This month, Amy and I dove into six different types of paranormal hauntings: Orbs, Apparitions & Ectoplasmic Entities, Intelligent, Residual, Malevolent and Poltergeists. On the podcast episode that accompanies this blog post, we asked some of the deeper questions about how to classify each case that we come across. Does one type of haunting trump another if there are different samples from more than one type? Some of these types blur the line between each one, what characteristic determines the pinpointed title of each type?
Let’s dive in.
As generic a term “energy” can be when discussing the paranormal, it can be difficult to explain orbs without using this term. Essentially, the thought process of ghosts, spirits, or other paranormal entities is the energy of what was once inside a human body. When this “energy” is caught on film and photographs, , they are described as balls of energy since they are spherical in shape.
According to The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Hauntings, an orb is described as coming from an unknown origin and cannot be seen with the naked eye, and not to be confused with “ghost lights” which are an eye-witness account.
Not Just Dust
In old abandoned houses, warehouses or any other structure that’s been left for dead (pun intended), it can be difficult to decipher which pieces of video or film are just highlighting dust particles floating through the air. In our experience, we have found that actual orbs also hold characteristics of color, movement or point of origin. Let’s break it down a bit further:
Color: If you missed my study on the color formation of orbs, feel free to go back and revisit. The point here is that dust is not going to show in colors of the rainbow. Dust will more than likely be transparent and absent of any variation of the rainbow. In other words, brown, beige or white will need further analysis but are more than likely just those pesky dust particles getting in the way of your investigation.
Movement: This characteristic will show an orb moving as if it were intelligent. To debunk any insect flying through your camera frame, be skeptic about any fast moving “white lights” that show one direction. The definitive characteristic of a moving orb is not only the direction it’s moving, but also any changes in pattern. Does it seem to move with the wind? Does the orb seem to follow your camera? Is it too fast and small to clarify any detail of the orb? These are all questions you should be asking when analyzing any movement from objects in your videos. As for photographs, I recommend zooming in on the orb and studying the detail. Does it have a solid edging? Are there amoeba-like structures in the center? Are you hoping to see a face in the center? These are are all questions I look into when someone sends me their photo to analyze. Although there are no definitive qualities to every single orb analysis, these questions should still be considered.
Point of Origin: The point of origin of an orb also defines whether you’re looking at dust or not. If an anomaly simply appears or disappears within the frame of your video, this has great potential to be substantial evidence of an orb. Of course, further analysis, like frame by frame visuals, will help you determine what you’re actually looking at.
APPARITIONS & ECTOPLASMIC ENTITIES
Apparition has a very simplistic definition: to appear. Anything that “appears” before you can be considered an apparition. In the paranormal field, this has more of a narrowed definition of anything that appears before you that cannot be explained. These apparitions can manifest in photographs, video, or real time witness with the naked eye. Apparitions still have some debunking factors that should be analyzed especially in photographs and video.
We’ve seen photos sent in by my tour guests and along with clients of alleged haunted locations that after deeper analysis can be debunked by angles of light sources and observing the entire photo. Others cannot be fully explained, and therefore, by default, are labeled as paranormal.
As for Ectoplasmic Entities, neither Amy nor myself have ever experienced anything that falls into this category.
We usually think of the very popular and hilarious film’s sidekick, Slimer, when the term “ectoplasm” is brought up. Who doesn’t love to hear Bill Murray claim that he’s been slimed while lying on a hotel floor?
But a deeper look into what ectoplasm is holds a much different definition. During a peak of paranormal interest, when it wasn’t so taboo to discuss afterlife topics, charlatans and claimed psychics/mediums also claimed to be able to reproduce a slimy cloth-like substance from orifices of their own body. Mediums have the ability to converse with our loved ones and those in the afterlife. If they have the ability to channel, meaning allowing an entity to use their body in order to communicate, this ectoplasm can then be produced.
A documentary on Netflix called Surviving Death, shows a medium retreat where the lead medium has claims of channeling specific spirits with the possibility of producing ectoplasm during these events. The skepticism comes into play when the filmmakers disclaim that no cameras are allowed into the séance room as this event allegedly occurs. I invite you to watch this series and make a judgment for yourself. As for Amy and I, we need proof of ectoplasm being produced with a full analysis of the material before a belief system can be made.
