When ghost hunting it is important to understand the nature of the haunting you are investigating. Is the spirit known to be friendly or hostile? Is the building old or new? What type of spirit(s) haunts the grounds and why? These questions are vital to not only understanding the situation you are entering, but also to how to conduct your investigation.
There are many types of ghosts and spirits out there, and one way to classify them is by what they haunt. Most people are familiar with ghosts that haunt a location, as they tend to be very common and easy to recognize. Spirits are often tied to a location, such as a house, room, or geographical territory, due to having died there. The cause of death is usually tragic in some way, in order to leave behind a psychic energy that is not ready to move on. A prime example of a haunted location is Poveglia Island, in the Venice Lagoon. Though once inhabited, the island was empty for a long time until the bubonic plague swept through Italy. The island became a quarantine zone for sick people, which helped it earn a sinister reputation. Many people succumbed to the plague on the island, but that is not the only tragedy that occurred there. In the early 1920s, the buildings on Poveglia were converted into asylums, where patients were treated with about the grace you could expect for the mentally ill in the 20s. Poveglia was completely abandoned sometime in the 1970s, and locals avoid the island for the number of ghosts that haunt there.
Another type of haunting that can be easier to identify is a spirit that haunts an object. Sometimes a spirit's energy attaches to an item - usually one the person has owned in their life - instead of a place, which essentially allows the spirit to travel as the object does. There is a distinction to be made between objects that are haunted, objects that are cursed, and objects that are possessed. Cursed objects will bring ill tidings to whomever is in possession of the object, but can also affect people not physically around the object. Good examples of this are the painting The Hands Resist Him and The Hope Diamond. A possessed object is an item inhabited by a spirit, usually assumed to be a demon. The spirit will control the object - often a doll or other humanoid item - as if the item has autonomy. These categories are distinct from haunted objects, which are objects that a spirit is bound to. A ghost may affect the item it haunts, but it won't necessarily curse the person who owns it (or those who view it) or move around a house like they control the item. Haunted objects include the painting The Anguished Man and Anna Baker's Wedding Dress (though this one may crossover some of the categories listed).
The final, and most difficult to identify, type of haunting is a ghost who haunts a person. These hauntings are especially tricky because a person may not realize they are haunted for some time, or may suddenly become haunted through a number of circumstances. People who are haunted will often assume first that their home or an item they own is haunted, and will not realize the spirit is attached to them until they attempt to move or destroy the suspected item. Symptoms of a personal haunting include:
- Paranormal activity occurs only when a specific person is around
- Activity increases when person is alone
- Activity occurs when person is outside of home
Like hauntings, the entities that haunt come in different forms as well. The most common type of entity is a spirit of a deceased person. People who die often leave traces of psychic energy, and when the person is especially resistant to dying the energy can be strong enough to manifest as a version of the person. These are what we typically refer to as ghosts. These spirits are usually morally neutral - just passing along as they try to cross the barrier to the afterlife - but the ones most easily recognized are malignant spirits. There are, at times, benevolent ghosts, but they are rare. As a general rule, it is best to assume that a ghost is at best going to ignore you and at worst actively try to harm you. When investigating a haunting, use extreme caution.
The other type of entity we will discuss here is a source of contention. I mentioned above that there are plenty of malicious ghosts, but sometimes these entities are so dangerous that to assume they are simply the energy imprint of a person seems improbable. This is where the idea of demons is brought up. Whether you believe in demons or supernatural beings is up to you, but there are many documentations of possessions and hauntings so horrendous that a demon seems to be the most probable explanation. You may be wondering, "Specs, does this mean you believe in demons?" to which I must say . . . I don't know. I can't be sure if these cases are not just caused by ghosts of truly terrible people who wanted to stay behind on earth to continue inflicting harm. The legitimacy of demons is a debate beyond my scope of focus. I will say this: it is always better to be safe than sorry.
You know the different types of hauntings and have a basic grasp of what entities are. What do you do with this knowledge? You expand it. Investigate hauntings and be an open-minded skeptic. Parsing through hauntings to find which are actual ghosts and which are electrical issues will make you a sharp-minded ghost hunter. When investigating a haunting, especially in person, it's important to remember that you are dealing with real people - both the people affected by the haunting and the people potentially doing the haunting. Respect for the dead as well as the living is of utmost importance, especially if you want to be seen as legitimate.
Disclaimer: Spectral Sightings is not responsible for any injury incurred during haunting investigations.