What is a Ghost?
The general belief is that a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased being. The Oxford Dictionary defines a ghost as “an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image”.
In addition to images or apparitions of dead people, there have been reports of apparitions of animals and even inanimate objects. When most people hear the word ghost, this is what they think of, however, this is just one kind of ghost. There are in fact many different types of ghosts, and they appear in different places and often to different people. Here we will look at some of them.
There is one broad distinction between the groups of ghosts; those that were once human and those that have never been human. The majority of ghosts experienced are, thankfully, of the human variety and that is mostly to what this list will be referring. Some of these ghosts are visual echoes of times gone by, but others can be more interactive with the living.
There are many different definitions and names for what are effectively the same kinds of ghosts, so I have used the ones I believe are most appropriate for describing the characteristics of that particular type of ghost.
Here is a list of the different types of ghosts and how they can present themselves:
These are ghosts that show up on the anniversary of some event that they found important during their life, most commonly the date of their death, but not always so. It may be a certain time of the day or a specific event that causes them to appear.
This is a general term describing ghosts that we can see. Unlike Phantoms, apparitions are immediately recognisable as ghosts. They will take on the shape and form of the ghost, but usually not appear to be solid, so can seem to be transparent. Apparitions are not just limited to human forms, but most of the other types listed here could appear as an apparition. Their insubstantial forms do not seem to be any kind of hindrance to them interacting and even speaking to the living.
Cold Spots are commonly experienced in places where paranormal activity has been reported. The cold spot never has a natural cause, but instead is in a small localised area, sometimes column-like, and is usually around 10 degrees colder than the surrounding area. These cold spots can also move around. The theory is that a cold spot is a ghost that is trying to manifest and in the attempt to do so, it is drawing in energy from the surrounding area, thus making the temperature drop.
Entities are one of the least common types of ghosts and this is just as well as they are some of the most unpleasant. It is widely accepted that these energies were never human and they are also sometimes referred to as Demons. They can be attached to a building or a family and the reason for their presence is usually due to some dark practice which has called forth these beings. These types of ghosts can show incredible intelligence in that there is usually a deliberate element to their particular brand of menace. They thrive on negative emotions and can actually make any existing emotions like fear, anger or depression worse and wreak havoc in a household.
If you encounter an entity, especially while hunting ghosts, do not exhibit fear, but leave the area immediately as you do not want to have anything to do with such a being.
These are ghosts who like to make their presence known. They can sometimes be mistaken for Poltergeists, but that can usually be ruled out if there aren’t any intense emotional episodes within the family. If you’re on a ghost hunt, these are the types of ghosts you’d like to interact with as they will usually respond very well to questions and polite requests for evidence to show that they are present.
As the name suggests, these are ghosts that are connected to a family, perhaps of an ancestor. These ghosts usually appear at critical times to warn of an impending event or even a death. Sometimes people see their deceased loved ones before they die either to take them over to the other side or to tell them to return as it is not their time yet, as reported by those who have had near death experiences. Others learn of a loved one’s demise when that person appears before them to say a final farewell.
Sometimes a living relative or loved one can appear to us when they are in trouble, this is also known as a Crisis Apparition, but because that person is still alive, they’re not a real ghost, but most likely some kind of psychic projection.
There are also other ghosts which can be attached to a family, but these ghosts are usually not known to the living people they haunt. Their presence may even go largely unnoticed except for times when emotions run high. This is thought to be explained by the fact that these ghosts feed off the negative emotions and thus are more evident.
Ghost Orbs are the most photographed type of ghost on this list. Now it is true that the vast majority of orb like images that appear in photographs do have a rational explanation (dust, water, insects etc) but they can also appear on demand during a ghost hunt when the investigators are communicating with the ghosts. It is usually very simple to determine the cause of an orb by taking into account weather conditions, ensuring the camera has the correct settings and taking several pictures of the same spot. The image below was taken by a photographer (image credit) that does not believe in ghosts at Bodmin Jail in Cornwall, but despite his skepticism even he had to admit that he took two separate photographs in the same area and the orb did not move.
Ghost Orbs can be solid in nature, or partially transparent and some believe they are ghosts moving around in a state that requires the least amount of energy to manifest, while others believe these are not exactly ghosts, but a lower form that feeds on energy.
Phantom appears to be another word for ghosts, but I use the word Phantom here with connection to phenomenons like phantom hitchhikers and phantom travelers, which are the best examples of these types of ghosts. These ghosts can be mistaken as normal people, but then either their appearance changes radically or they disappear or turn into an apparition. Those stories you hear of drivers seeing and even stopping and talking to what they assume is another person by the side of the road, who later disappears or fades away before the driver’s eyes, are usually stories about phantoms. Their presence is also noted in places like railway stations and airports. They can almost always be connected to an accident or incident that resulted death.
This refers to the type of ghost that only shows up in a photograph or even a video. Usually, the person taking the photo or the other subjects in the photograph will state that they did not see anyone or anything there at the time, but there are random faces and images that appear when the photographs are later viewed.
Poltergeist are probably one of the most well known types of ghosts. They are usually believed to be capricious, or mischievous ghosts that cause a lot of physical disturbance at a location – we all remember the scene with the chairs in the movie! – and the manifestations usually involve objects moving or disappearing of their own accord, sometimes these can even be thrown at members of the household, and there can be electrical disturbances and even fires, as claimed by actress Elke Sommers after her much publicised escape from a fire in her home which was caused by poltergeists.
But is poltergeist activity caused by a real ghost or by a human? Some parapsychologists have linked a poltergeist manifestation to a member of the household who, due to some intensely emotional state is unknowingly causing the physical disturbances through psychokinesis. It used to be thought that this was almost always connected to a young teenager, but this is not always the case. Could it be that an actual ghost is drawn to the energy around such an intense person? That may be the case. What we do know is that highly charged and intense situations, like arguments or screaming and yelling, can see a rise in the physical activity. Whatever the case, poltergeist manifestations are usually short-lived and rarely last longer than a few weeks at a time.
Residual ghosts will never ever interact with you. In fact, they are a type of recording of an event in time and are just played over and over again. An example of this is a story I once read about a couple who were staying in a hotel only to see the apparition of a monk cross the room, accompanied by the strong smell of incense. What really alarmed them was that the monk’s ghost seemed to be sunk in the floor. They later found out that the hotel used to be a monk’s abbey, and at that time, the floor had been about a foot lower than it was at present.
Some people believe these are not real ghosts, but rather that something about that event has caused it to be photographed in time and to be repeated. Others feel there are real ghosts but they are somehow trapped and doomed to repeat the same act again and again. These kinds of ghosts can be found in historical locations and also in places where battles have been fought.
Some people may dispute the inclusion of Religious ghosts on this list, but I do believe it is still a type of ghost. This would relate to any kind of religious figure’s apparition that has been seen. This can be linked to a special place of worship, and in fact the appearance of the ghost may turn the site into a place of pilgrimage. But devotees may also see Religious ghosts in times of need, deep worship or for guidance and support.