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What Is A Ghost? Four Types Ghosts Explained

Updated on January 24, 2016

What is a Ghost?

The term ‘ghost’ is thrown around loosely in an attempt to title a vast quantity of phenomenon and experiences. However, these occurrences have broader definitions and numerous other titles. In this article, the four main types of ghosts are listed.

Categories of Hauntings

Though all experiences can be frightening and confusing, there are two strict categories under which hauntings will fall.

Non-intelligent: A non-intelligent haunting is generalized as a haunting that cannot communicate. This fact is based on the principle that there is no will to orchestrate these events.

  • Poltergeist- a "noisy ghost," with no intelligence.
  • Residual- energy left over from times passed.

Intelligent: An intelligent haunting is characterized by its targeted events and experiences. Most people who experience these type of hauntings claim that they are directly communicated with and/or targeted by the entity.

  • Spirit- a broad group of entities mainly consisting of deceased humans.
  • Demon- a non-human entity whose main goal is chaos, destruction, and death.

The difference between the two are sometimes hard to distinguish, but only one can cause real harm.

Poltergeist: Non-Intelligent Entity

Poltergeist means "noisy ghost." This is an inaccurate title, however. Poltergeists are explained by many authorities as phenomenon orchestrated by Psycho-Kinetic Energy. PK Energy is human crafted, and is sometimes called Telekinesis. It means that the physical world can be affected and changed by the power of a human mind. In the case of a poltergeist haunting, this is mostly unconscious on the part of the human.

Basically, Poltergeists, are not intelligent. They have no will. Instead, they are crafted by a human, usually in distress. Most commonly, PK Energy can be linked to a child going through puberty or an angsty teenager. However, it is agreed that it can be any person under unusual stress or someone experiencing a traumatic event.

You know you're being haunted by a Poltergeist if you experience these.

  • Small things moving, flying.
  • Items being impossibly stacked.
  • Noises; Generally random bangs or knocks.
  • Things disappearing and reappearing.

These types of hauntings will start out slowly and then rise in intensity. Other times they will cease suddenly and never happen again. The only thing to do when haunted by a poltergeist is to discover the human connection and work to alleviate the stressor.

Poltergeist Activity

Classic Poltergeist Story

A small family moves into an unassuming home with a two car garage. Mom and dad and their two daughters, Mary-14 and Jenna-10. The house is fairly large and new. It's in a different town, a different state, and Mary isn't happy about the change. Soon, the family is settled into their new life.

One morning, Mom and Dad come down to the kitchen to start the coffee. They are shocked by what they see. Every single bit of grocery they have is stacked impossibly until it touches the ceiling. Cans of soup stacked atop eggs atop spaghetti atop silverware. They don't know what to do about it. They have no idea how it could have happened. They stare at it completely in shock.

Mary walks down the steps and the multiple towers of food and supplies crash noisily to the tiled floor.

Dad calls the cops, because obviously someone has broken into the home and pranked them. The cops arrive to see mom trying to sort through the mess. They take a statement and leave, shaking their heads. A few weeks go by without incident.

One night, Mom and Dad go out for a date night. Mary is left watching her younger sister. She isn't pleased. They start to fight over what TV show they will watch. Jenna screams that Mary doesn't care about her. Mary yells back that Jenna is a spoiled brat. They both fall silent immediately however, when a picture of their family flies across the living room to smash next to Mary's head.

The girl's both scream as the rest of the pictures hung around the room begin to shake, some falling to the floor, others whizzing past the two terrified children. Mary calls her mom and dad who rush home to find their daughters sitting outside on the porch. They are crying. Dad runs inside and witnesses all of the debris from every single family photo neatly piled in the dead center of the room. Mom comforts the girls and dad scratches his head.

Mary and Jenna are too scared to be alone now. They sleep in the same room, in the same bed. Mary is having nightmares, but she isn't talking about them. Dad sets up a camera. He wants to know who is responsible. Nothing happens for many weeks, though the tension builds noticeably.

One night, everyone is fast asleep. Suddenly, every single door in the entire two story home opens and slams shut. The walls seem to shake with the force of it. Mary and Jenna scream from their room as the door to their closet opens and closes seemingly too fast to be real. Mom and Dad run to their daughter's aid. Dad makes a quick decision. He orders Mom to pack their things.

They leave.

They move back to their hometown.

The activity lessens but it doesn't stop. They suffer with it for 2 more years until it suddenly ends.

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Residual Energy: Non-intelligent Entity

Residual hauntings have often been compared to a record player replaying an event over and over again without regard to the surrounding people or things.

Most authorities claim that this type of haunting is the result of a traumatic event imprinting its energy on the materials around it. However, the most common claim correspondent to this type of ghost is that of the 'woman in white,' an urban legend-type specter that is seen wandering halls or staring out third story windows. This type of haunting does not interact with the living nor the environment around it.

You know you're being haunted by Residual Energy by this activity.

  • An apparition that does not interact with you.
  • A noise or apparition that manifests at specific times or situations.
  • An apparition that goes through walls or other solid objects.

These ghosts are common in older/historical residences, hotels, and other places where many people have lived. Typically this type of haunting is harmless. However if you wish to erase the problem, a basic house cleansing is all that is needed.

Classic Residual Energy

There's a house at the end of Main Street. It's an old house, antique and worn. Rumor is that it use to belong to the founder of the town. But it's in disrepair. The youth of the town hear rumors about the old Main Street Mansion. A few of them decided to find out if it is real.

