Are there ghost animals?

If ghosts are real, there are ghostly animals.

Personally, I’ve seen ghostly cats and at least one ghost fish.

vintage photo of a dogThe ghostly fish was very odd. It’s not as if the family was especially attached to the fish. It was just a fish. It didn’t even have a name, until it started haunting them.

I’ve heard fewer reports of ghostly dogs, but – of course – England’s “Black Shuck” is famous. That dog-like figure was the basis of the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

In the coastal Norfolk town of Overstrand, Shuck Lane still reports sightings of the large, black wolfhound.

More reliably, you may see him at Coltishall Bridge, north of Norwich.

Is it the same dog in all these stories, or a different one? It’s difficult to be certain.

The Lizzie Borden house in Fall River (MA) reports a ghostly cat. I’ve seen what I thought was a solid, living cat at that house. It never crossed my mind until the owner explained that no living cat was in the house that night.

One of the owners of the Spalding Inn in Whitefield (NH) also reported a ghost cat. That cat was seen regularly by staff and guests.

One of my own cats “haunted” us for over a year after his death.  I might have chalked it up to “wishful thinking,” except other people — who didn’t even know about the cat — saw him as well.

In a way, it was comforting, but I was just as happy when he finally decided to cross over. (We stopped seeing him after his brother died. I think they wanted to remain together, always.)

Many pet owners have happily described being visited by the spirit of a beloved cat or dog, too.

In addition to ghost animals, some paranormal creatures resemble animals. They’re described in cryptozoology. They include Bigfoot, flying snakes, and thunderbirds. (England’s Black Shuck may belong in that category.)

In fact, they’ve been described in folklore for centuries.

Most people who encountered them are certain they’re real, not imaginary.

Some early American settlers seemed to bring fantastical, cryptozoological creatures with them.

One might be Maryland’s “Snallygaster,” from the area where the Blair Witch Project was filmed.  The “Snallygaster” came from Germany, where it’s known as the Schneller Geist, or “quick spirit.”

Cryptozoology can be fascinating, but it’s not ghost hunting.

However, if you’re wondering if Fluffy or Fido might be visiting you from the other side, it’s entirely possible.

What is the main reason why ghosts haunt houses?

If we take folklore seriously, most ghosts have a story to tell, a wrong to correct, or unfinished business.

eastern state penitentiaryWhen ghost hunters investigate a haunted site, most ghosts seem to fit that profile.

In almost every case:

– The ghost wants something specific to happen before crossing over. Or, the ghost is afraid to cross over for other reasons.

– In some cases, the ghost refuses to believe that he or she is dead. Ask them what year it is, and you’ll usually get the year the person died.

– Or, it’s actually an energy imprint, not a ghost (or spirit) lingering at the site.

A few tales — such as the “green lady” stories of Scotland — offer other explanations. Green ladies remain in homes that they loved. Those are benevolent spirits. They protect the building and the people who live in it. Each “green lady” ghost isn’t trapped in the house. She could leave whenever she wants to. She’s happy to stay there.

Green lady ghosts are like the spirits of relatives. They visit us to check on our safety and happiness.

I’m not sure that I’d call that a ghost. The spirit isn’t trapped in our plane of existence.

By contrast, a banshee may also be a relative of the family it guards. Is the banshee trapped here? Is it a ghost, or — as much folklore suggests — part of the faerie realm? It’s difficult to establish boundaries and precise definitions.

Until we’re sure that ghosts exist, and what they really are, we can’t be sure why they haunt houses… or any other location.

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.


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.

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.

What are ghosts?

When people use the word “ghost,” they usually mean something that seems ghostly, like an apparition, or an object moving by itself. They may mean something as simple as a “creepy feeling,” or something as frightening as a ghostly voice, or a chilling touch by an invisible hand.

Dictionaries say a ghost is the spirit of a dead person. That may be true.

Or… that might be groundless, popular opinion. No two ghost hunters are likely to agree.

granite building in moonlightWhen paranormal investigators use the word “ghosts,” we’re usually talking about ghostly phenomena.  You know… things like apparitions, strange noises, orbs in photos, and weird EMF spikes.

Some ghost hunters insist that all ghostly phenomena are disembodied spirits. Skeptics explain “hauntings” in very normal terms that doesn’t involve dead people. Some religions insist that everything ghostly is demonic and dangerous.

Most ghost hunters are between those extremes. We say that ghostly phenomena are real but unexplained.

First, we look for normal things that explain what’s going on.

About 80% of the time, we can find a reasonable, normal explanation. The other 20% — and perhaps some of the 80%, as well — may be ghostly.

This is important: Even though some “ghostly” phenomena can be blamed on something normal, the site may still be haunted.

(To draw a sports parallel: During a football game, most people on the field are football players. That doesn’t mean the occasional streaker is also a football player. Maybe most ghostly phenomena at a location can be explained. That doesn’t mean it’s not caused by a ghost.)

orb at Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NHAlso, few investigators agree on all paranormal issues. For every person who insists that all orbs are ghosts, you’ll find one who says all orbs are dust or insects. The truth may be somewhere in-between.

In fact, the “ghosts” label is too simplistic. We don’t know what most ghostly phenomena are.

Let’s pool our information and compare notes.  Then, we might find better answers.