Ghosts and Ghost Hunters – Stereotypes and Reality

Haunted site 150w

Ghosts? Not everyone believes in them.

Oh, many people are afraid of the dark. Others become edgy when they hear unexplained noises after dark.

Let’s talk about fact and fiction, related to ghosts.

These are the three main kinds of ghostly activity:

  • Residual energy.
  • Active hauntings.
  • Poltergeists.

Phrases may vary, but the concepts remain the same.

A residual energy haunting is a location that “feels” haunted. When something happens, it’s the same thing, every time. The activity usually occurs on a certain day or date, and sometimes at a particular time. Or, it might be activated by a specific trigger, such as when a certain song is played on the radio.  It might be a temperature drop, an apparition, or a fragrance. However, it’s always the same thing, over & over again.

I usually describe this as stored energy that lingers after an event (or events) that included strong emotions. It’s like an iron that remains hot long after you turn it off. The vast majority hauntings are simply residual energy.

Active hauntings are different. The ghost (or ghosts) reacts to what’s going on when you’re there. If you talk to the ghost, it will respond or at least pause what it’s doing. (These spirits are often described as “sentient.”)

In my research, fewer than 20% of ghost reports are active, sentient, responsive hauntings. Most are residual energy. They’ll fade away over time, if they’re ignored.

Few ghosts appear as apparitions. They’re not complete figures that everyone can see.

Apparitions rarely appears gruesome, bloody, or extremely old or young.  When they manifest, it’s usually how they appeared at the prime of their lives.

Poltergeists are controversial.

Poltergeists are, literally, “noisy ghosts.” When you hear about dishes flying across the room, or stones raining from the ceiling, that’s a poltergeist.

Some people believe that all poltergeist phenomena are psychokinesis (also called PK) or telekinesis. That is, the events are caused by someone living. That individual has elevated abilities related to ESP. According to this theory, people are able to move things with the power of their minds, and no physical contact.

Most people believe that the poltergeist is a mischievous or malicious spirit, acting on its own. It torments one or more people until it gets bored and goes somewhere else.

However, some ghost researchers — including me — believe that poltergeists represent a two-part phenomenon.

  • The energy for the activity is provided by someone who is very much alive.
  • The pranks and noises are caused by a ghost who’s using the energy of the living person.

One of the most intriguing lines of research relates to water and poltergeists. Poltergeist phenomena seem to increase around water — in the kitchen, bathroom, or a dining area where water is served. And, where there is no naturally occurring water,  unexplained water appears after a poltergeist episode.

In general, ghosts can appear anywhere, but history — and sometimes geography — usually indicate why the site may be haunted.

Likewise, there are three main stereotypes among ghost hunters:

  • Skeptical critics.
  • Over-enthusiastic “true believers.”
  • Everyone else.

Skeptical critics go to extremes to find normal explanations for events that most people would label paranormal. The stereotype is male, over 25 years old (usually over 40) and he’s annoyingly sarcastic.

Over-enthusiastic “true believers” are the opposite of critical skeptics. In the stereotype, they tend to be teens or young adults, or mature (45+) adults.

They eagerly choose paranormal explanations for events that might well be normal. If a normal explanation makes sense, they’ll bristle and relentlessly poke holes in it.

Combined, these two groups — rabid skeptics and ardent “true believers” — probably comprise less than 10% of all ghost hunters.

However, skeptics and overly-enthusiastic believers stand out in the crowd. So, many ghost hunters have to deal with these labels in the media and public opinion.

Let’s talk about reality now.

The vast majority of ghost hunters are healthy skeptics who admit that some events can’t be explained, and may be caused by ghosts. They enjoy “what if…” questions, and reasonable challenges to paranormal explanations.  They never want to leap to a hasty conclusion.

Most ghost hunters believe something odd is going on at “haunted” sites.

Some, but not all, ghost hunters believe in ghosts.  Generally, they’re looking for proof, one way or the other, but how they define “proof” varies widely. What seems like compelling evidence to one person may seem laughably shaky to another.

In general, most ghost hunters are everyday people. At any ghost investigation, you’ll usually find a mix of genders and a wide range of ages and backgrounds.

You’ll also find a full spectrum of opinions and beliefs.

