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What is a haunting?


What does it really mean when a place is haunted?


A ghost can appear anywhere, but when it shows up repeatedly at one location, that place is said to be haunted.  Any place can be haunted:  fields, streets, even vehicles.  A place that a ghost visits regularly can be described as haunted, be it a doghouse, or a phone booth.  Even people can be haunted (see our page on Poltergeists)


The Three Basic Types of Hauntings


Intelligent or Traditional Hauntings:   This type of haunting is what most people think of when they hear the word ghost.  Unfortunately these types of hauntings are very rare.  An intelligent or traditional ghost is kind of like Casper in the sense that they interact with people.  The most common belief is that the ghost is connected to the site or people in some way.

 Some reasons the ghost may be tied to the site or people:

        Death was due to a traumatic event.

        Unfinished business.

        May not realize they are dead, due to dying suddenly.

        The living loved ones are so emotionally distraught they can’t let go.

        Emotionally connected to their loved ones.

        Injustice that was done to them.

        Fear of the other side or judgment

These ghosts are generally associated with physical activity like slamming, opening, closing, unlocking doors and windows, voices, and sounds.  A strong presence, a scent, or touch may be experienced.  People rarely see a manifestation of the ghost in the form of an apparition or mist.

Residual Haunting:  A residual haunt is believed to be activity of reoccurring or traumatic actions from past events that leave an imprint on the environment. 

This type is probably the most common type of haunting. Because its' characteristics are similar to the intelligent haunting, people often mistake it for an intelligent/traditional haunting.  Like intelligent haunts, some examples of activity are phantom footsteps, sounds, images, and scents. One major difference between this haunting and the intelligent/traditional haunting, is that this type of haunting is not considered to be that of a ghost, and there is no interaction with the living.   

It is believed that this activity is the dissipation of stored energy from the site. The theory is the energy is stored or absorbed by the site due to repetitive or traumatic events of the energy expended while performing such actions. Similar to a tape player, the energy is stored in the magnetic field of the environment. Over time the energy builds up and is discharged showing a replay of the event, and then the cycle starts again. Some suggest that atmospheric conditions such as storms may initiate the playback.  There is also a quantum physics theory that relates the energy as light particles that are dormant until they are stimulated by an outside variable under the proper conditions.  Researchers have observed that the energy tends to diminish over periods of time until eventually it is either exhausted, or the level is so low that it is not experienced again.  

Portal Hauntings:  Portals aren't really a new concept, as we've seen them in a lot of sci-fi flicks. But in the real world portal hauntings are considered controversial as there is little known and the idea is mostly theory or speculation. Portals are thought to be doorways to another world or dimension in which entities travel through.  It's speculated that portals are not limited to one location, region or limited to sacred ground. Typically places that experience a wide array of different types of anomalous activity such as glowing balls of light, odd creatures, strange shapes, or unexplained mists or fog, are suspected to have a portal in which these energies are traveling back and forth.


More In-Depth Definitions of Hauntings

Phantoms - These are ghosts which so closely resemble the living that they are often not realized as ghosts until they do something uncanny, like walk through a wall. 

Phantom Hitchhikers - According to many urban legends, these are ghosts who typically interact with the living in such a way that they ask for a ride, and before arriving at the destination, they mysteriously disappear. Usually occurs on the anniversary of their death.  

Phantom Travelers - Ghosts that are found along a certain route, usually as a result of a deadly accident . They can be riding horses, or prepared to board a train or plane. Most manifest on the anniversary of their death

Apparitions - Ghosts which are clearly such are known as apparitions. There are several different categories:

Atmospheric  - Also known as a residual or replay haunting, these are typically seen in only one location repeating a certain action again and again, usually something attached to a traumatic event. I discuss this more under Location Based.

Crisis or Deathbed - These appear to family or friends around the time of death. According to Trent Brandon: "They are very common ghost sightings, but almost never occur more than four days after death."

Family - Ghosts which are connected to a particular familiy, they often foretell death and disaster. 

Haunted Objects - Instead of haunting a location, a particular object is the anchor for a ghost. 

Object Apparitions - Manifestations of ghostly items which can be natural or manmade objects. 

Photographic - Ghosts that are not seen until after a photo is taken and examined. These MAY include orbs, mists, (ectoplasm) vortexes, shadows and other unusual light or optical effects. Many debate whether they are actually ghosts, spirits, or souls; personally I feel they are some kind of energetic or spiritual byproduct.  

Historical - These are like atmospheric except they have can be seen in more than one location going about their business. Non-interactive, so they would fall into Location Based. Typically dressed in period clothing and often appear solid. 

Recurring - Ghosts that appear on a certain time schedule or anniversary; usually annually.

Modern - As Historical, but they resemble more contemporary people.

Transportation - Also known as Phantom Craft under Location Based, they are often associated with the final moments of some tragic accident. The wreckage itself can attach energy in such a way as to become haunted. There are some kinds that are not necessarily relegated to one location, but can be seen anywhere that it would have normally been seen in pre-spirit existence. The Flying Dutchman is a famous example and is usually sighting one is a bad omen.

Marian - What some believe to be appearances of the Virgin Mary. This could also cover cameos by other saints or religious/spiritual figures.

Out of Body - The appearance of a living person who is actually in another location. They are not necessarily ill or dying, and can be either solid or translucent. Some claim to recall their OBE and can give verifiable details about the location they were seen. Probably related to Astral Projection.

Battlefield - Also known as floating battlefields, they resemble an actual reenactment of war, but for some reason, they typically occur above the ground. From several to a hundred feet up, in some cases.

Grey Ladies - The ghosts of women who died in sadness over love or betrayal. Can be white, grey or black.

Classic Haunting - Also known as a Entity Haunting, it is defined as an interactive ghost which does not fall into any special category such as those mentioned above. Can be a phantom, apparition, presence, or unexplained events which occur in a certain location.

Graveyard Spectres - Also known as shells or shades, these are believed to be the etheric remnants of a person after death. Commonly found in graveyards days or weeks after a burial, they are scary but not dangerous. Typically seen as dark, shadowy forms they usually do not communicate or talk. Legend has it that people were buried alive in new graveyards to create a guardian, known as an ankou. 

Etheric Revenant - A very rare, but dangerous undead creature that feeds upon energy from the living, it is the original vampire of legend. This is detailed more in John Greer's book "Monsters" described on my books to read page. 


copyright @ 2006 by AF