Ghosts aren’t real.
At least that’s what people try to tell themselves when they’re home alone. Anyone can spend as much time denying their existence as they want but the truth is unavoidable — there are some experiences that just can’t be explained by any other phenomena.
Recent surveys have shown that nearly half of Canadians believe in supernatural beings. America's belief in ghosts has skyrocketed 400 per cent since the 1970s. Paranormal researcher John E.L. Tenney told the CBC in 2020 that haunted house reports were on the rise since the start of the pandemic — the largest spike since the early 2000s.
It’s safe to say there’s a widespread belief in the paranormal — in fact, for the last two decades, it has increased.
Western University students are no different.
“When I lived in Saugeen I was convinced it was haunted,” says third-year psychology student Caitlin Faraone.
Faraone says she would regularly hear peculiar sounds at night. On one particular occasion, her roommate woke up during the night and saw someone in their room — a man she didn’t recognize.
The pair were sure to lock their door before going to sleep.
“She could have been dreaming or it could’ve been a ghost,” Faraone says. To this day, she thinks it was the latter.
Amrita Wander, a fourth-year applied mathematics student, speaks of a similar uncomfortable on-campus experience. Every time she walks through the stacks at Taylor Library, particularly any time after 9 p.m., she gets a strange feeling — one that makes her believe the entire building must be haunted.
In fact, she is convinced that other buildings on campus might be haunted as well.
Wander also came across an abandoned warehouse in London a few years ago, which she decided to enter with a few friends at night. Although there was no particular evidence of paranormal activity, she says the visit made her uneasy.
“You could just feel something might be wrong,” says Wander.
It’s this same apprehension that defines other students' spooky encounters. Visible ghosts are not always obvious but sometimes the energy alone feels “off.” This dark energy cannot necessarily be seen but it can certainly mess with inanimate objects and surroundings.
This is exactly how first-year computer science student Candice Williams views ghosts. Rather than the traditional depiction of a white-sheeted figure or an old, evil apparition, Williams thinks ghosts are simply the energies of the people who have died.
Whenever her family moved into a new house, her grandmother would cut off the head of a chicken and sprinkle blood all over to cleanse the place of “negative energies.” Her grandmother would also regularly throw salt over her shoulder to ward off evil spirits.
“My whole family is superstitious,” says Williams. “We might have had a ghost problem … but not anymore.”
Other times, confrontations with ghosts are far more obvious. Nicholas Morris, a second-year BMOS student, says he first saw a ghost when he was a child.
“Everytime I went to sleep over at a friend’s house or I moved to a different place, I would have these dreams, but it didn't really feel like a dream,” says Morris.
In these “dreams” Morris wouldn’t see a person, but some type of animal, usually a cat of sorts. He believes it had something to do with spirits.
Despite this frightening experience, he acknowledges that ghosts can hold a purpose.
“I think they’re good,” he says. “They have a reason to be there if you see one.”
Second-year BMOS student Vedant Taneja thinks that ghosts, while real, are neither good nor bad.
But he does remain skeptical of their presence. A story that his grandfather used to tell him still sticks in his head today.
“He used to drive to his factories and it was a two hour drive,” recalls Taneja. “Everyday he used to stop at one of the street lights and offer someone food who was there. One day he skipped it.”
“He tried waiting to see if the woman was nearby but he could not find her,” he adds. “Next day when he was coming back, he saw a similar woman and he stopped and said ‘you weren’t here yesterday’... he got no reply so he kept on driving.”
About 50 kilometers up the road, Taneja saw the same same woman and was confused — there was no way she could have caught up to him that quickly. He looked in his rearview mirror and his back seats were all ripped apart.
“I don't know what to believe,” he says.
Some may read this story and be completely unphased — for others, it may bring chills. Whether it be more of an overt encounter like Morris’, or a speculation like Wander’s, all ghost stories are valid.