Defining Ghosts

What is a ghost?Busy? You can listen to the following article. It’s a five-minute recording.

Defining Ghosts

In this five-minute version of a June 2019 article at HollowHill.com, Fiona Broome explains the importance of defining what is – and isn’t – a ghost. That’s a personal decision, but it’s an essential basic when we talk about ghosts and ghost hunting.

How can you tell if something is a ghost?

That’s not an easy question to answer.

First, you’ll need to decide how you define the word “ghost.” Is it the same as a “spirit,” or are there different categories of spirits, and ghosts are just one of them?

  • If your great-grandmother visits you in your sleep, is that a ghost?
  • If something keeps moving your keys or the TV remote, is a ghost responsible?
  • At a haunted site, when you ask something to rap on a table as a yes/no response, is that a ghost?
  • If you see a fleeting, shadowy figure, is that a shadow person and – if so – is that a kind of ghost?

Some ghost hunters claim to know the difference between a ghost and… well, something that’s not a ghost. Maybe it’s a faerie, a demon, an alien, or some other entity.

Most experienced ghost hunters admit we’re just using labels to describe phenomena. When people comment at my articles and want to me to tell them if they’re haunted, or their home is, or if a ghost followed them from a haunted site… I can’t tell you that.

Think of it this way: Imagine that the power went out in your home, and it’s a dark, moonless summer night. Your flashlight batteries are dead, and you’re not sure where your phone is.

It’s a warm night and the a/c went out when the power did. You’d like a cold beverage before everything in the refrigerator starts getting warm.

When you open the refrigerator door, of course the light doesn’t go on. So, you feel your way around the shelf where you think you keep soft drinks or beer or whatever. And, you find something that might be a beverage.

Or it might be a ketchup bottle. Or the sweet and sour sauce. Or your little cousin’s creepy science experiment that she asked you to refrigerate for safekeeping, while she’s at summer camp.

In this case, you can smell or taste whatever-it-is and hope for the best. Within seconds, you’ll know if it’s a beverage, a condiment, or something that requires a trip to the nearest hospital emergency room.

But, in ghost hunting, it’s not that simple. Especially in the dark, and when something is there for a minute – and then gone – we can’t throw a label on the phenomenon. We certainly can’t run tests and say, “Oh, yes, that’s definitely a ghost.”

No one can. Not me. Not the eager person you met online, who wants to impress you with his or her research expertise. Not the person on TV, either.

Maybe it is the spirit of a deceased person – what most of us call a “ghost” – but maybe it isn’t.

If you’re looking for 100% reliable answers… well, the best we can do is eliminate logical things, like squirrels in the walls, or clanging plumbing, and other phenomena – normal and paranormal – that definitely aren’t what most people call “ghostly.”

After ruling those things out, if whatever-it-is still seems like a ghost, maybe it is a ghost.

But, it all starts with defining the term “ghost,” and deciding what you do – and don’t – believe in.

That’s a personal decision, and it’s something that will probably evolve as you study paranormal phenomena.

If you’re worried that something is a malicious spirit – whether it’s a ghost or not – talk with someone you trust in your community, not online. A face-to-face conversation with an expert in spiritual matters, like a minister who’s studied theology for years, is a good place to start.

(Yes, I’ve made that recommendation before. People keep asking me to diagnose their paranormal experiences anyway.)

If it’s a noise that worries you, and you hear it regularly, you’ll probably start by calling a home repair expert.

Meanwhile, it’s important to know that, in ghost hunting, most of us use the term “ghost” to describe phenomena that suggest a lingering spirit of a deceased person.

But, the fact is, we don’t know. And that’s why we keep investigating: So we get closer to understanding what’s going on at haunted places.

Podcast: Are Shadow People Dangerous?

Are you worried about shadow people?

I created this 11-minute podcast to accompany my article at Ghosts101.com:  Are Shadow People Dangerous?

