October 30, 2015

18% of Americans say they’ve seen a ghost

On Saturday evening, many American children will encounter costumed ghosts as they roam the streets in search of candy and other treats on Halloween. Before bedtime, to avoid nightmares, some parents may try to reassure their kids that ghosts are not real.

PF_13.10.31_Supernatural_310px (1)But not all of those parents may buy their own reassurances:  Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) say they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey. An even greater share – 29% – say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died.

Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, explored Americans’ persisting beliefs in some supernatural phenomena in a 2013 blog post.

“As we approach Halloween, note that most American adults in the 21st Century say that they believe in life after death and in the devil,” Fischer wrote, citing data from Gallup and other sources. “Over one-third say that they believe in the spirits of the dead coming back; about that many also say they believe in haunted houses.”

Despite the influence of modern secularism and science, he observed, “the magic has not totally gone.”

Does going to church help keep ghosts away? It’s impossible to say, but people who often go to worship services appear to be less likely to say they see ghosts. Just 11% of those who attend religious services at least weekly say they’ve been in the presence of a ghost, while 23% of those who attend services less frequently say they have seen a ghost, the Pew Research Center survey found.

Topics: Religion and Society

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    Quantum mechanics will help us to understand what we are seeing/feeling/hearing. My experiences – and I have had many of different kinds over the years – were not based on superstitious mumbo jumbo nor my imagination. There must be a scientific basis and I really want to find out how these things are possible!

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Quantum mechanics? Try psychological maybe… the human mind is a powerful thing. Visions of ghosts may be triggered by environment, but the actual experience is most likely internal.

  2. Anonymous1 year ago

    i fully believe in ghosts and have seen many the ones i mostly deal with arnt harmful but want to be noticed so if ever in the presence of something such as a ghost remember they are people like you and want to be treated as such

  3. jeff2 years ago

    think a body decays but what about their spirit its got to go somewhere so I think it lingers before it descends. the spirit is the biggest braking point I think, I mean your body can die out but your spirit ,your soul is the hard one.

    1. for Jeremy1 year ago

      consciousness is the result of a purely physical process. There is no such thing as “the soul”, no matter how much you wish it were true. There is no in between on this – you are completely wrong.

  4. jeff2 years ago

    its jeff again I love the hauntings of…. on t.v it was always intresting

  5. jeff2 years ago

    I never seen a ghost but I believe my grandma felt some one present

  6. Windemere2 years ago

    While walking through the woods, I came upon an older gentleman taking in the view. He seemed very focused and happy. I was a few feet away from him when he faded. It was broad daylight. There was nothing in the least bit frightening about the experience.

  7. Tech2 years ago

    Technically speaking, a ghost is a quantized energy field. Its form is not stable or visible to all and perception of it requires a certain contact with the mind(s) of the viewer(s). Having no body, but existing as energy, it requires more of it to become visible. So the ghost interfaces with others consciousness and that ‘feeds’ them energy. Most ghosts on earth are deceased who have not reincarnated for many sundry reasons. For that reason alone, they usually have some serious impairments and will tend to be negative in nature.

    Loved ones can come to one after death to comfort or assist. They can just interface with consciousness and don’t have to come visually, but some choose to, to help their loved ones identify them.

    Ghosts, the longer they remain, need more and more energy to sustain anything resembling consciousness. As a result, they seek out emotional responses – fear, sadness, anger, etc – which produce energy that can be siphoned. Many people right now are in parasitic relationships with ghosts and are completely unaware of it. They don’t have complete control over their mind or the sanctity of their consciousness. So they are depressed, angry, sad and so on – and these emotions are ‘spurred’ by the parasitic entities to retain some cohesiveness to their non-corporeal structures.

    We live in a multi-dimensional universe and consciousness resides without a body in many of them, but all still require energy in some form from outside themselves for continuity.

    I’d share more but this is more than enough for one sitting.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      I agree with your thoughts – could you provide reading sources? I have had lots of stuff occur over the years, but the last incident – after my niece’s daughter was murdered – was over the top. I am quite perplexed and really want to understand what mechanisms make this stuff possible.

