Types of Ghosts: Poltergeist, Doppelganger, Residual and More
It’s midnight. Someone calls your name from down the hall. You peak from your bedroom door and notice that everyone is sound asleep in their own beds. You turn to go back to your bed and catch a glimpse of a shadow out of the corner of your eye. So you figure you’re being haunted. But the question is, by what? Believe it or not, there are multiple types of ghosts, and what type you’re dealing with will determine how you should handle the haunting. Let’s dive in and resolve this paranormal activity together, shall we?
First, What IS a Ghost, Exactly?
Please note. The way this post will be written is not coming from a paranormal investigator’s perspective, but from an individual who has had multiple personal experiences with spirits since childhood. Unprovoked. Meaning, I didn’t hunt down ghosts with cameras and fancy equipment in order to create a personal belief system around spirits, what they are and what they go about doing on this plane of existence. I am a magical practitioner, Reiki healer, nurse, and I have some abilities including claircognizance, clairsalience, clairaudience and physical empathy. That doesn’t mean that I see/hear/smell/feel etc. ghosts all of the time. But when the timing is right and spirits want to be sensed, I typically do sense them in one way or another. Often through dreams and in passing moments when I least expect them. This is something I feel many people might experience if they were open to it.
So, let me get to the point here. What is a ghost, exactly? I think the definition might vary a bit per person; however, most people come to the conclusion that a ghost is a spirit. Usually a spirit of a human being who has passed away and somehow got “stuck” on this plane or somewhere between this plane and the next. While I agree with this definition, I believe it’s much more complicated than that. Ghosts can’t be put into boxes (well, sometimes but that’s for another post). They can’t be put into proverbial boxes…But I will try my best to delineate between the types of ghosts that I am aware of below. And to further the definition, I’m including any spirit that interacts with human beings that isn’t a god/goddess, angel, saint, etc. of that order. But more earthly beings.
Types of Ghosts: The Human Souls
In this first section, we will meet the types of ghosts that likely arose from human existence in way form or another. Meaning, these are souls that once inhabited a human body. Or so we like to think. Or something close to it.
1. Intelligent Ghosts and Classic Hauntings
This is probably the most iconic type of ghost or what we also call a “classic” haunting. This spirit is the disembodied soul that once inhabited a human body. That can’t seem to find its way onto the next phase of the afterlife. There are likely different reasons for this phenomenon, including the individual might have died an unexpected or violent death and doesn’t realize they are indeed dead.
Or sometimes they have the cliche “unfinished business” to tend to before they feel they can move on. The intelligent ghost or haunting is often seen, heard, or felt in various ways and tends to stay in one place. This place might be their home when they were alive or the place where they died. A couple examples of this type of ghost include the the ghost of Anne Boleyn and President Abraham Lincoln. We believe these two are intelligent hauntings because they show up in different places AND seem to be aware of what they are doing (to an extent).
2. Wandering Souls
While also apparently a Spanish flamenco song, wandering ghosts are a type of ghost that I am all too familiar with. I don’t know the song, but I know the ghost. I call this type of spirit a wandering soul or wandering ghost because any time I’ve had contact with them, they seem lost. Not just in the typical way we assume a ghost is lost but like…literally lost. They don’t know where they are going and seem to travel from place to place on this physical plane. They are not attached to a specific location or object and seem to be the “rolling stone” of the spiritual world. This is the random passerby-type-ghost that might even end up in your house…seemingly out of nowhere.
In my experience, these types of ghosts are indeed of a human origin. But I don’t know why they get stuck wandering this plane. Did they follow you home or just happen to walk through the wall and into your domain? We aren’t entirely sure. You could be nice and ask what they want. And if you get bad vibes, you promptly open some windows and do a full house cleansing. They’ll be on their way soon. I promise.
3. Residual Energy or “Imprints”
This type of ghost isn’t intelligent, meaning it isn’t a sentient being with its own thoughts, feelings, or form, necessarily. A residual energy ghost or what I also call an “imprint” is more of a supernatural phenomenon instead of an actual spirit. This is when something so traumatic or intense happened that the situation itself imprinted on the environment. The energy was SO strong that it held onto the energy in that place. These residual energies or imprint ghosts will manifest in a way that the witness will think they are seeing a movie being played on an invisible screen. And often, these residual imprints will replay themselves over and over again in the same place, same time, and various witnesses will encounter it. A well-known example of this type of haunting is the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, PA.
4. Doppelganger and Fetch Spirits
Now the doppelganger is a ghost that could be the soul of a dead human being OR the fetch of a human being. This spirit is the “spiritual twin” of a living individual. What is a fetch, you ask? A fetch spirit is a person’s astral double that may separate from the human’s body ad may go out to do the person’s bidding. Sometimes they might have a mind of their own. However, another theory is the doppelganger is more of an omen…meaning it’s the spirit of a person who is on death’s door that comes to warn his or her loved ones of their own impending death.
