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The Six Types of Hauntings
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Have you ever heard someone call your name when you know no one is there? Ever seen the shadowy figure of someone out of the corner of your eye, then turn and see nothing? Or, have you ever seen someone that looks exactly like yourself, only to watch them disappear into a crowd? All these are examples of hauntings. Delving into the different types of hauntings can be a fascinating journey into the supernatural, and being able to put a name to the type of haunting you may have experienced can be useful in understanding what the origins or purpose of the haunting may be.
There are three main categories of hauntings, and three sub-categories, that make up the six distinct types of hauntings that someone can experience. Here we will explore each category and sub-category and give examples of such hauntings that have actually occurred to real people. Perhaps you can recognize the type of haunting that you may have heard about or experienced in the past among the examples.
Category One: Residual Hauntings
The first category of haunting is called "residual hauntings", and they are by far the most common. Residual hauntings can be visual, audio, olefactory, or tactile. That is, they can be seen, heard, smelled or felt.A residual haunting can be described as the "imprint" of energy from another time, usually on a place, but sometimes associated with an object. In this type of haunting, the specter is not aware of anyone around him, and cannot interact or communicate with anyone. It is more like the re-playing of a tape or film, and it happens usually in the exact same way, over and over. It is thought that the energy produced by the person or people, when alive, during a time of high emotion or trauma somehow imprints itself on its surroundings and "re-plays" over and over again, even though the original participants are long dead. Such hauntings can be dormant for long periods and then triggered by a variety of things. A new family moving into an empty house, for example, or sometimes something as ordinary as a weather pattern can act as a trigger.
An example of a residual haunting occurred in 1951 and was a haunting of the audio type. Two English women were staying at a hotel in Dieppe, France, not far from the scene of a fierce battle that had occurred nine years earlier during the allied invasion of France in World War II. The hotel was not far from the shore, and both women were awakened about 4 in the morning by the sounds of battle, reverberating all around them. Confused, they wandered out onto the balcony of their room and looked about. All was dark, peaceful and still, yet the sounds were unmistakably those of heavy artillery fire, the whiz of of dive bombers, frantic shouts of commands and the loud stutter of machine guns. They could even hear the heavy thump of shells exploding, and all these sounds seemed very close by. The two women remained on the balcony while the noise continued for nearly an hour and then abruptly stopped. In the early morning haze, the sandy road before the hotel lay quiet and undisturbed, and it wasn't until later that the women realized that the nearby beach had been the site of a disastrous battle, nine years earlier.
A sub-category of residual hauntings would include poltergeist activity, considered by many not to be hauntings at all, as they do not appear to be related to any human spirit in particular. Rather, a poltergeist event seems to be a mis-direction of powerful energy, often destructive, and many times channeled through a living person. It is unknown what causes poltergeists to manifest in response to any one human being, but for some reason this most commonly occurs with pre-teen or young teen-aged girls.
Examples of poltergeist activity include objects hurtling across a room, doors opening and closing, the re-arrangement of objects in a room, loud noises, such as thumps or shrieks, horribly offensive odors, and interference with electronic devices, such as phones, televisions and lights going on and off. The activities usually appear to be random and can come and go for no apparent reason. A poltergeist occurrence can be very upsetting and disruptive, and, while they usually do not persist for long periods of time, there have been cases where families have had to move out of a home due to ongoing poltergeist activitiy.
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Category Two: Intelligent Hauntings
Also called "active" hauntings, these can be very frightening, though the entity rarely means any harm to the living. An intelligent haunting involves a spirit who is intentionally present and sometimes even attempts to communicate with the living. Sometimes the spirit is not aware that they have passed, other times they do know, but are driven to bring some message to the living. Intelligent hauntings can include the sighting of an apparition, hearing a voice, or sometimes being aware of communication without any sound from the spirit. Usually the apparition will be seen as they were in life, and wearing the clothing they would have worn, but occasionally they appear in the clothing their dead bodies were dressed in, or with wounds that may have caused their death. At times these ghostly figures will appear translucent or transparent, other times they look quite solid and real.
An example of an intelligent haunting happened to one Indiana family in the early 1980s. The family had moved into a house that was about a hundred and fifty years old, at the time. Several weeks after settling in, the father was sitting by the fireplace in the evening, reading. He looked up, and was surprised to see a young woman in a long skirt and simple blouse walking across the far side of the room. She looked like a normal person, and he was about to ask who she was, when she appeared to walk right through the wall that separated the living room from the dining room and disappeared! He was stunned, and told the story to his wife, but they decided not to mention it to the children so as not to alarm them.
A few weeks later, the youngest child, about age 8, was coloring in a coloring book, sitting at the dining room table. She glanced up and saw the same woman emerge from the wall and walk across the room, placing her hand on the far wall. The child said "hey, who are you??". The woman turned and looked at her with a sad face and then simply vanished! The child ran to tell her mother about the woman. Her mother tried to downplay it, but the child was adamant about what she had seen.
That night, after the children were in bed, and the mother was working on crafts on the dining room table, the apparition of the woman appeared again, emerging from the wall, as before, and walking across the room to place her hand on the far wall. The mother was too startled to say anything, but before disappearing, the woman turned her head towards her, and she too noted the sad expression on her face.
