This time of year you might be out performing seasonal Ouija rituals or carving pumpkins or putting together a clever costume. Whatever you’re doing… beware… you’re being followed by ghosts everywhere you go. They are within you. They are a part of you. They are—right behind you even as you read this!
Don’t expect to see a floating white sheet. These ghosts I’m referring to are your memories, some of them hauntingly unpleasant, some of them challengingly influential, some of them sweet and welcome. Want to get in touch with a memory? You can look at photos, read old letters or journals, or experience that ethereal one of the five senses we’re all here to applaud.
Everyone has experienced just how much scent can bring us back to a certain place or time. Smelling the right thing can be like conjuring a dream in the middle of the day. There’s no doubt that smell is a stronger trigger for emotional memories than vision or touch.
Scientists have conducted numerous tests exploring how smell is related to memories and emotions. Our brains are engineered in a way that connects these things to scent more than other senses. We experience smell through the olfactory bulb which directly connects to areas in the brain that are linked to memory and emotion. Signals from sight, sound, and touch, on the other hand, do not pass through these areas. (You can read more on this study and others linking smell to memory here.)
There have been plenty of times I’ve been taken by surprise by memories—sometimes ambiguous, sometimes specific—that arise from a vaguely familiar smell. There’s an artificial berry scent in some chap-sticks out there that take me back to playing in the basement with my sister when I was five. I didn’t even realize that memory existed, couldn’t have described the basement, until I caught a whiff of that smell somewhere. There must be dozens of other ghosts of memories hiding in me, waiting to be remembered…
Maybe sometimes the memories are brought to us through smell by ghosts themselves. Or maybe what we smell is something left behind by those who are no longer with us, as a way for those who have passed to make themselves known again. After all, the dead must like their scents, too.
Paranormal themed websites across the internet share stories of scents with no apparent source. On website comments and forums you’ll find people sharing stories of floral scents at graves with no flowers to be found anywhere, stories of sulfur scented demons, stories of smelling a late relative’s cologne out of nowhere, and plenty of blog posts attempting to explain it. This article on strangerdimensions.com lists several specific cases in which people seemed to perceive the paranormal through smell. Could it be that the ghosts still wear their signature scents in the afterlife?
I think the link between scent and the abstract, ethereal realms is fascinating, so I would love to hear bout your smell-memory links, or any time you’ve sensed something paranormal through scent!
Until then—if you’re looking, I hope you find your ghost… before it finds you! 0_o
By Katrina Eresman