Hauntings – residual or ‘real’?

Residual energy hauntings can be just as “real” as active hauntings.  Since at least 80% of hauntings seem to be residual energy, it’s important to recognize them.

Here’s my definition:

Residual energy

Many ghost hunters believe that emotionally charged events leave an imprint or energy residue on the physical objects nearby.

What distinguishes residual energy from an active haunting is that the activity repeats, as if on a loop. The energy levels may increase or decrease, but the content remains the same with each manifestation.

By contrast, in an active (or sentient) haunting, the ghost may respond to environmental stimuli and direct contact.

Residual energy hauntings usually appear the same, over and over again.

There may be an energy spike at a particular time of day or on the anniversary of the event.  (Those events can be happy — such as a birthday party or wedding — or tragic, such as the anniversary of a murder or a battle.)

In some cases, the haunting may draw energy from the investigators, slightly increasing the phenomena.

If there’s EVP, the recordings will sound the same from one visit to the next.  In photos, the manifestations will usually appear the same, as well.  That is, the orbs will look alike and appear in the same locations.

Cookie-cutter predictability distinguishes sites with residual energy.  Whatever is there, it never interacts with visitors.

Active hauntings — that is, hauntings involving the spirits of people who’ve died — are more rare.

Those spirits may also visit at regular times of day or on specific dates.  However, instead of acting in the same way each time, they respond to changes in the environment.  They may interact with ghost researchers.

High Spirits DVDIn some cases, it can be tricky to tell the difference.

One of the best fictional examples is in the 1988 movie, High Spirits, Liam Neeson portrays the ghost of Martin Brogan.

At first, he seems to be a residual energy haunting.  He repeats the same dialogue.  His physical movements repeat as well, as he murders his wife again and again.

Then, Brogan is interrupted by an American tourist. Right away, it’s clear that Brogan is an actual ghost.

The easiest way to tell the difference is to try to interact with it.

  • Try psychic contact.
  • Talk out loud to the apparent ghost.
  • Ask it questions.  Make comments.
  • Stand next to it or block its path.
  • In extreme cases, you can shout at it, to startle it a little.  (That’s not the same thing as “provoking.”)

Your goal is to see if its behavior changes, and if it responds in any way to you and your team.

The ghost may reply.  It may act angry.  It may seem shy or frightened, and vanish.  It may move objects, rap on walls or tables, slam doors, or roll a ball across the floor on command.

The point is: The ghost’s behavior changes with the people around it.

That’s what distinguishes it from residual energy.

Both active and residual energy hauntings are interesting to research.  Both can produce a wide range of phenomena.  Both are equally ‘real’.

However, to achieve two-way communication with a spirit, you must be sure that an actual spirit is there.

You’re looking for variations.  If the pattern simply repeats, no matter how ‘real’ it may seem, you’re probably witnessing a residual energy haunting.

The 5 Most Haunted Places in Austin, Texas

5 most haunted places in Austin, TexasAustin, Texas is a wonderfully haunted city.  Its ghosts are more colorful than most, with the kinds of histories you’d expect from a “wild west” city.

From former corrupt sheriffs to colorful madams, and from cursed bricks to the ghost of a US President, Austin may have more ghosts per square foot than any city in America.

In fact, many of Austin’s ghosts linger because they want to, not because they’re stuck in our earthly plane.

These are the five places that I’d visit with just a brief time to investigate Austin’s ghosts.

1. The Driskill Hotel

You have to stay somewhere when you’re in Austin, so why not stay at the city’s most elegant, haunted hotel?

In my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, I devote an entire chapter to the Driskill’s great ghosts.

The lobby has at least two ghosts.  One is a little girl who follows a bouncing ball (that manifests as an orb) on the staircase near the front desk.

Almost directly across the lobby from that staircase, a small room was once the hotel’s vault.  It’s haunted by the cheerful ghost of a Depression-era hotel manager.  When the banks closed during one financial crisis, the Driskill’s manager opened the vault and handed out cash to patrons.  He trusted them to return the money when they could, and every one of them did.  His ghost lingers through hard times and good, occasionally greeting guests in slightly outdated formal wear.

