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Illustration For Washington Irving's The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Artist: Frederick Simpson Coburn (1871-1960.)

Illustration For Washington Irving’s The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Artist: Frederick Simpson Coburn (1871-1960.)

Can A Ghost Touch You—And What Does If Feel Like?

Are ghosts able, as in the illustration above, to put a hand on your shoulder and make you feel their icy grip? Or maybe we’re assuming too much, and their grip really isn’t so icy. . . .

Researchers Cecilia Green and Charles McCreery report in their scholarly book, Apparitions, that of 1,800 people surveyed concerning their paranormal experiences, 15 percent said that a ghost had touched them. And while in some of these cases interviewees claimed an apparition had placed cold hands on them, others told investigators that the touch had been warm and comforting. A number said a ghost’s clothes had brushed against them, and that they felt like ordinary clothing.

Understandably, although a couple of respondents said they had shaken hands with ghosts, it is usually the ghost who touches the living person, and not the other way around. And in the few cases where an aggressive person has actually tried to grab a ghost, the ghost almost invariably avoided being handled, either by moving away, disappearing, or by providing no physical resistance or other sensation to the living hands passing through it. In one interesting case, a man said he was was unable to see his arm after plunging it into a ghost.

No one reported experiencing pain from a ghostly touch, or any sort of physical violence on the part of an apparition.

Apart from a ghost’s direct touch, 18 percent of the people surveyed said they felt a drop in the surrounding temperature while in the presence of a ghost. A single respondent reported feeling hot upon first encountering an apparition—but then almost immediately felt the temperature plummet.

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