and tasteless, it can be very insidious and people don’t often equate these types of symptoms with carbon monoxide poisoning.
“They might think they have a virus or it’s the flu, maybe they just need better ventilated air, which they do, but then don’t make the connection that it’s carbon monoxide.”
If you’ve ever done a double take thinking you saw a monster in the mirror or a creature among the trees, you may have experienced pareidolia.
Pareidolia occurs when people assign meaning to arbitrary visual stimuli, such as seeing faces in clouds
This phenomenon occurs when people assign meaning to random visual stimuli, such as seeing faces in the clouds.
While it’s a common trick of optical illusions, research also indicates it can be attributed to more supernatural sightings.
In a Tanta UniversityIn a study conducted two years ago, 82 participants were shown images of patterns that looked like static television.
It found that participants who claimed to have experienced something paranormal prior to the experiment were more likely to see faces in these images.
Dr. Louise Goddard-Crawley also believes that “illusory correlation” may contribute, being the tendency to perceive a relationship between two unrelated events or experiences.
She told MailOnline: “In the context of ghost sightings, a person may associate a particular event or event (such as a strange sound or coincidence) with the presence of a ghost. This perceived correlation may reinforce belief in seeing a ghost, even if the connection is not based on objective evidence.
“It is very common for people who are grieving or who have suffered a significant loss to be more susceptible to experiences they interpret as communication or visits from deceased loved ones.
“These experiences may involve seeing or feeling the presence of those who have been lost, which may lead to belief in ghosts or ghosts.”