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Ghost story

  1. May 30, 2010 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I've noticed a lot of "ghost" threads on here and would like to share a pretty odd experience that I've pondered for quite some time now, and have failed to deduce a reasonable explanation , which is interesting, as I am a pretty scientifically-minded person :tongue:. I also consider myself to be non-religious, although non quite atheistic as in my opinion there is a degree of plausibility regarding some "higher power" or whatever, but anyway...

    A while ago at my cousin's birthday, he was about to blow out his candles when all 12 or so flames just vanished at the same time - they didn't even flicker or seem to be blown by wind (all the windows were shut, there was no breeze in the room whatsoever), but just completely disappeared all at the same instant. Nobody blew them out, even if somebody did the flames would have flickered. It was also revealed that my cousin's grandmother had died a few weeks before, and apparently she "never missed a birthday".

    Now I'm not saying that I sincerely believe in ghosts or anything, so I've considered some (pretty unconvincing) explanations...
    1) The batch of candles had some impurity or something and the flames were extinguished as they burned down to this point (not very likely, as the candles were lit at different times)
    2) They were joke candles, if there even are such things (which is also unlikely, they seemed like ordinary candles to me)

    ...well, at least it's something :tongue:

    So, does anyone have any ideas as to what this could be?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2010 #2
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    Well, I don't have any firsthand experiences with ghosts myself, though my mother, sister and father (my father in particular is very, very sceptical to all things supernatural) claim that they had a lot of activity when my grandmother died. They felt a presence, the dogs of the house reacted, and my father (independently) also experienced that she was sitting in the back seat when he was driving. I'm sure they experienced what they said, but I can't say it's very convincing to me.

    As for your story... What kind of candles were there? The only thing I can think of is that someone bumped into the table and they all went out when they were drenched with stearin.
  4. May 30, 2010 #3


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    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    I vote for an air current that was too subtle to be felt by anybody, but strong enough to blow out the candles. The telltale clue is that all candles went out simultaneously. When a person blows them out, there is a noticeable time delay between when the first and last candles go out; presumably this would also be true for a ghost, if you believe in them (which I don't).

    Even if we rule out an outside breeze, air currents can come from possibly a door opening/closing, or a person walking by the cake. There are many ways an air current could be produced, and I doubt that you observed/remember every single thing that was going on in the room at the time.
  5. May 30, 2010 #4
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    A brief search shows that this question has been asked many times here, and the answers do not change. I'll believe in ghosts when something a little more rare than snuffed candles is the smoking gun. EM phenomena, "orbs", a sense that others are present, and more, all do not rise to the level of evidence. If ghosts can do all they are credited with, one would imagine that they could make themselves known in such a way, and time, that they would be believed.
  6. May 30, 2010 #5
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    What connection do birthday candles have with ghosts? Is any odd experience connected to ghosts?
  7. May 30, 2010 #6
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    No, I'm not saying it is, but I'm still struggling to explain this. Explanations such as air currents would make sense except for the fact that these flames just vanished, and did not flicker. Also I am confident that everyone was in the same room when it happened and nobody walked by the cake as it happened. Also things like EM phenomena seem pretty vague - which EM phenomenon, and how does this relate to birthday candles? :confused:

    I'm not saying I do believe in ghosts, but this one seems a bit...odd.
  8. May 31, 2010 #7
    You expect flickering, but that does not necessarily happen. Even if you find a phenomenon to be strange, ghosts don't make a very likely explanation. Why do candles going out lead to odd, and odd leads to "ghosts"?
  9. May 31, 2010 #8
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    I can't explain it because I can't experiment with it. Really, you should have re-lit the candles to see if it happened again. I've solved several "odd" events by simply investigating at once. A one time occurrence that you didn't even investigate at the time is no reason to start speculating about the paranormal.

    Ask DaveCP30 about his disappearing pencils, which happened over and over. If he hadn't one time accidentally witnessed what really happened it would have been endless fodder for a ghost story.
  10. May 31, 2010 #9
    I don't understand how this non-sequitur has anything to do with candles mysteriously blowing out.

    Just because you can't immediately explain how something happened doesn't automatically then attach to supernatural agency.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  11. Jun 1, 2010 #10
    Thanks for sharing the story.
  12. Jun 1, 2010 #11
    Me mentioning that my cousin's grandmother died a few weeks before his birthday doesn't imply that I thought there was a "ghost", it is merely another piece of information. But I have been pondering this whole occurrence for a few years now and I'm still finding it difficult to come up with a reasonable explanation. I do remember the conditions in the room that night, where everybody was standing, windows/doors closed etc., but still all explanations that others and myself have come up with seem illogical or extremely unlikely.

    In the end it's obviously an uncommon phenomenon that I can't explain, but it does seem slightly strange that most people in the room associated the candles with a ghost, and then remembered their mother/mother-in-law/grandmother who died a few weeks prior.
  13. Jun 1, 2010 #12
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    I was staring right at the flames when they vanished, one second they were there, then the next they were gone. Now come on, there's something totally bizarre going on here!
  14. Jun 1, 2010 #13
    I would point out just how poor eyewitness testimony is, for a reason. Consider the nature of how people see things, and then how their memories are literally reshaped ever time they are recalled. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recall_(memory [Broken])
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  15. Jun 1, 2010 #14
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    One night I was sitting here in my little office with the sliding door to the patio open. From what seemed like just outside I heard the most unearthly groaning male voice. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I had gooseflesh all over my body.

