Talk is cheap. We can tell stories all day long, but what exactly are we talking about when we say “ghosts?” Based upon sightings, these vary considerably.
- The ghost as filmstrip. This kind of ghost appears like a slice of another time. It walks through walls as if they don’t exist (and maybe in his time, they didn’t.
This ghost appears to be non-sentient, just a visual trace of someone from the past.
- The ghost as sentient being. This ghost appears aware of those present. It may or may not communicate with them.
- The ghost as messenger. This ghost may or may not be someone known to the witness, but he has a message to convey which he does telepathically, verbally or signaling in other ways. An example would be a ghost appearing someplace significant in a way that would be meaningful to a witness. A ghost like this may appear to someone during a crisis of some kind.
- The ghost as harbinger. This kind of manifestation appears to warn us about something.
- The negative ghost. This ghost is doesn’t want you to be there and will make that clear. These presences as reported by witnesses can be quite terrifying.
- The angelic or daemonic presence: not actually ghosts, but paranormal presences. They are self-descriptive.
- Spirit of the once living. This ghost was a relative, or perhaps just a person who lived in the home before you moved there. It is usually neutral or sometimes even welcoming. Witnesses notice something’s there, even if it’s not visible. Pets do, too.
- These are an entity which was never human. They’re something else. Nature spirits (called devas by the Findhorn people), fairies, other beings fall into this category.
- Spirit of some other kind: not an elemental but not a human spirit, either. Witnesses see these as shadows, among other things. Spiritualist tradition warns that these can be dangerous, but they are not daemons.
- Ghosts with an agenda. These spirits have something on their minds, some purpose that propels them and some would say prevents them from “crossing over.”
These basic classifications are just a place to embark. There are more! Also, these are ghosts, as opposed to other paranormal beings: perhaps vampires, werewolves or other folkloric creatures. But it gives us something to work with as we explore ghosts in terms of psychological, spiritual and cultural symbolism.