Nerd Factor: Ghost Bothering

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Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Lately I have been wondering: is it really possible to “hunt” a ghost?

     I am not thinking about the actual existence of ghosts. Personally, I am highly skeptical about the veracity of that particular paranormal phenomenon. But if ghosts do exist, can they be hunted?

     Oh sure, it is possible to imagine all sorts of fantastic technology that could be deployed to do this. I mean, we all saw Ghostbusters. Just wave a P.K.E. meter* or something like it around and a certain undetermined number of beeps later, ghosts are located.

     But is that actual hunting?

     Ghosts tend to be tied to certain locations. Specifically, ghosts haunt. Legend and lore tell us that they are hooked to a given place because of unfinished business from their past life or because of confusion about how to move on into the next one. The spectral presences may roam a particularly large gothic mansion or abandoned asylum, but they’re not free to travel.**

     If a ghost can only roam so far, is it really being hunted at all? Consider that the skill of hunters is typically evaluated by their ability to pursue game across a large geographic area. We disparage hunters who show no skill at all, such as wealthy slaughter tourists who pay big bucks for someone else to chain down a ferocious animal so that the rich person can then shoot it with little effort. 

     Given this, it is tempting to argue that ghost hunting would be more accurately described as ghost fishing because the paranormal pursuer generally has a good sense of where their ghosts should be. However, I cannot help but think that a fisher would discredit that analogy because the skill in fishing is knowing where to look for that perfect fishing spot. 

     Another feature of both game hunting and fishing is that generally, the prey is trying to get away. A deer will run if startled. A sport fish will fight against the line with all its might. Survival is at stake. Fight or flight become the only options. 

     In the presence of ghost hunters, ghosts are not going to run. In fact, any ghost that runs is probably a crooked real estate developer or a treasure seeker who put on a ghost disguise in order to drive four kids and their dog away from a particular location. 

     Thus, I would argue that the more accurate terminology is “ghost bothering.” By definition, ghosts used to be people. Ghosts are just intangible people hanging out in a particular location, looking to get some unfinished task done. 

     Imagine it is the end of the semester and you have got some insurmountable tasks ahead of you. Emails need to be answered. Papers need to be written. Activities need to be attended. Then, all of the sudden, some people come into your room. And they just stand around waving beeping gadgets and keep saying, “Speak to us! Tell us your purpose!” I ask, is that going to help you get anything done?


     Maybe instead of ghost hunting, we just start leaving them be. 

     *Psychokinetic Energy Meter, patented by Dr. Egon Spengler

     **Well, there are ghost trains. But even ghost trains are following ghost tracks on ghost schedules. 

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