Does self-image follow us beyond the grave? Perhaps spirits appear as they see their true selves, or as they remember themselves when they were alive. Perhaps ghosts do not exist in any particular form but are given form by their own residual self-image. That was Rob Schwarz writing in a recent updated April 2019 article on the Stranger Dimensions website. Schwarz hypothesises further that “there’s the possibility that spirits are able to project their appearances outwardly, into the minds of witnesses”.
Many ghosts are in fact named after the clothes they are seen wearing, and the names are often rooted in the colours of the clothing. For instance, the White Lady, the Lady in Blue, the Green lady, the Lady in Brown and so on. According to Troy Taylor, author of the Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook and President of the American Ghost Society, the question of why do some ghosts wear clothes “is probably one of the most interesting dilemmas to contemplate when it comes to ghost research… 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?… I think ghosts fit into all of these categories and likely many others. Despite all of the labeling and categorising though, many questions still remain. One of the most nagging is why would ghosts need clothing?”
Taylor points out that a huge number of ghost reports include sightings of ghosts wearing some sort of clothing. “No matter what it is, the clothing seems to be the thing which makes the spirit recognisable as human and even dates it to a certain period. But why clothing? If you’re dead, what could you possibly need it for?”
Taylor goes on to explain that 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. All of the visual ghost sightings 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.
The reason behind this, suggests Taylor, 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. However, Taylor agrees that not all sightings of ghosts are of residual images. In this context, I myself and others have seen loved ones and even unidentified ghosts in various parts of India wearing different kinds of clothing on separate occasions.
No discussion of visual sightings of ghosts would be complete, avers Taylor, without at least some mention of cameras and photography. “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… 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.”
Taylor puts forward the proposition that 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.
“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?
“If the spirits have any sort of control over the energy they are now comprised of, 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.” Maybe, but from my many encounters with shape shifters or spirits who can change their form, often in a jiffy, and that includes the clothes they’re wearing, Taylor’s explanation is only partially convincing.
What then, is the answer? Indeed, is there a final answer? Or is that there are several answers depending on differing circumstances? Researchers, scientists, paranormal and death experts from around the globe and even fashion designers of the dead—yes, they exist!—have got their own explanations, each as if not more fascinating than the other. Continue reading till we arrive shortly at a final consensus.