Several more times the woman appeared, always walking through the living room wall and always placing her hand on the same spot on the dining room wall. The family tried to go about their lives, but were always wary when in the living room or dining room that the mysterious woman might appear.
At one point, they decided to open the wall between the living room and kitchen and put a large island there instead. While dismantling the wall, they came upon a grisly sight - the tiny bones of a human infant. Somehow, the body of an infant had been encased in the old wall, and there it had remained for who knew how many years. They called the police and the bones were removed, but as it was eventually determined that the bones were over 100 year old, no investigation was launched. The family invested in a tiny casket for the infant's bones, and it was buried in a nearby churchyard with a small ceremony, the family the only ones in attendance.
After the little funeral, the ghost of the woman was never seen again. The family reasoned that she had been haunting the house so that someone would find her infant's bones and give it a decent burial. The story behind the woman and her baby remains a mystery.
The subset of intelligent hauntings is relatively rare, but happens often enough to have been documented in a wide variety of cases, including some which have appeared to some very famous people, It is called a "doppelganger" haunting. Doppelganger means "double walker" in German, and is a phenomenon that involves someone seeing an exact double of themselves, almost always even dressed in the exact same clothing as they have on. Normally it will appear only to that person, while others around them are unable to see it, and tends to signify that something traumatic or tragic is about to happen to the person who sees him or herself.
An example of a doppelganger incident occurred to an English woman, who thought she caught sight of her exact double on a bus passing by as she waited at a bus stop. The face, identical to her own, was staring with a solemn expression out the bus window directly at her as the bus passed. A few days later, again she saw her exact double, dressed exactly as she was, staring at her from the edges of a crowd of people waiting to cross a busy street. The light changed and the double turned and disappeared into the throng of people. The following week this woman was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer.
Two famous people who have experienced such an encounter include poet Percy Shelley, who saw his double silently pointing towards the sea. Not long after, Shelley drowned in a sailing accident. Queen Elizabeth I declared that she had come into her chamber and seen herself lying on the bed. Shortly thereafter, the Queen died and was laid out on that same bed.
Category Three: Demonic Hauntings
Demons are described as evil energy from an unknown source that is unrelated to the human form. Many believe demons to be sent by the devil, but even non-believers have experienced demonic hauntings. Demons can appear as frightening looking animals, horrific and hideous creatures, or sometimes a black smoke or fog. They seem to be able to change shape and form, sometimes right before an observer's eyes, and their task is to wreak havoc in a subject's life, at times even possessing their bodies. Demons are thought to emerge from "gateways" near to where the haunting occurs. A gateway can be a cave, a well, a hole, or some other portal type entrance, usually from the ground. Another way for demons to infest a home or person can be through paranormal practices, such as dabbling in the black arts, attempting to cast spells, or using a Ouija board to try to contact spirits.
Examples of demonic hauntings include a wide variety of phenomena, because they tend to start in much the same way as an intelligent haunting and progress from there to a much more sinister presence. Such a haunting could begin, for example, as though it were a poltergeist presence, with audible thumps and groans, appliances going haywire, scratches or marks on walls, etc. From there, they can progress to personal attacks on individuals, such as pushing, shoving, slapping and scratching, even to the point where welts can be seen on the body or blood drawn from scratched skin.
An extreme example of a demonic haunting that is familiar to many would be the film "The Exorcist", where a young girl's body was inhabited by a demonic presence which had to be exorcised by a priest.
A sub-category of demonic hauntings is called a shadow haunting or shadow people. Shadow hauntings are often described as a shapeless form of dark mist, smoke or steam, and are usually seen in the peripheral vision. People who have reported a shadow haunting say that a feeling of foreboding or dread accompanies their appearance. Shadow people are similarly dark and filmy, but have no facial features or clothing, with the odd exception of a hat or hood. One type of shadow person appears with a hat similar to a fedora, and another type wears a hood. Shadow animals have also been reported, mostly in the rough shape of a cat.
One story of a shadow haunting happened to a woman who was tucking herself into bed at night. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a shadow on the ceiling, darker than the rest of the normal night shadows. When she looked directly at it, it seemed to shrink down to a pinpoint. She began to read in bed, when something moved in her peripheral vision. She looked up to see the dark shadow crawling across the ceiling, much like a spider! Terrified, she ducked under the covers and hoped it would go away. Each time she peeked out from the covers, the shadow was there, and appeared to be peering out from behind the normal ceiling shadows back at her. She never was able to explain this phenomenon, and in fact, there are few theories as to what a shadow haunting may signify or what its origins are. It seems, however, that its purpose is to frighten or cause anxiety, which as you can imagine, it does!
And so, there you have three main categories of hauntings along with their sub-categories to ponder. Have you ever experienced one of these hauntings? Do you even believe in such things? Please take a moment to respond to the poll below and let us know! If your answer to the first poll is yes, go on to poll #2. You will be able to see the results after you answer.
Read these TRUE ghost stories!
© Katharine L. Sparrow
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Book: Best True Ghost Stories of the 20th Century by David C. Knight, 1984