Ghost sighting or spooked by mental disorder?
“Early in the morning, my friend was riding a bike near the Swayambhu cemetery. Suddenly he felt someone was behind him. He got terrified… Then he felt as if someone was putting their arms around him. But when he looked behind, he saw no one. After this event, he was sick for a few weeks.”This is a statement in ‘Ghost Confessions in Nepal’, a Facebook page. The page anonymously posts stories of people who claim to have seen ‘ghosts in real life’. Unknown to many, it has 18,600 followers.
Anup KC, the page administrator, used to run another Facebook page, ‘Confession of Nepali Teenagers’, to give adolescents a platform to express their feelings anonymously. But when some people started taking about paranormal activities they had had, he decided to start the ghost confession page as well. “I was inspired by the Indian ghost confession pages and decided to start one for Nepal,” he says. The page has been inactive for a while as KC has been unable to give it much time. But you can still read confessions posted there.
Aayusha Shrestha, an ardent follower of the Nepali ghost Facebook page, believes ghosts exist in real life. She recalls an unpleasant encounter: “I was in grade 9. It was midnight and I was sleeping peacefully. I turned to the other side and, to my surprise, I saw a lady with a long and dark frizzy hair staring at me.”
“I thought I was dreaming and slowly rolled back to the other side. But I couldn’t sleep. I looked back and saw the lady was still staring at me. I froze and couldn’t even scream,” she adds. She is not alone to confess to such paranormal experience. “My mother believes in the supernatural as well. So when I told her, she took it seriously. But my father and brother made fun of it.”
Shrestha says she has spotted no ghost in the house after her mother performed some rituals.
Santosh Kumar Shrestha, who is now 57, has a confession of his own. “This incident happened when I was 41. I was returning to my flat in Paknajol after completing my night shift. I heard somebody say Eh Manusya, Eh Manusya (‘O human, O human’) from behind me. At the same time, dogs started barking loud. A cold shiver ran down my bones and without looking back, I ran to my flat,” he confesses.
“If there is god, then there is ghost,” he says. “Lord Shiva’s biggest devotees are ghosts and spirits. There are supernatural forces in every religion, not only Hinduism. In Christianity, there are Satan and devil. In Islam, there is Jinn. I believe in the existence of supernatural powers that human the mind can’t comprehend.”
Astrologer Basudev Adhikari says that although people say they want scientific proof of ghost’s existence, this supernatural power can actually be felt. “But not every human being can feel it,” he adds.
“It is mentioned in eastern philosophy that those who meet untimely death and whose desires are unfulfilled wander as ghosts,” Adhikari asserts. “They exhibit negative energy. To avoid them, we have to follow the rules of nature.”
Sulav Raj Upreti, a psychologist and lecturer at St. Xavier’s College in Kathmandu, rubbishes such claims. “The ghosts people ‘see’ are no more than illusions. Such illusion may arise from psychological problems,” he says.
It could also be a case of kind of placebo effect. “There are people who worship various gods to protect themselves from ghosts. This develops self-confidence and they feel protected from ghosts,” Upreti says.
There is a type of mental disorder—schizophrenia—where one has symptoms like hallucination, delusion, and catatonic behavior. “When people say they see something that others cannot, it could be some a psychological problem like schizophrenia,” he says.
One may seek psychosocial therapy and counseling, and even psychiatric help in such cases, Upreti advises.
Likewise, psychologist Gopal Dhakal blames person’s upbringing. He says parents have a big role in implanting fear in the child’s mind. “Since our childhood, we are fed with ideas of ghosts and spirits. These go deep in our minds and we start feeling the ghosts exist for real,” he says.
In psychology, the intense fear of ghosts is called phasmophobia. One of Dhakal’s patients had such a problem. A village girl felt someone was strangling her from behind when she was in jungle or alone in secluded places. Later, she started having nightmares. Her family took her to local witch doctors—dhamis and jhakris—who made matters worse. “They told her that a ghost was taking over her body. Little did they know that she was suffering from panic disorder, a type of anxiety,” Dhakal says. “She got well only after multiple sessions of counselling and psychotherapy.”
Most famously, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) in the US offered a million dollars to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon. Since 1964, over a thousand people took up the challenge. Not one of them succeeded, before the challenge was terminated in 2015.
Never mind. Those who have ‘spotted’ ghosts will continue to swear on their life to having a paranormal experience. Those who haven’t will continue to mock them
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