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Americans Report Quarantining with a Ghost

A recent New York Times article describes the eerie, uncomfortable feelings many people are having during long periods of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. They are experiencing “disembodied voices, shadowy figures, misbehaving electronics, invisible cats cozying up on couches, caresses from hands that aren’t there….” Many are genuinely scared, while others report they “just appreciate the company.”

An extensive 2019 YouGov survey finds that 45% of US adults believe in ghosts. A 2009 Pew Research Center survey found that 18% of Americans say they have legitimately seen a ghost.

Paranormal researcher and former host of the TV show Ghost Stalkers, John Tenney has seen a dramatic increase in apparition accounts. Most of the time the accounts are easily explainable: “When the sun comes up and the house starts to warm up ... they’re not used to hearing the bricks pop and the wood expand. It’s not that the house wasn’t making those sounds. They just never had the time to notice it.”

Associate Professor of Psychology, Kurt Gray notes that during times of great anxiety and uncertainty many are motivated to find meaning in chaos. This makes it easier to perceive ghosts and other hauntings. Even the invisibility of the coronavirus itself sparks the imagination to sense a “malevolent spirit creeping invisibly upon its unsuspecting victims.”

According to Gray, the epidemic of quarantine loneliness is having this particular peculiar effect: “In quarantine, you are physically confined and also psychologically confined. Your world narrows. You’re trapped at home, you’re needing human contact — it’s comforting to think that there’s a supernatural agent here with you.”

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