According to a report from the U.K. news source Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review, a local bus stop may be haunted. "Fair enough," I thought upon first reading the headline. "My local bus stop is also haunted, mostly by some guy in an Ed Hardy shirt who always calls me 'Dynamite'." But this article is about another kind of haunting. This article is about a ghost.
Still, it's interesting that these stories count as news. Sure, a ghost, were it proven to be genuine, would be a monumental scientific discovery. It would answer one of humanity's fundamental questions: Is there life after death? And it would raise a host of new questions about the nature of physics, the spirit, and why one of the favorite activities of the disembodied seems to be amateur interior decorating.
But like so many ghost stories, this one offers no evidence that it's actually true. The only source is an anonymous gentleman who allegedly wishes to remain nameless so his coworkers won't think he's insane. But as commenter Chris points out beneath the article, there have been "3000.000.000,000 etc" [sic] ghost sightings since the beginning of time. I have no way of verifying the accuracy of this number, and I'm not even sure it is, in fact, a number at all, but I get the point. Chances are good you know someone who claims to have seen a ghost, felt a ghost, smelled a ghost, been pushed around by a ghost, or watched a ghost slowly move a chair across the room for vague and sinister reasons. If ghosts really are the remnants of the dead, it stands to reason the planet would be lousy with them. As my fellow antisocials will tell you, it's nearly impossible to avoid bumping into a living person these days, and there have been far, far more dead people than are currently alive.
So, why is a ghost--especially one with as boring a hobby as the bus-waiting ghost in this story--still news? Can we chalk it all up to the spook factor? If there are really so many ghost sightings, it seems strange to me that any of us would be creeped out by them anymore. I used to get a little skin crawly when I saw a reality show about a mentally ill person who's packed his home with garbage and old Cabbage Patch dolls, but since just about every cable channel has one of those shows now, I'm fairly desensitized.
Skeptics say that the ratio of alleged ghost sightings to hard evidence of ghosts goes a long way toward suggesting they probably don't exist. If they were all over the place, surely someone would have conclusively documented them by now. Perhaps the ghost's persistent novelty can offer a similar insight. If ghosts are old hat, why are we still so interested?
Brian Thompson is the Field Coordinator for the James Randi Educational Foundation.