The question of children being able to see the paranormal comes up frequently and it seems many people have an opinion on this subject. Unfortunately most of them are incorrect because they look for the quick, simple, easy answer instead of looking into the actual cause. One of the most common responses you will hear is that “Children see ghosts because they haven’t been told they don’t exist yet and a belief system hasn’t been put in place by their parents and society.” While this is partially true, the real answer lies in actual biology.
Part of it is cultural as Western ideas on the existence of ghosts is still hundreds, if not thousands, of years behind other parts of the world. Acceptance in the presence of spirits in places such as Asia and other cultures that have been around far longer than the United States is much greater. As open and modern as the US thinks it is, we are still extremely young and naive as a culture. Oddly enough, this is one of the reasons many people give as to why a child is not seeing a spirit.
Many people claim that children seeing spirits can simply be attributed to a vivid imagination. This is sadly more evidence that we as a culture are simply very young and uninformed. While extremely arrogant as a nation, we are actually just very narrow-minded and naive as a whole.
To chalk up accounts of very young children explaining in great detail about a great-grandmother they not only never met, but never even knew existed is simply not a vivid imagination. Instead of looking into how this can be however, most American’s will slap the vivid imagination tag on the child and move on.
As stated previously, the real reason children (as well as many animals) see the paranormal far better than most adults can may actually be linked to a difference in their biology.
First let’s talk a little about light spectrum’s and where visible spirits are believed to reside within this spectrum. We will only discuss the visible light spectrum and the spectrum’s that fall just below and just above that range.
Visible Light - The light spectrum that we see is actually quite narrow, between 400 and 700nm.
Ultraviolet (UVA) - 400 – 315nm. This range falls just below visible light.
Infrared - 750nm – 1mm. The spectrum just above visible light.
Without getting into boring details, just imagine a bar, visible light is in the center of the bar with UVA to the left and infrared to the right. Remember the numbers above though as they are very important. It is believed by many that your best chance of seeing a spirit is in the ultraviolet (UVA) or infrared (IR) light spectrum’s, just below and just above that of visible sight. It is my personal belief that spirit energy can cross dimensional planes and pop in and out of what we perceive as our reality. I also believe that we can’t see a spirit unless they allow us to. Since they reside in a spectrum or dimension that we can not perceive, they must willingly cross into the very narrow field of view that we are able to detect in order for us to catch a glimpse of them. This doesn’t happen by accident. This is why people that are open to the existence of ghosts see them more often than people who are close-minded. If they know you can see them, they will show themselves to you far more often.
Our reality consists of 3 basic dimensions that we can detect: length, width and depth. A fourth dimension we perceive is also present, we call this time. Are there more than these 4 dimensions? Some mathematicians theorize that there may be as many as 10 or more. This provides plenty of room for them to hide or remain undetected most of the time.
UV or IR differs only in that there are some specialized cells in the retinas of our eyes (opsins) that contain a pigment that gets excited when it encounters these wavelengths. Cats, for example, have a pigment that gets excited at shorter wavelengths, so they see a little bit into the UVA range. UV (in humans) is largely absorbed by retinal tissue before it can trigger reactions in these opsins.
This is extremely important: Very young children can see 380nm, which puts them into the UV range (sub 400nm), where elderly people cannot see 400nm; so the ‘visible range’ changes even for humans depending on our age. We start off being able to see more than we can as we get older. This is based on a gradual degradation of the rods and cones in our eyes. As with most things, the more you use it, the more it will eventually wear out.
When I ask most people if they have ever seen a ghost they usually say no. However, I believe this is due to what they perceive a ghost should look like. Hollywood leads you to believe that a ghost appears as a human with lack of color that you can see through. While I have seen many apparitions that do fall under this category, the most common ghosts I see resemble more of a dark shadow that is darker than the darkness surrounding it. The best way to explain this is you’re in a very dark room and you see something darker than even the darkest spot in the room, and it’s usually moving very quickly as well.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I saw something out of the corner of my eye, but as soon as I looked directly at it, it was gone?” As John Kachuba states in his book “Ghost Hunting Ohio”:
“There is a thin band around the outer edge of the cornea that is sensitive to some degree of infrared light. That outer ring constitutes our peripheral vision, so if ghosts inhabit the infrared range, it would make sense that they would best be seen peripherally, that is, from the corner of our eye.”
So as your peripheral vision catches sight of a dark object or movement, as you turn your head and focus your vision to the front of your eyes, you lose sight of what you detected. Add to this the fact that spirits can move at an insane rate of speed at times and I’m willing to bet you’ve seen more ghosts than you realize.
Since this is also somewhat related, let me give you another answer to a common question. “Why can my digital camera/camcorder pick up things that I myself didn’t see?”
Simply put, most modern digital cameras/camcorders come equipped internally with what is called an IR cut-filter. This filter blocks out IR light waves. If your camera/camcorder does not have this cut-filter (such as a camcorder with Sony NightShot™), the visible range the camera can detect (infrared) is between 400 – 1100nm. So you’re seeing the entire visible light spectrum and well into the infrared. The digital camera that we use also does not have this filter so can also ‘see’ into this IR range when taking still pictures as well. By adding an infrared light source we light up an area with light that is invisible to us but very visible to the camera, thus avoiding ever using a flash, even in a pitch black room.
So the next time a child tells you he or she saw something, take a moment to realize that they can actually see into the ultraviolet light spectrum (sub 400nm). Not much, but enough to see things that you simply can’t. Instead of telling them that they didn’t see what they saw, ask them to tell you about it and encourage them to always be honest and open with what they experience in life. If not, you simply raise another child to become one of the naive adults that other much older cultures look at and simply shake their heads.
Thanks to Gene Lafferty and Wikipedia for some of the above information.