Intelligent Hauntings fall more of a characteristic type of quality versus just a visual experience like the examples in orbs.
Intelligent hauntings can be easily classified as receiving direct responses from an entity. Think of this as more of an adjective for a paranormal experience versus a “type” all on its own. This can be used to describe most of the types listed in this post.
The direct responses can be visual, auditory, and/or emotional. Let’s get some explanations of each.
Visual: In the event, you are testing for paranormal activity, this can be seeing an inanimate object move, lights move on an EMF meter, a REM pod or motion sensor indicate motion after requesting such a response. There’s usually no mistaking this type of response if you can recreate it more than once.
Auditory: This response can be in the form of disembodied EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) on voice recordings, EVPs from spirit boxes, which can or can’t be from radio chatter, or simple requests without using paranormal equipment like knocking or tapping sounds heard upon request. Some may speculate that footsteps heard would also fall into this category, but we’ll talk more about that later.
Emotional: On this month’s podcast episode, Amy and I discussed raised emotions arousing paranormal activity. Placing emotional reactions under the intelligent entity category is telling of the personality of the entity in question. If asking very generic cliched questions like “show us a sign”, an emotional reaction of feeling cold, goosebumps, dizziness, headaches, or nausea can also be that generic “sign” you asked for. By feeling these things personally, there’s usually not any medical equipment on a paranormal investigation, but perhaps there should be to measure these reactions to determine if these “signs” are intelligent or just a bodily reaction to EMF activity.
This can be one of the most interesting topics for paranormal investigators. A residual haunting is caused by a raised emotion of an event of the past. This raised emotion can be something traumatic or blissful.
The best way to explain a residual haunting is to think of a recorded movie being played over and over, and the paranormal activity documented like a sound, or an EVP is caught at the same part of the movie over and over.
For example, Lodge Alley, here in Charleston, gives me the same names on spirit boxes every six to seven weeks. These two names, Benjamin, and John, are the names of two residents who lived in this alley in the year 1801. For clarification, I’ll occasionally get John’s last name (Johnson, yes, his name was John Johnson), or another name, Jane. These three names, Benjamin, John and Jane, are three out of five people that lived here in this timeframe. The fact that it’s at intervals of six to seven weeks tells me this is a six to seven weeklong movie being played, and I’m catching just the beginning of it in EVP format. During the times I’ve received these names, my guests of the tour will also claim to hear children’s laughter or the word “children”. I do not find this to be coincidence in any way.
This leads us to the Stone Tape Theory. This theory suggests that earthly materials like rocks and limestone can hold onto the memories of the past. Lodge Alley is paved with Belgian Block, or solid granite bricks. These are purely earthly material and are original bricks to the alley, dating back to 1739. So, why bring this up?
My theory is that the Belgian Blocks are holding onto the memories of the residents of the alley, particularly those in 1801, and me and my guests are hearing pieces of those memories on our spirit boxes.
Also, consider when investigating, that residual hauntings are not intelligent spirits and will not react to your questions. You are simply a bystander witnessing the past firsthand.
This is a category that neither Amy nor myself has encountered on a first-hand basis. I would like to bring attention to the stigma that usually falls into the field of the paranormal.
We, as paranormal investigators, are usually put into a category of looking for dark entities, summoning demons, and having no religious values of life. Let me debunk this for you.
Paranormal investigators, like myself, have a curiosity for questions we cannot answer. If we can shed light on the answers about the afterlife, then that’s the excitement, not that a demonic entity scratched us in a dark room after a TV show host ordered us to be in a room by ourselves.
Granted, if you have had an encounter with what you think is a malevolent, we’re not discounting your perception. Just ask yourself a few questions when you think this happens. Have I been harmed in any way? (to the point of hospitalization?) Did I receive messages that were harmful or offensive? Was this just a way for a spirit to communicate?
On the Stories in the Cemetery Interactive Ghost Hunting Experience, I take guests to the Pinckney Mansion site on a nightly basis. This is usually a hotbed of activity that my guest ghost hunters can witness firsthand. One night, I discovered a disembodied EVP that said “Just Leave Us Alone” on a recordable spirit box. I didn’t take this as an offensive or malevolent spirit. The next night, before I met with my guests, I visited the Pinckney Mansion site and said my peace with whomever left the message. Since then, I haven’t heard any other disembodied voices, but I haven’t had any other ill will messages either.
