Definition: from the O.E. “gast” meaning soul, spirit, life, breath1; the disembodied manifestations of the spirits or souls of deceased humans or animals that survive after death.2, 3

Belief in Ghosts

The belief in ghosts is related to the ancient concept of animism, a word that comes from the Latin anima and a belief that all things, both animate and inanimate, is endowed with a soul.4

Religions the world over show belief in ghosts. Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism all teach that ghosts exist.5

Both the Torah and the Bible contain references to ghosts. Most notably, in I Samuel, where King Saul engages the Witch of Endor to summon the spirit of the dead Samuel and in Matthew 24 where Jesus must persuade his fearful disciples that he is not a ghost following the resurrection.

Types of Ghosts

Although parapsychologists prefer the word “apparitions” to “ghosts”, many colorful terms are commonly used to describe specific types of ghosts:

Seeing Ghosts

Although no scientific proof exists of actual ghost sightings, throughout history, the ghosts of humans often are depicted in art as an exact representation of the living person, including the clothing the ghost wore at the time of his/her death.

Ghosts are also believed to appear as vaporous emanations of mists or ectoplasm.4 Some anthropologists believe that these visions come from the ancient perception that “breath” is related to the soul as shown in the Latin “spiritus” and the Greek “pneuma”.1

Ghost Hunting

The Ghost Club, founded in London in 1862, is believed to be the oldest paranormal research organization in the world attracting such notable members as Charles Dickens and Sir William Crookes.11

Ghosts are often involved in hauntings and “ghost hunting” parapsychologists the world over have embraced technology to prove that sightings of ghosts are genuine.

According to some sources, one of the first Americans to try to harness technology for use in “Ghost Hunting”, was Thomas Alva Edison. Although references to Edison’s unsuccessful attempt to develop a “Ghost Recording” machine exist in some sources, other sources contradict this information.

Some parapsychologists worry that the use of some technological “Ghost Hunting Tools” may have the reverse effect. For instance, Lloyd Auerbach, who holds a graduate degree in parapsychology and is the founder of the Office of Paranormal Investigations in San Francisco’s East Bay was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying,

"What ends up happening is nobody reads the instructions. I'm seeing people use (electromagnetic-field meters) all over the place, and they get all excited when they get a high reading. It turns out they're next to a microwave oven. I've found more bad wiring in homes than I've found ghosts with these devices.”12

1-11.Douglas Harper. November 2001. Online Etymology Dictionary. 27 March 2008.
2-13. Supernatural Glossary. 2008. Psychic Experiences. 27 March 2008.
3-14. ParaNormal and Supernatural Definitions. [unknown]. ParaSkeptics. 27 March 2008. <http://www.wrexhamparaskeptics.4t.com/definitions.htm>
4-2. Ghost. 24 March 2008. Wikimedia Foundations, Inc. 24 March 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost>
5-10.”Ghosts and Religion”. [unknown]Ghosts. 24 March 2008. <http://www.angelsghosts.com/ghosts_religion.html>
6. Paranormal Dictionary. [unknown]. Got Ghosts? 27 March 2008. <http://gotghosts.us/definitions.html>
7.Doppelgänger. 26 March 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 March 2008. <.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppelganger>
8. Gjenganger. 15 November 2007. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 March 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjenganger>
9. Douglas Harper. November 2001. Online Etymology Dictionary. 27 March 2008.
10. Douglas Harper. November 2001. Online Etymology Dictionary. 27 March 2008.
11-12. Welcome to the Ghost Club. 2005. The Ghost Club. 27 March 2008. <http://www.ghostclub.org.uk/>
12. Carrie Kirby. “Ghost Hunters Use Latest in Technology”. SF Gate 31 October 2005. San Francisco Chronicle. 24 March 2008.