Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » Paranormal » Ghosts & Hauntings

A ghost is alleged to be the spirit of the dead, although parapsychologists often prefer to refer to them as apparitions.

Other terms used to refer to ghosts include astral spirits, banshees, disembodied spirits, dybbuks, entities, haunts, incorporeal beings, phantasms, phantoms, poltergeists, shades, souls of the dead, specters, spirits, spooks, sprites, wandering souls, or wraiths, although some of these refer to specific types of apparitions.

Ghosts may be visible, although most reported cases of hauntings do not involve visible apparitions. Often, a ghost makes its presence known through unexplained noises, smells, cold breezes, and the movement of objects. To those who believe that's what they are, ghosts have been known to speak through electromagnetic frequency (EMF) recordings, although there have been reports of ghosts speaking audibly to the living.

Most cultures and religions have included a belief in life after death and, despite vast differences in beliefs as to what happens to the soul after death, many cultures have had a belief that included the possibility of further contact with the living. While some cultures embrace the opportunity to communicate with the dead, others consider the prospect of the dead returning as unnatural, frightening, and even evil. Among those who believe in ghostly apparitions, there are wide discrepancies as to just what they are, with some believing that the dead cannot return, and that such apparitions are demonic in nature.

Ghosts may be seen anywhere or at any time, but most ghosts are seen, not in graveyards, but in homes and other buildings, and their presence is most often made known at night. The repeated manifestation of strange phenomena said to be caused by ghosts is known as a haunting. Typically, a haunted location is the former home of the deceased, or the place where he died. Sites of violent deaths are frequently named, but other hauntings occur without obvious explanation, and without discernable patterns.

As the focus of this category is on ghosts and hauntings, online resources for these topics are appropriate for this category.


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Among those who believe in ghosts and apparitions, it is believed that as much as ninety percent of all reported phenomena can be explained through natural causes or fraud. Those that cannot be otherwise accounted for are not necessarily considered to be the ghosts of the deceased, however.

There are thought to be other types of apparitions, and not every paranormal apparition is a ghost. According to paranormal researchers, there are both apparitions of the living and of the dead.

A living person may appear as an apparition to someone far away from his physical location, either when he is asleep or awake. Usually, this occurs at a time of physical debility or a state of unconsciousness on the part of the person who is appearing as an apparition, and most often there is an emotional link between that person and the one experiencing the apparition. A recipient of an apparition of the living generally believes that they have seen the actual person who appears to them.

While such appearances are often unintentional, there are reported cases where these have been experimental, in that the agent of the apparition has willed himself to appear to someone far away. This may also occur in a time of crisis, and sometimes at a time preceding death. Such cases have included loved ones who have appeared to family members far away, apparently for the purpose of saying goodbye at some time prior to their actual death.

There are also reports in which a father, grandfather, or other relative has appeared to a loved one shortly after death. Paranormal researchers believe these may be one and the same, citing a telepathic phenomenon in which there may be a lapse of as much as twelve hours between the time that the agent transmits the idea and the recipient receives it. Therefore, the person who appears, as an apparition, to a loved one shortly after the point of his death may have actually sent that telepathic message prior to his death. In that case, the apparition would not appropriately be referred to as a ghost.

In fact, many paranormal researchers try to avoid using the word "ghost" or "haunting" to refer to the appearance of an apparition or apparitions, as these words suggest information that cannot be scientifically proven. Generally, these are words that are used by the person who experiences the apparition, and who often feels threatened by it, although this is not always the case.

Reports of ghost sightings are considered, by paranormal researchers, to be genuine when the reporter did not know that the agent had died at the time that the apparition was experienced or when the recipient did not know the agent at all, but was able to identify him from a photograph. Other circumstances that point to the validity of a report include sightings in places where the agent was previously associated with, when the apparition gives information that was once known to the agent while he was alive, but which the reporter was not familiar with, or when the apparition exhibits some characteristic or attribute known to have been associated with him in life, but which was not characteristic of the percipient.

A familiar theme representing this type of haunting is the deceased actor who is seen and later identified by contemporary actors and others visiting the theater many years after the death of the person represented by the apparition.

One such theater is the Warner Pacific Theater. The story is that the Warner brothers (Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack) risked everything they had in producing the first talkie, a film called The Jazz Singer. As it was to debut at the Warner Pacific Theater, Sam was personally supervising the completion of the theater and the installation of its sound system, all the while having to deal with belief of many within the theater business that talking pictures would be nothing but a fad. The Jazz Singer opened on October 6, 1927, to rave reviews. But Sam Warner suffered a stroke a day before the premiere, and died in Los Angeles. None of the Warner brothers were able to attend the premiere. Since that night, people have reported seeing Sam Warner pacing back and forth in the theater's lobby.

Although reason may suggest that those who are evil in life may be evil in death, many paranormal researchers believe that the scary ghosts who haunt, or torment the living, such as the movies based on the book, The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson, are actually the representations of djinn or demons, if not a hoax, and not truly apparitions of once living human beings.

The same is true of haunted cemeteries. Most reports of ghost sightings suggest that ghosts who linger are more attracted to locations than to people, and that they tend to remain in places where they felt comfortable in life. Cemeteries probably wouldn't be high on anyone's list. For this reason, it is likely that apparitions that are haunting cemeteries are malevolent spirits which are probably not of human origin.

Do I believe in ghosts? Overall, I suppose that my answer to that question would be no. However, a couple of months ago I lost a cat who had been with me for most of her twenty-three years of life. Throughout her life, even into old age, she was the one who would play with the toys, and she would make toys out of objects, such as my wife's slippers, that were not intended as cat toys. Often, she would manage, somehow, to carry cat toy balls up the complete flight of stairs so that she could bounce them back down again, and would often do this repeatedly. Her name was Bird, and I miss her.

Only two days ago, I went home to our house in Millinocket, Maine for a couple of days, although we are currently living in Fort Kent, a couple of hundred miles to the north. Although we moved several times, Millinocket is where Bird spent most of her life, and that was the house that we would always return to. I was alone in the house, which had been empty for several months and, having entered through the back door, I was setting my computer up at my desk downstairs when one of her cat toy balls came bouncing down the steps from the second floor.

Perhaps there are moments in all of our lives when we believe in ghosts, if only for a short time.

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