A young man awakens to find an apparition in his bed. A teenage girl feels a presence in her uterus and senses the outline of a baby over her left shoulder. Are these people seeing spirits?
Michael Persinger, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, suspects not. Persinger has demonstrated that a sensitive temporal lobe-the area that is responsible for regulation of emotions and motivated behaviors-together with naturally occurring magnetic fields, can trigger a ghostly encounter. Indeed, the couple in question had sensitive lobes and an electronically stocked house, with magnetic activity that peaked nightly just when their apparition materialized. The girl who thought she was pregnant had suffered a brain injury as a child. In addition, her bed was surrounded by a pulsed magnetic field, the result of a clock just a few inches from her pillow.
"Individuals prone to paranormal experiences are sensitive to weak electromagnetic fields and to man-made electrical fields, which are becoming more prominent in the communication age," explains Persinger, who has studied the link between magnetic fields and paranormal experience for 15 years.