I see these two types of ghosts as nearly the same thing. One of the most famous historical examples of a doppelganger is the story of teacher Emilie Sagee. Multiple students saw her doppelganger standing beside her, mirroring her image at the chalkboard. And a few times following this event, her doppelganger was seen again at different places at the school. Keep in mind, the fetch spirit is frequently employed by witches to travel otherworldly realms and do their own bidding. And as for a famous story of a fetch spirit, how about the Bell Witch? This was a living woman who was able to haunt her enemy’s home to an extent that hundreds of people witnessed it!
5. Hitchhiking Ghosts (Attachers)
You’ve heard those creepy stories about people pulling over to the side of the road to give a girl in a prom dress a ride home? And then they find out later on that the girl is dead? This is the classic story of the hitchhiking ghost. There are many variations of the story including with hitchhiking men, as well. When I refer to the hitchhiking ghost, however, I’m not referring specifically to this type of hitchhiker. I’m referring to the ghosts who like to “hitch a ride” on YOUR back. These spirits follow or attach themselves to humans for one reason or another.
This happens to sensitive people who visit haunted places. For example, I visited the historic district of Savannah, GA and literally brought two ghosts home with me. CLEANSING, Banishing, and Warding rituals are a necessity if you feel a spirit has followed you home. Protection when going to graveyards, cemeteries, haunted places, and liminal places is a MUST for highly sensitive individuals and mediums.
A wraith is described like any other ghost, as a spirit of someone who died that has stuck around after leaving its body. However, a wraith is a ghost that has attached itself to someone or something. That something is often an object like a ring (think the Ring wraiths in Lord of the Rings), a piece of furniture, a doll, or heirloom of some kind. They are so obsessed with that object that they don’t want to leave it and their spirit sticks to it like flies to sticky tape. In the case of the infamous dolls Annabelle and Rober the Doll, I believe there may be wraiths attached to these items. Although I know the common theory is that these dolls are possessed by demons. There have been plenty of pieces of furniture and art that are inhabited or haunted by wraiths.
MORE Types of Ghosts: Spirits that are “Other”
Now that we’ve covered the corporeal (if you will) ghosts, we will go on to meet ghosts that are of the “other” kind. Meaning spirits that not incarnated in a human body, that we know of.
1. Animal Spirits
Sometimes an animal’s soul lingers at the site of its death, at its physical home, OR around his or her human friend. Sometimes animal ghosts aren’t of this world at all, but are otherworldly beings like the Hounds of Hell, for example. And, to further complicate things, sometimes animal spirits might even be a witch’s familiar spirit OR her fetch spirit (see above section). Or the animal spirit could even be a shapeshifted witch, shaman, etc. A legitimate example of an animal ghostly haunting comes to us from Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin Ireland. Where a large hound haunts the site of his late master. Another example is the phantom blue dog of Rose Hill in Maryland, US.
2. Shadow People, The Hat Man, and Shadow Spiders
Some people believe shadow people were once of a human nature, though I’m not quite sure I believe in this theory. I’ve encountered a shadow person in my lifetime and it didn’t feel quite human…but something else entirely. These shadow people tend to dart out of the corner of your eye and are frequently seen in corners, darting down hallways, or even lurking over your bed at night. The Hat Man is particularly known to watch people while they are asleep. Shadow spiders is another phenomenon related to the “Shadow” spirit encounter. Are these beings wraiths? Demonic? Time travelers? No one truly knows. There’s also quite a lot of debate as to whether they mean us harm or are neutral beings. The shadow spirit I encountered was NOT friendly and gave stalker vibes. Learn how to be rid of shadow people here.
3. Demons / Low Level Entities
I don’t want to get into the debate as to whether demons are actually ancient gods or not, suffice to say, there is a type of spirit out there that I also like to call a low level entity. Whatever you prefer to call them, these are the guys that most folks are afraid of. They are the spirits that enjoy causing fear and feed off of fear. Sometimes they are brought into our world through portals that someone opens either knowingly or unknowingly. They can be dangerous when fed with that fear, but remember…we are human. We are incarnate. We have the power over them, not the other way around. Strong cleansing, exorcising, and warding rituals are required to be rid of these entities. Salt, holy water, and angel statues are effective.
4. Elementals: Fairies Are a Type of Ghosts?
Maybe you think I’m crazy for saying elementals and fairies are a type of ghost. But hear me out. There’s a fine line between fairies and ancestors. There are NUMEROUS stories in Celtic and Norse lore that talk about the dead being taken up by the fairies. Or how someone loses a loved one, only to see them walking down the hill with a troop of fairies the next day. There are even some theories that fairies ARE the dead…so YES. I believe fairies CAN be a type of ghost. If you ever visit Knockma Hill in Galway, Ireland, the King of the Fairies who resides under the hill is also called the King of the Dead. But perhaps not every fairy is a ghost.
I’m including the poltergeist under the “other” type of ghosts for a reason. When we break down the term poltergeist, it is a German word for “noisy ghost“. And while it very could be the soul of a departed human being, there is much evidence to suggest this phenomenon is a psychic projection instead. When poltergeists manifest, they frequently seem to revolve around teenagers. Young women, to be exact. So there is a theory that the phenomenon is actually the young woman’s pent-up emotions being pushed out into the environment wreaking havoc on those around it. Including the teenager doing the actual projecting. Now, could this be just a theory and could poltergeists be something else entirely? Of course.