Do you believe in ghosts? Do you want to believe? If so, I apologize. According to science, seeing ghost might be hallucinations caused by toxic mold.
Ghost stories are more than folklore; the people who tell them aren’t kidding about the specter that stole their reading glasses or the ghoul who sobs through the night. But even if you believe in tales about haunted houses or hotels, the skeptical side of you still might turn down at the concept.
Supernatural reports have long been associated with sight, but now it seems visions of ghosts might be more closely related to something that’s smelled – toxic mold.
“Hauntings are very widely reported phenomena that are not well-researched,” said Shane Rogers, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
As an environmental engineer, Roger knows all about the toxic molds that invade old houses and are as difficult to remove. He also knows that some common molds such as Rye Ergot Fungus have been known to cause depression, anxiety, and even psychosis in people who breathe them. When the air is contaminated, the brain can play subtle tricks on you – a sudden chill, a movement in the corner of your eye, or potentially other ghastly and hallucinatory illusions.
Rogers and his team of undergraduate students worked through the summer collecting mold specimens from old and reputedly haunted buildings and then compared them to control groups in hopes of finding a common trait in the mold’s genetic material that might be influencing those who breathe it to believe they’re in a haunted house and seeing ghosts.
The connection between old mold and visions has been explored before. A British study in 1995 found that old books contained spores that could cause “fungal hallucinations,” which might explain how great literary figures were inspired or why prim and proper librarians sometimes have a hidden “wild” side.
Although there isn’t yet the strong evidence to bust ghosts with mildew (yet), this concept of mold-tripping is not totally new. Dr. R.J. Hay, one of England’s leading mycologists (fungus experts) and dean of Dermatology at Guy’s Hospital in London, wrote about “sick library syndrome” in The Lancet in 1995.
The group’s research has only just begun (and visiting haunted houses to collect air quality samples sounds like quite the unique class project), so there’s nothing conclusive to report. They are looking for common attributes in the mold microbiome in the places believed to be haunted compared to the controls, and are also planning to analyze the types of toxic mold that may cause psychological effects in humans.
So seeing ghosts might be your hallucination. In other words, your home might not be haunted, but it might be tricking you into thinking it is.
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