What is a ghost?
A ghost, also called a spirit or apparition by some, is widely thought to be a collection of energy, or the soul or personality of a person who has passed away, yet become caught between the earthly plane and the afterlife. Oftentimes, these “people”, who most researchers believe do not know they are dead, have passed as a result of some intense or emotional trauma, such as during a murder, suicide, or tragic accident.
Do ghosts really exist? Are there different types of ghosts?
Obviously, we believe that there are things in existence that cannot be explained by conventional methods. Whether or not ghosts exist is a personal decision, but since you’re reading this, let’s assume they do, in which case, most will fit neatly into one of three major categories: classic, residual, or etheric.
Classic ghosts, also known as intelligent or active ghosts, are those that involve a sentient or intelligent being. These entities are the ones that are known to communicate or interact in some way with the living world. They may appear as a deceased friend or family member. This type of ghost can stay with a particular family or at a specific location for generations. Some family ghosts have been known to appear before a death or disaster. Another type of intelligent ghost is the crisis or deathbed ghost. These beings usually appear to the family or friends at the time of death, but usually cease appearing within a few days of death. Gray ladies are yet another type of intelligent ghost. These are the spirits of women who passed away from the intense sadness over a lost or unrequited love or betrayal.
Residual entities, also known as imprints or playbacks, aren’t really ghosts at all, but hauntings, which we’ll cover more in-depth later. These are recordings of some event that replays itself over and over in a particular location, and quite frequently the event was highly emotional or traumatic. Probably the most well-known residual ghost is the battlefield ghost. These will appear as battlefield reenactments. The most common theory is that the event was “burned” into the electromagnetic field of that particular location much like data is recorded magnetically onto a tape.
Etheric or revenant ghosts are very rare, but also very dangerous. They are not spirits or ghosts, but undead entities that feed off of the energy of the living much like the vampires of old. Depending on one’s spiritual beliefs, these creatures may be referred to as demons. These beings are usually seen or felt as physical darkness (black fog, black shadows, black mist) or voids. They are deceptive. In their need for energy, they might lead a victim astray causing them to become lost or panic. Their purpose is to cause chaos and upheaval. They might also leave their victims dark, brooding or even evil as they feed from their energy. If you suspect one of these, it is strongly recommended that you consult a clergy person, priest or other spiritual advisor.
Are there animal ghosts?
Absolutely! An animal’s attachment to its owner does not necessarily stop just because it has died, so it comes as no surprise to hear that one has stopped in to say hello. There are numerous tales of favorite pets being seen, felt or heard after their passing. The typical behavior of an animal spirit mimics its behavior in life. It might curl up at the foot of the bed or cozy up in front of the fireplace or assume whatever habits the animal displayed in life.
Can spirits or ghosts cause me harm or injury?
If you believe in the Hollywood version, the answer is yes. But evil spirits that harm those around them are what sells books and movie tickets. Real-life hauntings and ghosts aren’t nearly as interesting as the fictional type. It is our belief that the majority of paranormal activity is harmless. Sure, an entity can be annoying, mischievous, or playful, but not usually harmful, certainly no more than it was in life. Now if that person was evil in life, its spirit could certainly be negative and inspire negative emotions or feelings, such as the feeling of nausea or intense fear, but because it cannot manifest physically, it also cannot cause serious physical injury. The exception to this rule would be etheric entities (see Do ghosts really exist? Are there different types of ghosts?).
I think I'm being haunted. What do I do?
First of all, don’t panic. True hauntings are rare. In most cases, there is a common and non-paranormal explanation for whatever is going on. Keep a detailed log of all suspected paranormal activity including:
• Date and time
• Weather conditions
• Exact location (kitchen, garden, the back deck, etc.)
• Who was present
• Exactly what happened
• Any other details, even the most seemingly insignificant
Next, contact a paranormal investigator or team of investigators. Ask for the following information:
• How long have they been investigating paranormal incidents?
• How many investigators are in the group, and for how long have they been there?
• What training or experience do they have?
