Are Ghosts Real? — Evidence Has Not Materialized
If you believe in ghosts, you’re not alone. Cultures all around the world believe in spirits that survive death to live in another realm. In fact, ghosts are among the most widely believed of paranormal phenomenon: Millions of people are interested in ghosts, and a 2013 Harris Poll found that 43% of Americans believe in ghosts.
(The Harris Poll surveyed 2,250 U.S. adults online from Nov. 13-18. No margin of error was provided. 57 percent of U.S. adult say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Sixty-four percent say they believe in the survival of the soul after death. 36 percent say they believe in UFOs, 29 percent say they believe in astrology, 26 percent say they believe in witches and 24 percent say they believe in reincarnation)
People have tried to (or claimed to) communicate with spirits for ages; in Victorian England, for example, it was fashionable for upper-crust ladies to hold séances in their parlors after tea and crumpets with friends. Ghost clubs dedicated to searching for ghostly evidence formed at prestigious universities, including Cambridge and Oxford, and in 1882 the most prominent organization, the Society for Psychical Research, was established.
A woman named Eleanor Sidgwick was an investigator (and later president) of that group, and could be considered the original female ghostbuster. In America during the late 1800s, many psychic mediums claimed to speak to the dead — but were later exposed as frauds by skeptical investigators such as Harry Houdini.
Personal experience is one thing, but scientific evidence is another matter. Part of the difficulty in investigating ghosts is that there is not one universally agreed-upon definition of what a ghost is. Some believe that they are spirits of the dead who for whatever reason get “lost” on their way to The Other Side; others claim that ghosts are instead telepathic entities projected into the world from our minds.
Still others create their own special categories for different types of ghosts, such as poltergeists, residual hauntings, intelligent spirits and shadow people. Of course, it’s all made up, like speculating on the different races of fairies or dragons: there are as many types of ghosts as you want there to be.
If ghosts are the spirits of those whose deaths were unavenged, why are there unsolved murders, since ghosts are said to communicate with psychic mediums, and should be able to identify their killers for the police. And so on — just about any claim about ghosts raises logical reasons to doubt it.
It is widely claimed that Albert Einstein suggested a scientific basis for the reality of ghosts, based on the First Law of Thermodynamics: if energy cannot be created or destroyed but only change form, what happens to our body’s energy when we die? Could that somehow be manifested as a ghost?
Ultimately, ghost hunting is not about the evidence (if it was, the search would have been abandoned long ago). Instead, it’s about having fun with friends, telling stories, and the enjoyment of pretending they are searching the edge of the unknown. After all, everyone loves a good ghost story.
Dorothea Helen Puente
Dorothea Helen Puente (January 9, 1929 – March 27, 2011) was an American convicted serial killer. In the 1980s, Puente ran a boarding house in Sacramento, California, and murdered her elderly and mentally disabled boarders before cashing their Social Security checks. Her total count reached nine confirmed murders, and six unconfirmed. Newspapers dubbed Puente the “Death House Landlady”.
Puente was born Dorothea Helen Gray on January 9, 1929, in Redlands, California, to Trudy Mae (née Yates) and Jesse James Gray. She had a traumatic upbringing; her parents were both alcoholics, her mother was a prostitute, and her father attempted suicide in front of her. Her father died of tuberculosis in 1937 when she was 8, and her mother died in a car accident the following year. She was sent to an orphanage, where she was sexually abused.
In 1945, Gray was married for the first time, at the age of 16, to a soldier named Fred McFaul, who had just returned from the Pacific Theater of World War II. Gray had two daughters between 1946 and 1948, but she sent one to live with relatives in Sacramento and placed the other child for adoption. She became pregnant again in 1948, but suffered a miscarriage. In late 1948, McFaul left her.
Gray was sentenced to a year in jail for forging checks; she was paroled after six months. Soon afterwards, she became pregnant by a man she barely knew and gave birth to a daughter, whom she placed for adoption. In 1952, she married a Swede named Axel Johanson, and had a turbulent 14-year marriage.
In the 1960s, Gray was arrested for owning and managing a brothel and was sentenced to 90 days in the Sacramento County Jail. After her release, she was arrested again, this time for vagrancy, and sentenced to another 90 days in jail. Following that, Gray began a criminal career that over time became more serious. She found work as a nurse’s aide, caring for disabled and elderly people in private homes. In a short time, she started to manage boarding houses.
Gray divorced Johanson in 1966 and married Roberto Puente, a man 19 years her junior, in Mexico City. The marriage lasted two years. Shortly after it ended, Dorothea Puente took over a three-story, 16-bedroom care home at 2100 F Street in Sacramento; she would later rent an upstairs apartment at 1426 F Street. Puente got married for the fourth time in 1976 to Pedro Montalvo, who was a violent alcoholic. This marriage lasted only a few months, and Puente started to spend time in local bars looking for older men who were receiving benefits. Puente forged their signatures to steal their money. She was caught and charged with 34 counts of treasury fraud, for which she received probation.
In April 1982, Puente’s friend and business partner, Ruth Monroe, rented a space in an apartment she owned. Shortly after moving in, Monroe died from an overdose of codeine and Tylenol. When she was questioned by police, Puente said that Monroe had become depressed because of her husband’s illness. Police officially ruled the death a suicide.
Several weeks later, 74-year-old Malcolm McKenzie accused Puente of drugging him and stealing his pension. Puente was charged and convicted of theft in August of that year and was sentenced to five years in jail. When she was serving her sentence, she began a pen-pal relationship with 77-year-old Everson Gillmouth. When she was released in 1985, after serving three years, she opened a joint bank account with Gillmouth.
On January 1, 1986, the box was recovered by a fisherman, who called the police. When police arrived and opened the box, they found the decomposed remains of an elderly man- who would not be identified as Everson Gillmouth for another three years. During this time, Puente collected Gillmouth’s pension and forged letters to his family.
Puente also hired Florez to build a box that was six feet by three feet by two feet, which she stated that she would use to store “books and other items.” She and Florez then travelled to a highway in Sutter County and dumped the box in a riverbank. On January 1, 1986, the box was recovered by a fisherman, who called the police. When police arrived and opened the box, they found the decomposed remains of an elderly man- who would not be identified as Everson Gillmouth for another three years.
Puente was charged with nine counts of murder, for the seven bodies found at her house in addition to Gillmouth and Montoya. She was convicted of three of the murders, as jury could not agree on the other six. Puente was sentenced to two life sentences which she served at Central California Women’s Facility in Madera County, California until her death in 2011 at age 82. Until her death, she continued to insist that she was innocent and that the tenants had all died of natural causes.