Top Four Types of Hauntings: Dr Hawthorn’s Ghost Guide Vol. 2

Following on from my Top Ten Ghost Hunting Tips, here comes your one stop cheat sheet to help identify the different types of haunting activity.

Is My House Haunted?

Short answer, maybe. If you find yourself reading this, it’s probably fair to say you think it might be. 

Every home has spirits, but not every house is haunted, and even then, not all ghosts are created equal. Despite what Hollywood may have you believe, most spectral roommates are rather benign.

Signs your house might be haunted commonly include:

  • Sudden temperature changes. 
  • Apparitions. Seeing glimpses of something strange or a full bodied spectre is the most obvious 
  • Moving objects
  • Hearing Voices
  • Feelings of being watched
  • Slamming doors
  • Flickering lights
  • Strange Electromagnetic readings

We’ll cover this in depth in a future article, but for now, let’s break down the four main types of paranormal activity, and understand the differences between them.

Residual Hauntings

Imagine you’re staying the night in an old, old house. You go to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, when all of a sudden, a spectral maid walks through the wall and down the stairs, carrying out her duties as she did in life. You’ve just witnessed a residual haunting.

The theory of a residual haunting is that lingering energies imprint onto the walls of a location – The Stone Tape Theory. These energies could be a strong emotional experience, like a murder or assault, or, as in the case above, a repeated pattern of events, worn into the stones like footprints on an old staircase. 

The defining factor of a residual haunting is the lack of ability to communicate. These spirits may not be “ghosts” in the traditional sense, just a recording playing on loop when the circumstances are right. A residual haunting won’t harm you. In fact, they have no idea you’re even there. 

My belief is that most places, even “non-haunted” locations, are likely to carry some residual energy of its past and not all of it is negative. Ever walked into a new home and felt the vibe is “just right”? Ever walked into a room and felt you could cut the tension with a knife? Maybe you’re picking up on the argument your parents have just had about how much time Papa is spending with the young men at the Badminton Club, or how much money Mama is lavishing on the pretty new maid she hired to fasten her corsets and you know it’s time to pack your bags because they’re about to send you off to boarding school again because goddamn it, Lucius, you just make things worse. Or perhaps you can feel the remnants of a similar argument, many years before.

A residual haunting may manifest as the following:

  • Strange feelings, particularly in certain areas of the house. This may include anomalous emotional responses in certain rooms, or the feeling of not being alone.
  • Sudden temperature changes that may precede additional activity.
  • Apparitions that seem to ignore the viewer.
  • Unexplained noises such as footsteps, laughter, crying, or the sounds of a marvellous party you haven’t been invited too.

A Question For The Doctor:

Why do ghosts walk through walls, but not fall through the floor? 

A residual haunting will play out an event as it happened at that point in history. This playback doesn’t care if a door’s been boarded up in subsequent years – the house remembers.

Intelligent Hauntings

When we think of a traditional “ghost”, we’re usually thinking of an intelligent haunting. An intelligent haunting is the earth bound spirit of a deceased person, unable to fully cross over for whatever reason. These differ from a residual haunting in the sense that they may be able to effect the physical environment, or communicate in some way with the living. This type of ghost may be aware of your presence, but may be unaware that they have passed on. 

Intelligent hauntings make up the majority of the supernatural horror films on the big screen, although in reality they are not nearly as violent or disruptive. 

As well as the above, an intelligent haunting may manifest as the following:

  • Feeling a physical touch, or the presence of others in the room.
  • The ability to communicate through your favourite type of spectral communication device.
  • Hearing voices that relate to the physical world, such as, hearing your name, being told to “leave”, comments on your choice of decor. 
  • Apparitions that are seemingly aware of the viewer or of the environment around them.
  • The ability to physically interact with the environment. This may include movements of small objects.

Poltergeist Activity

Ah, yes, the noisy ghost. This controversial little spirit is said to manifest solely with the moving of objects. Often said to be violent, these spirits are usually centred around a single person, most often teens or preteens. 

Although the moving of objects can occur in an intelligent haunting, poltergeists deserve their own mention due to their divisive nature. The pro-poltergeist camp insist that object are moved, thrown and otherwise disturbed due to the subconscious manifestation of a person’s will. Usually this person is under some kind of stress, or is going through puberty – hence its association with teens. 

This is also the reason many in the paranormal community discredit poltergeist activity entirely, as its a particularly easy phenomenon to fake, with its frequency among teens a result of attention seeking behaviours. After all, if poltergeist activity is a result of hormonal changes, why is it not also centred around people going through the menopause, or hormone treatment?

A Poltergeist is characterised by the following:

  • The moving, throwing or destroying objects. 
  • On occasion, the thrown objects will feel extremely hot to touch.
  • Happenings that seem to centre around one person.
  • Due to the nature of its manifestation, Poltergeist activity is easy to fake, so take reports of this activity alone with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Inhuman Spirits

 An inhuman spirit is just that – an entity that has never been human – but there’s no need to fetch your rosary just yet, as plenty of these spirits are completely benign. This category is mostly made up of nature spirits, which in terms of hauntings, may be attached to the land and inadvertently disturbed by new building work. 

As well as the above, an Inhuman Spirit may manifest as the following:

  • Feeling a presence (this can be positive, negative or neutral).
  • Glimpses of movement in your periphery.  
  • Misplacing items, only to have them reappear in bizarre places. This may seem playful, rather than a negative.
  • In my experience, inhuman spirits may respond better to spiritual devices rather than hi-tech ghost hunting equipment. You may have better results communicating with a pendulum rather than an EMF metre.

Of course, we can’t talk about inhuman spirits without mentioning Demons. Contrary to what TV and film may have us believe, so called “demonic hauntings” are particularly uncommon. Like really uncommon. Of course, this could be a due to a matter of opinion on what is and is not classified as a demon, and as a practising Pagan who does not subscribe to the traditional Christian notions of Heaven and Hell, I am aware of my bias in this. However, a grumpy ghost and a negative entity are very different things, with their own signature styles of haunting.

Classic “demonic” behaviour may include:

  • An aversion to religious items. 
  • A particularly oppressive feeling at a location

Many people believe negative changes in personality can be an indication of a demonic haunting or negative spirit attaching to a person, but this is more likely a result of a new or existing mental health condition, for which the person needs medical help. “Demonic Possession” may also be an excuse used by abusers to explain their actions, so as a ghost hunter or a haunted family, please do not even begin to entertain this theory without the intervention of medical services.


If you suspect your house is haunted, I hope this gives you an idea as to the type of haunting you may be dealing with. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow the social channels below, because next week we’ll explore what to do if you’re being troubled by an unruly spirit.

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