• Are they scientifically or spiritually based?
• What conditions must be present for them to investigate (no pets, owners present, which days, overnight required, etc.)?
• Will they furnish a written report of their findings?
• Is there a fee? Reputable investigators will never charge a fee, but may ask for donations to cover expenses such as travel. Of if the entity is causing you no stress or harm, sit back and enjoy your time together.
I've heard a lot about orbs. What are they? Are they ghosts?
Orbs appear as round, usually semi-transparent, balls of light. Some believe them to be spirits of the dead, but most are actually digital flaws that appear as a result of low-light, atmospheric conditions such as rain, distant street or building lights (in outdoor photos), flash reflection, or even insects. Of those not attributed to some other condition, most investigators believe them to be nothing more than a collection of energy rather than spirits.
What is an EVP?
An EVP, or electronic voice phenomena, is an unexplainable event in which human voices from an unidentifiable source are heard on a recording of some sort. They are heard only when the recording is played back, not at the time of the recording. Some are easily understood while others require noise filtering or amplification to actually hear the voices. Normally, they are single words or short phrases. Other times, they are nothing more than grunts, groans, or growls. Some EVPs have even been taped as speaking backwards or in another tongue.
What are those white, curved streaks that keep showing up in my photographs? Are they ghosts?
Those white, curved streaks are known as vortexes. The majority of vortexes are nothing more than the accidental capture of the photographer’s camera strap or swirling smoke from nearby cigarettes.
What is matrixing?
Remember back when you were a kid and saw shapes in the clouds? That is matrixing. Simply put, it's when the brain recognizes patterns, shapes, or objects, where none really exist. It's a biological reaction from way back at the beginning of time when ancient people had to recognize any posible predators that may have been camouflaged by their surroundings. As matrixing pertains to the paranormal, it is very likely to occur in photographs where large areas of similar color or pattern (like wallpaper) appear, such as grass, trees, dirt, and even fire.
What are the signs of a true haunting?
Although any of the senses can be affected by a haunting, the first sign is usually unexplainable noises or sounds (footsteps, music or voices, scraping, banging or rapping, or crashes). Paranormal activity might also be accompanied by unexplained smells from malodorous to sweet (flowers, cigars or cigarettes, perfume or cologne, even excrement). Another sign of an active haunting is wind from an unknown source, cold spots, or the feeling of being touched. One might also experience unpleasant physical symptoms such as headaches, high amounts of static electricity in certain areas, or nausea. Other physical manifestations include door and furniture movement, switches being turned on or off, or random objects becoming lost or suddenly appearing. Naturally, the most convincing sign of a haunting is the visual manifestation of a spirit. However, this type of evidence is also the most rare.
So there are different types of ghosts. Are there also different types of a haunting?
In a word, yes. True hauntings come in several types: active, residual or imprint, etheric, doppelganger, or poltergeist. They can occur individually, or in any combination.
Active hauntings are the traditional type that will include an active spirit or entity. A particular type of active haunting is known as the graveyard specter. They are commonly found in graveyards for days or weeks after a burial. They are frightening to view, but not dangerous. Legend says that these were people who were buried alive in order to create guardians. Think of the old pirate stories that tell of the Captain burying a living crewman with the treasure to keep treasure hunters from finding his hoard.
Residual hauntings are recordings of some past event that replays itself over and over in a particular location, and quite frequently the event was highly emotional or traumatic. Probably the most well-known type of residual haunting is the battlefield reenactment. A commonly accepted theory is that the event was “burned” into the electromagnetic field of that particular location much like data is recorded magnetically onto a tape.
Etheric hauntings involve some shapeless mass that usually appears as a dark shadowy figure that may or may not take on a humanoid shape and are usually seen in the viewer’s peripheral vision. These hauntings usually leave those who encounter them with a feeling of dread or sadness.
Doppelganger hauntings are extremely rare and are viewed as harbingers of doom. They are considered by many to be the “evil twin” or omen of death. An example of this would be seeing an image of oneself in a crowd staring back and soon after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. In most cases, the victim of this type of haunting is in some sort of grave danger from his or her immediate surroundings.
