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Navajo Yebichai (Yei Bi Chei) dancers. Edward S. Curtis. USA, 1900. The Welcome Collection, London

Can a Ghost Make You Ill? The Ghost Sickness Belief of the Native American Indians

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Ghost sickness is the belief that ghosts are able to cause a living person to fall ill. This particular term is used by the Native Americans, especially amongst the Navajo people. Nevertheless, this belief can also be found in other Native American cultures. Furthermore, this concept is found in other cultures of the world, though with certain slight variations. So how does a ghost make you sick, and why?

What Causes Ghost Sickness?

According to the Navajos, as well as certain other Native American cultures, ghost sickness is caused by a spirit of the dead attaching itself to a living person. This attachment causes harm to the living person, as the ghost drains his or her energy. The effects of this energy drainage manifest itself in certain symptoms, including:

  • weakness
  • a loss of appetite
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • fainting spells
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • nightmares

It is believed that ghost sickness can even result in death, as the soul of the affected person could be carried by the ghost into the realm of the dead.

One of the reasons why the Navajo believe ghost sickness occurs is because burial rituals were not conducted in the right way or by the right person. This could result in the deceased being stuck in the earth realm to torture the living. If this is believed to be the cause of ghost sickness, a Navajo spiritual leader must conduct a traditional ceremony to help the spirit enter the afterlife.

Navajo Hogan, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, USA

Navajo Hogan, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, USA (CC BY 2.0)

The Navajos also believe that ghost sickness is caused by a person communicating with the dead or by connecting the thoughts of a living person with those of the deceased by, for example, thinking about them too much. In a case mentioned by Putsch, for example, a Navajo woman develops nightmares about her father following his death from a ruptured appendix. The woman’s mother felt that her daughter was somehow connected with her husband’s death, and that she was plagued by the malignant influence of his spirit.

Several years later, the woman had a child, and it was after giving birth that she was stricken by ghost sickness. Some of the symptoms experienced by the woman included “irritability, decreased interest in daily activities, and inability to relate well to her husband”. The woman’s ghost sickness was treated using an approach that addressed both the traditional causes of the illness, as well as the biomedical ones she was facing.

Navajo Girl, Navajo Reservation, Window Rock, Arizona

Navajo Girl, Navajo Reservation, Window Rock, Arizona (CC BY 2.0)

A traditional Navajo ceremony was conducted to treat the nightmares, whilst diagnostic measures were taken to determine if her post-partum depression was caused by other endocrinological problems or not.

Apache tribes have also had a fear of ghost sickness. To prevent incidences, they would bury the dead quickly after they passed away, then burn all of the dead person’s home and belongings. After conducting a ritual for purification, the deceased’s family members would move to a new home and were discouraged from even mentioning the dead individual’s name. All of these actions were  believed to help them escape the spirit of the ghost.

A Chinese Ghost Treatment

Apart from Native Americans, other cultures also believe that illnesses may be caused by ghosts. In ancient China, for instance, illnesses were sometimes attributed to the influence of ghosts. This idea may still be seen in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine today, though with some modifications. In acupuncture, there are a set of special points known as Baxie, which may be translated as the ‘Eight Ghosts’ or, in modern texts, the ‘Eight Pathogens’.

The Ghost by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi The print depicts Mitokomon Mitsukuni-ko defeating a ghost in Yahata

The Ghost by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi The print depicts Mitokomon Mitsukuni-ko defeating a ghost in Yahata (Public Domain)

For the Chinese, illnesses may be attributed to the influence of ghosts if they are very serious, unusual, or cannot be treated by Western medicine. The Chinese believe that the main reason for ghosts to return to the realm of the living is that they had not received a proper burial. Nevertheless, these spirits may also return to seek vengeance, or to seek help in righting a wrong they had caused / had suffered.

Illnesses caused by ghosts may be physical or mental, though unexplainable by modern Western medicine, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, to treat these illnesses, other measures have to be taken, for instance, praying to a particular god, seeking the aid of a local healer, or appeasing the spirit.

Samoan Spirit Sickness

A form of ghost sickness can also be found in the beliefs of the Samoans. In this culture, ghosts are also thought to have the power to punish the living. Amongst the causes of a spirit’s displeasure is a living person still harboring hatred towards the dead person, or not showing proper respect to him or her.

