Ghosts, Haunting, and Legends
Home Archives What are Ghosts?

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Have you done an internet search on what exactly a ghost is? If you are in the paranormal field, I imagine the answer is no. I have been in the field for nearly twenty years, and I hadn’t done it until recently. I have to admit, I was surprised by what I found.

Growing up in a small town in Missouri, I used to love to listen to ghost stories. Sitting on our front porch in the evening, the adults would often speak of strange happenings around town or from their past. Most were stories heard from so-and-so, who heard it from so-and-so, who heard it from someone who had been there. I always enjoyed these stories and the scared, tingling sensation they’d give me. But I never thought they were much more than tall tales the adults used to scare the kids before bed. I never gave much thought to what ghosts were because I didn’t believe I them. But those who did, or at least those who told the stories, always said that ghosts were the spirits of people who had died but hadn’t yet moved on to the “other side.” As a God-fearing southern boy, that seemed like the most reasonable explanation, if ghosts were real.

Fast forward nearly half a century and I have just come to realize that this is no longer the most accepted definition of a ghost. My internet search revealed just how much the fields of science and the paranormal have crossed, and I think it’s great. However, I also think the new three-part definition of ghosts takes all the spirituality, all the heart out of the paranormal field. I say that because it doesn’t leave a lot of room for “spirits.”

The new definition says there are 1) residual hauntings (essentially a broken record playing the same thing over and over); 2)intelligent/active hauntings (energy left behind by a living person that has basic communication skills, but no soul); and 3) poltergeists (a dark entity that causes problems for the living, and the only part of the definition that leaves room for some sort of soul). No part of this definition acknowledges something that I have found to be a fact: ghosts are people.

A lot has happened since those days sitting on the porch and telling stories. For one, I not only believe in ghosts now, but I know they exist. In the early 1990s I had an accident at work which left me with some unique and initially scary abilities. Among those, I can see and speak to spirits who are trapped on earth. Through my experiences with this ability, I have come to find that the old definition of a ghost is still pretty accurate.

The new definition of ghosts usually begins with “residual haunting.” This is the idea that traumatic or powerful events that happen in our realm leave a mark that replays itself throughout time. These marks can be visual, auditory, or extra sensory. All I can say to this is I’ve never experienced such a thing, though I have come close.

People are creatures of habit. That doesn’t change when we die. I have encountered many spirits who were so oblivious to their own death that they continued to do, day in and day out, what they did when they were alive. These were all people whose habits and routines were obsessive and exact in life. I believe these kinds of spirits can account for most of what are called residual hauntings.

For example, I did a case once where the spirits would open doors and shades at the same time every day. The sightings of this spirit all occurred at the same time in the same places. The residents of the house had the spirit’s schedule down almost to the second. The same things happened constantly. What I found in that house was a man so set in his routine that he wouldn’t let anything, even death, lead him astray.

The old man had died in the house some years before, in his sleep. Though he lived alone, he had been found the same morning he died because his neighbors noticed his bedroom curtains were still pulled shut. Since it was a work day, and they knew their neighbor never took days off or called in sick, they called the police to come check on him. When I spoke to him, he wasn’t completely oblivious to the fact that he had died, he just didn’t know exactly what to do. He had felt different when he got out of bed that morning, but he just went on with his routine. I have full confidence that the man would have continued that routine for all of eternity if he hadn’t found his way to the light. There are many other stories involving people who spent decades doing the same things every day and I can see how they could be mistaken for residual hauntings.

The second part of the new definition is intelligent/active hauntings. These are said to be remnants of a person or event’s energy that can interact with the living. When I first read this I thought this was same as my old version of a ghost. However, the definition usually goes on to say that the energy is not part of a person’s soul or spirit but merely residual energy that has some basic communicative skills. I find this part of the “new” ghosts to be the most dangerous.

Imagine for a moment that you agreed with my definition of a ghost: that it is a person without a body. To do this, you’d also have to believe that a spirit was in need of help to move on and be with God. It’s when you take away this spiritual aspect that you get the current, popular definition that has allowed many people to exploit a suffering soul for personal or commercial gain.

I am not judging anyone here but I have found that usually when a spirit interacts with the living world it is a cry for help. It is not a science experiment.

And last but not least, the third part of the definition is the “poltergeist.” This is the dark entity that causes mischief and mayhem and sometimes worse. This part also seems to be the most controversial.

Some people believe poltergeists are spirits of inherently evil people who died and fear God’s wrath. Other believe that poltergeist activity is actually caused by living people with telekinetic abilities. They can move things around, sometimes without knowing, based on their mood. And others believe them to be demons sent to earth to wreak havoc. I tend to agree more with the latter, though all theories do have merit.

In my experience, both as a paranormal investigator and as a human being, I have come to believe that there are people who are inherently evil. I have dealt with many spirits who were unrepentant and even a couple who refused to cross over. These spirits could be disconcerting and downright scary but were ultimately harmless. I wouldn’t classify any of them as a poltergeist.

I have also dealt with living people who were battling some “inner demons” and making up activity to get the attention of friends and family. These were cries for help from people who needed support, attention, or psychological help. While not always harmless, they were certainly not supernatural or poltergeists.

Lastly, I have never been comfortable with the term “demons.” The term covers such a brood range of religious and mythical characters that it seems diluted to me, like the word “dirt.” The entities that I have encountered, the only ones who were not spirits of once living people and were capable of physically harmful interactions with the living, I call the devil’s angels.

This may seem like potatoes and po-tah-toes to you, but I have my reasons for calling them what I do. These are the entities that can actually harm the living or, more commonly, frighten a person so bad they harm themselves. They have the ability to move things and touch people as well as influence a person’s moods and actions. If anyone out there encounters such an entity, my advice is to seek experienced help, and the scientific kind. They can be dealt with and removed, but it takes someone who knows what they are doing.

These definitions and theories of what a ghost may be are not mine; they are some of the oldest definitions of spirits. The problem I see with the current line of thinking on spirits is simple: there is no accountability for a ghost hunter’s actions. When a hunt is executed, the scientific results are the main goal. While that is a fantastic way to bring attention to the field, it is dangerous for the people who live with spirits and for the spirits themselves.

Take a moment to think about how you would react if you were the spirit. I’m asking you to again imagine you believe what I know, but it is the only way to come close to understanding what they go through. What if you were the one stuck between this world and the next? What if there were the slightest chance this could happen? Wouldn’t you want someone to help you? As a Christian, and a human being, I believe it is our responsibility to help them.

A lot has changed since those evenings on the porch, but one thing remains the same: the only way to make the world a better place, any world, is to help one another in any way we can. When I help a spirit cross over I am really helping that person, as well as the family that had been haunted.

As always, don’t believe it because I said it, believe it when you experience it. Until then, keep an open mind and be sure you are always helping and never harming.

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