Why Do People Pretend to See Ghosts?


The study of the supernatural is susceptible to hoaxes. RICK HALE asks why do people in the paranormal field make things up?

Why Do People Pretend to See Ghosts? 1

As a paranormal researcher that’s been around for awhile I get asked lots of questions.

This is one of those questions: Why do people hoax?

Let’s face it, we are involved in a field of inquiry that by its very nature is prone to hoaxing. Just take a look at some of those old 19th century ghost photos. 

You know the ones that consisted of a living person sitting in a chair while “ghosts” float around them. You might think, why in the hell would anybody pay for that? They did. And those pictures did not come cheap.

Today, instead of double exposures and even ghosts painted on photographic plates, we have smartphone apps that insert a wraith-like being in pictures. 

Or the method that gets way more credit than it’s due, Photoshop. These pictures are in the hundreds of thousands of websites and are so absurd they border on the hilarious.

So this leaves us with the question, why do people stage a paranormal event and knowingly pass it off as the real McCoy? Hoaxing, like lying, has a psychology to it. 

People lie for various reasons but they all seem to boil down to three main reasons. And getting into the mind of a hoaxer is just as fascinating as studying legitimate paranormal phenomena.

Reason 1: Make yourself seem more important than you really are

In high school we all knew that guy who was a real ladies man. You know, the dude that would brag about all the girls he slept with. But when you cut through all that bravado,  you discovered this guy was purer than the driven snow. 

And like this laughable person, hoaxers will stage a paranormal event just to make themselves seem bigger than they really are.

These hoaxers are usually pretty simple to spot because they got that same bravado as the aforementioned virgin. 

Usually it starts with a lie, and tell me if this sounds familiar,” yeah man last year I did 400, maybe 450 investigations.” That would seem pretty impressive if it wasn’t logistically impossible. 

Unless you don’t sleep or work or get paid to do this kind of thing it’s just not possible. And after the initial lie, phony pictures, video and sound recordings follow in an attempt to back the claim up.

Reason 2: Personal gain

Like the spirit photographers of old charging people for their services, this kind of hoaxing is still prevalent. Now allow me to preface what I’m about to say with, I have no doubt that legitimate psychic ability exists. 

Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with a few truly talented people. And the key words here is, a few.

In my time I have met dozens of people who claim to have some kind of psychic ability. However, I can count on 6 fingers those who I feel possess a truly exceptional gift. 

Some are well meaning people who feel they got it. While others hoax their “ability” to prey on the bereaved who are all too willing to drop a handful of cash to talk with their dead grandma one last time. This kind of hoaxing is not only reprehensible, it’s predatory.

Reason 3: Getting out of trouble

The first two types  of hoaxing are a certainty in this field. But getting out of trouble? How? Imagine if you can a person who rents or buys a huge house and eventually discovers they have bitten off more than they can chew. 

In other words, they can’t pay the bill. Needless to say, this is major league trouble.

After making this discovery they hatch a sinister plan to either break the lease or walk away from a mortgage. They make up a story that their home is a pit of supernatural despair populated by spirits of the human and inhuman variety. 

Because who would want to live in a home where the walls bleed and some unseen force is harassing them every second of the day? Most of the time these claims do not have the desired effect and if it should come down to going to court the plaintiff usually loses.

However, with that being said, some cases have been successful. Even highly successful if you catch my drift.

By my own observations, these are the three main reasons people hoax a paranormal event. I’m sure there are others like the so-called merry prankster but these appear to be the top three reasons why. 

And allow me to end this article by saying if you claim to be a paranormal investigator and engage in this kind of behavior you’re not doing the field any favors.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Rick Hale
Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Paranormalstudy.com. Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.


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