Thirteen Classifications of Ghosts


A Practical Guide to Categories of Ghosts

Approx. reading time 5 minutes.

According to paranormal experts and a few more from me, below are thirteen classifications of ghosts that are commonly encountered. Find out differences between various categories of ghosts one might witness.

Humankind Documents Seeing Ghosts for Centuries

Significantly, since the beginning of recorded history, people have reported seeing ghosts. Of interest, claimed sightings of ghosts come from all over the globe from the remote jungles of the Amazon to the skyscrapers of New York City. Interestingly, what many don’t realize is that these manifestations appear in different guises and forms.

Ghosts Are Now the Rage

Currently, claimed ghost sightings and paranormal activity fill the airways on TV cable and YouTube channels. Why is this? Because, more than ever before, the average person is willing to share their experiences publicly about seeing ghosts. More than that, currently, huge audiences are hungering for these types of first-hand accounts of haunting activity.

Notably, filmed paranormal events are now posted on websites and social media every day. How is this possible? The answer lies in the fact that new technology, which most people have access to, enables documenting evidence via images, videos, and recordings of spirit voices more than ever before in history. Sadly, despite the substantial evidence of ghostly activity caught on phones, cameras, and other devices, science and skeptics still categorically refuse to believe ghosts exist.

All Kinds of People See Ghosts

Who can see a ghost? The simple answer is almost anyone. Equally important, witnesses of ghostly activity range in age from the very young to the very old. Furthermore, scores of honest and credible individuals have reported seeing ghosts.

Curiously, some individuals see a ghost only once in a lifetime, while others encounter ghosts regularly. Not surprising, people claim to see or experience ghostly phenomena in old and abandoned locations as well as new modern dwellings. Furthermore, not only do individuals report seeing ghosts, but groups of people have also reported seeing a ghost.

Case in point: Time Slip at Gettysburg College

Mark Nesbitt, one of the foremost authors on the ghosts of Gettysburg, tells of one of the area’s most frightening occurrences.

Two administrators at the Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College were leaving work one evening. The two women stepped onto the elevator, as usual, to go from the 4th to the first floor. They never expected what happened next!

An Elevator Trip to Horror

Mysteriously, the elevator passed the first floor and continued to the basement. When the doors opened, the two women could scarcely believe their eyes. What should have been a storage space, was now a horrific scene from hell. Dead and dying men were lying about on tables and the floor. Amputated arms and legs were scattered everywhere.

To add to this, blood-soaked doctors and orderlies were chaotically rushing about desperately trying to save the lives of scores of men. Amazingly, no sound emanated from the ghastly scene, but both administrators agreed that they clearly saw it.

Horrified, they frantically jabbed the elevator button to close the doors. As the doors finally closed, one woman chillingly recalled that one of the orderlies looked directly at the women with a pleading expression on his face.

Once a Battlefield Hospital

Foremost in their minds, the women knew that the building had once served as a makeshift surgery during the Battle of Gettysburg which took place on July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, of 1863. Yet, somehow, this window into the past opened, allowing two unwilling witnesses to glimpse the chaos and frantic efforts of doctors to save wounded soldiers. 

Historic image of field hospital and poor conditions.


How Ghosts Act

Ghosts often manifest suddenly. Some specters just stand there, and some flit quickly across the room, disappearing through walls and similar impossible actions.

Expressions of ghosts, if discernible, can be that of peacefulness, in distress, or looking angry or menacing.

In particular, the appearance of ghosts varies from formless wispy shapes to full-bodied figures that look completely solid and tangible. Shockingly, some apparitions are so lifelike, they’re often mistaken for a real person.

Frighteningly, some ghosts are reportedly dark undulating masses with no discernible form and are devoid of facial features or limbs. While others witness darker human-like forms that are called, shadow figures. Indeed, it seems that ghosts and sightings of ghosts follow no set rules.

Author, Peter Underwood’s Ghost List

Peter Underwood (May 16, 1923 – November 26, 2014), a respected ghost hunter and author of numerous books on ghosts, set forth a taxonomy consisting of eight ghost categories. I’ve taken the liberty of adding more ghostly categories to this list.

1. Apparitions: Full-Bodied or Partial

In terms of ghosts, an apparition is a sudden supernatural appearance of a person or thing that is not alive and not made of flesh and blood. Of particular note, other names for apparitions are a specter, shade, phantom, or wraith. Additionally, this kind of ghost usually has a recognizable human form. What is more, either all or part of the ghostly figure is visible and is usually in varying degrees of transparency.