  8. Daniel Skupien2 years ago

    There are no dead peoples souls drifting around on the earth. From a theological perspective it makes no sense why God would allow such a thing.

    Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

    If anyone says they encountered a spirit, it will either be demonic or angelic. Demons can and do impersonate those that have died, usually to lead people astray. It’s ironic that when someone starts to try to contact the dead or other “spirits” some of the first things out of their mouth is Jesus is not the Christ or He is not God, or something along those lines. This is what I mean by lead people astray and I think should be suspect to anyone that hears or looks into such things.

  9. Gary Taylor2 years ago

    I had never had even the slightest odd experience as I was growing up nor during my early adult years. It was not until I was 32 that I had the experience of seeing the ghost/spirit of a family member standing right in front of me while I was wide awake, had not had a thing to drink or smoke or anything else, and was not sleep deprived. I closed my eyes and opened them and the “person”/spirit was still there and then they just faded away. A feeling of calm and peace came over me and I felt I had been privileged to experience such a thing. It has not happened again since that day and I am not sure why it happened then. I obviously cannot explain how or why I had this experience, but if you ever have one yourself you will always remember it.

  10. Nargis fakhri3 years ago

    Actually you know what it’s fake made up story. It’s true I have seen ghost once I went to holloween with my parents which is spirits I could only see the ghost none if my parents I was really afraid and fear. But now you know what I believe in only god Beacause god always save us from enemy ghost whenever you see a ghost just pray to god say Hare Krishna 11 times ghost usally scare of god so now my parents said that come on there no such as ghost don’t fear be brave now I believe in my mom words and now I know that there no ghost In America it was before. Just pray to god and trust in him he will always protect you and god is inside everybody heart he will never let us die mark my words everybody

  11. Lynne4 years ago

    I am grateful for being brought up a skeptic. My child mind, infused with doubt of God, after life, ghosts and all things paranormal by atheistic, skeptical parents spared me as I grew up, as a psychic child, in a haunted house. I could have been terrified by the phenomena surrounding me but instead I learned to doubt what I was seeing, hearing and experiencing which allowed to me remain calm. However, by age 17 I had my third experience in witnessing a ghost and a domino effect happened. I then realized all my experiences were as they seemed and not some complex, complicated trick of the mind. The first ghost, which I heard and saw in my childhood home (as did my sister I discovered years later) I tagged an my having an active imagination. The second, which was 2,000 miles from my home and witnessed with 6 other people including a professor from my college, I pondered. The third, which I watch for about 20 minutes and was almost a solid light form, I embraced. I now study and work with ghosts and have captured photos and audio of their presences. I now have a deep understanding of who they are and what they want. I am grateful for my skeptic upbringing as it afforded me the opportunity to experience ghostly activity without fear. Denial allowed me that. Now I fully recognize there is nothing to fear.

  12. Renée Luna4 years ago

    Here’s one for you: I do not believe in spirits, souls, or life after death. BUT, I lived in a quadruplex in Okinawa in the early ’00’s where not only myself, my kids, and my mother experienced phenomenon (she was visiting from another country and hadn’t been told anything any paranormal goings-on), but the rest of the residents of building did as well. Even my husband, who is not just atheist like myself but skeptic to his core, experienced things which puzzled and spooked him at the time. Naturally he now dismisses it all as common auditory and visual hallucinations. But, every single one of us, from adults to children, at both separate times and occasionally together over the course of 2 years, experienced what one might call a haunting by a child “ghost” or “ghosts.” Words spoken, questions asked, blood curdling screams, items moved or toppled over…

    It was the spookiest thing I’ve ever experienced. Never before or after have I or any of the other people involved experienced anything like it. So, while I don’t believe in “ghosts,” I can deny that there is a something “other” that we can’t (always) see, can’t (always) hear, that we don’t at all understand…but is there nevertheless.

    1. Renée Luna4 years ago

      I “can’t” deny. Freudian slip?

  13. Jay4 years ago

    Ghosts are real. I admit, I’ve seen one. My sister saw the same one I did, only on different nights. For the skeptics, you better think again.

