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Trying to Make Sense of Ghosts

Posted on 13 January 2014, 9:55

For the most part, I have little interest in haunted houses, ghost hunting, poltergeists, ghostly apparitions, or related anomalous phenomena. However, I had read some interesting and curious things here and there over the years about Alex Tanous (1926-1990) and that prompted me to read a recently released book, Conversations with Ghosts, by Dr.Tanous.  Callum E. Cooper, (below) a psychologist and doctoral candidate at the University of Northhampton, resurrected Tanous’s research papers and put them together in the book. It turned out to be a fascinating and enlightening read.


In the Introduction, Cooper provides a fairly comprehensive biography of Tanous, (below) who was an experimental subject of the American Society for Psychical Research during the 1970s and early 80s for his out-of-body (OBE) capabilities. Later, Tanous collaborated with Dr. Karlis Osis, one of the scientists who had studied his OBE abilities, in investigating haunted houses.


Tanous recalled that at age 11, he was rushed to the hospital after a traumatic experience. “I found myself out-of-body. I saw my physical body on the table. I saw my double standing nearby, and both of us watched the doctors and nurses operating on me.” He then encountered a beautiful light and as the light filled him he saw people he knew and some he didn’t know. He described it as a beautiful, powerful, and peaceful experience, and the beginning of his search for his “other self.” He later discovered that he had the ability to leave his body at will – to bilocate, or to be in two places at once. He referred to his spirit body as Alex2.

Alex2 could go through walls and could be anywhere in a split second. However, he pointed out that he didn’t create Alex2. He already existed. “Now let’s reverse that,” Tanous explained to an interviewer how apparitions are seen. “Let’s say that Alex2 creates Alex1 in a scene, our sitting here, and let’s say that we are all dead and so forth. You can then recreate sections of your life, and have it shown like a movie: there’s talking, and telepathy, you know, your understanding and everything. It’s the reverse.”

Tanous further explained that apparitions are not, as is commonly believed, all more or less alike, “They vary widely,” he said. “Some are perceived as an unrecognizable mist, others are so lifelike they are almost, or often, mistaken for real people. Some behave as though they are re-enacting shadows of tragic events from the past, others are only in the here-and-now and related directly to observers.” He goes on to point out that there are times when everyone present sees the apparition and other times when only one person, apparently one with developed clairvoyant abilities, sees it. He states that after years of experience he and Dr. Osis steered away from psycho-kinetic type phenomena (PK), where adolescents unconsciously create their own PK fields resulting in what is commonly referred to as poltergeist activity.

“I, like many people, believe that ghosts exist because they must tell their story to someone who can set their lives and actions into balance,” Tanous wrote. “I agree, however, that it will always be a metaphysical question as to why ghosts appear.” He considers the theory that apparitions are simply imprinted energy fields rooted in some intensely traumatic incident taking place at the location. He makes a distinction between apparitions and ghosts, a ghost, he believed, is a replay of an event that took place in the past, while there is no dialogue. An apparition is, however, a confrontation with a real spirit in the present day. “It is my belief,” he continued, “that the entity is, in fact, moving forward in its own consciousness, but, at times has the ability to return for the sole purpose of ‘balancing unsupportable events or human injustice in experiences where they lived.’ At the appropriate time, the entity can create an apparition (or related phenomena movements, bangs and raps, etc.) whose aim is to restore the universe to harmony.”

Tanous said that he was able, at will, to leave his body and meet the entities on their level.  “With my personal consciousness, combined with the consciousness of Alex 2, the two of us are able to contact the ghosts,” he is quoted. He goes on to explain that he was able to relive the scenes that traumatized occupants of the home and resulted in the haunting. He would see the scenes as if he were watching a movie.

One of the more intriguing cases investigated by Tanous and Osis took place in 1983 and had to do with a house in lush Pennsylvania farm country. The residents, described by Tanous and very practical and down-to-earth, hardly the kind of people who would be carried away by their imaginations, reported doors opening and slamming shut, footsteps on the staircase, furniture moving around, cold spots, and items disappearing, never to be seen again.

Tanous was able to go back in time and see a young couple living there and also see that the house was a stop on the “underground railroad,” where slaves were sheltered. As he watched the “movie” of the traumatic event in the house, he saw a beautiful young woman warming a pan of food on the stove. As grease spattered into the fire, flames set the woman’s clothes on fire. She died two days later. Before her death, she promised her husband that she would wait in the house for him until he died. The husband lived for another 40 years. During those 40 years, the woman let her husband know she was around with various phenomena.

Tanous discovered that they couldn’t find each other because they were looking for each other in different time periods. Tanous was able to communicate with the woman and bring her into her husband’s time so that they could be together.

Tanous said we have to make a distinction between spirit and soul. He referred to spirit as “personality” and soul as “individuality.” He explained that spirits are energy and are still in some way earthbound. “It has nothing to do with the individuality,” he said. “It has to do with an experience, here and now, that took place. The burning of the house, the man looking for that person. Or a murder taking place that needs to be retold, or an event taking place that we have to balance. It’s that which I would call ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit.’  There’s also the individuality, the ‘apparition’ – this is where the individuality comes over and speaks to you.”

Spirit or soul, personality or individuality, ghost or apparition, here-and-now or past events appearing in the here-and-now? It’s all very confusing to those thinking in linear time and with terrestrial words and their limitations, but makes at least a little sense if we can somehow rise above linear time and recognize that celestial matters do not easily lend themselves to terrestrial thinking and logic. Tanous admitted that he found it all very confusing, commenting that he had come to no definite conclusion. “I do feel that apparitions are some kind of consciousness which makes itself visible and are more perfect than we are,” he offered. “In other words, the higher consciousness can make itself visible to the lower consciousness.” 
Conversations with Ghosts is published by White Crow Books and is available from Amazon and all good online bookstores.

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Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores. 

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Next blog:  January 27   . 


Tanous’ experiences and point of view put a different spin on the concept of “ghosts,” don’t they.  I’ve never heard of a person experiencing a double like Alex2 that persisted over time.

In this post on my own blog
I told about someone I know who had both “ghosts” and an “apparition” manifesting in her house.  Tanous is correct in saying that both of these types of phenomena occur.  I would reverse his terms, though; I think of a ghost as a conscious entity, a deceased human being, communicating in the present moment, and I think the word apparition is more appropriate to movie-like visions of past events such as the unfortunate woman whose clothes caught on fire.

Elene Gusch, Mon 3 Feb, 07:30

It’s good to see Alex’s work still being examined. His last book—on dreams—he co-authored with Tim!

August Goforth, Tue 14 Jan, 20:07


Keep the great articles coming - always of interest !!!

This article raises this question for me: How would one best relate concepts of “Ghost”, “Apparition”, “Materialization” to the “Resurrection” of Christ…

Continued Best Wishes,


Richard Brannon, Tue 14 Jan, 16:01

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