What are some words that refer to ghosts?

Famous "brown lady" ghost photoGhosts, spirits, apparitions… those words are related but they don’t mean the same things. 

Below, you’ll see some other, related words. Many refer to ghosts, but others describe different paranormal entities.

Some people are happy to use the word “ghost” for any spirit of the dead. Others aren’t.

When people are sure who their ghost is, notice the words they use. Some people happily talk about their granny’s benevolent “spirit.” Describing her as a “ghost” could sound harsh.

She’s not haunting them, she’s visiting. The difference can be very important.

Fiona's adviceTip: Looking for fresh places to find ghosts? Search online and in books for the following words and phrases. You may turn up a haunted site you didn’t know about.

Here are some words that refer to ghosts. Some really do mean the same thing as ghosts. Others are related, more or less, but definitely aren’t ghosts.

– Ancestral spirit.
– Angel (or guardian angel), cherubim, seraphim.
– Angiris.
– Anomaly.
– Apparition.
– Banshee (Bean Sidhe).
– Being (or glorified being, celestial being, etc.).
– Changeling.
– Coiste bodhar (coach of the dead).
– Corpse.
– Cuirp dhaondachbach (Celtic spirit in physical-appearing form).
– Daemon. (Different than a demon.)
– Deceased (usually “the deceased”).
– Demon.
– Departed (or departed person).
– Djin, djinn, genie, genii, or jinnee.
– Entity.
– Fairy, faerie, or one of the good people.
– Familiar.
– Fiend.
– Form.
– Genius.
– Ghoul, ghoule, ghowl, ghul, ghuli. (Definitely not just a ghost.)
– Goblin (or hobgoblin).
– Green Lady.
– Gremlin.
– Guardian.
– Heavenly visitor.
– Incorporeal being (or immaterial being).
– Intelligence.
– Lamassu.
– Lar.
– Manes. (Note: That’s the singular.)
– Messenger.
– Penates.
– Phantom.
– Pitris.
– Semblance.
– Shade.
– Shadow person.
– Soul (or beatified soul).
– Specter or spectre.
– Spirit (or earthbound spirit, or vital spirit).
– Supernatural being.
– The unseen.
– Vestige.

Can ghost hunting groups investigate things other than ghosts?

Most ghost hunting groups investigate ghosts, and nothing else.

ghostly castle or hotelWhen I’m with a ghost hunting team, I might note something odd but definitely not ghostly.

(If you can’t tell the difference, see my book, Ghosts – What They Are and What They Aren’t.)

Generally, focus on one kind of paranormal energy per investigation. In my opinion, it’s a mistake to spread yourself too thin.

In fact, with recent (and extreme) dangers from demonic activity, it’s smart to limit your research to ghosts.

My advice…? Until you’re a confident ghost hunter, avoid demons, UFOs, crop circles, crypto zoology, and so on.

Or, switch your focus altogether. If you’re not really looking for ghosts, specialize in what you are looking for.

Many ghost hunters are trying to answer questions they’ve had for a long time. Many investigate until they find the answer. Others decide there is no answer.

Then, they move on to some other interest.

Tips: In general, and especially during an investigation, focus on one kind of entity at a time. Even if you’ve become interested in UFOs, ignore the skies when you’re on a ghost hunt. You might miss something important. Also, for some people, the shotgun approach can be overwhelming.

Decide what you are looking for and why. If you blur the lines between different kinds of phenomena, you may not know what you’re looking at.

It’s a relief when I see something weird and can say, “Nope. Not a ghost.“  I leave it alone and — at least during that ghost investigation — I look elsewhere.

Of course, ghost hunting groups can investigate things other than ghosts. But, it’s best to narrow your focus to just one group of phenomena at a time.

If you’re at a haunted location and something else is manifesting, complete your ghost investigation first.

Later, you can go back to see what else was there.

Keep the two investigations distinct.

Also, be sure to allow team members to leave at the conclusion of the ghost research. 

Just like some baseball fans have no interest in football, your ghost hunting team members may not be interested anything except ghosts.

When did people start believing in ghosts?

References to spirits and ghosts predate the Bible.

priestWhether or not people believed those were spirits of dead people… That’s another matter.

Historians have documented attempts to release or banish ghosts in ancient Greece.

Earlier accounts of ghosts appear in Mesopotamian records. Search for information about the “gidim.” You may be surprised at the amount of ghost lore before Abrahamic history.

Some translations of gidim suggest malicious, demonic entities. Others, breaking the word into giplus dim, translate it to “shadow person.”

In extant Babylonian lore, many people became ghosts. Noted exceptions included those who died in a fire, and those whose bodies were left to rot in the desert. That may account for the practice of burning corpses or setting them out to rot in elevated locations “closer to the heavens.”

Records from the Epic of Gilgamesh (ca. 15th century BCE) describe the ghostly experiences of Enkidu after his death. In that era, people may have tried to help or appease ancestral ghosts and other spirits.

For many centuries, the topic of ghosts was controversial and dangerous. People avoided specific references to them. Especially during the most extreme years of the Inquisition, the word “ghost” suggested something demonic. Studying old diaries and correspondence, you may need to read between the lines to recognize hauntings.

We can’t be sure when people began to think of ghosts as we describe them today. However, spirits of the dead may have wandered in this world as far back as recorded history.

Trivia: The Inquisition started in France in the 12th century. The Spanish Inquisition wasn’t outlawed until 1834. The Papal Inquisition was never outlawed. It was called the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

In 1965, it became the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF). Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) became its prefect.

In 1985, the word “sacred” was dropped from the title.

The organization still exists, and it’s the oldest congregation among the nine in the Roman Curia.