During the podcast, I talk about several topics, including:

  • Shadow people (v. fleeting shadows)
  • “Hat Man” and why he’s different
  • An odd shadow form seen in 2009
  • Protection for paranormal researchers

Ghosts 101 – Are Shadow People Dangerous?

This is a podcast by Fiona Broome, created to accompany the Ghosts101.com article, Are Shadow People Dangerous? In this 11-minute podcast, Fiona discusses shadow people, “Hat Man,” and protection for ghost hunters and other paranormal researchers.

In the podcast, I mention the shadow person I saw – and photographed – in Laconia, NH: Laconia, NH’s Ghostly Places, and the photo of the man in a hat, at the former bank in Old Town Spring, TX.

Books I mention: Paranormal Parasites, by Nick Redfern, and The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide: Protection Techniques for Encounters with the Paranormal by Michelle Belanger.

This podcast is also available at HollowHillPodcasts.com (hosted by Libsyn).

Ghost Hunting – Reality v. TV Shows, Revisited

Ghost hunting is more than what you see on reality TV showsIn the early 2000s, ghost hunting TV shows helped many people learn more about paranormal research and haunted sites. That helped this field expand, almost overnight.

However, many viewers were disappointed when they went ghost hunting, themselves.

I’ve talked about this in the past, and – I’ll admit – ranted more than a little.

But this week, a news report confirmed what I’ve been saying… and more concisely (and perhaps more authority) than I have.

The article is “5 Myths about Reality Television,” and it’s in the Washington Post.

Here’s part of what it said:

With very few notable exceptions (like “Big Brother”…), most reality television is shot first over a period of days or weeks, then edited. A month in the field could be whittled down to 44 or 22 minutes of action. That way, the audience sees reality stars only in essential moments… Almost nothing airs exactly as it fell into the lens, but the final product is usually more or less what happened.

That’s true about many (not all) ghost hunting TV shows. A typical one-hour episode might require three to five days of daily filming at the site.

Then there’s the editing, to make the show compelling to watch, with cliffhangers immediately before each commercial break.

What viewers see are the highlights of an investigation. They don’t see time spent waiting while nothing happens… and that’s most of what goes on, at many (perhaps most) investigations.

Viewers also don’t see the dozens of “haunted” locations scouted by people like me, where ghost stories turn out to be more fiction than fact.

But yes, what viewers see “is usually more or less what happened.”

I’m seeing a shift – towards almost radical authenticity – in some ghost hunting TV shows. Most Haunted remains one of the leaders in this trend. (In the UK, it’s on Really, usually on Fridays.) Also, I noticed that the show producers are considering shows featuring outtakes. That’s a fun idea. (See @OnlyMostHaunted at Twitter.)

While more authentic ghost hunting TV shows aren’t the adrenaline fuel of their fast-paced, highly edited counterparts, I like this trend.

And, for the record: the only sites I’ve investigated for just 22 minutes (the length of a 30-minute TV show, sans commercial breaks) are those that seemed too dangerous for research. Usually, that had nothing to do with ghosts; instead it was about creepy people in the area, or imminent lightning strikes.

If I’m familiar with a site, I might investigate just 44 minutes (the content of a one-hour TV show). Usually, that’s a follow-up visit, to debunk (or confirm) anomalies noted in an earlier, far longer investigation.

Though this isn’t exactly new news, I was glad to see mainstream media mention the reality behind many “reality” TV shows.

And, once again, I encourage researchers to arrive at events and investigations with low expectations. Lots of waiting may be required.

But, that’s a good opportunity for you to do a thorough (and sometimes repeated) “baseline yourself” check, so you’re always aware when weird things start happening at a haunted site.

Related articles

And, if you want to be on a ghost hunting TV show, search related keywords at sites like AuditionsFree.comBackstage.com, and – for the UK – Starnow.co.nz, TheStage.co.uk, and similar sites. (There are many.)