Ghosts are busting out all over Britain, according to a survey which shows record-breaking rates of spooky experiences.
Research by leading psychologist and paranormal investigator Professor Richard Wiseman reveals that a quarter of British adults - more than 11million people - claim to have experienced a ghost.
In the 1950s, the figure was just 7 per cent, rising to 14 per cent in the 1990s and 19 per cent 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.
'All these shows are feeding off the perception that these things actually exist and not looking at the psychological perspective.'
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 per cent 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.
'It may be linked to population density or cultural history, but I can't explain why there are such marked differences,' said Prof Wiseman, who writes about ghosts in his latest book, Paranormality.
Far more women than men - 31 per cent compared with 18 per cent - claim to have experienced a ghost, the survey showed.
Prof Wiseman has investigated some of the most haunted places in the UK, including Hampton Court Palace and Edinburgh's underground vaults. In 2009 he led an international project to examine the world's best ghost photos.
In Paranormality, he argues that ghostly experiences are caused by a variety of factors, including suggestion, light effects, low-frequency sound, waking dreams, and anxiety.
A key effect is the state of 'hypervigilance' felt by people who visit known haunted locations, he said.
'You're listening out for sounds that might be a threat, and you don't realise you're doing it, but when you do hear something like a creak or a bump you get even more vigilant,' said Prof Wiseman.
'The whole thing feeds on itself and you can actually end up with people suffering panic attacks, which I've encountered in my research on ghosts. People can literally scare themselves silly.'
He added: 'I am extremely sceptical about the existence of ghosts. However, this survey demonstrates that, despite huge advances in science and technology, many people still have a deep-seated need to believe the impossible.
'That's why these odd experiences yield a fascinating insight into our brains and behaviour.
Source: Daily Mail UK