Be sure to visit the Maximilian Room, for some of America’s most haunted mirrors.  (For their tragic history, see pages 18 & 19 in my book about Austin’s ghosts.)

Upstairs, in addition to famous ghosts such as LBJ, you may catch a glimpse of the phantom hotel security guard.  He’s always on the job, striding quickly through the halls. He’s making sure that everyone is safe and sound in this magnificent hotel.

2. Buffalo Billiards

Location: 201 East Sixth Street, Austin, TX

Buffalo Billiards is less than a block away from the Driskill Hotel.  In 1861, as the Missouri Hotel, it was Austin’s first “boarding house” and a popular place for a cowboy to find a date… for an hour or so.

Today, the former brothel is one of Austin’s most popular night spots.  Stop in for a drink and some food, and you’ll see tourists, locals and scantily-clothed ghosts among the crowd.

3. The Spaghetti Warehouse

Location: 117 West Fourth Street, Austin, TX

When you’re ready for a good, filling meal, Austin’s Spaghetti Warehouse is the place to eat… and encounter ghosts.

Ask your waiter about the latest ghost sightings at the Spaghetti Warehouse.  Most of the staff seem to have first-person stories to share.

In addition to quirky poltergeist activity, ask about the ghost who appears as a man – or just legs – around the restaurant’s vault.

After dinner, stroll up the street to the upscale gay men’s bar, Oilcan Harry’s.  There, look for one of Austin’s most colorful ghosts, the late madam Blanche Dumont.  She’ll be among the dancers.

4. Texas Capitol Building

(Start at the Visitors’ Ctr: 112 E 11th Street, Austin, TX)

Day and night, you’ll see ghosts around the Capitol building.  The most famous is probably Governor Edmund Jackson Davis (1827 – 1883) who is seen gazing from a first-floor window.  On foggy and misty days – especially around mid-winter – and around dusk, he’s seen walking on the paved paths around the Capitol building.  He’s tall and has a moustache, but people most often comment on his chilling stare.  In fact, he often pauses when he sees someone, stares at them, and doesn’t move until they’ve passed him.

If you’re at the Capitol, be sure to walk past the Texas Governor’s Mansion.  It has its own dramatic history with multiple hauntings.   I recommend early morning photos at the mansion grounds, as well.

5. Oakwood Cemetery and Oakwood Annex Cemetery

Location: Navasota St., Austin, TX

Oakwood Cemetery and its annex may be Austin’s most beautiful and haunted cemetery.  There, you can visit the graves of many of Austin’s ghosts including Susannah Wilkerson Dickinson and Ben Thompson.

Most of Austin’s cemeteries close at dusk, but you can take photos through the openings in the fences around Oakwood.  If you’ve been in the cemetery during the day, you’ll know exactly where to point your camera to capture eerie, phantom images.

Austin features many more, chilling locations where you can encounter ghosts and other frightening entities.  Some of them – such as the nightly appearance of as many as a million bats, around one downtown Austin bridge – are entertaining.

Others, such as the ghost of Jack the Ripper and his victims, are best avoided unless you have nerves of steel.

Looking for More Ghosts in Austin…?

For more ghosts (and true ghost stories) around Austin, read my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas.

Ghosts of Austin, Texas - bookIn its pages, I list over 130 ghosts and haunted places in and near Austin, Texas.

You’ll discover:

  • The Driskill Hotel’s many ghosts.
  • A detailed list of Austin’s most haunted cemeteries and some of their most infamous graves.
  • The eerie connection between Austin and Jack the Ripper.
  • Why the Shoal Creek Curse lingers over Austin and – possibly – surrounding communities.

And – if you live in Austin or you’ll be there for a few days – my book includes haunted sites around Austin, including Columbus, Texas.

(I describe Columbus’ strange history and many ghosts as something like a “theme park for ghost hunters.”)

The editing in this book is typical of when it was published – at the peak of the Ghost Hunters craze – but you won’t find a more complete (and personally researched) book about ghost hunting in Austin.

It’s the original guide to ghost hunting in Austin, and it’s still the best way to find real ghosts when you’re in Texas’ capital city.

