Can ghosts commit crimes, and if so, what is the nature of the crimes they commit? Yes, ghosts do commit crimes. Ghosts have also been known to make young girls and sometimes even middle-aged people “prisoners” and force them to carry out repugnant acts. Right now, we’re trying to free a school teacher from the clutches of a spirit intent on taking random revenge. When ghost crimes are committed against humans, they generally take two forms. One, ghosts have been known to kill humans. Often, in such instances, the human dies out of sheer shock at seeing a terrifying form, which it seems, was the intention of the spook in the first place. Even when the person has proved to be stout of heart or knowledgeable about ghostly ways, there have been many instances where the ghost attempted to strangle or fling the person to death.

I’ve written earlier about such instances like Baba, the late caretaker at the dargah of Moluddin Chisti on Malcha Marg in New Delhi, who was often attacked by “evil” ghosts who wanted to kill him. I too have luckily escaped from the designs and clutches of evil ghosts—so far. In several cases ghosts have been known to take revenge ranging from taking a life to harassing people, somewhat akin to stalking, to ensuring ruin for a particular person or family or place or an entire area. This second form of harassment and sometimes “possessing” a person is quite common.

Why does this supernatural phenomena happen? As is well known, the intensity levels of a departed  soul become greatly heightened if something untoward has happened shortly before or at the time of death or if some cherished or deeply moving task has been left unfulfilled. Such spirits are driven by overpowering compulsions which enable these disembodied spirits to return to earth in some form or the other on a mission to avenge their deaths. Many a time, this overpowering desire to get even compels spirits to commit crimes. Sometimes, driving away ghosts who have occupied a particular place, room or house over a long period of time angers them to the extent that they commit a crime such as killing a person or people trying to “evict” them.

Obviously, while there are many examples of “good ghosts” in the supernatural world,  there are also innumerable instances of punishment, revenge or evil or negative thinking persisting even in a ghostly state and even after re-birth. The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine in USA has been pursuing for many years “the scientific empirical investigation of phenomena that suggest that currently accepted scientific assumptions and theories about the nature of mind or consciousness, and its relation to matter, may be incomplete.”

Driven in part by the theory that “Survival of personality after death” is something like a law of conservation of energy applied to human consciousness, DOPS has been described as a “center for paranormal research at a totally legitimate and respected American institution of higher learning… DOPS is home to a small group of hardworking, impressively credentialed scientists with minds for stats and figures”.

Dr. Jim Tucker, a Bonner-Lowry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, with a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina School Of Medicine, is one such scientist. Tucker, a certified child psychiatrist, primarily works with children who’ve reported memories that are not their own—oftentimes linked to real-life individuals who lived decades in the past and thousands of miles away. These findings suggest to Tucker, the plausibility of “survival of personality after death”.

DOPS-affiliated doctors and scientists have reviewed and analysed thousands of cases. Jake Flanagin has revealed that today, DOPS inputs findings and patient profiles into an electronic database from which analysts can discern patterns that might explain why certain individuals are susceptible to believing they possess memories from past lives. Tucker and his colleagues believe such information could explain a number of psychiatric conditions as well; among them certain personality traits that cannot otherwise be attributed to environment or heredity.

Incidentally, DOPS has sustained itself financially through the years thanks to a million dollars bequeathed to it by Chester Carlson, the inventor of xerography, upon his death in 1968, presumably at the request of his wife, known for her interest in the paranormal.  A section of the scientific community is skeptical about the research being carried out at DOPS. But along with critics there are supporters too. Max Planck, the father of quantum physics, saw merit in the possibility of a physical realm derived from the non-physical. It has been pointed out that in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World, astrophysicist Carl Sagan, a known advocate of scientific skepticism, said that the phenomenon of children reporting “details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation” is an area of parapsychological research deserving of “serious study.”

Jesse Bering, a research psychologist who pens the Scientific American magazine’s behavioral science blog, writes that current models for understanding brain function don’t allow for consideration of non-materialist data like those mined at DOPS. For Tucker and his associates, delving into the paranormal has little to do with “believing” in anything at all. “I was interested in this effort for an analytic approach to studying survival of personality after death. The goal for me, personally, is to determine what evidence there is for the idea that some individuals can survive death.”

Tucker has explained that “the essential motivation of scientists at DOPS is the same as that at NASA, WHO, and other institutions devoted to scientific inquiry: we’re just trying to find the truth.” Going by some of the case studies DOPS has analysed, that “truth” could be electrifying; partly because of the light it could throw on a whole range of paranormal subjects. As Jake Flanagin wrote in The Atlantic, “Respected scientists are lending credibility to parapsychological research.” Perhaps in the near future questions like “Do ghosts commit crimes?” or about the other world will no longer be considered strange.

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