Neurologists like Blanke (1,2) and Chenye (3) call them “invader dreams”, others refer to them as False Awakenings and OBE. They all fit into Night terrors. But are the thing we see ghosts or spirits?
The answer is actually maybe. Scientifically they are things that only exist within our mind, they are things our mind make up, for whatever reason (some reasons are supposed in the International Journal of Dream Research ( http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/ojs/index.php/IJoDR/index ). Its most likely a combination of psychological and neurological reasons. But they feel real. That feeling is hard to argue with no matter how much scientific evidence there is. The thing is that people do not like their feelings and experiences dismissed, they “know” its real, even if there is a scientific explanation from a guy with letters after their name, its still “real”. Psychologically this makes sense, we will trust our own epistemological sense quicker than anything else. We have and experience to back our claim on, to look at it any other way seems odd.
The thing is that belief and science are not mutually exclusive. We believe things because we are human, we need stories to make sense of life. We like the idea of a scientific explanation, but we want a way of dealing with it for ourselves. A means to look at these experiences that help us know that they happened and are real experiences. There is no reason why we can’t believe that they are ghosts, spirits, gods, etc. As long as we make sure we know these are our individual experiences and when telling other people about them saying something like “My experience was like this, I know the scientific explanation is this, but I still believe in X anyway”.
1. Blanke O, Landis T, Spinelli L, and Seeck M. Out-of-body experience and autoscopy of neurological origin. Brain, 127: 243–258, 2004.
2. Blanke O, Mohr C, Michel CM, Pascual-Leone A, Brugger P, Seeck M, et al. Linking out-of-body experience and self processing to mental own-body imagery at the temporoparietal junction. Journal of Neuroscience, 25: 550–557, 2005.
3. Cheyne, J. A. and Girard, T.A. Cognitive Neurophysiology, 9,4, pp. 281-300, 2004.