Poltergeist hauntings are not believed to be hauntings at all, but rather telekinetic activity that originates from human activity, hence the name which translates from German to noisy ghost. It is thought to be caused by the projection of energy most often seen in pubescent girls. Girls at this stage of physical development have extreme amounts of inner energy which may be projected outward by the mind and thus causing objects to move, strange noises, or flickering lights. This would also explain why this activity seems to follow a particular person or family before finally ceasing.
Are there particular times when hauntings are most likely to occur? Do they always happen at night?
There are two specific days during the year when those of certain spiritual beliefs believe the veils between the physical plane and the spiritual one to be very thin. Those are the spring and fall equinoxes (spring equinox is known to many as Beltane, and fall equinox occurring at Halloween, or Samhain), along with a certain Victorian Christmas tale about one Ebenezer Scrooge and several ghosts. These are in large, what gave rise to the popular (and modern) misconception that spirits are most active on during Halloween and Christmas. And while it is true that more spiritual activity is noticed during the equinoxes, the myth of Christmas ghosts is just that...a myth.
Spirits are active at any time, day or night, but most activity is not noticed until the darkest hours of the night. But this is easily explained by surrounding conditions including the quiet (things are heard more readily), the darkness (manifesting spirits are more visible), and available energy (spirits need this to manifest…less human activity means more energy for those beings to draw upon). However, oftentimes families will receive visits from deceased friends or family members shortly after a death. These may be frequent (not-to-mention unnerving) at first, but then usually taper off to seldom or completely stop after a few weeks.
Can a ghost be removed from an area?
It can, but that may not be necessary. It’s more important to recognize and understand why it’s there to begin with. Many times, these entities simply want recognition. They want everyone around them to know that they are still there before they will move on. In other cases, the spirit may not understand that it has passed away on the physical plane. In this instance, you may need to explain to your entity that he or she has died and that it’s time to move on to the next plane of existence. Still other times, it likely knows that it has passed, but has some message to deliver before it can move on. Once that message has been delivered they are often happy to go without being forced.
If you must be rid of your ghost, the best way to accomplish this is to simply ask it to leave. Let this entity know that you are bothered by its presence, that this is now YOUR home, and it’s time for it to move on.
There are also things you should NOT do when trying to rid your home of a spirit.
Do not yell or direct anger at the entity. If this spirit simply wanted recognition but still refused to move on when you gave it, simply ignore it. Stop feeding it the recognition that it craves. Do not show fear. All of these things provide spirits with the energy they need to exist. Do not use tarot cards, hold séances, or use Ouija boards or other “supernatural” means to be rid of a spirit or entity. These items, rather than getting rid of a spirit, are known to actually open portals that invite malevolent or other unwanted entities.
There are certain cleansing ceremonies that can be performed in order to purify locations and remove negative energies. However, unless you are well-versed and experienced in the mystical arts, do not attempt to use these means on your own. Witchcraft, herbs, spells, and incantations are best left to experienced practitioners as they can easily backfire with even worse results than simply leaving the spirit alone.
Can a spirit follow someone from one location to another?
Some spirits are tied to a specific location and cannot move. But by and large, spirits have the ability to attach themselves to anything they feel like, be it a particular person, a family, or even an inanimate object. So yes, while it’s not the norm, spirits can move with you.
Why can’t I see or feel an entity, but my friends or family members do?
Ghosts, entities, spirits…whatever you want to call them…reveal themselves to the living for different reasons that we can only guess at. Some people are just more receptive to the supernatural and are often called 'sensitives' or even psychics…in essence, ghost magnets. Maybe you carry with you a bit of skepticism that prevents your seeing spirits. Sometimes a spirit doesn’t understand what’s happening. They are confused, so they go to the one who they feel can clarify what’s going on for them. Sometimes, a particular spirit has a message to deliver, whether it’s to the person it reveals itself to, or whether that person is just in a better position to understand and deliver the message to correct person. And once that message is delivered, the spirit stops appearing and moves on. Still other spirits are there to warn us of dangers, guardian angels if you will.
