Ghost Sightings Could Just Be Hallucinations Caused By Mold, Say Researchers

Researchers at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY are investigating the possibility that “ghost sightings” and “haunted houses” may not be evidence of an afterlife, as much as they are hallucinations produced by toxic mold.

The fact is, most of these “hauntings” occur in places with poor air quality, and there are molds, like rye ergot fungus, that are known to cause psychosis in humans. This isn’t exactly unprecedented, as there have been cases where people thought they were being “haunted” who turned out to be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and other things like that.

Via Clarkson University:

“Hauntings are very widely reported phenomena that are not well-researched,” he said. “They are often reported in older-built structures that may also suffer poor air quality. Similarly, some people have reported depression, anxiety and other effects from exposure to biological pollutants in indoor air. We are trying to determine whether some reported hauntings may be linked to specific pollutants found in indoor air.”

Rogers is working with a group of undergraduate students to measure air quality in several reportedly haunted places around the North Country, including the Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, N.Y. The team will gather data at several locations throughout the spring and summer and will publish their results at the end of the study.

By comparing these samples to samples from places with no reported hauntings, the researchers hope to identify factors unique to the haunted locations. They are looking for commonalities in the mold microbiome in the places believed to be haunted compared to the controls, as well as analyzing the types of toxic molds that may cause psychological effects in humans.

I am actually really grateful to these researchers. For years, I have found myself in an incredibly awkward conversational bind when it comes to ghosts and the fact that I don’t believe in them, that goes a little something like this:

Me: I don’t believe in ghosts.

Friend: Oh, ghosts are real. I have totally seen ghosts. Many ghosts. Let me tell you the story of a ghost I saw one time.

Me: That’s cool, I just don’t believe in them. I am 100% sure that ghosts are not a real thing.


And really. There is no graceful exit from that conversation. There just isn’t. Either I lie and say I’ve been convinced, bullshit and say “Oh, who can really know anything. Maybe I’m wrong!” or I say “Yes, I think you’re a liar” or “I believe that you think you saw a ghost” which is a lot like telling someone you think they are nuts. There is basically no way to say you don’t believe in ghosts without suggesting that some people are liars. Which is mean, and I don’t like being mean!

But now I can say “well, some scientists suspect that ghost sightings may be caused by hallucinogens in mold” which I think is way less awkward than any of the other responses I have come up with so far.

[Raw Story]