The media and Hollywood love stereotypes.  They reduce the need to explain things.  Every ghost hunting team seems to have at least one cute guy in a tight t-shirt, and one member who startles easily. (The classic is a young woman with blonde hair, who shrieks at everything.)

Any writer or producer who relies on those stereotypes is short-changing the audience.  While parodies are fun, and it’s convenient to simplify peripheral characters, people know it’s not real.

If you add too many “no, that’s not real” elements, you’ll lose your audience’s trust and loyalty.

If you want believable ghosts and ghost hunters, make them real people, not something freakish or silly.

USOs, Faeries and Hollow Earth Theory

UFO1Last night on the History Channel, I watched a program about USOs — Unidentified Submersed Objects. They’re like UFOs — and some of them fly in the air, too — but return to somewhere deep in the ocean.

As ghost hunters, let’s be aware of other paranormal phenomena, so we more correctly categorize “something odd” when it happens.

(That said, we don’t have a clue what most of this is. We’re trying to make sense of it as best we can, but some of our guesses may be way off-base… no pun intended.)

It’s interesting that these objects seemed to be attracted to the USS FDR. The evidence seems compelling.

Might this explain underwater cities in faerie lore? It might link to Hollow Earth theories, too.

How does this affect ghost research? I have no idea. It’s just odd and interesting.

Related links:


Hollow Earth

Ghosts and Molecules

Plasma - illustrationThis morning, when I was thinking about quantum physics and developments that started with string theory.

(Yes, some of us are admittedly geeky about ghost hunting.)

Physics has vast applications to ghost hunting. Today, I’m thinking about molecules and the ways some ghosts interact with our world.

In a nutshell, what if apparitions (including “shadow people”) have physical bodies, but there are far larger spaces between the molecules… if we can even describe them as ‘molecules’?

This could explain why they can pass through walls without slowing down.

(I’ve seen a ghost walk through a wall at Bradford College, in Massachusetts.  I’ve seen other apparitions “vanish” but maybe they also escaped through walls.)

Maybe that’s how space clearing works. Perhaps the sound, incense, or whatever invades the spaces that the ghost considers part of his or her body. So, the entity leaves to protect his or her new form.

Maybe this is why we find more ghostly manifestations around water. Maybe the moisture fills the spaces with a conductive material, and — since we can measure them with EMF — it enables them to function better in our physical world. After all, at least 50% of our bodies are made up of water.

The fact is, in ghost hunting, we’re often making this up as we go along. We’re starting with anomalies, and trying to imagine explanations that fit and (sort of) make sense.

There are days when those explanations resonate as real possibilities.

The next day, in a different light, it seems like speculation piled on top of fantasy.

I think speculation is important.  We must ask the “what if” questions.

However, remember this: When we take fantastic theories too seriously, we’ve lost the our focus and our integrity as researchers.

Go ahead. Ask the “what if” questions. They’re important.

Then, keep looking for better answers.

Ghost Hunting in the Daytime

alley-misty-veniceGhost hunters will get the best research results after dark. I’m not sure if it’s like radio stations that can be heard more clearly without interference from the sun.

Whatever the reason, after-dark ghost hunts are usually far more successful.

However, daytime ghost hunts aren’t always a waste of time. I’m reminded of Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH. The haunted/psychic energy builds there each day, starting around 11:30 or noon. Put your attention — perhaps your ‘psychic radar’ — on the woods in back of the cemetery. Even in broad daylight, you may sense (or even see) some very odd things.

By night, eerie lights seem to flicker in those same woods. Animals are “too quiet,” or suddenly seem to panic. A few people see a hooded figure with glowing eyes. Compasses and EMF meters go haywire. Strange things happen.

The energy is gone by dawn. Around noon the next day, the cycle starts all over again.

In Texas, I like downtown Houston’s La Carafe wine bar at 813 Congress Street. Though the bar is closed in the morning, people who work there report odd discoveries when they arrive to open for business.  It’s haunted enough to provide anomalies, 24/7.

Fiona Broome's adviceLook for locations with a long history of power struggles or violence.  Battlefields are a good example.  (Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH, was the site of multiple Native American wars, as well as violent clashes with colonists.)