Some common symptoms of a possessed person include spitting, grimacing, and bulging eyes. In some cases, the presumed possession has been diagnosed as ‘hysterical excitement’. To cure suspected possessions, Samoan folk medicine is often used, and involves removing the ghosts from a person’s body.

Top image: Navajo Yebichai (Yei Bi Chei) dancers. Edward S. Curtis. USA, 1900. The Welcome Collection, London. Source: Public Domain

By Wu Mingren

Updated on July 30, 2021.


Capps, C., 2012. The Navajo Ghost Sickness. [Online]
Available at:

Jaffee, L., 2015. A Short History of Ghosts in Chinese Medicine. [Online]
Available at:

Palmer, D. A., 2011. The Body: Health, Nation, and Transcendence. In: D. A. Palmer, G. Shive & P. L. Wickeri, eds. Chinese Religious Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 87-106.

Putsch, R. W., III, 1988. Ghost Illness: A Cross-Cultural Experience with the Expression of a Non-Western Tradition in Clinical Practice. [Online]
Available at:

Taylor, J., 2015. W3 Activity: Ghost sickness. [Online]
Available at:



I would like to add another perspective to consider as my wife Diana and have been doing spirit releasement work for approximately 25 years and we communicate quite regularly with those that have passed over as we conduct sessions for clients. We use the energy from a photograph to make contact with the client (distance doesn’t matter) and we ask the client’s Higher-self for permission to do the session requested.

We are all energy that is vibrating at a certain frequency and those that have passed over are also vibrating at a certain vibration. When the two different vibrations merge they become one or several, the host may not know they are there or when ‘others’ have joined them.

Being energy as everything, is energy, why would anyone think that these energies can’t intermix? We can walk through an energy field (radio waves, electrical power lines and etc.) depending on how strong they are and not be affected, however, over longer periods of exposure these electrical fields can have a detrimental effect. The same goes for the energy of dis-incarnate entities that join our energy field; over a period of time, they also can have a detrimental effect.

For whatever reason, they are there, some are trying to help in whatever way they can, others may want to complete unfinished business and others may think they need a body and just join one. Some are attracted to people because they were going through similar lesson as themselves and are looking to heal themselves through the host’s experiences. I facilitated many sessions where persons in the physical (with substance abuse problems) was being influenced by entities who also had similar problems; getting their ‘fix’ through their host. After dealing with the entities (through their releasement) and then change reasons for the host’s choices which lead them to avoid their created circumstances; (abuses) a healing began.

My wife and I were asked to do what we thought to be a 'house-clearing session' for a lady living approximately 4,000 miles away; as her husband committed suicide two weeks prior to us being asked to do the session and she wasn’t having any success in selling her home. We asked for a photograph of her husband and one of the house as (there had been three serious fires at house, the causes of which could not be explained and arson had been ruled out.) the house had actually been re-built on the same site where the original home to burn to the ground.

Because of the husband's suicide, I felt his spirit was still there and there had to be reasons for the fires. When I started to communicate with the husband, (through my wife Diana,) I was able to get him to view his body at death, where he was able to see those entities that had been influencing him; he then realized that his depression and suicidal thoughts were not his and eventually ‘They' had been influencing him to commit to suicide. This new realization released him from the guilt and remorse for his leaving through suicide, but he hadn't any no idea that by remaining close to his wife, his presence was having an impact on his wife... she was feeling guilty along with depression (as she was blaming herself for not having paid more attention to his depressed state of mind) she was inadvertently picking up his thoughts and emotions and taking them on as her own. I asked him to bring his wife up in front of him and communicate directly with her and express to her whatever he was unable to say before his death and to forgive himself. Shortly after that he was then able to cross-over.

It's interesting to note, when we began dealing with the house/property, we learnt that the original owner/entity apparently died in the original house and was angry that someone else had rebuilt on his property and moved there (this was his place and in his mind the property was still his) he said he was responsible for the fires. In helping him with a different perception of what he needed to understand about life after death, he willingly crossed over. The lady moved away after the place was sold within a month.



Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people. — Socrates

Greetings Frances,

Thank you for sharing your experiences and helping not just the 'others’ on the other-side, but also in telling your stories, it also helps people still living in this physical reality. Anger and wanting revenge is some of the emotions that keep those lost souls from moving on. When a person passes over, the only thing that changes for them is that they find themselves in a reality that isn’t visible to us but real for them; their mentality remains the same as it was prior to their death. They are ‘conscious’ of themselves, and it is their emotions/beliefs that keep them stuck from moving on. As we create our reality and circumstances in this physical reality through our emotions, ‘They’ (those who have passed over) also do exactly the same, only their expectations and creating what they can do happens immediately for them as they aren’t restricted with the element of 'Time' as time doesn't exist for them.

Not only can they manipulate/influence people and material objects in this reality, they also have another detrimental effect on people is this reality is and has not been considered factional, is that they can make people sick/ill. Whatever condition they died from is carried with them and can be picked up physically by living people as they start to have conditions/symptoms as those dis-incarnated souls. If the person starts to believe and accepts their new condition/symptoms as their own, this will start to manifest for them; because of their belief that it belongs to them. 

I have done hundreds of releasements and I have found that the entities aren't aware that they are affecting their loved ones as they stay close to them in the  physical... depression is one of the conditions which is easily acknowledged as it is very acceptable because of the loss of their loved on. Another thought to consider is how easily we accept conditions we call hereditary… my Father, Brother and my Grandfather all died with !!! I guess I’ll probably die of it also! Maybe the Grandfather, Father, and Brother are still around, passing on their conditions.

It isn't a good idea to welcome or allow spirits into our home or give them permission to stay... even family members or to think they are there to protect you… we are all made up of energy and those who have died are also enengy and so are the conditions/symptoms they died with are energy… we can preceive this energy, even if we aren't first aware of it; it’s when we become more aware of it when we start too accept it as our own. Another thought to consider… a migraine headache, Who's is it??? Yours or does it belong to someone who has suffered a head injury and is trying to get your attention and you are picking up their symptoms???

I'm only raising some questions to be considered and the sky isn't falling… Awareness is one step in our process of enlightenment and keeping a positive outlook and avoiding negativity helps raise our energy level so the lower energy vibration won't be able to affect us.

Frances, what you have done and are doing is very commendable and needed. Thank you. I'd like to share with you and everyone a simple meditation that can be practiced to strengthen your energy around your body to help keep the lower vibrations/energy out. I have a animated visualization on my webite that you can follow and it is at:

I also agree with you ‘Never ever think a ghost can't harm you and NEVER play with a Spirit Board.’






Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people. — Socrates

We had the spirit of an American Indian in our home for several years. He was extremely angry and would attack women each year but only in the Fall. He threw me to the ground three times on three different occasions, the last time he nearly shattered my knee. I also saw him separately attack two women in the same manner several streets away. I could always feel him and faintly see him; after he badly hurt me I told him I forgave him and asked what had happened, he showed me a group of people being murdered, several women were among them. I told him his family needed him and missed him, that I would do my best to help him go home if he would let me. I tried to create a white light for him to enter, it was difficult as he had been here a very long time. As I tried an Indian woman appeared wearing a long multicolored train, she looked at me curiously and said, "I will take him from here" and they left. I have helped a few others over the years and have been attacked a few times as well. Never ever think a ghost can't harm you and NEVER play with a Spirit Board.

Cousin_Jack's picture

Hi again Derek, I had a rough idea of the sacrifices involved in your line of duty, that and the peace you bring with your being, the least anyone could do is thank you. From the enlightening story you tell, death seems just as compicated as life, if only death were simpler. Take care mate.

In Anglia et Cornubia.

Greetings once again Cousin_Jack,

I appreciate your comments, As there are usually few and far between. :) A side effect that goes along with the work we do is, it's lonely and we have very few friends. I have my beautiful wife to put up with me and we’ve been doing this work for 25 years, The reason why we have few friends is simply because the entities on the 'other-side’ use their influence to keep those souls that need our help, away. Even our personal family have little contact… “They’ (entities) know what we do and they feel if we get involved, the presence will be discovered.

The other side effect is that we have plenty of company on the ‘other-side' so I guess you could say 'they' make up for our lack of friends in the physical. :) :) :) We look on our work with compassion and integrity… in approaching our work, I've found that if you go looking for a fight, you might get more than you bargained for.

I not sure how much I could post on here as far as length of postings; as I'd like to share a few heart warming stories from a few releasement sessions. I'll put one on and see it it will be accepted.

What kept you here?