Find it at Amazon: The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, by Fiona Broome.


Summoning Spirits?

Often, ghost hunters ask me how to ask spirits to appear.  It’s a common challenge for investigators.

novalight-green-150wIf it’s a residual energy haunting, that’s a matter of timing.

If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might:

  • See the shadows or other “impressions” of ghosts.
  • Note an increase in spectral energy (as EMF, dowsing rod or pendulum activity).
  • Capture chilling EVP recordings.

Any of those can occur when the haunting is simply residual energy.

However,  the challenges are greater if you want to meet an actual ghost.  Ghosts may be “dead” but they’re still people, and many of them are as difficult as petulant children and cranky adults.

Keep the following points in mind if you hope to summon — and encounter  — real ghosts.


Remember that ghosts aren’t there to entertain you, and they aren’t your servants.  Generally, you can’t order them around.

Treat ghosts with the same respect and patience you’d use with any other stranger.

Expect ghosts to have the same characteristics as the living.  Some will be shy.  Others will be friendly.  Many of them are angry — that’s why they’re still here — and some may be belligerent or threatening.


Study history. For the best results, you must understand the ideas and attitudes of each ghost. Those were formed by the politics, spiritual beliefs, folklore, and cultural standards during your ghost’s lifetime.

Treat ghosts like visitors from a distant country.  Be polite and respect their beliefs and standards.  There is no good excuse for bullying a ghost. (Also, be sure no one on your team is venting his or her own bullying impulses, using the excuse of “provoking.”)

Your clothing or language may shock or confuse ghosts.  Your attitudes may baffle them.  They may refuse to communicate with you until “properly” introduced.

Some male ghosts ignore female ghost investigators or are hostile towards them.

Some female ghosts worry that it’s “too forward” to communicate with male investigators, especially single ones.

Most ghosts resent being treated as a sideshow or given orders as if they’re servants or actors. (However, if they were servants or actors, they may respond well to commands or direction.)


Remember that many ghost-related TV shows took two or three full nights to film.

Remain alert while you wait.  Don’t bring a book or video games, and don’t get so involved in conversation, you overlook the ghosts.

(However, a few ghosts have responded when I gave up and took out a book to read, or a sketch pad to draw.  Apparently, those ghosts were indignant when I seemed less interested in the wait.)

Ghost hunters rarely encounter one spirit after another in a short period of time.  If you experience even one manifestation during a two-hour investigation, that’s good.


In many haunted locations, I do nothing but wait for the first ten or 20 minutes.  I might walk around to get my bearings.  I may take a few photos.  However, I still remain open to any odd movement, noises, or activity that might indicate a ghostly presence.

After that, I usually announce myself out loud.  I might introduce myself and my team. (Usually, they follow my lead and introduce themselves, or at least address the ghost directly.)

I wait, and — because I am psychic — I’ll see what energy I sense.  If the site feels haunted, I’ll focus on just one ghost.  I try to establish rapport.  This can include telepathic contact or speaking out loud.

I’m clairsentient (I sense energy by touching objects), so I usually place a hand on furniture, walls, gravestones… whatever’s in the area.

And then, I wait some more.

If the psychic approach isn’t productive — or if I’ve decided not to act as a psychic during that investigation — I’ll take out my ghost hunting tools.  Generally, I use dowsing rods, cameras (digital and film) and EMF devices.  I’ll use them to narrow my focus so I stand in the midst of the most intense energy.

When I’m taking a photo, I’ll usually explain what I’m doing.  Depending on the ghosts, I may flippantly say, “Smile for the photo.”

And then, I try again: I speak out loud to the ghosts.  I see what happens.

After that, I wait some more.


Some people attract ghosts, and some seem to drive them away.  (Don’t take it personally.)

Avoid assumptions based on stereotypes. Some psychics don’t attract ghosts.  Likewise, a “ghost magnet” who attracts ghosts may not perceive them very well.

Do your best to have a balanced team at each investigation.

After that, it’s mostly a matter of being in a genuinely haunted place and having a lot of patience.

Related articles:

Ghost Hunting – Mind Your Manners!

Consider the Ghosts’ Contexts