There are many different kinds of hauntings, and even more expressions to describe them. However, there are two primary categories of hauntings:
The first are active or ‘intelligent’ hauntings, involving the presence of a sentient spirit or ghost.
The rest are usually residual energy imprint hauntings, often called “residual energy hauntings” or just “imprints.” Most result from an emotional incident, and usually a violent event.
Just like an iron remains hot long after it’s turned off, strong energy seems to be stored in physical surroundings, at least for a while.
When someone witnesses this kind of haunting and is startled or frightened by it, that energy may refuel the setting so that the manifestations and/or impressions continue.
This may also account for the phenomena of haunted objects.
What others say about residual energy hauntings
Ghost hunters may disagree about the frequency and importance of residual energy hauntings. We may use different terms for it. But, we usually agree about what it is:
In Ghosts, Spirits and Hauntings, author Patricia Telesco uses the term ‘memory imprint‘ and describes it as, ‘An energy remnant that leaves a mark on a room or region.’
Although it’s dismiss it as unlikely, in The Field Guide to Ghosts and Other Apparitions, authors Evans and Huyghe call it a ‘memory trace‘ and relate it to a psychic ‘tape recording of a voice’ that some witnesses can perceive.
In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ghosts & Hauntings, Tom Ogden describes a ‘residual haunting… a sudden displacement in time during which you see into or experience the past’.
Cassandra Eason, in Ghost Encounters, refers to imprints in terms of a ‘worn-out reel of film constantly replaying in an empty cinema’ and dismisses them as hauntings.
In his study, How to Hunt Ghosts : A Practical Guide, Joshua P. Warren says, ‘Regardless of exactly how time functions, paranormal imprints show us that, for whatever reason, events can be recorded in an environment.’ (Note: Joshua is not related to Ed & Lorraine Warren.)
And, in The Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook, Troy Taylor talks about residual hauntings saying, ‘This type of phenomena is much more common than people think’. We agree with him.
My experiences with residual energy hauntings
I’ve encountered many residual energy hauntings, in a variety of settings, from cemeteries to apartment buildings.
From my research, it appears that at least 50% of all reported hauntings — and perhaps more — are the product of residual energy.
Some hauntings can involve both residual energy and an actual ghost (or multiple ghosts). It can be difficult to tell which is which.
In my experience, residual energy hauntings don’t change very much.
An extreme is Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH. We’ve encountered the exact same energy, day after day, starting at about noon. By mid-afternoon, we’ve often found measurable EMF levels, especially towards the back left corner of the cemetery (if your back is to the street).
Generally, residual energy hauntings are what provide the ‘good scare’ that many ghost hunters enjoy.
By contrast, an active haunting — caused by an actual ghost, spirit, or apparition — can surprise you. Many ghosts will react to the people who are in ‘their’ area. Each visit to a site with a ghost will be a little different. It’s often not fun, and it can be more intense than people expect.
Residual energy hauntings provide a window to the past. When you’re psychically ‘seeing’ something that seems like a movie, that’s often the imprint of the event on the environment. Or, it may actually be a window through time. Nobody’s sure, and it may relate to a parallel universe or a ripple in time.
(If these concepts intrigue you, I recommend following the evolution of string theory, M theory, and related physics studies. One of the best introductions is a PBS television show called ‘The Elegant Universe‘ and the Science Channel’s ‘Parallel Universe‘ program.)