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People Hardly Ever See A Naked Ghost. Illustration: Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851-1913).

People Hardly Ever See A Naked Ghost. Illustration: Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851-1913).

What’s The Reason Ghosts Come Clothed?

On first thought, it seems to make little sense for ghosts to wear clothes. After all, one advantage of being disembodied is that you wouldn’t have the physical needs of finding food to keep from going hungry, or wearing clothes to stay warm and otherwise protected from the elements. Then there’s the metaphysical conundrum of the ghostly clothing itself. Where would it come from? Are the garments ghosts in their own right, as well?

In his book, The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts, author and academic Owen Davies gathers several centuries of debate on this interesting issue. He quotes 19th century writer and hauntings expert Catherine Crowe as pointing out that there are other reasons for clothing aside from warmth and sex appeal. She adds that if ghosts are able to recreate the images of their living selves in order to appear before their survivors, there is no reason they couldn’t also recreate their clothing: If a spirit could “conceive of its former body it can equally conceive of its former habiliments, and so represent them, by the power of will to the eye, or present them to the constructive imagination of the seer.”

As for the reason not to go naked even if you’re dead and permanently immune to the cold: “To say the least of it, [it] would be much more frightening and shocking.” We quite agree.

Davies quotes a further reason by a writer in an early 20th century publication called the Occult Review: A ghost wears clothes “to identify himself with the position and period of his earthly life.”

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