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Are You More Prone to Ghostly Encounters? (Part 1)

I’m jealous of people who report having ghostly experiences!

I said it and I don’t feel guilty about it. Actually, it feels good to get that off my chest.

My friends talk about how they wish they could be professional athletes, Hollywood actors, or live in a mansion, however I wish I could have a truly genuine ghostly encounter. I wish I could see a full torso apparition. I wish I could be part of a life-changing ghostly encounter that shatters the principles of science and reality itself. Is this weird?

Yes, it is. At least according to my wife.

A 2013 Huffington Post Poll showed that 18% (56 million) of Americans report actually seeing a ghost. I can say, without question, that being part of the 82% who have never seen a ghost ... sucks. I know some are reading this and saying “there is no proof that ghosts exist” or “most ghost sightings have a natural cause” but I still believe that no matter how remote the probability … a true ghostly encounter can occur.

I’m not sure the percentage of people who claim to be psychic, sensitive, or have medium abilities, but I believe that the number of those who claim to have these “abilities” has grown considerably in the past 10 years. Almost every paranormal investigating team seems to have a sensitive or psychic. At paranormal conventions, I’ve listened to several presentations in which “experts” purport that one has to have this mysterious supernatural sensitivity in order to have an experience or that “psychics or sensitives” get better evidence of ghosts because of their “gift”.

Well shit, I don’t have this mysterious sensitivity nor am I “gifted” so does that mean I’m never going to have my ghostly encounter? Relax and keeping reading because recent research may refine what “sensitive” really means.

Some individuals are more prone to ghostly experiences, however their increased probability of having ghostly encounters has nothing to do with the mysterious and often controversial “psychic” abilities, but rather something that is as simple and concrete as the ability to taste, touch, and smell. I’m talking about Environmental Sensitivity.

I want to make it clear that environmental sensitivity is not related to psychic sensitivity. Those who claim to be psychic sensitives believe they can sense or communicate with the deceased (e.g., John Edwards, Sylvia Brown, or Chip Coffey). Those who are classified as environmentally sensitive are simply affected by the surrounding environment to a higher degree than the normal population.

As humans we are affected by and react to the environment in different ways. It has been suggested that the physical environment affects certain individuals more than others, which may lead to varying environmental conditions and dysfunctions within an individual. Think about the sense of taste for example. We can all taste foods, but there are individuals called “supertasters” who experience the sense of taste with far greater intensity than the general population. This is true with environmental stimuli as well. According to Michael Jawer, the emotions researcher, these individuals would be categorized as environmentally sensitive. Past research points to environmental sensitivity as a neurobiological phenomenon where certain individuals, from birth onward, are capable of registering very slight differences or changes in the physical environment. These individuals are predisposed to a number of conditions, illnesses, and perceptions that, due to their unusualness as well as intensity distinguish them from the general population. Basically, they are distinguished by their sensitivity to low-level environmental stimuli, resulting in negative, undesirable symptoms. These low level environmental stimuli do not affect the general population and are usually tolerated well and result in no negative symptoms.

Environmentally sensitive individuals commonly report long-standing allergies, chronic pain and fatigue, migraines, or sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells.

Michael Jawer has studied environmentally sensitive individuals extensively, and has identified certain characteristics that are common among those with environmental sensitivities and environmental conditions. These characteristics are significantly different than with the control groups. One of the differences pertains to paranormal experiences, as those who were categorized as environmentally sensitive, reported experiencing a higher number of paranormal and apparitional experiences.

I found Michael Jawer’s work extremely fascinating and wanted to find out if these Environmentally Sensitive individuals reported more paranormal experiences in a real-world setting. So I rounded up 250 participants and we headed to an allegedly haunted location called Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh to test whether these environmentally sensitive individuals were different than the general population in regards to ghostly encounters.

The next blog will discuss my results, but you are welcome to get a head start and read my dissertation Environmental Sensitivity and Paranormal Experiences


Jawer, M. (2005) Environmental sensitivity: neurobiological phenomena. Seminars in Integrative Medicine, 3, 104-109.

Jawer, M. (2006) Environmental sensitivity and apparitional experiences. Journal ofthe Society for Psychical, 70, 25-47

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