  14. R A V RAGHAVAN4 years ago

    What a surprise. I thought only Asians (particularly Soth Indians) believed in existance of Ghosts.Just recalled my father mentioning having seen something of an apparition during a dark rainy night which startled him

  15. winnie h-g4 years ago

    We humans come to living with many different perceptive capacities; we tend to trivialize that which we don’t understand nor fits in our worldview. My life experiences have taught me that nobody yet has the full story of the how, why and what of precognition, perception, life after death and the process of passing away. I have had a near death experience and whatever the explanation is on this side, I can only say it had a lifetime impact on me. I won’t challenge what others experience and the knowledge they generate for themselves and the rest of us from those experiences. In fact, I am grateful for those who have the courage to share experiences and in that process stand up to the derision inherent in some of the posted comments. whg

  16. Joseph4 years ago

    Steve • 1 hour ago

    Am I the only one here who is alarmed by the fact that not only are so many Americans clearly delusional, but also freely willing to admit it?

    Until a few years ago I would have agreed with your philosophy but not any more, by the way I am an agnostic, non drinker and all my working life has been in the scientific arena.
    On holiday in Italy we checked into a small hotel on the banks of Lake Como and were allocated a room but after two days we were moved to the room next door as they did not want an elderly lady who made repeated visits to the hotel to be accommodated in the room into which we had been moved. Nothing particularly sinister in that or so you may think. However, shortly after switching off the light and about to close my eyes a sepia coloured apparition came through a closed door moved across the room and out through the closed and shuttered glass doors to the balcony. The details of this female figure remains indelibly etched into my subonscious I can describe the dress but not the face as she wore a bonnet which shielded her face. As result of this I went out into the passage and onto the balcony but there was no tangible evidence. As indicated above this dramatically changed my opinion on ghosts. As I speak no Italian this wasn’t mentioned to the management.

  17. Peter David Shapiro4 years ago

    My novel, GHOSTS ON THE RED LINE, explores how people react, and how the city reacts, when commuters encounter their Departed on Boston’s Red Line subway trains. When word gets out about the visitations, the MBTA (which runs Boston’s transit system) is forced to respond, and soon others become involved including the Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts politicians, a notorious gangster, and MIT. Something to think about when you board a subway train.

  18. James Singer4 years ago

    Man, I like ghosts. But more especially, I like people who believe in them… and angels… and zombies… and unicorns… and, wowser, UFOs.

  19. Wilson4 years ago

    I don’t believe in heaven and I don’t believe in hell. I have not seen either of them and have never met anyone who has either – but I have seen ghosts and I know plenty of other people who have seen them too

  20. Don4 years ago

    It’s no wonder this country is NUTS!!!!!!!!

    1. for Jeremy1 year ago

      I am.

  21. Steve4 years ago

    Am I the only one here who is alarmed by the fact that not only are so many Americans clearly delusional, but also freely willing to admit it?

  22. Mike Andrews4 years ago

    Ask the question, “Where are these ghosts coming back from?”
    Holy Scripture tells us that Heaven is so outrageously wonderful
    (I Corinthians 2:9) that no one will ever want to leave and Satan hates us so awfully much (1 Peter 5:8)that he will never let anyone out of hell. While we will live on in one place or the other, there are no ghosts wandering around this world.

    1. Steve4 years ago

      So you are willing to believe in supernatural nonsense as long as it’s in the Bible? That makes perfect sense.

    2. Steve Ross4 years ago

      So Mike,

      How about demons? Are they of this realm? Or are they spiritial?
      They are in the bible.
      So are spirits.

  23. bobby clay4 years ago

    There is nothing in the dark that was not there before when the lights were on!!!!!!!!!!!1 Ghost.. shmost….the only supernatural spirit beings are those created in the mind through an overly active imagination.

  24. Jenny4 years ago

    I don’t believe in ghosts or superntural beings, but I don’t Not believe in them either.

    1. Andy Nguyen4 years ago

      I’m also somewhat agnostic about the existence of certain topics like ghosts, an afterlife, and an impersonal “god.”