Americans, it seems, are opening their minds and becoming more likely to believe in ghosts and the supernatural. According to a Haunted Housing report released by Realtor.com on October 18, over one third of Americans surveyed claim to have lived in a haunted house sometime in their lifetime, with more than 50 percent of them claiming to have heard the experiences of others who have lived in a haunted home.
According to HuffPost/YouGov poll in December of 2012, a whopping 45 percent of Americans believe in ghosts. A similar poll conducted by CBS NEWS in 2009 revealed that 48 percent of Americans are believers.
What these reports don’t tell you is that according to the polls, a belief in ghosts is limited to the belief that the souls of the dearly departed can return to earth. They do not include paranormal activity that many would call ghostly – such as the possibility that a house can be haunted, whether poltergeists or inhuman spirits exist or if people can be possessed by evil. While some of these beliefs are assessed separately in the polls, the results of those survey questions are not used to calculate the percentage of people who believe in ghosts.
Because many Americans use the term ghosts and spirits interchangeably, these results may be misleading. While one may not believe that the souls of the deceased return to earth to communicate with the living, he may believe in other forms of hauntings that Americans typically attribute to ghosts.
In fact, according to the a June 2005 Gallup Poll, more people believed in haunted houses than those who believed in the traditional ghost of the dearly departed, illustrating that belief in hauntings and paranormal activity is not limited to the belief that souls of the deceased return to roam the earth.
Overall, the 2005 poll indicated that 76 percent of Americans believe in the paranormal, which included questions about reincarnation, ESP, channeling spirits, clairvoyance and astrology.
None of the polls assessed the belief in residual hauntings, a haunting thought to be the result of an emotionally charged event imprinting on the environment and replaying at some point in the future; nor did they assess the belief in the existence of supernatural beings, such as nature spirits, angels or demons.
The statistics also fail to reveal the number of people who claim they are unsure whether ghosts exist, leading readers to assume that the percentage of nonbelievers is higher than the actual responses indicated.
For example nn the 2005 Gallup Poll nearly 20 percent of the respondents admitted they were unsure whether ghosts exist, and 32 percent of respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll claim that are unsure – leaving only 23 percent of the population to claim ghosts do not exist.
The published statistics about belief in ghosts may be skewed, sending the message that far fewer people believe in the world of spiritual beings and ghosts than is assumed.
A healthy skeptic, would likely say he is not sure if the spirits of the dearly departed can come back to haunt the living, but that doesn't mean he doesn't believe that some kind of spiritual beings are responsible for the ghostly goings on at haunted locations, or that residual hauntings exist. According to the polls, he would be counted as a nonbeliever in ghosts, but that's not the whole story.