Contrary to popular belief, not all hauntings are caused by ghosts. We can be haunted by the living, or haunted by the past. We can be haunted by creatures from other worlds, or by doorways that go between.
Whatever it may be, ghosts are just the tip of the iceberg. While this article in no way serves as a complete list, this is the basics of the most common sources of hauntings you are likely to come across in your home or a home you may be investigating. Identifying a haunting helps you to understand it, and allows you to interact with it properly based on what it is that you are dealing with.
Before we dive into the others though, we must first understand human spirits and their hauntings. When we die, our spirit must make its way through “The Light”. It’s the doorway to the next phase.
What’s on the other side? Well, no one really knows. Most spirits go through the light without incidence. However, many don’t for various reasons such as unfinished business, fear of judgment for what they’ve done in life, or sometimes they can’t find the light. People who die abruptly often don’t know they are dead and therefore can’t see the light. They aren’t conscious of it.
Spirits of children tend to avoid the light because they are afraid of it and want to wait for their parents. They are also the most susceptible to trickier predatory spirits who may want to keep them in the earth plane. Whatever their reason, we call these folks that don’t pass through the light “earthbound spirits”.
Earthbound spirits are not always a problem though. Sometimes they choose to stay behind on purpose and end up taking on jobs on their side of the veil. For instance, I went to a rather haunted home that used to be a boarding house. The former and current lady of the house was a spirit named Ruthe, who was still running her boarding house inside. She was well aware that she and the boarders are dead, yet still she opened their home and continued to care for them.
I’ve also seen them form other groups that resemble strange religious cults under leaders who promise them salvation in death. The more lucid ones, who are earthbound by choice and are not tormented in any way, can usually be left earthbound without issue (as long as they aren’t bothering anyone). However, sometimes there are issues associated with not crossing over in a timely manner.
If a spirit is confused, frightened, angry, or otherwise tormented and is left earthbound for too long, they may begin to change. First it begins as a madness, then slowly over the years they begin to transform into something else, something inhuman. What exactly the thing is, well I’m not sure. But it’s frightening when you come across it.
Other times, earthbound spirits may fall prey to smaller parasitic spirits that attach to them over time like barnacles, which slowly eat away at them and can sometimes aid in this transformative process, like scavengers. Other larger inhuman spirits may also take them captive and consume them or collect them in weird museums which are also quite frightening. Most earthbounds don’t seem to understand that once you pass through the light they can come back again. Only once they’ve gone through the light they are healed and empowered and are now immune to such creatures. So, if there’s a spirit who wants to stay behind to protect a loved one, I almost always insist they go through the light and come back. That way they aren’t a target themselves.
The next most common type of haunting is what is known as a “residual haunting”. This is a curious phenomenon that can come about a few different ways. Essentially a residual haunting isn’t an actual spirit at all, but more of a recording of an event that gets played over and over again. Either the action was repeated enough times that the energy gets imprinted on the space or, something happened with enough force and energy to scorch itself into the energy of a place.
Some say, if it’s bad enough it can echo into other layers of time and we can experience it years later. This happens a lot with traumatic or violent crimes. Some theories suggest that the types of stone and mineral deposits around the house may affect the likelihood of a residual haunting and I’m inclined to agree (often called the “stone tape theory”).
The way we differentiate a residual haunting from an actual earthbound spirit is by recognizing patterns. The woman in white who walks down the hall every night at 3:45am sharp and won’t respond when spoken to, is most likely a residual haunting. Her spirit isn’t actually there, it’s a recording of her energy being played back like a movie. These are marked by a distinct schedule and pattern. However, if she were to appear at all kinds of hours and do all kinds of things, or if she would respond when questioned, she would be considered an earthbound/ghost or what we call an “intelligent” haunting.
The most commonly misunderstood haunting though, is the Poltergeist. The name is a misnomer and is commonly translated as “noisy ghost”. However, a poltergeist isn’t actually a spirit, at least not in the usual sense. Poltergeists are characterized by odd and generally sudden disturbances. Items stacking themselves (chairs, books, lamps, etc.), or being moved (suddenly all your kitchen cabinets and drawers open, etc.) are the most common phenomena associated with poltergeist activity.
The way we often differentiate between a haunting and a poltergeist is that a haunting happens around or in a home, whereas a poltergeist happens around an individual person. The phenomena isn’t believed to be a spirit at all, but unintentional PK (psychokinesis) on the part of the “haunted” person. Generally this type of haunting centers around a person who is in the early/mid stages of puberty and is most common among adolescent girls. However, this type of activity can be seen in adults and males as well.
The reason for the preference towards adolescent girls is believed to be a matter of energy. A poltergeist is essentially excess amounts of energy seeking an escape. In puberty, the body goes through many intense chemical reactions which give off energy. There is also a lot of emotional energy associated with adolescent girls, and this combination often packs a wallop. The energy has to go somewhere. Like static electricity, it can only build up so much before it throws a spark to release the energy. Instead of a spark though, you get stacked furniture, objects that fly across the room, drawers opening, fires starting, etc.
Most people grow out of it and poltergeists are often short-lived. Another curious thing is that when people are made aware that they are doing it, the phenomena tends to stop. It’s the same idea as when you do something really cool on accident, then can never do it again on purpose. Poltergeists can, on occasion, gain enough momentum to detach from their source and roam as a pseudo spirit, or a self-sustained body of chaotic energy, like a thought-form with a bad attitude. It’s rare but it does happen.
The final category of creature you might come across in your haunting is the infamous “inhuman spirit” these are often the most feared and least understood beings in this spectrum. “Inhuman spirits” is a vast category encompassing The Fae, Elementals (gnomes, nymphs, merfolk, etc.), animal spirits, shadow people, demonic entities, predatory and parasitic entities, and much much more!
Just as nature is flush with many diverse species, so is the spirit world! Each is unique and has a different purpose. Not all of them are evil, and though some can and do harm people it’s not always with evil intent. Much like the spider who eats the fly, the spider isn’t evil, but it does have to eat. This is a category of spirit that one must handle carefully and be sure not to make any agreements with them. Many of them can be tricky at best and nasty at worst. If faced with this type of entity, reach out for help.
Before I end this article I’d like to throw out one last bit of information that may help you identify your haunting. Portals exist and are more common than most folks think. Identifying whether you have a portal or not is imperative if you are trying to dispel the activity. After all, you can’t leave your door open and not expect guests.
Portals are often marked by random and inconsistent activity. For instance, if your activity is always the old man who smokes cigars, well you probably don’t have a portal. However, if one day it’s the man who smokes, then it’s the lady in white, and then there’s goblin creatures, and then those go away but other spirits arrive you may have a portal. If they seem to be coming and going and the activity is broad and inconsistent this generally points to an open doorway in the home that will need to be closed.
Hopefully this helps a few of you identify what is happening in your home or business. Knowing what you are dealing with is over half the battle when it comes to paranormal activity. Once you know, you can make a plan, and resolve the issue. Or at least feel better knowing it’s just Gus, the old owner of your home, and not the demon Pazuzu from The Exorcist. Either way, hope it helps.