In cultures around the world there are stories about and beliefs in ghosts: a visible form or manifestation of the spirit or soul of the dead person. Some reports from living people who have encountered ghosts have described them as an invisible presence which is simply felt; others described the ghosts as being translucent or as having barely visible wispy shapes; and still others describe ghosts as being very visible and lifelike.

Why do some dead people become ghosts while most do not? The answer depends on the culture as well as individual belief systems. In many instances people who have died violently—particularly from murder or suicide— are more likely to become ghosts. Such a death is often regarded as an interruption of the natural cycle of life, and thus the soul or spirit of the dead person is unable to continue the journey into the afterworld. In some cultures, the form that the ghost takes, whether it is friendly or harmful, is determined by the manner of death.

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In European cultures, ghosts are often associated with certain places, such as the Winchester House shown above. Thus there are haunted houses, castles, pubs, battlefields, and other places.

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The Birdcage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona (shown above) is said to be haunted. There have been reports of ghostly laughter, yelling and strange music dating back to the 1880s.

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The ghost town of Bannack, Montana (shown above) is currently a state park. Among the many reports of haunting in this town, is the apparition of a woman dressed in a blue gown named Dorothy who drowned in Grasshopper Creek. The ghosts of a gang of outlaws who were executed in the town are also said to haunt the area.

In Tibetan Buddhism, when a person dies there is a period of uncertainty during which the soul can enter the ghost world. There are stories of hungry ghosts which have a tiny throat and a huge stomach so that the craving for food is never satisfied. Using a ritual dagger or a spirit trap, these ghosts can be killed which releases them to be reborn.

In the United States, about one-third of the people believe in ghosts and there are numerous TV programs and movies in which ghosts play a major role.

This is Street Prophets Saturday: an open thread to talk about whatever is haunting your thoughts. Some questions to consider:

Have you ever had an encounter with a ghost?

Will the ghost of Ronald Reagan continue to haunt the United States and particularly the Republicans?

Do you ever watch any of the TV programs about ghosts?

What do you think a ghost is? Are ghosts real or simply figments of overactive imaginations?

And finally, what’s for dinner?

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 01:06 PM PDT.

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