At 2:30 AM on a Saturday morning, a group of teenagers cautiously approach the old home. According to the legend, they have only to stare into the main floor window to see her. It has to be at 2:30. That's the only time she appears. They crowd around the window and look inside.

At first, nothing happens. And then one of the girls gasps. There she is. She glides from a side room, a woman out of time, dressed in a petticoat, hair pinned neatly atop her head. She doesn't seem to notice that she is ethereal or that her feet seem to have disappeared. She stops in the foyer and turns. She seems to be crying, though there is no sound.

The group watches, entranced. She disappeared as quickly as she appeared. The teenagers run, some already deciding that they are not sure if what they had seen was real.

Spirit: Intelligent Entity

Spirits are what is generally assumed all ghosts are. They are the remaining essence of a person who has passed away. Different authorities claim different things based on their religions or practices, but most can agree on one thing; There are dark spirits and light spirits.

Dark Spirits are the remains of a negative person. When this spirit walked among the living they were mean-hearted, cold, or evil. They have yet to pass on to whatever afterlife is waiting for them. Sometimes, too, these entities have no idea that they have stopped living, and are confused by what they are experiencing.

When haunted by these types of Spirits you can expect this.
  • Voices and screams in the middle of the night.
  • Apparitions that try to frighten you.
  • Messages of anger; "Get out!"

Light Spirits are the souls of humans who have accepted their fate and crossed over to their intended afterlife. Depending on the faith or religion of the resource, they are sometimes called Angels, or Spirit Guides.

When encountering this type of Spirit, you can expect this.

  • Visions of bright lights.
  • Apparitions of loved ones smiling.
  • Messages of hope, love, and resolution.

Classic Spirit Haunting

Mark and Michelle bought an old home. It needed some serious remodeling, but the newly wed couple was ready for the challenge. They decided that, although it had been years since someone resided in the home, they would live there as they refurbished it.

The first night in their new home, the couple was awoken by the sound of someone stomping their way to the top of the long staircase. Mark hurried to investigate. There was nothing there. They assumed it was the sound of an old house settling. They slept the rest of the night with not other issues.

After a few weeks, the renovations on the house are in full swing. They have torn up the old wallpaper, removed layers of grim, and gutted the kitchen. Mark is in the basement with a plumber, going over the inner workings of the home's plumbing. Suddenly there is a loud crash from the top floor. They two men rush up the stairs. In the master bedroom, the contents of the single dresser are strewn across the space. The drawers are on the opposite side of the room. Mark goes through the entire residence attempting to find the culprit. No one else is there.

That night, Michelle is in the kitchen, placing the hardware on the new cabinets. Mark is in the other room. Michelle hears a voice. She can't make out what he is saying, but she is certain that it is Mark. Suddenly, the whisper is directly next to her ear. She hears the disembodied voice clearly. "Get out!"

The couple sleep in a hotel for a few weeks, trying to determine if they should stay. They are having a crisis of will. They events were scary enough to make their dream home seem like a nightmare. But they also don't want to give up on the ancient house.

One night, the couple has just crawled into their hotel bed. The lights are turned out and the silence stretches as they close their eyes. A bright light enters their room. They both sit up in bed and stare at the sight. The light seems to take on the shape of a human, but no features are apparent. The couple doesn't feel afraid. A calming emotion seems to emanate from the specter.

Then it speaks. "Don't give up."

The spirit fades away. It isn't until the last of the light leaves the room that Mark realizes that his wife is crying. She tells him that it was the voice of her late grandmother, the woman who instilled in her granddaughter a love of antique things.

They decide to continue their renovations, but now with a mind towards the energies that lived their before them.

Demon: Intelligent Entity

A demon is an inhuman intelligent entity. This means that they have never been human. There are many different types of demons, and depending on the religion or practice, they are given different titles. No matter the belief, though, demons are considered evil. They deliver chaos, pain, and destruction, with the ultimate goal of death for the unlucky human experiencing them.

There are many different types of hauntings that correspond to demonic activity.

  • unpleasant smells; feces, rotten meat, sulfur.
  • Large items moving, breaking, attacking you.
  • Signs of vulgar language and sadistic sexual images.
  • visions of dark, animalistic creatures and faces.
  • apparitions of dark entities, intent on terrifying you.

Another claim of demonic activity is oppression and possession.

Oppression is an event in which a demon attempts to dehumanize and terrorize the human target. This can take place continually for years. Experiences include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Unexplained anger and hatred.
  • Loss of will and ambition.
  • Isolation.

Demons attack in this fashion to whittle down a human's will. Their end goal is usually possession.

Possession is when an inhuman entity enters into the soul/body of a human and uses it to continue the path of destruction. Possession can be identified in many ways.

  • Loss of time.
  • Visions of horrible acts you've practiced.
  • The feeling that you cannot control your actions.
  • Physical changes to the face and body of the person possessed.
  • Speaking in dead or unknown languages.
  • Unearthly knowledge, or a knowledge of things the possessed person couldn't know.
A demonic entity's goal with possession is to take ownership of a human's soul. It will end in death if not challenged. Religious intervention is always needed to rid a human body of a demonic entity.


Although reports of hauntings have been established since history began, it can still be an intimidating and altogether terrifying experience. Ed and Lorraine Warren, a demonologist and his psychic wife who have been exploring paranormal phenomenon for decades, have a few hints and tools one can use when confronted with a "ghost."

What Do You Do When You See A Ghost?

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