Check your daily commute.  Look for roadside historical markers.  Many indicate sites of violent clashes and intense, emotion-rich meetings of powerful people.  Something important happened there. The question is why, and did it at least leave some residual energy?

Former hospitals, funeral homes, and politicians’ homes are also good sites for daytime paranormal research.

If your only research time is during daylight hours, don’t worry. Somewhere nearby, at least one site is haunted, day and night.

Ghosts don’t only come out at night.

You may need to investigate several sites to find one that’s active in daylight. With enough patience and persistence, you’ll find one.

Carpe diem! 

Noises That Are Not Ghosts

As I write this, it is December (2005), a time of year when many people start hearing “ghostly noises” in their homes.

In many cases, these will be ghosts.

However, there may be logical explanations, and those should be considered, first:

Temperature changes cause houses to moan, shift, and creak. Desert climates have the widest temperature swings between day and night, but even temperate climates have seasonal changes that can cause your house to shift slightly. And when a couple of floorboards rub against each other and echo in an attic, the noise can sound like someone in agony.

  • Settling houses make snaps, thuds, creaks, and groans. If your house is new, it may be settling. A hastily-poured foundation, or one poured at the wrong time of year, can produce outrageous noises for years after the house has been built.There are other reasons why a house can “settle.” If you’ve had an earthquake in your region, your house may now be settling back into place. If you’ve had unusually high rainfall, or a drought, the ground around your house will shift. A piano or waterbed moved in or out of a room can cause the whole house to readjust itself.
  • Critters in the walls or attic can sound bizarre. The scurrying noises alone can sound like little ghostly footsteps. A bushy tail of a squirrel or raccoon, rubbing on all sides of a narrow passageway inside a wall or alongside a chimney… Well, you’ll be convinced that a ghostly woman in a full Victorian skirt just passed you.If two animals decide to argue or chat within your walls, in your basement, or overhead in your attic, sometimes they sound like ghostly whispers, or a full-fledged argument in a strange dialect!
  • Check for even smaller critters, such as wood ants or termites. If they’re weakening the house’s structure, the house will moan and groan as it shifts its weight.
  • Is there construction going on near you? Perhaps rocks tumble from their recently-blasted niches, at a certain hour of the night when the temperature dips low enough to cause contractions and shifts. The roof of a new house can make astonishing noises, especially at night. Ask anyone who’s put a roof on a house, or repaired one, about the nails that pop out overnight.
  • If it happens at the same time every night, it’s not necessarily a ghostly hour. Temperatures and humidity change at night. When these natural effects reach a “critical mass” level, the house may shift. A loose shingle may pop up again. The mortar in your chimney may contract just enough to cause dust to echo as it tumbles to the ground or hearth. These kinds of things happen night after night. It’s part of the natural cycle of a house.This “critical mass” effect is usually at approximately the same time, each night. Seasonal changes and unseasonable variations can shift the hour back or forward, but it’s still within the same approximate time period.
  • Do you live near a commercial area? You may live far enough from a shopping center that you don’t hear the garbage collectors’ trucks. However, when they lift one of those huge containers of trash and empty it into the truck… wow! If that noise echoes off a neighbor’s siding or cement wall, it can seem as if something is crashing on your patio, or in an another room, particularly if the windows are open.

Not all ghostly noises are this easily explained. However, consider the logical answers first. Perhaps your noise is a ghost, but you won’t know unless you use your critical thinking skills to explore the alternatives.

And, just because the noise could be faked, or caused by something logical… well, that doesn’t mean that it is.

Webmaster’s note: When I was a kid, I used to hear noises in the attic overhead, many nights. My parents dismissed my insistence that it was a ghost. “Squirrels in the attic,” they replied, and nodded sagely.

Well, we did have a lot of very friendly squirrels in our neighborhood, and a nest in our backyard. I tried to accept my parents’ logical explanation of the noises.

However, when we were selling our house and had it inspected, I mentioned the squirrels in the attic.

“No evidence of that,” the house inspector replied. “I’ll check again.”

And so he did. And he found no place where a squirrel could get into the attic, and no evidence that animals of any kind had been up there.

So, even when the answer seems logical, it might still be ghosts. I may never know if our house’s nightly noises had been a ghost, or something else.