What are ghosts?

This article is from 2021 and may be outdated. We're working on restoring a newer version.

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.

Ghosts: A general definition

What are ghosts?When 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.

So, when we use the word “ghost,” we’re talking about phenomena usually associated with that word. We can’t be 100% sure it’s the spirit of someone who died.

Think you’ve an encountered a ghost? Start with what’s normal

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.

Or it may not.

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.)

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.

Author: Fiona Broome

Fiona Broome is a paranormal researcher and author. She describes herself as a "blip analyst," since she explores odd "blips" in reality. But mostly, she investigates ghosts and haunted places.