2. Crisis Apparitions

Specifically, Crisis Apparitions appear suddenly and then are gone, usually with no explanation as to why they are there. Crisis apparitions usually happen when a loved on has suddenly died or has been seriously injured. Loved ones witnessing a crisis apparition often have a sense of foreboding as to why they are seeing them.

3. Residual Ghosts – Mental Imprint

Residual ghosts are caused by energy imprinted on an environment usually resulting from traumatic events. Some events are so horrific, somehow, an outflow of mental energy is soaked into a particular location. This classification is also known as the “Stone Tape Theory.”

Not all residual ghosts sightings result from terror and tragedy. Sometimes these occurrences ‘play’ a mundane scene from the past with no tragic energy attached. For example, a person seeing a deceased grandparent casually walk down the stairs of their old home just as they did countless times in life.

4. ‘Intelligent’ Ghosts

These are spirits that can interact with the living either by responding to questions in some manner. But, interestingly, they’re also capable of demonstrating emotion.

Nowadays, the voices of intelligent spirits are often captured on a recording device or in a video. More often, ghost voice captures range from difficult to understand, to highly intelligible words.

5. Historical Ghosts

Historical, or traditional ghosts, are known or recognizable people (or animals) from the past who have died and whose souls interact with the living.

One excellent example of a historical ghost is the reported sighting of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln has appeared to more than one person in the White House since his tragic death. The most notable of these is Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Sir Winston Churchill—both staying in the Lincoln bedroom at the time of their sighting.

6. Time Slips

This kind of experience takes place when the witness seemingly steps back into a foregone time. Sometimes, there’s an interaction between the people experiencing the time-slip and individuals in the past environment. Case in point, the 1901 experience of two school teachers while visiting the Palace of Versailles.

7. Ghosts of the Living (Doppelganger)

Interestingly, Doppelganger sightings are the seeing phantoms of living people who have not died (aka a ‘doppelganger’), which suggests that some ghosts might be mental projections. However, alarmingly, a myth claims that if one sees their double, it’s an omen of their death.

I believe doppelgangers are the subconscious projection of the astral body of a person that has detached from their physical body and appears to someone else. Amazingly, once its “mission” is accomplished, the astral body returns to the living person.

8. Poltergeists

Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, in their book, Seeking Spirits, 2009, describe Poltergeists as “a ghost that manifests its presence through rappings, the moving of objects, and the creation of disorder…”

Poltergeist means “noisy ghost” in German. Moreover, these manifestations are usually not apparitions of ghosts, but rather objects thrown or knocked off shelves. In rare instances, poltergeists cause the levitation of a person, usually an adolescent. Clearly, the poltergeist phenomenon and still not fully understood as to when and why it happens. What’s even more interesting, Poltergeist activity rarely lasts for any length of time. Most notably, the only cases that I know of, that lasted for a more extended period are the Bell Witch Haunting, and the Enfield Poltergeist.

In contrast, research by paranormal experts says claims of poltergeist activity are explainable by psychological factors such as hallucinations and memory lapses. Whatever that means!

Others say that Poltergeists are merely someone pranking or hoaxing the public. Notably, it’s interesting that many of these individuals have never once investigated a haunting.

Conversely, in some investigations, poltergeist disturbances were not found to be fraud or psychological factors, but in fact, are explained by natural phenomena. Of note, skeptic and magician Milbourne Christopher cites a 1957 case at Cape Cod, where downdrafts from an uncovered chimney were strong enough to blow a mirror off a wall, objects off shelves, and overturned chairs, had caused people to initially suspect poltergeist activity.

9. Elemental Spirits

Elementals are nature spirits that have existed long before humanity. Most of these supernatural beings are relatively harmless.

There are many levels of nature spirits. The kinds of elementals I’m referring to, haunt particular locations–sometimes for centuries. They often have a frightening mixed-animal appearance and are usually detected around ancient burial grounds or deep forests.

10. Animal Spirits

Not surprisingly, animal spirits mainly appear as they did in life.  They are usually a beloved pet that has passed. Cats, dogs, and horses constitute the most commonly seen animal spirits.

An exception: Some animal spirits are considered totem power animals. Totem animals are often seen in a vision. These are powerful spirits of animals that shamans summon to serve a specific purpose for an individual, a group, or a tribe. These spirits impart their most essential attributes to the living to help them accomplish a spiritual task.

