Photo of a 'Ghost' at a Car Accident Illustrates Something About Americans

July 15th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Look closely at this photo of a deadly car crash in Kentucky. Do you see something above the police officer's head?

"Ghost" photo taken at a car accident in Kentucky.

Facebook user Saul Vazquez posted this picture of a highway car crash in Powell County, Kentucky, according to Fox affiliate KCPQ. Vazquez directed his Facebook followers to the shadowy figure above the accident. ATTN: has not been able to verify the authenticity of this photo.

Most of the comments said the shadowy figure is a ghost. And since he posted the image, it's been shared more than 14,000 times.

"Ghost" picture at a car accident in Kentucky.

"Ghost" picture at a Kentucky car accident.

"Ghost" picture at a Kentucky car accident.

While some people are skeptical, the belief in ghosts and the great beyond is fairly common.

A Pew Research Center survey from 2009 says 18 percent of Americans believe they have seen a ghost at some point in their lives. And although the way Americans view organized religion is changing, a 2014 CBS poll said that 66 percent of Americans believe in both heaven and hell.

As UC Berkeley sociology professor Claude Fischer wrote in a 2013 university blog post, the U.S. is still a "magical nation" and belief in ghosts has risen over time.

"Lest you think this is all just a vestige of an older, passing, superstitious age: Belief in ghosts has soared in recent decades, from one in ten Americans to one in three. Moreover, young Americans are about twice as likely as old Americans to say they have consulted psychics, believe in ghosts, and believe in haunted houses. (Oh, and political liberals are more likely than conservatives to endorse these beliefs.)"

Although a significant number of Americans believe in ghosts or spiritual afterlife, belief in religion has declined.

Of the same group in the CBS poll who believe in heaven and hell, 36 percent do not have a religion. Young Americans are much less likely than older generations to be religious. About 35 percent of millennials claim no religious affiliation ("nones"), according to a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center.

One thing that could explain a significant belief in the supernatural but a decline in religion is that young people still think about the spiritual "big questions," but not necessarily in a church, temple, or mosque. Pew Research Center said that about 46 percent of millennials "feel a deep sense of wonder" about the universe at least once a week, and that 67 percent believe in heaven.

Researchers say that ghosts are probably a trick by your brain.

Scientists in Switzerland conducted an experiment that showed people can feel like there is a "presence" when their brain signals are confused, according to The Guardian. Researchers purposely mixed up the brain signals of people using a robot and a blindfold.

The blindfolded participants controlled one robot in front of them while a second robot mirrored the touch behind them. At first it happened simultaneously, but then the researchers delayed the robot behind the participants. Although still blindfolded, they suddenly felt like they were being watched and drifting backward. Some participants became upset and asked to stop.

“It shows that it can arise under normal conditions, simply through conflicting sensory-motor signals," professor Olaf Blanke, from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland told The Guardian.

But some researchers aren't so sure paranormal events are abnormal.

After eight years and 1,000 participants, respected Cornell University professor of psychology Daryl Bem completed a controversial study suggesting human beings have at least some ability to predict the future. The study was published by the American Psychology Association in 2011.

"Of the various forms of ESP or psi, as we call it, precognition has always most intrigued me because it's the most magical," said Bem to the Cornell Chronicle in 2010. "It most violates our notion of how the physical world works. The phenomena of modern quantum physics are just as mind-boggling, but they are so technical that most non-physicists don't know about them."

RELATED: Report: Millennial Views of Religious Institutions Dips Even More