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The Six Types of Hauntings

Katharine has been interested in the occult and the supernatural ever since she experienced a haunting in her childhood.

What kinds of hauntings are there? Read on to find out!

What kinds of hauntings are there? Read on to find out!

Have You Ever Seen a Ghost?

Have you ever heard someone call your name when you know no one is there? Ever seen the shadowy figure of someone out of the corner of your eye, then turned and saw nothing? Or, have you ever seen someone that looks exactly like yourself, only to watch them disappear into a crowd? All these are examples of hauntings. Delving into the different types of hauntings can be a fascinating journey into the supernatural, and being able to put a name to the type of haunting you may have experienced can be useful in understanding the origins or purpose of the haunting.

There are three main categories of hauntings, each with one sub-category that make up the six distinct types of hauntings that someone can experience. Here we will explore each category and sub-category and give examples of hauntings that have actually occurred to real people. Perhaps you can recognize the type of haunting that you may have heard about or experienced among the examples.

In 1951, two women heard the sounds of a battle that wasn't there.

In 1951, two women heard the sounds of a battle that wasn't there.

1. Residual Hauntings

The first category of haunting is that of "residual hauntings," and they are by far the most common. Residual hauntings can be visual, audio, olfactory, or tactile. That is, they can be seen, heard, smelled or felt. A residual haunting can be described as the "imprint" of energy from another time, usually on a place but sometimes associated with an object. In this type of haunting, the specter is not aware of anyone around him and cannot interact or communicate with anyone. It is more like the re-playing of a tape or film, and it happens usually in the exact same way, over and over. It is thought that the energy produced by the person or people, when alive, during a time of high emotion or trauma, somehow imprints itself on its surroundings and "re-plays" over and over again, even though the original participants are long dead. Such hauntings can be dormant for long periods and then triggered by a variety of things. A new family moving into an empty house, for example, or sometimes something as ordinary as a weather pattern can act as a trigger.

Real-Life Example

An example of a residual haunting occurred in 1951 and was a haunting of the audio type. Two English women were staying at a hotel in Dieppe, France, not far from the scene of a fierce battle that had occurred nine years earlier during the allied invasion of France in World War II. The hotel was not far from the shore, and both women were awakened about four in the morning by the sounds of battle reverberating all around them. Confused, they wandered out onto the balcony of their room and looked about. All was dark, peaceful, and still, yet the sounds were unmistakably those of heavy artillery fire, the whiz of dive bombers, frantic shouts of commands, and the loud stutter of machine guns. They could even hear the heavy thump of shells exploding, and all these sounds seemed very close by. The two women remained on the balcony while the noise continued for nearly an hour and then abruptly stopped. In the early morning haze, the sandy road before the hotel lay quiet and undisturbed, and it wasn't until later that the women realized that the nearby beach had been the site of a disastrous battle nine years earlier.

Poltergeists are a common form of residual haunting.

Poltergeists are a common form of residual haunting.

2. Poltergeists: A Specific Type of Residual Haunting

A sub-category of residual hauntings would include poltergeist activity, considered by many not to be hauntings at all, as they do not appear to be related to any human spirit in particular. Rather, a poltergeist event seems to be a misdirection of powerful energy, often destructive and many times channeled through a living person. It is unknown what causes poltergeists to manifest in response to any one human being, but for some reason, this most commonly occurs with pre-teen or young teen-aged girls.


Examples of poltergeist activity include objects hurtling across a room, doors opening and closing, the re-arrangement of objects in a room, loud noises, such as thumps or shrieks, horribly offensive odors, and interference with electronic devices, such as phones, televisions, and lights going on and off. The activities usually appear to be random and can come and go for no apparent reason. A poltergeist occurrence can be very upsetting and disruptive, and, while they usually do not persist for long periods of time, there have been cases where families have had to move out of a home due to ongoing poltergeist activity.

An intelligent haunting can be frightening, but most spirits are just trying communicate.

An intelligent haunting can be frightening, but most spirits are just trying communicate.