11. Shadow People

Shadow People, also called Shadow Figures, Shadow Persons, and Shadow Beings, are dark masses with a vaguely human shape. Sometimes it’s reported that they have frightening eyes. Most witnesses of Shadow People describe them as being inky-black dense shadows that either dart quickly across a room or peek out from around corners. When the startled witness runs to investigate, the figure is usually gone. But that’s not the end of the story.

It’s claimed by experts that Shadow People like to stay in one place and are seen repeatedly by the inhabitants. Additionally, they seem to carry some sort of intelligence. Yet, I’ve never heard of a shadow person harming anyone. Why they choose to haunt a particular place is not known.

12. Astral Shell

An Astral Corpse is also known as the Astral Shell Body. Although not considered a ghost per se, this body resides in a part of a the sub-level of the astral plane. It’s the level on the astral which holds human and animal shell casings of souls who have passed. As the astral plane is the closest dimension to our earthly plane, it’s not unusual for a shell apparition to appear for a short moment in time.

These astral shells have no consciousness or intelligence. However, an astral shell is like a holographic image of a person or spirit. You see it, but it’s not really there. The bottom line: astral shells are not disembodied spirits, ghosts, or something inhuman–like a demon.

13. Haunted Objects

Commonly reported are pieces of furniture reputedly haunted like a chair, bed, or wardrobe. Not only that, children’s toys often carry the spirit energy of a young child. Some sources even claim that haunted objects are demonic.

Notoriously, objects of death and violence, such as swords and pistols, frequently have their owners’ spirits attached to them. Shocking to some, eBay has a brisk business selling haunted furniture as well as personal objects. Therefore, buyer beware and purchase at your own risk! You may get much more than you bargained for.

I Left Something Out!

Well, it seems that I have one more vital category to add.
Jinn/Djinn Spirits of the Middle East

After writing this blog, I received an interesting email from someone telling me that I definitely needed to add Jinn spirits to my list and I agreed.

Jinn (singular, jinni; also spelled djinni or genie, are supernatural creatures found in Islamic and Arabic lore. It’s believed that the Jinn were created from a “smokeless and scorching fire.” However, they’ll sometimes appear in human or animal form to interact with people. Or even more alarming, change from one shape to another in an instant.

Those who believe in Jinn do not mess with them when encountered. Jinn are highly changeable and don’t always interact nicely with the living. Although Jinn are respected, some in Middle Eastern cultures are also highly fearful of them.

In conclusion:

Hopefully, you got a lot out of this extended list of ghost classifications. Without a doubt, there’re numerous forms of ghostly manifestations!

Additionally, I want to say that Peter Underwood’s original eight categories were a great starting point. However, in reviewing the list, I felt additional classifications merited inclusion. As a matter of fact, there are more classifications of ghosts, such as “Message” Ghosts’ and Lost Spirits.

Have you seen or experienced a ghost? If so, what kind? Leave a comment below.

(Just to be clear, I don’t solve ghost problems in the comments.) Additionally, if you have an inherited spirit hanging about, you’ll want to check out our How to Ghost Hunt Pro course below.

Resources: by Stephen Wagner

Ghosts and How to See Them, by Peter Underwood, 1993
Supernatural by Colin Wilson, 1997
Ghosts, by Roger Clarke, 2012
You may be interested in: Wikipedia: Ghosts


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Carol Nicholson is thirty-five years a professional Psychic Medium and author of numerous Psychic and Spiritual courses since 2001.
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7 thoughts on “Thirteen Classifications of Ghosts”

  1. I see spirit in the form of string or fuzz balls when magnified, I can see a group of spirits incased in the middle.

  2. I would say this is amazing but personal ive seen them most of my life off and on like the article said the one that are there sudenly emotional not attached only to glance away for a few seconds as you look back briefly there gone. You reminded me.

  3. Hi, I have reason to believe that both of my adult sons are suffering from spirit attachments. Everything started after they unexpectedly lost their father. Symptoms include exhaustion, depression, hearing voices, problems with addiction and ruminating intrusive negative thoughts.

  4. Hi Susan,

    It’s hard to say. Start with your church as you mentioned. If you meet with resistance, try out Spirit Attachments Release Course that you’ll find in our courses tab.

  5. i think i once encountered a shadow person then and im gonna tell the whole story

    its about 4 am when i wake up and see someone standing in the door and i got so scared bc of i didnt know about this and thought it could harm me or anything

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