The Oxford dictionary defines a 'Ghost' as:
an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.
The question of whether these apparitions exist or not has been one which has divided people and sparked debate for centuries. What constitutes a ghostly experience for one person can be easily explained by natural means by someone else. In short paranormal experiences are very subjective.
But what if we're thinking about ghosts in the wrong way. What if, far from being evidence of the eternal existence of the soul post-physical-death, they are simply other conscious beings just like us, living in a different layer of time and space. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of each other for whatever reason, but for the most part we exist separately, neither truly having evidence of the existence of the other.
Stay with me on this as it may not be as impossible as it sounds.
It's an idea put forward by films such as "Interstellar" a film which really heightened my already growing fascination with this explanation of ghost sightings. (I'll say here that if you haven't yet seen Interstellar, I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in physics and the unexplained).
It is concerned with the concept of black holes/vortexs in space which, some experts believe, if entered could cause us to enter into a 'time slip'. From within this time slip it would be possible for time to slow down completely for us, whilst it continues along it's usual route for those left on earth. Our loved ones would continue to age at the rate of 1 year per 365 days, but it may be that we would only age 1 earth-day. Einstein suggested that time was like a river, a current which seems to carry us forward. And just like a river, Einstein believed it was theoretically possible for the current to meander in odd ways, forming eddies and oxbows, and perhaps to even flow backwards at times.
It does seem the stuff of pure science fiction but the ideas put forward in the film actually have some basis in fact...quite how much fact we are still uncertain but consulting Director Christopher Nolan, was renowned US Astrophysicist Professor Kip Thorne, as Nolan wanted to get "every detail just right".
So what do we know is FACT?
In 1912 Einstein predicted that gravity is a product of huge bodies, like Earth, bending space-time. The typical illustration is a heavy ball placed on a rubber sheet. The sheet bends to the weight of the ball and stretches time out.
On Earth the effect is minimal, adding just a few microseconds a day to the time of space. Although it does mean that time is moving ever so slightly more quickly if you stand on the top of a mountain compared to if you're below ground...but not enough to notice. Consequently GPS satellites orbiting the Earth need to be adjusted to take into account that they are moving through time slightly more quickly – 40 microseconds a day - than a person with a Sat Nav on earth. Compared with other bodies in the universe, Earth is quite small and so the time shift is minimal.
At the surface of a black hole time is slowed to a halt.
What is even more extraordinary is that space is actually bending into a different dimension, somewhere that is not part of universe – known to astrophysicists as ‘the bulk.’
So given these facts, we can see that it is entirely possible, and actually highly probable, that if a person survived journeying through a black hole, passing it's surface (and thus entering a place where time is stationary) they would in essence, live forever...at least compared to those of us living on earth, and if they returned 2 days later, that could constitute several decades on earth.
But back to my original point, ghosts, how does this link in?
Well what if 'the present' is actually a misconception, after all we once believed the surface of the earth to be flat! Science can and does get it wrong sometimes.
According to the "time slip" theory, certain places are considered thin spots in time where leakage occurs between the ages, or between the layers of time. This leakage is most often auditory - bangs, knocks, footsteps, and shuffling are the most commonly reported ghost phenomena. Perhaps sound waves travel better through time than other things, for reasons we don't fully explain.
And so, in ancient locations like inns, hotels and castles for example, various sounds and occurrences pass back and forth over hundreds of years, building evidence that a place is haunted.
Are places like the ancient Ramm Inn simply timeslip portals and not actually 'haunted' at all?
So if we accept for a moment that time may not be linear, but in actual fact may travel in multiple directions, sometimes overlapping, then that would on paper offer an excellent explanation for sightings of Roman soldiers for example, or glimpses of a maid in the bedroom of an old hotel, a type of recording, but not in the way the stone tape theory suggests. What would be more difficult, but not impossible, to explain however are those seemingly intelligent types of phenomena in which we are receiving answers to questions from 'the spirit world'.
Again however, this depends on what we believe the spirit world to be? If it is possible for us, the living, to attempt communication with the other-side, then isn't it entirely possibly for those living in other layers of time and space to do the same? When we sit down to a seance for example and ask if there is anyone there who wishes to communicate, what if on some occasions we actually connect with a person or people LIVING in another time, also trying to make contact with what they believe to be the souls of the dead?
I am intrigued by this theory, but I can't say I'm convinced it is accurate, and in the same way as many of you reading this I'm sure, I can see some glaring holes in the suggestion of time-slips explaining paranormal phenomena (why do we in the 'present' for example never receive messages from those living in a future time period, only it seems, the past? for if the theory were accurate, we are in our own way, living in the past surely and should be able to also 'leak' through the layers and into the future? What people living there of course would refer to as their 'present'). But I do think that we should all take time to consider the effect that space and time may be having on our experiences. After all, we know very little about the abilities of the human mind, and the impact the laws of physics could be having on this. When combining the 2 therefore, how can we really say with any degree of certainty, that we understand the universe?
What do you believe?