This is not to say everyone who reports seeing a ghost is suffering from brain damage or a neurological condition, but it does suggest that changes in the way our brain is communicating can make us feel as if we’re engaging with the paranormal.
We stopped at a cell that the psychic reported to be especially active. The hunters set up a cassette tape recorder and microphone. We peered into the cell, dark except for a bright beam of moonlight coming in through the tiny window. I was staring harder than I ever had before.
The only sound came from the slow, hypnotic turning of the cassette tape. Time slowed to a crawl.
The passage of time is a subjective experience influenced by how important and how novel an experience is. New things, threatening things, arousing things all are going to feel as if they last longer. Our brains are working overtime to make sure we remember every little detail for future reference, gathering and processing all the signals and sensations in our bodies.
Standing in front of the prison cell I was overwhelmed by both the history of the prison and the anticipation of the hunt.
And that is when I felt it. A chill at the base of my neck quickly rippled throughout my body. My shoulders shuddered. I felt warm, relaxed and yet fully aware of everything around me. I was full of emotion and felt an incredible closeness to the four ghost hunters next to me, people I had met just hours before.
This was a sensation I had never experienced. For a few glorious moments I believed that a ghost, perhaps the long-ago occupant of this cell, was passing through me. I spent the rest of the evening in a trance, following the hunters through the cold, empty, eerie hallways.
I had my ghost story, finally.
Or did I? I knew that my powerful paranormal experience was most likely a result of my heightened, sensitized emotional state. The feelings I experienced are similar to what’s known as an “autonomous sensory meridian response.” It is not a clinical diagnosis, and there is skepticism over whether it is a physiologically distinct, measurable experience.