I talked extensively in my book, "Was That a Ghost?" about the use of a ghost as a scapegoat within a trouble family dynamic. The "scapeghost" as I like to call it, is blamed for everything that no one wants to deal with in their relationships. A trouble rebellious teen suddenly is on the parents' team as a cohesive group for the first time since the social issues began, simply because they are up against a ghost and that ghost is responsible for all the bad feelings in the home.

It is human nature when one feels nervous or angry or sad to want to explain it. We struggle to look around us for the reason for that feeling. Here's an example from the fantastic book "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David Burns:

A man has a girlfriend. She wants to go to her high school reunion. He has to stay home and study. He says "go ahead, have a good time." She leaves and instead of recognizing his feelings of insecurity at her meeting her old boyfriends, he focuses on a bruise on his skin. Then, he starts to focus on his body signals and pretty soon he's convinced he has AIDs, even though he has no risk factors. He needed a reason for the feelings of doom. Now, he has a "legitimate" reason for feeling poorly instead of the real issue--jealousy.

Here's an extreme case of scapeghost:

(From this article)  JANUARY 20--A Wisconsin man charged with domestic abuse told cops that a “ghost” was actually responsible for injuries suffered by his wife, according to police.
The bizarre claim by Michael West, 41, did not prevent the Fond du Lac man’s arrest for strangulation, battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. West is pictured in the mug shot at right.

According to a January 18 criminal complaint, West and his spouse got into an argument Sunday that turned violent. The victim told cops that West twice strangled her, and that he punched her in the face when she tried to dial 911.

When cops arrived at the couple’s home, the crying woman was bleeding from the nose and had blood on her Packers jersey.

During police questioning, West claimed his wife sustained her injuries to her face and neck during several falls. When pressed by a cop--who pointed to marks on the woman’s neck--the intoxicated West shifted his story. “A ghost did it,” he said.

When working on a house-call case, investigators have to first and foremost determine if it is only one family member who is either witnessing the phenomena (and what context-like sleep) and how the others in the family are reacting to that situation--are they rallying around that member to support them and feel lots of empathy or is it causing a rift? These are very telling signs.

Attention-seeking is probably present in about 85% of the cases I've dealt with. Sometimes, it comes in the form of hoping they get on a paranormal TV show or wanting to have bragging rights or attention from family and friends who say "oh, poor you" and sympathize. Some also enjoy thinking that something has its attention focused on them when others around them ignore them. These folks do not want to get rid of the activity, but they want someone to confirm its existence so they can continue the histrionics and get sympathy from others who are skeptical.

These human dynamics are tricky in ghost hunting cases, especially since humans are the main interpreters of ghostly phenomena with all the limits of our 5 senses and the unpracticed confusion of using the 6th sense.

Scapeghosts are a phenomena that hunters the world over know and recognize. We have to deal with it daily. Wading through those murky waters to find out if there is a genuine haunting is complicated. Sometimes, a genuine haunting is overshadowed by the gains certain family members get blaming the ghost for everything from lost car keys to arguments and changes in the son's behavior.

Welcome to the true reality of paranormal investigation and the very real part that scapeghosts play in the investigations.


  1. i believe things like this could account for many ghostly encounters now a days, people just can't confront their issues head-on

  2. Some people want attention no matter what it takes to get it. So many call up paranormal groups for help when the problem is so much more than a ghost haunting their home.

  3. In my research, I've encountered accounts that I attribute to this phenomenon. I like the Scapeghost term, too. :-D


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