Why Can't I See Ghosts?

Ancient spiral stairs with a human shade
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

It's a question anyone with even the slightest interest in the paranormal has asked themselves: Why can't I see spirits? The truth is, it is very difficult to see spirits or ghosts. Even many people who have been ghost investigators their entire lives have never directly seen or experienced a ghost.

The Difficulty of Seeing Ghosts

Frustration over the failure to see ghosts is not uncommon. A typical complaint looks like the following, from Paul, a paranormal enthusiast:

"I am your average 52-year-old male. I watch the paranormal shows on TV, particularly 'Children of the Paranormal.' My question is: Why can't I see spirits or feel spirits? I would like to. Is there anything I can do to increase my own ability to see or hear spirits? I guess what I am asking is, Do I have any control at all? Can I learn it? Am I doing something wrong?"

Paul is not doing anything wrong. It's simply a fact, though, that it's not easy to see ghosts or spirits, even for paranormal enthusiasts. Ghost hunters who routinely visit places that are reputed to be haunted almost never see or experience a ghost (despite what you might see on TV). Most sightings of apparitions happen—and the best ghost photos are usually taken—quite by accident, when they are least expected. Ghosts and spirits seem to appear and make themselves known at their own whim.

How to Contact Spirits

There are psychics and mediums who claim to be able to see and make contact with those from the other side. And although there is some interesting evidence that they can make contact, this ability has not been definitively proven beyond all doubt. If they indeed have this remarkable ability—and they might—it seems to be a gift that they have had all their lives. They were born with it. It's unlikely that this is an ability you would be able to develop.

Although there is no certain way to go about seeing and contacting spirits, there are some things you can try, a few of which you've surely seen on TV. You can experiment with electronic voice phenomena (EVP) or perhaps even a so-called ghost box. There's no absolute proof that these methods are effective at detecting ghost voices and messages. Nevertheless, they're worth a try.

When looking for spirits, be aware that they can take a variety of forms. Some appear as strange smoke or fog, others as a non-visual energy vibration, such as a thermal shift in the air. Still others appear as sparkling light or shadows. Occasionally spirits even manifest as pale, ghostly versions—almost like holograms—of their previous selves. The latter, of course, are the easiest to recognize; to spot the others, you'll have to be especially attentive.

If you're so inclined, you might consider joining a ghost hunting group in your area. Again, there's no guarantee that you'll encounter a ghost on one of their hunts, but you will at least be with like-minded people who share the same curiosity about the subject. And who knows—perhaps you'll be lucky enough to see a spirit.