Types of ghosts and hauntings

types of ghost


Ghost hunters unite! You need to know your types of ghosts and hauntings if you want to learn how to go ghost hunting or if something’s in your attic…

When Is A Ghost Not A Ghost?

I’ve seen, felt, heard and hunted a lot of ghosts. My experience differed each time, but I’ve come to realise there are 5 main ‘types’ of ghostly phenomenon. Not all of them include actual manifestations, or ‘ghosts’ in the way most of us think of them.

The Classic Ghost

First up is the ‘classic’ ghost, the natural recording. The theory behind the recording ghosts is that something in the atmosphere ‘taped’ an event, or strong emotion, and left an imprint which lingers throughout time, visible when certain conditions are met. I think of this as the reason ghosts can walk through walls, or float above the floor; the entity isn’t actually ‘there’ in the regular sense, and therefore can’t react or interact with anything in the present time. This type of ghost walks through the wall because in their day, a door was there. Or they float because the floor was higher when the ‘recording’ was made.

Often, a natural recording can take the form of a scent or emotion, rather than anything visible. This is much more common than people may realise. Have you ever gotten a whiff of something fleetingly, which didn’t seem to be linked to anything in the area? You could have been experiencing this type of phenomenon.

The Grey Lady = classic ghost

A typical example of the natural recording is the Grey Lady. These forlorn spirits are often found in stately homes with a long and tragic past, and, like a regular video tape, seem to ‘fade’ as time goes on. They aren’t aware of anyone or anything around them, and usually disappear as quickly as they are seen.

Spirit of the Dead

The second type of ghost I’ve identified is one I like to call ‘spirit of the dead‘. These are the cool ones; the ghosts who can interact with you, are aware of their surroundings, and may even talk to you. If you hear stories of the spirit of a murdered person appearing to identify their killer – it’s one of these bad boys.

But SotD aren’t always vengeful. Sometimes they can save lives too. There have been a few accounts of spirits who’ve prevented people entering hazardous situations, or little girl ghosts who’ve gone to fetch a doctor for their ill mothers. How freaked out must the doctor have been when he found out his messenger was dead?

The Phantom Hitchiker = spirit of the dead

The ‘phantom hitchhiker’ falls into this category of ghost types. Often a ghost of someone who died on a stretch of road, the figure can appear solid, coherent and even converse at length with their driver. It’s only when they arrive at their destination that they tend to disappear, leaving the poor driver wondering what the hell happened.

I’m not sure of the motivations behind a lot of phantom hitchhikers, as they rarely seem to want to prevent accidents; unless of course they get their driver to detour! Perhaps they’re just lost souls, trying to find their way home by any means necessary…

Spirit of the dead: The Phantom Hitchhiker


The third type of ghost is perhaps the scariest of the lot, and the only one which can actually hurt you. Films have been made about this type of phantom, due to its often dramatic behaviour. I am, of course, talking about the Poltergeist.

Poltergeists throw things. They make weird noises in the night. They bang doors, they pick you up and throw you out of bed. In short, the poltergeist is a nasty piece of work. But, whereas the previous phenomena are traces of once-living people, the polter is generally thought to be created, usually from the build-up of energy which occurs when a young person goes through puberty. That’s one theory, anyway. Another is that the polter is a non-visible entity of someone who committed a grave crime such as a murder and was executed. But the ‘puberty’ theory is generally the most widely accepted.

Quite why it would happen at this time sets of a whole other set of theories, but the one I subscribe to is that mental gifts such as telekinesis and psychokinesis often begin when an adolescent hits puberty, and it’s these once-dormant gifts rising to the surface which cause the ‘symptoms’ of a poltergeist. The characteristics of a polter haunting would certainly fit – objects moving through the air, seemingly by themselves; doors and windows opening and closing by themselves; even writing appearing on the wall, written by an unseen hand. Even a human being bodily lifted and hurled across a room would technically be possible, if the gift were strong enough.

Timeslip Ghost

The next type of ghost is one I haven’t actually experienced myself, although I’d love to. Due to its nature, this ghost is very difficult to ‘hunt’, and nigh-on impossible to predict when it will occur. And what type of ghost is it? The timeslip, a peculiar version of a residual haunting.

Not too much is known about this peculiar phenomenon, but here’s the typical format of a timeslip: A group of people go to visit an out-of-the-way village, marvel at the authentic ‘olde worlde’ atmosphere, take a few pictures, then go on home. It’s not until they come to have the pictures developed that they realise they were taking pictures of things which, according to the camera, weren’t anywhere to be seen!

Ghostly Versailles = timeslip

Perhaps the best-known documented example of a time slip is of the two French teachers who, back in the early 20th century, suddenly found themselves transported back to Versailles at the time of the French Revolution! The theory is that a hole opens up in the fabric of time, allowing the future (our present) to see into the past. It all sounds a little SciFi-ish, but fascinating nonetheless.


Finally, no ghostly article would be complete without mentioning the Doppelganger (literally, “double goer”, from the german tongoue). Basically, a Doppelganger is a ghostly image of a living person. Some people believe that to see your own Doppelganger means you’re about to die (cheerful thought!). others think that your Doppel appears to others when you’re in danger. Perhaps both theories are correct; we’ll never really know.

Astral projection may have something to do with causing this phenomenon; performing bi-location meditation can cause your image to appear to others, who may later think they’ve actually seen and been conversing with you in person.