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Halloween costume or not? Some in U.S. say they have seen ghosts.

Halloween costume or not? Some in U.S. say they have seen ghosts.
These ghosts are primed and ready to provide a ghoulish Halloween on at a Pennsylvania home. A survey shows that some Americans believe in ghosts. (Clem Murray / AP)

Ghosts: the stuff of scary Halloween stories and costumes? Not all Americans think so.

Nearly one in five Americans said they have seen or been around a ghost, the Pew Research Center found in a survey four years ago. That's twice as many as in earlier polls by Gallup, which found only 9% of Americans thought they had encountered a ghost in 1990 and 1996.

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Even more Americans -- 29% -- told Pew they felt they had been in touch with someone who had died, the 2009 poll found. Those numbers were also up from earlier Gallup polls.

So just what kind of folks think they have encountered a ghost?

People who never went to college are more likely to say they have had a ghostly encounter than college graduates, Pew found. Liberals and moderates are more likely to say they have run across a ghost than conservatives.

And people who only go to religious services once a month -- or less frequently -- are twice as likely to say they've seen or been around ghosts than people who worship at least once a week, the survey showed.

The survey also reported:

"In total, upwards of six-in-ten adults (65%) express belief in or report having experience with at least one of these diverse supernatural phenomena (belief in reincarnation, belief in spiritual energy located in physical things, belief in yoga as spiritual practice, belief in the "evil eye," belief in astrology, having been in touch with the dead, consulting a psychic, or experiencing a ghostly encounter)."

The Pew survey included a national sample of more than 4,000 adults interviewed on landline telephones and cell phones in August 2009.

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