3. Intelligent Hauntings

Also called "active" hauntings, these can be very frightening, though the entity rarely means any harm to the living. An intelligent haunting involves a spirit who is intentionally present and sometimes even attempts to communicate with the living. Sometimes the spirit is not aware that they have passed; other times, they do know but are driven to bring some message to the living. Intelligent hauntings can include the sighting of an apparition, hearing a voice, or sometimes being aware of communication without any sound from the spirit. Usually, the apparition will be seen as they were in life and wearing the clothing they would have worn, but occasionally they appear in the clothing their dead bodies were dressed in or with wounds that may have caused their death. At times these ghostly figures will appear translucent or transparent; other times, they look quite solid and real.

The Intelligent Haunting of an Indiana Family

An example of an intelligent haunting happened to one Indiana family in the early 1980s. The family had moved into a house that was about a hundred and fifty years old at the time. Several weeks after settling in, the father was sitting by the fireplace in the evening, reading. He looked up and was surprised to see a young woman in a long skirt and a simple blouse walking across the far side of the room. She looked like a normal person, and he was about to ask who she was when she appeared to walk right through the wall that separated the living room from the dining room and disappeared! He was stunned and told the story to his wife, but they decided not to mention it to the children so as not to alarm them.

A few weeks later, the youngest child, about age eight, was coloring in a coloring book, sitting at the dining room table. She glanced up and saw the same woman emerge from the wall and walk across the room, placing her hand on the far wall. The child said, "hey, who are you??" The woman turned and looked at her with a sad face and then simply vanished! The child ran to tell her mother about the woman. Her mother tried to downplay it, but the child was adamant about what she had seen.

A spirit can be trying to communicate something to you, just like the female spirit in this example.

A spirit can be trying to communicate something to you, just like the female spirit in this example.

That night, after the children were in bed and the mother was working on crafts on the dining room table, the apparition of the woman appeared again, emerging from the wall, as before, and walking across the room to place her hand on the far wall. The mother was too startled to say anything, but before disappearing, the woman turned her head towards her, and she too noted the sad expression on her face.

Several more times, the woman appeared, always walking through the living room wall and always placing her hand on the same spot on the dining room wall. The family tried to go about their lives but were always wary when the mysterious woman might appear in the living room or dining room.

At one point, they decided to open the wall between the living room and kitchen and put a large island there instead. While dismantling the wall, they came upon a grisly sight—the tiny bones of a human infant. Somehow, the body of an infant had been encased in the old wall, and there it had remained for who knew how many years. They called the police, and the bones were removed, but as it was eventually determined that the bones were over 100 years old, no investigation was launched. The family invested in a tiny casket for the infant's bones, and it was buried in a nearby churchyard with a small ceremony, the family the only ones in attendance.

After the little funeral, the ghost of the woman was never seen again. The family reasoned that she had been haunting the house so that someone would find her infant's bones and give them a decent burial. The story behind the woman and her baby remains a mystery.

The doppelganger is a specific type of intelligent haunting.

The doppelganger is a specific type of intelligent haunting.

4. The Doppelganger

The subset of intelligent hauntings is relatively rare but happens often enough to have been documented in a wide variety of cases, including some which have appeared to some very famous people; it is called a "doppelganger" haunting.

Doppelganger means "double walker" in German and is a phenomenon that involves someone seeing an exact double of themselves, almost always even dressed in the exact same clothing as they have on. Normally it will appear only to that person, while others around them are unable to see it, and tends to signify that something traumatic or tragic is about to happen to the person who sees him or herself.

The Englishwoman Who Saw Her Twin

An example of a doppelganger incident occurred to an English woman who thought she caught sight of her exact double on a bus passing by as she waited at a bus stop. The face, identical to her own, was staring with a solemn expression out the bus window directly at her as the bus passed. A few days later, again, she saw her exact double, dressed exactly as she was, staring at her from the edges of a crowd of people waiting to cross a busy street. The light changed, and the double turned and disappeared into the throng of people. The following week this woman was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer.

The concept of the doppelganger can be difficult to grasp, as it is not a traditional type of haunting. To better understand this spectral phenomenon, the video below offers some good examples.

Even non-believers have experienced demonic hauntings.

Even non-believers have experienced demonic hauntings.

