Categorizing Hauntings…

Recently, a conversation brought me to the topic of categorizing paranormal events, more specifically… hauntings. Many paranormal groups list these categories or “types of ghosts” on their webpages. Often they have their own slant to them, depending on their experience or beliefs. And I don’t pretend to be the wisest or most experienced investigator, but in my opinion, many of these definitions or explanations are sometimes just clearly wrong. I have to be honest though, I’ve considered adding such a glossary to my own group’s page several times before. 

Here are a few examples of these categories…

A Residual Haunting (a phrase that I believe was coined, or at least made popular, by Jason and Grant of T.A.P.S./Ghost Hunters), also sometimes referred to as an “imprint” haunting, is usually considered to be the energy of a spirit or even an event that plays over and over like a recording. It is usually predictable and there’s little chance of getting any kind of communication back from this type of phenomena. Some even believe that the makeup of certain environments or physical surroundings involved in one of these hauntings (such as water or limestone) could play an important role in the imprint. Actually, many old-school investigators consider the word “haunting” itself to be “residual”. 

An Intelligent Haunting is thought to be the actual spirit of a person who remains (maybe by choice, maybe not) on our side of the veil. You are more likely to strike up communication with one of these hauntings, since they are likely to be aware of your presence. I could be wrong, but I think most paranormal investigators get way more excited about this kind of haunting. One of the main reasons I am involved in the paranormal is to learn whatever I can from the other side, or from paranormal events in general. And who really wants to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back?

The categories I just mentioned are the two main categories that I’m likely to use in my investigations. I can really get behind these. But I think we in the paranormal field sometimes recklessly jump to categorizing things too far… either because it makes us sound educated on the topic, or because we’re just not sure.

This next one bugs me, mainly due to the stigma and history that comes with the name…

…which is Poltergeist. By simply using or saying this term you are likely to bring negative or concerning thoughts to someone looking for help or answers. As an entity, a poltergeist has traditionally been described as a noisy, sometimes disruptive, and sometimes destructive ghost.  But I think now days we use this term in reference to a “phenomenon” that isn’t really an entity or “ghost” at all.

Poltergeist activity is often reported to be caused by or have a connection with young adolescents, many times female. It’s also often reported in homes where tension and/or struggle is constantly present. So if we’re using the term “poltergeist” to refer to a ghost, then I don’t understand why. In my opinion, couldn’t any intelligent haunting make noise or move an object if they really wanted to? Maybe they all can’t, but some certainly have. And investigators have been capturing evidence of spirits making noise or moving things for years, such as communication via EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and even disembodied voices (voices that are heard live on site, without the aid of equipment).

If we’re using the term “poltergeist” to refer to the phenomenon that isn’t an entity at all, then in my opinion, we need to come up with a new term. Let’s call it something else. It’s not a ghost, so let’s stop confusing people.

Now to a few categories that just flat out get on my nerves…

Shadow People. Different groups or investigators describe these “ghosts” differently. Rather than being a full-blown apparition, or a see through vaporous apparition, these are usually described as solid and dark shadows. Sometimes they’re described as always short. Some people say that “shadow people” are “inhuman” entities (we’ll get to those later) or even “trickster” entities. My question is, how do we know so many details about a spirit or entity just by seeing the shadow? What if what you saw was just an average spirit and they were working really hard to present themselves physically to you and this was all he could muster today? Maybe yesterday he was a full-blown apparition? What makes us automatically know that an apparition that presents itself today as a shadow is “inhuman” or “trickster”? In my opinion, it’s just a spirit that happened to present itself to you as a shadow at the moment. And maybe you’ll learn more later… but until then, let’s not insult the spirit of Great Uncle Frank with calling him a “shadow person”. What’s that? Oh, the shadow was running from you and darting in and out of rooms? Oh… that’s probably because you were hunting him down with a laser grid.   

How about when an investigator tells a client that they’ve got an Inhuman Spirit in their home? Really? Explain, please. Is it E.T.? Is it a demon? And how did you come to this conclusion so quickly? Was it a dark shadow? Did it growl? Did it smell? Maybe it’s just the spirit of an old family pet? 

This list for me could go on and on. Negative Entities or sometimes even Demonic Entities, Gnomes, Fairies, Djinn (this one is really popular now), and one of my least favorite…. ORBS! (Don’t get me started.)

So anyway, here I am conflicted with categorizing the paranormal this week when I was asked a question by a friend. She asked “If a house is haunted and then you relocate said house, does the ghost move with the house or stay with the property?” And actually, it’s something I’ve pondered more than a few times. I immediately jumped into my explanation with… “Well… it depends on if it was a residual ghost or an intelligent ghost.” 🙂 

I guess categorizing is important… sometimes. But let’s be careful and think it through. 

About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit BigSeance.com! View all posts by Patrick Keller

19 responses to “Categorizing Hauntings…

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