How does an investigation work?
Every team will have their own ways of doing things, but the average investigation goes something like this:
• Decide on a location
• Research the location
• Interview witnesses
• The report
Once you’ve selected a place to investigate, the first step to every successful investigation is thorough research. A good investigative team learns as much as possible about the history of the locale. Who lived (or died) there? What was the area used for? Are there cemeteries or burial grounds nearby (including Native American)? Was the location or surrounding area ever used for activities commonly associated with hauntings? Uses would include such things as a prison, a battlefield, anywhere where people died under tragic circumstances (murder suicide, execution, war, accidents, etc.), and others.
When you have as much information about the place as you can find, interview people who have ties to the place. They would include employees, residents, guests, neighbors, or anyone else who may have experienced firsthand any sort of paranormal activity there.
Okay, so you’ve done your research and conducted interviews. Next comes the preparation. If possible, visit the location during daylight hours to get the “lay of the land” so-to-speak. Layout is especially important. This tells you where any landmarks are located, location of furnishings, doors, windows, footpaths, or other obstacles or potential problems. Another step to preparing for the investigation is base line testing. Gather information on natural EMF sources, air drafts, temperatures, creaky floorboards or doors, loose stairs, light anomalies, or anything that might be mistaken for activity…you get the idea. This is where any stationary equipment will be set up for capturing those things that go bump in the night.
Next comes the full-team investigation. Here is where the investigative team will come in with any additional specialized equipment designed to capture any evidence of paranormal activity such as individual cameras, tape recorders, EMF meters, and a few other things. Investigators are most likely to pair off and spread out over the entire location, especially in terms of buildings, or divide the area into sectors to investigate over a period of days, such as with landscapes, large tracts (such as very large cemeteries, Indian reservations, or battlefields), cityscapes (like old ghost towns, or abandoned cities or towns), etc.
After all is said and done, it’s time to analyze the evidence. This is likely to be the most boring and time-consuming (and quite possibly boring) part of an investigation. Every single second of recordings, along with every photograph, every second of video and whatever other readings were taken must be analyzed and reanalyzed with a fine-toothed comb for accuracy and/or inconsistencies, and of course, true paranormal activity. And oftentimes, the evidence will be looked at by several investigators as a sort of safety measure. That way the team can be sure that what they’ve seen or heard really is (or isn’t) paranormal activity.
Finally, the report. As with analysis, every investigative team will have their own ways of doing things. Some will include a written report of their findings and others will stop with just a verbal rendition.
What type of equipment do you use?
If you bought every item marketed for ghost hunting, you could easily fill up a moving van, so we’re just going to talk about the basics.
*Cameras – 35 mm and digital cameras are quite useful, and if you have both, it’s a good idea to use them both. Sure real film must be developed, but digital images are more likely to contain areas of matrixing.
*Video Recorders – As with cameras, use both regular and digital if you have them available, and use brand new tapes. Do not make the mistake of taping over something on an old tape.
*Tripods – An easily overlooked piece of equipment which will leave your hands free to work with other equipment, take notes, or even work in an entirely different area, so don’t forget them!
*Sound Recorders – A good tape recorder and/or digital voice recorder should be in use throughout the entire investigation. If there are multiple areas, use multiple recorders. And again, use brand new tapes.
*EMF Detector – One of the staples of all ghost hunting kits, an EMF detector will pick up changes in electromagnetic frequency.
*Thermometers – Used to detect changes in temperature.
*Record-Keeping Supplies – Journals, notebooks, pens, pencils…you get the picture…for recording observations while “in the field”.
*Communication Devices – Walkie talkies are commonly used, but if you can get headset communicators, you’ll leave your hands free to do other things.
*Flashlights – Hey, you gotta be able to see where you’re going.