5. Demonic Hauntings

Demons are described as evil energy from an unknown source that is unrelated to the human form. Many believe demons to be sent by the devil, but even non-believers have experienced demonic hauntings. Demons can appear as frightening-looking animals, horrific and hideous creatures, or sometimes a black smoke or fog. They seem to be able to change shape and form, sometimes right before an observer's eyes, and their task is to wreak havoc in a subject's life, at times even possessing their bodies. Demons are thought to emerge from "gateways" near where the haunting occurs. A gateway can be a cave, a well, a hole, or some other portal-type entrance, usually from the ground. Another way for demons to infest a home or person can be through paranormal practices, such as dabbling in the black arts, attempting to cast spells, or using a Ouija board to try to contact spirits.

Multiple Examples of Demonic Activity

Examples of demonic hauntings include a wide variety of phenomena because they tend to start in much the same way as an intelligent haunting and progress from there to a much more sinister presence. Such a haunting could begin, for example, as though it were a poltergeist presence, with audible thumps and groans, appliances going haywire, scratches or marks on walls, etc. From there, they can progress to personal attacks on individuals, such as pushing, shoving, slapping, and scratching, even to the point where welts can be seen on the body or blood drawn from scratched skin.

An extreme example of a demonic haunting that is familiar to many would be the film The Exorcist, where a young girl's body was inhabited by a demonic presence that had to be exorcised by a priest.

Aside from people, shadow animal sightings have also been reported.

Aside from people, shadow animal sightings have also been reported.

6. Shadow Hauntings

A sub-category of demonic hauntings is called a shadow haunting or shadow people. Shadow hauntings are often described as a shapeless form of dark mist, smoke, or steam, and are usually seen in the peripheral vision. People who have reported a shadow haunting say that a feeling of foreboding or dread accompanies their appearance. Shadow people are similarly dark and filmy but have no facial features or clothing, with the odd exception of a hat or hood. One type of shadow person appears with a hat similar to a fedora, and another type wears a hood. Shadow animals have also been reported, mostly in the rough shape of a cat.

The Case of the Shadow Spider

One story of a shadow haunting happened to a woman who was tucking herself into bed at night. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a shadow on the ceiling, darker than the rest of the normal night shadows. When she looked directly at it, it seemed to shrink down to a pinpoint. She began to read in bed when something moved in her peripheral vision. She looked up to see the dark shadow crawling across the ceiling, much like a spider! Terrified, she ducked under the covers and hoped it would go away. Each time she peeked out from the covers, the shadow was there and appeared to be peering out from behind the normal ceiling shadows back at her. She never was able to explain this phenomenon, and in fact, there are few theories as to what a shadow haunting may signify or what its origins are. It seems, however, that its purpose is to frighten or cause anxiety, which, as you can imagine, it does!

And so, there you have three main categories of hauntings along with their sub-categories. Watch the video below and see if you can determine which of the six types each haunting is.

Have You Experienced a Haunting?

Have you ever experienced one of these hauntings? If you have, please take a moment to respond to the poll below and let us know which type of haunting you've experienced. You will be able to see the results after you answer. You can let us in on the details in the comments, if you wish.


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    T.O.P.S - The Ozarks Paranormal Society, investigating paranormal activity in the Ozarks. Ozark Mountains Ghost Hunters
  • How to Verify Signs of a Haunting: 7 Steps (with Pictures)
    The Paranormal Society - The largest online paranormal social networking site. Watch Ghost Adventures Full Episodes, connect with others, make new friends and talk about the paranormal
  • The Six Types of Haunting Activities
    Paranormal investigator describes the six types of hauntings. What type of haunting have you encountered?.

Book: Best True Ghost Stories of the 20th Century by David C. Knight, 1984

© 2012 Katharine L Sparrow

Comments Appreciated!

Katharine L Sparrow (author) from Massachusetts, USA on July 19, 2018:

Wow, Gerry, that's quite a story! I wonder what that haunting could have been related to? Or was it a UFO situation, maybe? Beings from somewhere else? Maybe you're lucky they didn't take you with them! Spooky tale!

