25% of us have had a ghostly encounter

3 March 2011, 11:22 | Updated: 9 March 2011, 15:55

Ghosts are busting out all over Britain, according to research by the University of Hertfordshire.

Research by leading psychologist and paranormal investigator Professor Richard Wiseman reveals that a quarter of British adults - more than 11 million people - claim to have experienced a ghost.

In the 1950s, the figure was just 7%, rising to 14% in the 1990s and 19% in 2003.

Prof Wiseman, who does not believe in ghosts, thinks the large number of reports of apparitions, bumps in the night, and eerie sounds may be more to do with TV than psychic activity. Ghosts have never been so popular on television, with shows such as Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters and Famous And Frightened attracting large numbers of fans.

"It's a surprisingly high figure, and it's interesting that the proportion of people who say they believe in ghosts has remained the same as it has been for many years, which is about a third,'' said Prof Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire.

"My only thought is that, because there have been a lot of ghost shows on TV, people may just be more likely to attribute certain experiences, like hearing creaky floorboards, to ghosts. All these shows are feeding off the perception that these things actually exist and not looking at the psychological perspective.''

Another factor may be the decline of traditional religious beliefs, Prof Wiseman added. However, the popularity of TV paranormal shows may not explain regional differences revealed in his "ghost map'' of the UK.

It shows the largest number of ghostly goings-on - experienced by up to 30% of the population - being reported in Yorkshire and Humberside, the East Midlands and Wales.

London and the South East was the least spooked region, with just a fifth of the population claiming to have had a ghostly experience. Other regions, such as East Anglia, matched the average figure of 25%, while in Scotland 22% to 24% of people reported haunting incidents.

Far more women than men - 31% compared with 18% - claim to have experienced a ghost, the survey showed.

A total of 2,400 adults across the country took part in the poll conducted by YouGov.


I was in my kitchen and I felt like someone was behind me. I looked at the doorway and saw a small, grey lady walk past the door. When I described the lady to my fiance, it turned out that I had accurately described his late grandmother, whom I had never met. I described her wearing a distinctive patterned dress. I was then told that she would wear this favourite dress of hers every birthday. It would have been her birthday that day (1st september).

- Vikki Harris from Northampton

I saw a ghost in the middle of the day when i was walking my dog. It was by an abandoned house. When i saw the ghostly woman i was not scared as i assumed that she was the house owner. It wasnt until a month later that I was told the house is a holiday home and no permanent resident has lived in there for years.

- Amber Harris from Northampton