Are there really ghosts in our world?

Ghosts and horrors

The "black man" as a parenting worker

Ghosts and horrors can be found at all times and in every culture. They have a variety of functions. One is the upbringing of children: Those who are not good or do not want to sleep at night must expect a visit from the black man.

Stories with frightening characters should also warn of dangerous places such as forests or bodies of water - a motif that can also be found in many fairy tales.

A small typology

Belief in ghosts and ghosts is psychologically often attributed to a personification of death: We humans cannot come to terms with our mortality and so ghosts offer an opportunity to continue to live in a different form, even when the heart is no longer beating.

In fact, many spirits are spirits of the dead - that is, the souls of the dead who continue to walk on earth. In the opinion of many researchers, spirits of the dead already played a role in the Stone Age; the motifs of resurrection and dematerialization later appear in many religions.

In addition to the classic spirits of the dead, there are two other groups: house spirits and nature spirits. House ghosts are sometimes well-disposed towards people (brownies), sometimes they play jokes (goblins), sometimes they have evil on their mind (poltergeister).

Nature spirits are often associated with the elements. Dwarves, fairies and elves live in the forest and in the ground, while mermaids and nymphs populate the water. Dragons and lindworms are considered fire spirits, while air spirits such as the Oberon described by Goethe and Shakespeare take care of wind and weather.

The culture of horror

In modern societies, belief in ghosts and the supernatural has diminished, but not preoccupation with them. Today, this mostly happens in the form of films and books. Ghosts, monsters, and aliens have become an important part of popular culture.

From a psychological point of view, scary films and novels can help to act out irrational fears within a safe framework. The catharsis hypothesis assumes that viewers of a violent horror film reduce their own aggressions.

Creepy animal

The bigger, the creepier: This was the motto of many animal monsters that saw the light of day in the 20th century. One of the most famous was King Kong in 1933: the first film monster that was not based on a book.

As a reaction to the atomic threat of the Cold War, more and more mutated creatures appeared from the 1950s: the voracious giant spider Tarantula, the mean mega-ant Formicula and not to forget Godzilla, the Japanese dragon hexesaur. In the 1970s, the great white shark caused increasing non-swimmer rates.

The bloodsuckers wake up at night

Animals can therefore be threatening and frighten you. So it's not surprising that there are also scary human figures that have animal elements in them.

The best known is the vampire: an undead who rises from his coffin and, depending on the legend, book or film, has several properties of a bat in him. Some vampires can fly, others even turn into a bat. What they all have in common is that they are nocturnal and feed on blood.

But while human Draculas usually target their conspecifics, real vampire bats prefer to bite the necks of cattle and birds.

Legend has it that if you want to protect yourself from vampires, it is best to always have garlic, holy water, amulets with crosses and a sharp wooden stake with you. Once staked through the heart, the vampire stays in his coffin forever.

Shaggy and threatening: werewolf and yeti

Just like bats, wolves are not people's favorite animals either. The scary combination of the two is called werewolf and has been up to mischief since ancient Greece.

A classic werewolf usually made a pact with the devil, who kindly gave him a belt that he can use to transform himself from human to wolf.

In the modern version, which has existed since the film "The Wolf Man" (1941), you become one yourself through the bite of a werewolf. Modern werewolves mostly live undetected among us, they only show their bloodthirsty side when the moon is full. If you encounter a bad-tempered werewolf, it is best to use a pistol with silver bullets.

The Yeti should not be wolf-like but bear-like - at least says mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who believes that it really does exist. The yeti is tall, hairy and is size 71, if you can believe the footprints that keep popping up in the Himalayas.

Basically, the Yeti is quite a peaceful fellow. So far, nothing is known of attacks on people. But of course you can still shudder in front of him.

Zombies: Undead hungry for human flesh

Zombies were originally African ghosts of the dead, the modern variant is based on Haitian voodoo beliefs. There, the curse of a magician leads to the apparent death of a person who is brought back to life through voodoo rituals. However, this life is not very enjoyable: Voodoo zombies are mindless slaves who have to do hard work.

These zombies first appeared in theaters in 1932, but were quickly forgotten again. The director George A. Romero revived the myth through his films "The Night of the Living Dead" (1968) and above all through "Zombie - Dawn of the Dead" (1978). His zombies are also undead without a will, but extremely hideous and dangerous.

The sole purpose of their existence is to eat, the menu only contains human flesh. Anyone who has been bitten by a zombie sooner or later becomes part of the ever-growing crowd, slowly dragging through the streets with empty eyes and outstretched arms.

Psychologists and film scholars saw the zombie films, which became very popular at the end of the 1970s, an allegory of modern mass society that deal with the loss of all norms and moral concepts and also use consumer-critical and political motives.

In films such as "28 Days Later" (2002), the speed and intellect of the carnivorous monsters changed significantly in the new millennium: creeping monsters became running monsters, which also develop an awareness. Good for the zombies, bad for the people.

Belief in extraterrestrial intelligence

Aliens are modern mythical creatures and the terrifying creatures with the greatest range in behavior and personality. Among them are voracious monsters ("Alien") and cuddly quasi-family members ("ALF"), they are sometimes creative ("2001"), sometimes destructive ("Independence Day"), there is a sensitive variant ( "ET"), as malicious tormentors ("Mars Attacks!") Or as wise protectors ("The Abyss").

And they do not only exist in the cinema, but also in reality - at least an astonishingly large number of people believe that. Nine percent, or 25 million Americans, stated in a survey in the mid-1990s that they had seen a UFO before. Among them were two former presidents, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Although the universe is infinitely large and intelligent extraterrestrial life seems likely to many people, science beyond parapsychology agrees: So far there is no reliable evidence for the existence of aliens. Just as little as for those of vampires, werewolves, yetis and ghosts. But that does not have to and will not prevent anyone from believing in it anyway.