Gerry Glenn Jones from Somerville, Tennessee on July 19, 2018:

Katharine, I enjoyed your article and wanted to let you know what I saw when I was 17 years old. I was driving on a gravel road in Pontotoc County, Mississippi when I saw a white shimmering light in the form of a person standing on the right shoulder of the road. I did not see a discernable face, but I did notice that it turned and seemed to watch me go by. As soon as I passed it, I looked to my left and saw a group of the same type beings in a circle to my there. I didn't drink or do drugs, and I was very aware that I was seeing something that I could never explain.

mamie on May 21, 2016:

Ok ever since I 8 when my dad and step mom started leving me alone at home i have been tearuadide to be left home alone we move a lot but one thing stays when I walk down the hall I have to run because I fill like I'm being chaced and if I don't run it will kill me at night and day. I wake up at 3 - 3:30 for no reason I have set up a game cam in my bed room and hall way.I had my game can on the other night and I noted at 3:00 a blue orb that wasn't the first time I noticed it the first time I saw it was when I was recording a hula hoop dancing video I after I record it I went and watched it and noticed a blue orb shoot across the camera screen I searched the room for what could have been maybe the heater but the theater was out of sight.when I was 5 I remember waking up in the middle of the night screaming because of a nightmare I always had.I'm 14 now.what type of ghost or paranormal being is this.

Gina on September 20, 2015:

I'm middle aged and have a mostly Irish Catholic ethnicity. Eight years ago I began to experience the invisible form of stigmata, usually experience it on my bed.

Shortly after these experiences started paranormal activity began in my home.

It started underneath my bed as gentle pitter-patter movements under my pillow.

One time it was more aggressive like a child playing with a xylophone, but it didn't hurt me. It has "thrown" a can of wasp spray off of the shelf in my laundry room and moved a small bag of cookie cutters only about a foot from where i was sitting on my bedroom floor. My house was new when we moved into it and no one has passed away in my home. I also am fairly certain I've been hearing angels singing in mostly my bedroom for the past two years. I hear them when the AC/heating system kicks on, or if my portable fan is on. I think I may have recorded them for about two minutes on my iphone. I've read on the Internet other people who wrote that they hear angels singing through their AC/heating systems when they kick on and through their fans when their fan is running. My invisible stigmata is a real phenomena and there is plenty of information about it on the Internet. I don't tell people about the stigmata because most of the people I've told about it think I'm crazy. I recently took a photo of the couch in my living room on my iphone and a gray, translucent photo of an adult human skull showed up in the photo. I panicked and deleted the photo, but took another photo in the same room a week later and a blurry image of the skull showed up again, I've kept this photo. It or they haven't hurt anyone. I haven't dabbled in witchcraft, tarot cards, Ouiji boards, etc. The phenomena started after my religious experiences started. Anyone else out there either have or had similar experiences after religious experiences or know someone who has? Not asking for names, just wondering if anyone else is familiar with this..

Jamie Gates from Deep South on May 29, 2014:

Love the thoroughness and layout of your story. Very professional yet easy to read and most entertaining. You're an asset to Hub Pages, Sparrowlet. Thank you.

Jacqueline Smith on April 05, 2013:

Great reading material! Like your readers, I too have had paranormal encounters that couldn't be explained. It's nice to know that I am not crazy or alone.

aodowdus on April 03, 2013:

I am a Wiccan and do at times read tarot cards and cast spells. While I have never been possessed, I have experienced Demonic Haunts and it's sub-haunt. For the shadow haunt, it is a really regular occurrence and has been a part of my life since around 2008/2009. Starting in 2011 I started experiencing Demonic Haunts. I am not going to take the time to describe what I've seen with these Haunts because I don't believe I can adequately describe what I have seen, and the memories themselves leave me feeling a bit on edge. I will say that only about 5% of the time is a Demonic Haunt preceded by me performing some time of ritual (yes, I do study the Dark Arts/Black Magic/Dark Magic... whatever you want to call it). The consistent part for me with Demonic Haunts is they are ALWAYS preceded by either an INTENSE feeling of something staring at me and wanting to cause harm, or else a Shadow Haunt preceding it anywhere from 5-45 minutes in advance. These haunts follow me from place to place, whether it's from a move or visiting friends in other states. I personally am not afraid of haunts (for the most part) because I do not open myself to let one take possession of me, but I will admit that there is the rare occurrence where a Demonic Haunt shows itself with such intensity that I do fear for my life and retreat (as quickly as possible without looking away from it while retreating) to a safe room where I keep salt ready to line any portal into the room (effectively keeping any spirit of any form from crossing the threshold). I don't think every reported haunt is a true haunt (call me a skeptical believer). For some, there are other outside forces (unknown to the observer) that could cause what they are experiencing.