Last, but definitely not least, are poltergeists. This clarification is where the deeper questions were raised between Amy and I with wanting a full explanation of how to classify a haunting as an actual poltergeist. We looked into the Enfield Poltergeist case, but first let’s take a look at the definition.
The term poltergeist comes from a German translation meaning “noisy ghost”. This comes from spirits moving furniture, tapping, knocking, or anything noisy to be noticed. This classification could also be considered an intelligent spirit.
The other characteristics of a poltergeist include a time frame. It is said that poltergeist activity usually only lasts a few months. However, the Enfield Case lasted 18 months.
It is also said that poltergeists are attached to a person’s emotional state of being. In fact, it is more often found when a teenage girl going through puberty or raised hormonal levels is in the home. Other emotional states could be any dramatic experience including depression, or someone just down on their luck in life. The gist is that a poltergeist is feeding off the heightened emotions of an individual.
The Enfield Case itself involved moving of furniture, channeling through a young girl, knocking, levitation, and just raising havoc through the family’s home. C’mon, if you’re reading this, you’ve seen the film, Conjuring 2. Though a fictitious telling of this case, all fiction comes from some truth, take it from a fiction writer.
Below is a YouTube video we found of some rare footage from the lead investigator from the Enfield Case.
The Enfield case can be said that it held a malevolent spirit, an intelligent spirit and the channeling bit had me in a spin on how the classification of this case ended on a Poltergeist title. There’s no rulebook to the field of the paranormal, only speculation after reviewing documented events. If the Enfield Case was classified as a Poltergeist, then so be it.
The overall look into these six different types of hauntings has taught Amy and I that we need to dive deeper into our investigations. We hope that this research has aided you in your investigations and inspires you to look further into the history of your evidence and learn the “why” behind your investigations.
This post and accompanying podcast episode are just touching the surface of the types of paranormal activity. Our intention here was to give you, dear readers and listeners, an opportunity to acquire another piece into your arsenal of paranormal knowledge. What was discussed here comes from the many sources below along with our own experiences in the field of paranormal research. As always in the paranormal field, this will be a developing article that may be updated in the future as new research comes to light.
PODCAST EPISODE 41
E42: The Stone Tape Theory and Lodge Alley – Stories in the Cemetery
RESOURCES USED TO CREATE THIS BLOG AND PODCAST EPISODE
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Cheung, T. (2006). The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts & Hauntings. Hammersmith: Harper Element.
Ghost Circle. (n.d.). Photoplasm Energy. Retrieved from Ghost Circle: https://www.ghostcircle.com/photoplasm-energy/
Grant, J. (2015). Spooky Science: Debunking the Pseudoscience of the Afterlife. New York: Sterling.
Graves, Z. (2011). Ghosts: The Complete Guide to the Supernatural. New York: Chartwell Books.
Haunted Orange County. (2019, November 15). Types of Hauntings. Retrieved from Haunted Orange County: https://hauntedoc.com/types-of-hauntings/
Reitman, I. (Director). (1984). Ghostbusters [Motion Picture].
SC PIcture Project. (n.d.). Lodge Alley. Retrieved from SC Picture Project: https://www.scpictureproject.org/charleston-county/lodge-alley.html
Stern, R. (Director). (2021). Surviving Death [Motion Picture].
The Conversation. (n.d.). Eight Things You Need to know about Poltergeists: Just in time for Halloween. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/eight-things-you-need-to-know-about-poltergeists-just-in-time-for-halloween-85690
The Enfield Poltergeist RARE BBC FOOTAGE. (2012, February 4). YouTube Video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OY8CAVNAnA&t=767s
Wagner, S. (2019, January 11). 3 Famous Poltergeist Cases that Will Creep You Out. Retrieved from Live About: https://www.liveabout.com/poltergeists-three-famous-cases-2595934
Wagner, S. (2019, August 20). Best Real Ghost Pictures Ever Taken. Retrieved from Live About: https://www.liveabout.com/best-ghost-pictures-ever-taken-4126828
Wan, J. (Director). (2016). The Conjuring 2 [Motion Picture].
Wiseman, R. (2011). Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there. London: Pan Macmillan.
Wordnik. (n.d.). Apparition. Retrieved from Wordnik: https://www.wordnik.com/words/apparition