It’s 3am, and you’re still awake. You’re lying in your bed, staring at the ceiling, when out of the darkness of your room, you hear a thud. Your heart jumps into your throat – you try to explain it away, but at this time of night, rational explanations are hard to come by. You look around, trying to find the source of the noise, but you can’t see a thing. You hear something else – could that be footsteps? Maybe it’s your terrified mind playing tricks on you, but that sure did sound like footsteps. Out of the corner of your eye, you think you catch a glimpse of movement, but when you turn to look, there’s nothing there. You’ve got chills running down your spine, and you can’t help but feel like something’s watching you in your bed.

This sort of thing has probably happened to everybody. Usually it can be explained away as your mind playing tricks on you, but some people have some pretty convincing evidence that there may actually be something lurking in the darkness. Disembodied footsteps, distant voices heard in an empty house, maybe even a full-body apparition. Some folks are terrified of these unexplained phenomena, and others spend their lives searching for answers. So is there anything to all these claims of paranormal activity?

Pictures and video can be faked. People can be counted on to exaggerate or lie, or let their imaginations get the better of them. I understand that. But it’s tough to ignore some of the evidence out there. Is every supposed ghostly encounter true? Of course not. The thing is, there are things in this world that we just don’t understand. That’s just a given. Whether or not the spirits of dead people are still walking the earth, I can’t say for sure, but a whole lot of people have experienced something. There’s really no doubt in my mind that there’s something going on out there that science can’t explain yet.

The key word here is “yet.” See, people are very quick to assign the label of “supernatural,” and I have a problem with that. Supernatural is defined as “Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.” How can something exist outside the natural world? Just because something is unexplained doesn’t mean it’s not natural. Everything that exists in the universe is “natural,” by definition. The only exception that I can think of would be God, if you subscribe to the whole intelligent design thing (which I do, but that’s a topic for another day). It would stand to reason that God would exist outside the natural world, if He created the natural world.

The trend throughout history seems to be that things that are considered supernatural or paranormal usually end up being explained away as completely natural occurrences as people start to understand them better. Look at thunderstorms — the ancient Greeks used to think they were caused by Zeus getting mad and throwing lightning bolts around. Obviously that sounds ridiculous to us, now that we know they’re caused by clouds bumping into each other.

I think ghosts fall into the same category. They don’t fit into our limited understanding of the world, so we put them into the “supernatural” or “paranormal” category. But if you believe that ghosts (or at least the phenomenon that we call ghosts) exist, then you have to accept they’re part of our natural universe. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean that it’s not part of the natural universe. Even with our advanced scientific knowledge, for everything that we know about the universe, there are a million things we don’t know.

Wait... wrong type of ghost.

Heck, just a few hundred years ago, we had no idea that there were billions upon billions of microorganisms floating around, playing an essential role in sustaining our planet, totally invisible to the naked eye. We could easily see their effects — diseases, decomposition, etc — but we had no idea how they worked. Imagine if you had told somebody hundreds of years ago that there were a bunch of tiny, invisible life forms literally all around them. That wouldn’t fit into their understanding of the world, so even if you showed them irrefutable proof that these microorganisms existed, they’d probably file it away as something supernatural. But now that we understand them a little better, we know that microorganisms are a perfectly natural part of the universe. I suspect that one day, it’ll be the same way with ghosts.

And one other thing. We obviously don’t fully understand this whole concept of ghosts, so who’s to say that the way we perceive it is even close to being right? The generally accepted explanation among ghostologists (pretty sure that’s a real thing) is that ghosts are the spirits of dead folks who are still lurking around. Where does that come from? What proof do we have of that? For all we know, that explanation may be as ridiculous as Zeus throwing lighting bolts at people.

But either way, whether it’s the spirits of the deceased or something else entirely, I believe that the phenomenon that we know as ghosts is a real, natural occurrence. I don’t think ghosts are supernatural, or that they are anything to be afraid of (although that’s not to say I wouldn’t soil myself if I came face to face with one in a dark room); I just think they’re part of our world that we don’t understand yet. What do you think?