why do some ghosts wear clothes?

Presented by Troy Taylor, Author of the GHOST HUNTER'S GUIDEBOOK and President of the American Ghost Society

Click Here for More Information about the Essential Guide to Ghost Research! 

This is probably one of the most interesting dilemmas to contemplate when it comes to ghost research. No one really knows (or can agree on) why ghosts are seen the way that they are but I have proposed this theory in the past and it still continues to generate questions and feedback from all sorts of people interested in the paranormal.

As ghost researchers, we often ponder what ghosts really are. Are they discarnate spirits of the dead? Are they simply bundles of energy, let loose into the air when the human body ceases to function? Are they merely residual images left on the atmosphere of a place like an old film?

As most readers probably agree, I think ghosts fit into all of these categories (and likely many others). Despite all of the labeling and categorizing though, many questions still remain. One of the most nagging is why would ghosts need clothing?

It cannot be denied that a huge number of ghost reports include sightings of ghosts wearing some sort of clothing, be it a flowing robe, a military uniform or even a plaid suit. No matter what it is, the clothing seems to be the thing which makes the spirit recognizable as human and even dates it to a certain period. But why clothing? If you’re dead, what could you possibly need it for?

As I have stated before, I believe that ghosts are a natural part of our world. I believe that ghosts, whether they are spirits of the dead or residual images, have an explanation that is only considered paranormal because we don’t understand it yet. I have explained that I don’t much go in for metaphysical theories and new age stuff when a natural explanation, even a mysterious one, will do just fine. So, bear that in mind as you proceed with this section.

The first type of haunting linked to ghosts wearing clothing is the Residual Haunting. This haunting compares to an old film loop, meaning that it is a scene or image that is played over and over again through the years. Regardless of how or why these hauntings exist, all of the visual ghost sightings in these places seem to have one thing in common and it’s that all of the ghosts that are seen are wearing clothing. Most of them are fully dressed, some transparent and some not, but all of them appear to be human and are recognizable as people.

The reason behind this is simple (or at least as simple as anything to do with the paranormal is), these ghosts are mere images or imprints of time on the location and yet they appear to be the spirits of the dead wearing clothing.

Of course, I don’t think that all sightings of ghosts are of residual images though, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

No discussion of visual sightings of ghosts would be complete without at least some mention of cameras and photography (which we will discuss in depth later). I am of the belief that a camera, acting as a mechanical device, captures a ghost on film the way it really is. If the spirits of the dead are really the personalities of people who once lived and are now masses of energy that have been freed from the human body, then it is natural that the camera captures them as it does. As most readers already know, ghosts are captured on film as light, energy and as mysterious fogs and mists.

I believe this is the form that ghosts are likely in and that the camera, as a non-thinking piece of equipment, can see them no other way. Why do we not see ghosts, at least normally, in this manner? Because of the brain’s normal screening process? Perhaps.

Because ghosts exist at a spectrum of light that we cannot see with the naked eye? Maybe.

Obviously, we don’t really know. But let me ask you this, if ghosts are actually masses of energy that appear as they do in photographs, then why do nearly all ghost sightings describe ghosts as looking like people who were once alive?

If we rule out residual images in many sightings, as we can do since many sightings occur to people who actually knew the spirit when the spirit was among the living, then we are still left with a large number of unexplained encounters.

Throughout the history of ghostlore, we have heard stories of everyday people’s encounters with the spirits of the dead. In most of these stories, witnesses report coming face-to-face with ghosts who look, more or less, like real people. In many cases, the ghosts are even recognizable as a person who the living witness once knew. These spirits often have an intelligence and interact with the witness, making it impossible for them to be merely a residual image.

So, if the camera records the ghost as it really is, as a shapeless mass of energy, then what is it these witnesses are seeing? How can an intelligent spirit appear as anything other than just energy?

Many researchers feel that ghosts are made up of electromagnetic energy. This energy, inside of the body, forms what we call our spirit, soul, or personality. Now, science cannot prove this energy, or personality, actually exists, yet we know it does. If it can exist inside of our bodies, in spite of the fact there is no proof that it exists, then why can’t it exist outside of the body, once the body itself stops functioning. It’s possible that it does and that this electromagnetic energy contains our personality and is what we think of as our spirit.

Now, going with the idea that this energy can be photographed, this still doesn’t explain how it can also appear looking like it did when it was contained by a human body, but I do have a suggestion as to how this might work. It has been shown that exposure to high levels of electromagnetic energy can cause people to have vivid dreams, nightmares and even hallucinations. In other words, people are seeing things as a result of exposure to this energy.

Does that mean that ghosts are all in our heads?

In a way, I guess that it does. If the spirits have any sort of control over the energy they are now comprised of (or even if their personalities are somehow manifested in the energy), then I would think it possible for the witness to see the spirit as the spirit sees itself. If the personality really does remain, the spirit would visualize itself as it was when alive, looking like a living person and wearing clothing. This could be a totally unconscious effect of the energy on the living person, or it could be a manipulation on the part of the spirit itself, perhaps causing the person to see what it wants them to.

Is this the answer to explain ghost sightings? Maybe, it is.... or maybe, it isn’t. There is a lot out there that we still do not understand but we need challenge the ideas that have been stagnating about ghosts for so long. Whether ghosts have a natural explanation or not, it is time to take the horror film mentality out of ghost research because these natural explanations might be more puzzling than the supernatural ones which already exist.


Copyright 2004 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

Return to the Ghosts of the Prairie Home Page