Well, well, well. . . here we have a big article from the New York Times that touts ghosts, implicitly assumes that they exist and haunt houses, and tells readers how to live with them. Save for one barely noticeable caveat about naturalistic explanations for one “ghostly” phenomenon, you will find no doubt about ghosts, and nothing about investigations of whether they exist. (Ghosts, as you know, are taken to be the returned spirits of people who are dead.)
I’m not sure why the NYT keeps writing about these paranormal phenomena as if they are true, without giving the proper caveats. (e.g., “Note to reader: These are all anecdotal reports. Further scientific investigation has shown no evidence for the dead reappearing.”) It may be because younger folk, possibly the target demographic for the paper, is more credulous about these things. (See below.)
Click on the screenshot to read:
The article gives several anecdotal accounts that have the inhabitants of some houses think that their homes are haunted. I’ll give just one:
Lisa Asbury has lived in her home in Dunlap, Ill., for three years now. But the paranormal activity she’s observed began in her old home in 2018, following the death of her husband’s grandfather, and is identical to what she’s been experiencing now, she said. Ms. Asbury, 43, said that she’s seen objects fly off shelves, lights flash in multiple rooms and fan blades start turning suddenly. “I hear my name being called when I’m alone, phantom footsteps, our dogs barking while staring at nothing,” she added.
But nothing has felt aggressive, Ms. Asbury said. Just attention-seeking. “I believe our spirits to be family,” she said. “I get the feeling that we have different family members visit at different times.”
And though it was unsettling for a while, she’s figured out how to live within the ghostly milieu. “Usually if something occurs, we will acknowledge it out loud or just say hi to the spirit,” Ms. Asbury said.
Notice the advice, mentioned in the article’s title, about how to live with a ghost. Be friendly and maybe your ghost will be friendly too, like Casper:
There are many more examples, but that one will suffice. The paper explains the surprising ubiquity of the belief that one’s house is haunted.
Many Americans believe that their home is inhabited by someone or something that isn’t a living being. An October study from the Utah-based home security company Vivint found that nearly half of the thousand surveyed homeowners believed that their house was haunted. Another survey of 1,000 people by Real Estate Witch, an education platform for home buyers and sellers, found similar results, with 44 percent of respondents saying that they’ve lived in a haunted house.
Crikey! That’s a lot of credulous people. The believers tend to be younger, and the difference in belief between Gen Zers and baby boomers is substantial: almost twofold:
There are generational differences in who believes in ghosts. In the Vivint survey, 65 percent of Gen Zers (defined as people born between 1997 and 2012) who participated in the survey thought their home was haunted, while 35 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) surveyed thought the same.
Why so many? The paper gives several explanations:
Researchers attribute increasing belief in the supernatural to the rise of paranormal-related media, a decline in religious affiliation and the pandemic. With so many people believing that they live with ghosts, a new question arises: How does one live with ghosts? Are there ways to become comfortable with it, or certain actions to keep away from so as not to disturb it?
Note the implicit assumption that ghosts are real. Here are more explanations, with this one obvious: if ghosts were real, there would be some kind of afterlife:
Sharon Hill, the author of the 2017 book “Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers,” added that “many are no longer fearful of ghosts because we’ve been so habituated to them by the media.”
Haunted houses can also be “a way to connect to the past or a sense of enchantment in the everyday world,” Ms. Hill said. “We have a sense of wanting to find out for ourselves and be able to feel like we can reach beyond death. To know that ghosts exist would be very comforting to some people.”
Gen Z “might be searching for meaning in new places,” Ms. Hill said. “If the modern world they live in isn’t providing food for the soul, if capitalism is a system that drains us of personal enlightenment, it’s not hard to figure out that younger people will search elsewhere for that and find the idea of an alternate world — of ghosts, aliens, cryptids, et cetera — to be enticing to explore.”
The pandemic also played a role in society’s relationship with houses and ghosts.
The salience of death in our culture increased, igniting a desire for evidence of an afterlife for some people. “Think of all the sudden, and often not-sufficiently-ritually-mourned deaths during Covid. Many times people lost loved ones with no last contact, no funeral,” said Tok Thompson, a folklorist and professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California.
. . . Many experts also attribute a decline in religious belief to fostering a belief in the paranormal. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 30 percent of Americans were religiously unaffiliated, 10 percentage points higher than a decade ago.
Why can’t they just become adherents to naturalism instead of to spiritualism manifested as belief in the paranormal?
One note of interest:
Most states don’t mention paranormal activity in real estate disclosure laws, but New York and New Jersey have explicit requirements surrounding it. In New Jersey, sellers, if asked, must disclose known information about any potential poltergeists. In New York, a court can rescind a sale if the seller has bolstered the reputation of the home being haunted and takes advantage of a buyer’s ignorance of that notoriety.
The article adds that having a reputation of being haunted can actually boost the value of a home.
The article gives only one naturalistic alternative to the paranormal mentioned in the entire article:
Quarantine and remote work meant more time at home, which meant more time to notice strange sounds or movements. Some paranormal investigators reported increased calls concerning hauntings.
“People weren’t normally around all the time to notice the normal noises of a house as it heats up from the sun during the day and then cools in the afternoon. With everyone inside, there was even less noise outside to drown out the typical sounds,” Ms. Hill, the author, said.
But of course the phenomena recounted in the anecdotes, including ouija-board stuff and dogs mysteriously appearing outside, aren’t explained by houses heating up and cooling down.
And that’s it for alternative explanations. And the article’s last paragraph serves to buttress the notion that ghosts are real:
Karla Olivares, a financial consultant living in San Antonio, Texas, said that growing up in a house she believed was haunted has made her more accepting of the unexplainable happenings that have occurred in other places she’s lived or visited.
“When I feel something now, I acknowledge it. It’s also made me become more spiritual myself,” Ms. Olivares, 27, said. “Now, I feel that it’s all around me, and I won’t get surprised if I feel something again.”
Well, what can you expect of a paper where an Anglican priest touts God in her weekly Sunday column? Both ghosts and gods are paranormal phenomena, and the NYT has a history of touting stuff like tarot cards, reincarnation and astrology.
FYI, the author of the piece is identified this way:
Anna Kodé is a reporter for the Real Estate section of The Times. She writes about design trends, housing issues and the relationship between identity and home.
There’s no mention of her being conversant with scientific investigation of the paranormal.