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.

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4 thoughts on “Defining Ghosts”

  1. I don’t agree that it is necessarily the case that no one knows how to run a test for ghosts. I think that a part of being open-minded is being open to the possibility that some have already figured it out, but are not being believed by most people – perhaps even most people in the ghost hunting community.

    1. Mark, I’m sure there’s evidence that something unexplained (or paranormal) is going on at some haunted sites. For me, the issue is proving that it’s actually a ghost, and that includes defining what a “ghost” is. A lot of ghost reports describe things that are usually attributed to faeries. If someone has figured out a way to discern that kind of thing, I’d be very interested. And thanks for the “Sekret Machines” recommendation. I’m adding that series to my (already long) to-read list.

  2. This subject got me thinking about the book called: “Sekret Machines: A Fire Within.” I think that I have mentioned it, before, on these boards. It is the second in the fictional part of the Sekret Machines books. (although, interestingly enough, the non-fiction Sekret Machines series – collectively called: Sekret Machines: Gods, Man, And War – has also got some stuff in it about related subjects, like alchemy and magick…yeah, spelled that way…) Even though it is fictional, one of the authors, Tom DeLonge, has claimed that even the fictional Sekret Machines series should fall under the “Historical Fiction” classification, (unfortunately, though, most bookstores don’t seem to put it there…) and that all of the “big stuff” in the fictional series is based on reality. So, I’ll post about the part of the book that I’m reminded of, and I’ll try to do it in as spoiler-free of a way as I can:

    One of the characters gets surprised at seeing a glowing woman floating above the ground and says, (in Russian) “What the hell?”
    The other character believes that it is an astral projection. The character who believes that it is an astral projection says to the surprised character, “Ignore it. It’s not real. Just a kind of hologram. A projection…”

    I hope that I’m not spoiling things too much, but let’s just say that the astral projection turned out to be, at least, a bit more real than previously thought by the (somewhat arrogantly) confident man. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, Fiona, but I thought that I read you making a comment that seemed to imply that you might be leaning towards the idea that ghosts could be holograms, of some sort. Maybe that’s what we really are, as well, and will be after we decouple ourselves from these bodies. (in other words, die)

    Anyway, if you want to read the book, then I would recommend starting with the first in the series, called: “Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows.” Then you can move on to the second: “Sekret Machines: A Fire Within.” The second one will be more difficult to understand if you don’t read the first one first. The Sekret Machines series is known as a UFO series, but there is, perhaps surprisingly, a good deal in the series about psychic phenomena and such, as well, which seems to be connected, if we are to believe the authors, at least.

    1. Mark, I’m intrigued by this series. And yes, I think we need to be open to all possibilities with ghosts, including astral travel, holograms, and so on. And we need to consider the nature of our own existence/perceptions, as well. I still reflect on the “Star Trek” episodes involving holodeck experiences, and consider the possibility that our human experiences are in that realm. And, perhaps, time is distorted so, say, and 20-minute visit to the holodeck seems like years when we’re in it.

      That would raise questions about the nature of other entities – human, ghosts, etc. – that we encounter if we are in a holodeck. Are they real? Virtual?

      Sure, we could seem to (or actually) measure their energy with EMF devices, etc., but does that really mean anything? I’m not sure, and it’s a whirlwind of “what if?” ideas that’s far too easy to become lost in.

      Nevertheless, it’s kind of fun to speculate, now & then.

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