The rattle of chains that send a steely chill through the night time air, steps that gasp under ghostly weight, and spectral visions that seem to be lost in time—these are just a few of the types of hauntings that folks and folklore have reported through the ages. As many types of hauntings as there are, they generally fall into two categories:
Intelligent hauntings involve a ghostly presence, a sentient spirit that interacts with its human counterparts such as the ghosts in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, ghosts Alan and Barbara in the movie Beetlejuice, or Sam Wheat in the movie Ghost— all departed souls who continue to interact with the living as if caught between this world and the next.
Also called “imprint” or “energy” hauntings, parapsychologists believe that residual hauntings are the product of stored energy from spirits or events, caught within their earthly environment and replayed like a video in a never-ending loop. Footsteps continually ascending the same flight of stairs or spirits seemingly caught in a time warp where they must continually repeat an event from their lives.
In the comedy “High Spirits” ghosts Martin and Mary Brogan begin as residual haunters, forever caught in a vicious fight that ends in Mary’s death and Martin’s damnation but later are proved to be intelligent(?) haunters that interact with the guests in Peter Plunkett’s Irish castle.
The Folklore of Most Cultures Contains Stories of Hauntings.
Britain teems with tales of hauntings where nearly every castle or manse is home to a resident ghost.
One of the earliest documented hauntings took place in ancient Athens, described by Pliny the Younger (c. (50 AD) in a letter to Licinius Sura.
The philosopher, Athenodoros Cananites (c. 74 BC – 7 AD), rented a large, Athenian house, to investigate rumors that it was haunted. Just as the rumors foretold, Athenodoros was confronted by a house that night, and, sure enough, an aged apparition whose rattling chains bound him at hand and foot. The spirit seemed to beckon Athenodoros, but as he approached the ghost, it vanished. The next day, Athenodoros reported the sighting and summoned the magistrates to dig at the spot where he had last seen the apparition. However, it took three years to recover the man’s shackled bones. As the tale goes, after the bones were properly buried, the hauntings stopped and the spectre was never again seen.
Americans have long enjoyed telling stories of hauntings. From the ghost of Abigail Adams doing her laundry in the East Room to the spirit of Dolley Madison tending the Rose Garden, legends of hauntings fill the corridors and chambers of America’s Presidential estate, the White House, including sightings of President Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost.
Skeptics attribute hauntings to a number of ordinary physical explanations that range from air pressure changes that cause doors to slam to super-sensitive peripheral vision that they attribute to sightings of ghosts. Yet skepticism aside, according to a 2005 Gallup Poll, about 32% of Americans believe in the existence of Ghosts.
About one out of ten people relate an experience with some type of haunting or ghostly phenomena. Their reports include the appearances of apparitions, sensing an unseen presence, or encountering an unexpected or offensive odor or sudden change in room temperature.
Although skeptics decry hauntings as hallucinations or outright hoaxes, many areas have legislation that specifically addresses hauntings. For instance, in several American states, a real estate agent or homeowner must disclose incidences of paranormal activity or an occurrence of death in a home that is for sale.
In one notable instance, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division ruled on a case that was brought to rescind a purchase. Helen Ackley had reported poltergeist activity to both her local newspaper and the Reader’s Digest when her home was included on a five-home tour of the city.
Although the story was widely known, coming from New York City, buyer Jeffrey Stambovsky was unaware of the report. Neither the realtor nor Ackley disclosed the haunting to Stambovsky before he entered a contract to purchase the property. Upon learning of the legend that surrounded the house, Stambovsky filed an action to rescind the contract for sale and a request for damages due to what he claimed was fraudulent misrepresentation. A New York court dismissed the action and Stambovsky appealed. In its majority opinion, the Appellate Court concluded, “Having reported [the poltergeists’] presence in both a national publication... and the local press... defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted."
*Many Parapsychologists prefer to use the word “apparition” instead of ghost since the latter is “insufficiently precise”.
2. Fiona Broome. “Residual Energy Imprint Hauntings”. 2006. Hollow Hill. 24 March 2008. <http://www.hollowhill.com/guide/residualenergyimprint.htm>
1. Hauntings. 24 March 2008 Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 24 March 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauntings>
2. Ghost. 24 March 2008. Wikimedia Foundations, Inc. 24 March 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost>
3-8.“Ghosts and Hauntings in Britain”. 2007. Mysterious Brain. 24 March 2008. <http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/hauntings/hauntingstemplate.html>3. Ghost Hunting. 19 March 2008. Wikimedia Foundations, Inc. 24 March 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_hunting>
4. Fiona Broome. “Residual Energy Imprint Hauntings”. 2006. Hollow Hill. 24 March 2008. <http://www.hollowhill.com/guide/residualenergyimprint.htm>
5-9.“Ghosts of the White House”. The White House. 24 March 2008. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/ghosts/>
6. David Park Musella. “Gallup poll shows that Americans' belief in the paranormal persists” Skeptical Inquirer. Sept.-Oct. 2005. Find Articles. 24 March 2008. <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_5_29/ai_n15400020>
7. “Hauntings Research”. Richard Wiseman Research. Unknown. Richard Wiseman. 24 March 2008. <http://www.richardwiseman.com/research/ghosts.html>
8. Stambovsky v. Ackley. 18 September 2007. Wikimedia Foundations, Inc. 24 March 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stambovsky_v._Ackley>
9. David Slone. “Do You Believe that Ghosts are Real?” 17 January 2007. American Chronicle. 24 March 2008. <http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/19279>
- Internet Resources:
- Ghost Research International
Hauntings (Ghostly Pictures)
The Boston Spirits Walking Tour
Ghosts of the White House
Haunted Hollywood: A Ghost Tour of Los Angeles
International Haunted Places
- Suggested Reading:
- Weird Hauntings: True Tales of Ghostly Places (Weird)
- Coast To Coast Ghosts: True Stories of Hauntings Across America
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ghosts & Hauntings, 2nd Edition (The Complete Idiot's Guide)
- A Christmas Carol