RTSQ on August 23, 2012:

A few years ago, I took a cab to work in the early dark hours of the morning. I got in, told the driver the address and then noticed that a woman was in the front passenger seat. I didn't think it was all that strange, since the driver was from a country where women don't always drive, and I assumed he was giving her a ride somewhere, though I did think it was an odd time of day to be going out. When we got to my place of work, I leaned forward to give him the money, and noticed that the woman was gone. I realized then what she was. I told him, "Just so you know, there is a woman riding in your passenger seat." He immediately said, "Oh my God!" as if he knew exactly what I was talking about. An hour later, while in the hall at work, someone firmly placed their hand on the small of my back. I was absolutely the only person around. Maybe the cab ghost, after realizing I could see her, had followed me inside.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 11, 2012:

Actually, the first incident did scare me half to death, but there was no place to pull over safely until the next exit several miles away, so I just toughed it out. I was driving the van that had belonged to the disembodied voice in the passenger's seat. I was following the friend who'd borrowed it after his death, and we were returning it to the widow in another town. When we did finally pull off and stop, I jumped out, crying, then got angry because the friend knew *exactly* what had happened because it had happened to him several times while he was driving the van. Said he didn't warn me because he knew I was "sensitive" to such things, and if it also happened to me, then he'd know HE wasn't "losing it". Was quite the interesting afternoon, even after we got to the widow's home. ;D

Katharine L Sparrow (author) from Massachusetts, USA on May 11, 2012:

Wow, JamaGenee, that's so strange! I think I'd freak out and drive off the road! Then again, it's cool that they wanted to keep in touch with you, I guess. Interesting story!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 10, 2012:

For some reason, disembodied Recently Departeds like to pop into the passenger's seat and chat while I'm driving! No, it's not my imagination, hallucinating, or an odd way to express grief. Both times it happened, it was broad daylight on a sunny day, so perhaps that's why I could only hear their voices and sense their presence, but not see them. From the conversations that took place, it was apparent to me that neither had accepted yet that they were dead. ;D

cryptid from USA on May 08, 2012:

Excellent Hub. I have to say, of all the types of haunting I've always found the doppelganger idea the creepiest. I've had a few experience but never anything like that.

Jenn from Pennsylvania on May 07, 2012:

Great hub. I have never experienced a haunting and don't exactly know where my position stands on ghosts, demons, etc., although my sister saw a shadow figure in my grandparents' house when she was very young.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 07, 2012:

Great hub, Katharine! It's interesting that pets can be involved in shadow hauntings, which tells me that they end up wherever we do for an afterlife?

Civil War Bob from Glenside, Pennsylvania on May 07, 2012:

Well written hub, Sparrowlet...voted up, useful, interesting. Got here on Hopper. How do you feel about the historic nature of the guy with a legion of demons in him recorded in the Bible in Luke 8?

Pamela Hutson from Moonlight Maine on May 07, 2012:

Great hub! I have experienced several intelligent hauntings and seen shadow figures as part of one of them, but I didn't get the sense the shadow figures were demonic. I know they scare a lot of people.

I think people get in trouble with dark entities when they have a lot of fear. There are entities that 'eat' fear, they're drawn to it. I see this dynamic in some demonic hauntings. I'm not saying there are no malevolent entities, just that, as Kitty points out, they only have power if you ask them in and give it to them. Most people don't even realize when they are doing this, so it's natural they would freak out and make it all worse.

Thank you for this insightful hug. Thumbs up!

Kitty Fields from Summerland on May 07, 2012:

Great hub breaking down the different types of hauntings. I've experienced more than one in my lifetime...I've experienced intelligent hauntings and shadow hauntings and possibly even a demonic haunting but the demonic haunting was never really extreme so I'm not sure if I could categorize it as that. I've always been open to the paranormal, but I do have to say one thing. Practicing the "dark arts" is not what would make one possessed...the dark arts could be anything from dark paganism to voodoo and demonic possession doesn't come from these practices. A person has to be open to allowing a spirit to come in...generally someone who is practicing "black magic"...which is different than simply "dark magic". Casting spells will not make you possessed, it is only if you are calling upon the darker forces in which to do so or if you are not protecting yourself from negative energy or spirits. Awesome hub, though! Loved it!