    One night I was sitting here and a plastic statue of a Buffalo that was on the shelf behind me just fell off the shelf. I wasn't anywhere near it. There was no earthquake or breeze. It just fell off.

    One night as I was walking from my office out into the kitchen I heard a horrible, demonic voice speak my name. It was a grotesque, gasping/sucking voice like the Elephant Man's, but with evil intonation.

    If the stories stop there, I have three "totally bizarre" incidents that I could insist can't be explained. However, I immediately investigated in all three cases and found out what the causes were.

    You stopped and didn't investigate.
  16. Jun 1, 2010 #15
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    Good point, now um, to satisfy my all-consuming curiosity could you please tel us the causes? The groaning sounds like an animal or tree, the other simple instability, and the third a mechanical device, but I must KNOW! :)
  17. Jun 1, 2010 #16
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    I had a box fan sitting on the floor in front of the open door pulling cool air in. This turned out to be sitting on a pebble big enough so the fan could shudder back and forth. When I got rid of the pebble the "groaning" disappeared.

    I turned and stared at the shelf and the Buffalo on the floor, wondering what the hell had just happened. In a moment or two I caught sight of a scurrying, furry little body on the shelf with a long hairless tail.

    My name is one syllable, consonants beginning and end. It turned out this is not too hard for my coffee maker to pronounce nearly perfectly when it's sucking water through the system. My office acted as a resonator for this noise when I was out the door into the kitchen.
  18. Jun 1, 2010 #17
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    Ahhhh, now that is fascinating, except for the rat which is just nasty. :wink: Thanks Zoobyshoe, and thanks for being a model of practical skepticism and how much we could explain if our first reaction was impartial observation and not leaping to conclusions. I salute you.
  19. Jun 1, 2010 #18
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    Thank you. I owe it all to Bunsen Bernie, my high school science teacher, who once told us the tale of how he tracked down a "ghostly whine" in his apartment to a vibrating copper toilet ball float. When he tracked the sound to the tank and removed the lid, the float was singing away right in front of him. Somewhere in the old pipes, he reasoned, water was leaking, creating a vibration at the resonant frequency of the float. He replaced it and the sound never came back.
  20. Jun 1, 2010 #19
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    Good thinking Mr. Bernie! A single excellent teacher can have such a profound impact, it never ceases to amaze me.
  21. Jun 1, 2010 #20
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    It's true. The lesson was about resonant frequencies, but I think I mostly remembered the "detective" part.
  22. Jun 1, 2010 #21
    Re: Do ghosts exist?

    You see, the detective part is "the hook" for the resonant frequencies and desire to find a rational explanation for observed phenomenon.
  23. Jun 2, 2010 #22
    Again, I am not trying to explain evidence that ghosts or the supernatural exist, but those examples above are not really similar to my case at all. The observer was not looking directly at the sources of these occurrences but rather citing what they heard and/or felt. In my case, I was looking directly at the birthday cake, everybody in the house was standing around the table, as far as I'm concerned nobody even made any significant movement, doors/windows were shut, no sudden bursts of wind, nobody blew the candles, etc. (ruling out Redbelly98's explanation of air currents).

    It's one thing to hear a strange noise and realize it was the coffee machine or fan. It's another thing to be staring straight at something, which without reason completely vanishes.
  24. Jun 2, 2010 #23
    Except that you introduced the meaningless information about it "being revealed" that someone who didn't miss birthdays had died weeks earlier. If you weren't trying to make a case for supernatural agency, then why add that detail at all? See?

    Yes, sounds and watching something are two different events. I've watched some impressive magic tricks, too, during which things seemingly vanished without reason. But there is a reason, isn't there? (And I'll bet someone had died a few weeks prior.) The reasons run towards sight not always providing reliable evidence. Memory isn't reliable either. Why would everyone be taking note of every air movement in the room at the time the candles were lit? It's only hindsight that has anything to say about the air possibilities. So, then, but, yes, things seemingly happen without cause, but there's always a cause.
  25. Jun 2, 2010 #24
    Ok, maybe I shouldn't have said "without reason", obviously there is a reason.

    However, the only arguments I've heard so far are those regarding anecdotal evidence, the memory, etc. but the fact of the matter is, I remember this night like it was yesterday (you don't easily forget these things). And while I did not memorize the exact air pressure, temperature, humidity and so on, there were no changes in these conditions whatsoever, which in my eyes rules out anything to do with the air.

    When I disagree with people's explanations I am not trying to be a stubborn religious/spiritual fanatic who believes in ghosts and gods and leprechauns, but I'm merely stating that they can't be possible based on my recount (which is very accurate) of the whole situation.

    It would be nice if people proposed some interesting explanations, rather than just criticizing my way of thinking.
  26. Jun 2, 2010 #25

    Ivan Seeking

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    All that you can do is to describe what happened as accurately as you can. From there, if no explanations can be offered that are completely consistent with your account, every effort will likely be made to interpret your account in such a way that prosaic explanations will suffice. It is the price of sharing your story and the nature of the forum. :smile:
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