Shortly after moving into an older home in Kimberly, British Columbia, Diana and I had just finished doing a spiritual releasement when immediately Diana began to feel a weakness in her hands like she couldn’t pick anything up, even being unable to hold her hands in the prayer position. Then she felt as though she received a big whack on them, to try and keep them down.

Derek: Focus on that feeling in your arms.
Di: It feels like I can’t use them, like they have been hit very hard. You can move them or pick anything up. It’s like the nerves going to the fingers are totally on edge. I have the feeling that it wasn’t the prayer position, I think this one always had their hands in their mouth or doing something with the face, possibly drooling, that sort of thing. This person had diminished mental abilities and the person who was in charge would hit the hands to try and stop the person from putting them up to the face. They thought it was causing the extra salivation. The condition was a light form of mongolism; I think they call it Down syndrome now.
Derek: As you are aware of these symptoms and are aware of the presence of that energy, if it had a name, what would it be?
Di: It’s feels like a male energy but I’m getting Monique.

Derek: Is Monique, your name?
Di: Yes. It’s been awhile since she has been able to communicate with anyone.
Derek: Greetings Monique, were you here before we moved into this house?
Di: Yes. It is hard for her to talk normally as she hasn’t been able to communicate properly.
Derek: Monique, I want you to use just your thoughts to communicate with us, ok? You only need to think of what you want to say, without using your voice; see if that will help you.
Di: She tried to do that with people before, but it was only children she could do it with.
Derek: We understand, try it with us and see if it will work.
Di: She can, it’s nicer than speaking with her voice.

Derek: I bet you can communicate in pictures also.
Di: Yes, sometimes, I tried to talk, it was expected by; if you want to call them my keepers.
Derek: Guardians.
Di: They weren’t the guardians they were supposed to be.
Derek: They were dealing with their problems too.
Di: They were trying to get her to vocalize, make some sounds to express herself.
Derek: Quite often people become very uncomfortable when they see something they perceive as wrong with a person and try help them become more like them (normal.) It is their own fears that may be bothering them.
Di: They didn’t like the silence because they didn’t understand in that silence you can communicate as well as talking out loud. I’m getting, they didn’t have the understanding. They were cruel, but, they felt that was the way you’d train a dog or a bear, by hitting them to get them to do what you wanted, and they felt they could do that with me also. There’s a hurting on the back of the head here, trying to get it through her thick skull, was the expression used a lot.

Derek: You know, you are a very special soul to choose such an experience to assist those people understand.
Di: I don’t feel so special. I feel like I was rather an animal as other people viewed me. I wanted them to see me, but they never saw me, they never saw that I had a heart, which could be broken in two.

Derek: Tell me something, when you were quiet and alone, were you aware of any company you might have had?
Di: I was aware of something, but I thought it was my imagination, my wishing. It was as if, like my experience of being in the womb, there is a light on the outer perimeter, one cannot really see it. It was that type of indicating that something was not light, but the light came in, it was there. When you mentioned about locating the inner light (done in the prior session,) I felt you were wrong because the light was outside not inside.
Derek: And how do you feel now?
Di: I know now, that the light is inside also. I also know now, being in your presence, that I was not to know more than I knew; otherwise I would not have remained in the experience as long as I did.
Derek: After you left that experience, how did you feel about it?
Di: I didn’t feel the pain anymore.

Derek: What kept you here, you didn’t go on, and do you know why you stayed here.
Di: One of the emotions I had was anger, when you beat on a dog, it will finally turn upon the beater and I turned upon those that had beaten me so often.
Derek: How do you feel now?
Di: It was merely a response and it was bringing about an end that had to come about. Not only for me, for my keepers to realize what they were doing, but also their own weaknesses and short comings.
Derek: How do you feel about yourself now and what you have done?
Di: It was not bad and it was not good. It was an action to take me out of the misery that I was in; I couldn’t take any more of it. Like the dog beaten, finally turning on its attacker.
Derek: With this new understanding, do you forgive those who were doing this?
Di: Yes.

Derek: And now that light that was off in the distance, I’m going to ask for someone very special to come and assist you home now...
Di: There is a form of an elderly figure came... she was there when I was born and she’s here to help me return home. Perhaps my keepers tried to show me that I didn’t understand, they tried to teach me about the light of God. But, in that experience my understanding was limited.
Derek: And now, step into the light with the lady that came for you.


Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people. — Socrates


dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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