And a few more that are not exactly necessary, but good to have, and even more fun to play with:
*Night Vision Equipment – Scopes, goggles, binoculars…all are quite useful for seeing in the dark, especially in places where bright flashlights or floodlights might hamper an investigation more than help it.
*Infrared Thermal Scanners & Heat Detectors – Great for instantly picking up cold or hot spots, but they can be quite pricey.
*Air Ion Counter – Works kinda like an EMF detector by measuring the positive to negative ions in the surrounding air.
*Spot Lights – Great for seeing when setting up or taking down equipment in the dark. Also a good measure for lighting up difficult or uneven terrain.
*Compass – Hey, not only is this little gadget great for picking up changes in the electromagnetic field, but it gets you where you need to go. And go for the Boy Scout model. Paranormal activity has been known to cause electronic compasses to fail or malfunction.
*Ghost Catcher – Basically a wind chime, and certainly unnecessary. The idea is that ghosts will pass by and set the chimes off. For obvious reasons, this should not be used outdoors or in areas where the likelihood of breezes is high.
What is an EMF detector, and what is it used for?
An EMF (electromagnetic field) meter, or detector, is an instrument used for measuring changes, discrepancies, or fluctuations in the electromagnetic field of an area. Because electromagnetic fields are generated by a number of sources, there are a couple different ways of measuring them. Standard meters measure fields generated by AC currents, which are those currents generated by man-made devices (such as appliances). Gauss meters measure DC fields, which occur naturally in the Earth’s geomagnetic field or are emitted by other sources of direct current (such as batteries).
All this scientific hooha boils down to this. Whenever paranormal activity is present, changes will likely be observed in the area’s electromagnetic frequency. The opposite is also true. Changes in frequency caused by everyday items (like the toaster or even faulty wiring) might also be responsible for causing one to believe that ghosts are present in an area where there really are none, which is one reason for base-line testing at the beginning of an investigation.
Do you use psychics, séances, or Ouija boards on your investigations? And do they really work?
We prefer to employ a more scientific means of investigation. While we do believe in the power of psychic ability, it cannot be measured or proven. However, some of our own team members have displayed a certain amount of psychic ability (hunches, gut feelings, etc.), which we do use on occasion to point us in the right direction where we then use equipment to take scientific readings and measurements.
Séances are nice parlor tricks that have so often throughout history been proven to be nothing more than stage magic led by fraudulent mediums and meant to take advantage of those who are grieving. We do not use them on our investigations.
Ouija boards are never used on our investigations. We are of the belief that such devices have the potential to open portals that invite malevolent beings or undesirable activity that was not present before their use.
Will you remove whatever entity I have?
No, we do not remove entities, and unless it is truly bothersome for you, we recommend that you do not try to remove it either. However, if you must be rid of your ghost, the best way to accomplish this is to simply ask it to leave. Let this entity know that you are bothered by its presence, that this is now YOUR home, and it’s time for it to move on.
Do not yell or direct anger at the entity. It likely wants recognition so just ignore it. Do not show fear. All of these things provide spirits with the energy they need to exist. Do not use tarot cards, hold séances, or use Ouija boards or other “supernatural” means to be rid of a spirit or entity. These items, rather than getting rid of a spirit, may actually accomplish the opposite by opening portals that invite in malevolent or other unwanted entities.
There are certain cleansing ceremonies that can be performed in order to purify locations and remove negative energies. However, unless you are well-versed and experienced in the mystical arts, do not attempt to use these means on your own. W
itchcraft, herbs, spells, and incantations are best left to experienced practitioners as they can easily backfire with even worse results than simply leaving the spirit alone. In fact, if simply asking the spirit to leave does not work, we recommend that you contact a clergy person to perform a cleansing ritual. They are usually happy to do so free of charge with a small donation to their house of worship.
What happens at the end of an investigation?
At the end of an investigation, all data is studied for evidence and/or discrepancies. The investigative team will then write a report of their findings and recommendations and present that to whomever requested the investigation. Then it’s on to the next investigation.
Frequently Asked Questions