This short paper is relevant to the issue of classification—a fundamental problem of both the trickster and the paranormal.

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Demons, ETs, Bigfoot, and Elvis: A Fortean View of Ghosts

George P. Hansen (Princeton Arms North 1, Apt. 59, Cranbury, NJ 08512)

There is a vast range of ghostly and apparitional phenomena that has been shunned by parapsychologists. It is often considered socially unacceptable to discuss many of these phenomena within parapsychology. They do not fall into traditional categories that emerged from the notion of survival of bodily death.

   The survival hypothesis in psychical research is similar to the extraterrestrial (ET) hypothesis in ufology. Both have served to establish paradigms and theoretical constructs, and both lead to (premature) invention of taxonomies and, unfortunately, limited ranges of inquiry. Such structures obscure similarities across a range of phenomena and lead to the ignoring of relevant cases.

   Ghostly phenomena have much in common with UFOs, encounters with demons, Bigfoot sightings, bedroom visitors, miracles associated with Elvis, and ET abductions. These experiences are sometimes accompanied by psi events, that is, ESP occurrences or macro-PK.

   There is often overlap across these phenomena. Bigfoot sightings are sometimes reported in the same area as UFOs. Miraculous healings are reported as due to UFOs, saints, angels, and Elvis. Apparitions of the dead sometimes occur in UFO encounters. Poltergeist phenomena sometimes occur after ET abduction experiences. Deaths and disease are sometimes found with UFO contact as well as with demon infestations. Humanoids seem to display some of the characteristics of ghosts, Bigfoot, and seance materializations. UFO contactees 

have generated cross-correspondence type prophecies. Striking ESP and macro-PK occurrences are reported in cases of demonic possession. Previously mediums communicated with "spirits of the dead"; now some channel ETs. Reincarnation and walk-in cases are not restricted to deceased personalities but can also involve ETs. The level of documentation in such cases is usually not comparable to that found in the early work of the Society for Psychical Research. This is because comparable time and effort have not been devoted to such cases.

   There is also overlap on a personal and social level. People reporting one type of these phenomena seem more likely than the general population to report others. The lay groups investigating UFOs often have interest in psychic phenomena.  Self-described psychics not infrequently report contact with UFOs; notable are Uri Geller, Olof Jonsson, and Ray Stanford. In my own experience, I have heard more reports of poltergeists in UFO groups than at professional parapsychology conferences. Few parapsychologists have much contact with the psychic and occult "subcultures" and are thus unaware of the vast range of reported experiences and beliefs. Only a few writers or other scientists have discussed both parapsychological topics and UFOs.

   If one wishes to understand ghostly phenomena, one should examine a range of phenomena that falls outside the traditional scope of psychical research.

The above is an abstract of a presentation made during the roundtable discussion "Shall We Give Up the Ghost?" held at the annual convention of the Parapsychological Association, Chevy Chase, Maryland, August 16-20, 1990.

Abstract originally published in:

Research in Parapsychology 1990: Abstracts and Papers from the Thirty-Third Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, 1990.  Edited by Linda A. Henkel and Gertrude R. Schmeidler (pp. 140-141).  Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press. (1992).