meaning of ghost haunting

The top three scientific explanations for ghost sightings

meaning of ghost haunting

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meaning of ghost haunting

Lecturer and Researcher in Cognitive and Parapsychology, Manchester Metropolitan University

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From ghosts to ghouls, witches to wizards, Halloween is the one time of the year when people come together to celebrate everything supernatural. But beyond the fancy dress and trick or treating, belief in ghosts is actually relatively common – with 38% of people classifying themselves as believers and a similar number having actually reported seeing one.

The term “ghost” refers to the idea that the spirits of the dead – human and animal – influence the physical world. And the idea of a haunting can often include anything from a sensed presence, or objects moving, to spirit activity.

But in a world filled with science and reason, these “hauntings” can often boil down to a very simple explanation. So with Halloween just round the corner, here are the top three scientific and psychological explanations for hauntings, spirits, spookiness and all things supernatural – although it should be noted that many important questions have yet to be resolved …

1. Because I told you so

Attempts to explain hauntings often draw upon psychological factors – such as suggestion – so being told a place is haunted is more likely to lead to ghostly goings-on.

One classic study saw participants visiting five main areas of a theatre before completing a questionnaire to assess their feelings and perceptions. Prior to the tour, one group was told the location was haunted, while the other group was informed that the building was under renovation. Unsurprisingly, participants that were told the place was haunted experienced more intense experiences – similar to those of paranormal happenings.

Verbal suggestion has also been shown to increase paranormal perceptions – as shown in research on seance phenomena, paranormal key bending and psychic reading – especially when the suggestion is consistent with existing paranormal beliefs.

meaning of ghost haunting

But research in real-world settings has produced inconsistent results. A study in the supposedly haunted Hampton Court found that suggestion had no effect on participants’ expectations of experiencing unusual phenomena, or their tendency to attribute unusual phenomena to ghosts.

So it is fair to say that the effects of suggestion vary depending upon a person’s beliefs. And of course, paranormal believers are prone to endorsing alleged paranormal phenomena – while sceptics will deny the existence of the paranormal.

2. Electromagnetic fields and spooky sounds

Other explanations draw on environmental factors, such as electromagnetic fields and infrasound. Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger demonstrated that the application of varying electromagnetic fields to the temporal lobes of the brain could produce haunting experiences – such as perception of a presence, a feeling of God or sensations of being touched. And it has been noted that areas most associated with hauntings – such as Hampton Court – do possess erratic magnetic fields.

meaning of ghost haunting

Similarly, infrasound – audio frequency below the range of human hearing – is also thought to be able to explain such phenomena. Several studies have linked infrasound and bizarre sensations.

In one example, contemporary pieces of live music were laced with infrasound and the audience were then asked to describe their reactions to the music. More unusual experiences were reported when infrasound was present – chills down the spine, feeling nervous, waves of fear and uneasy or sorrowful emotions.

3. Toxic hallucinations

“Supernatural” perceptions can also arise from reactions to toxic substances – such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and pesticide. It also also been suggested that fungal hallucinations – caused by toxic mould – could stimulate haunting-related perceptions.

meaning of ghost haunting

Shane Rogers and his team from Clarkson University in the US observed similarities between paranormal experiences and the hallucinogenic effects of fungal spores. This may explain why ghost sightings often occur in older buildings with inadequate ventilation and poor air quality.

The notion is not new and experts have previously reported a similar effect associated with old books . They claim that mere exposure to toxic moulds can trigger significant mental or neurological symptoms, which create perceptions similar to those reported during haunting experiences.

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History of Ghost Stories

By: Editors

Updated: October 3, 2023 | Original: October 29, 2009

Ghosts: Ichabod terrified by the apparition of the Galloping Hessian.Ghosts, Ichabod terrified by the apparition of the Galloping Hessian. 1883 Illustration by W. Ralston for ''The Galloping Hessian'', short story by Washington Irving. (Photo by, Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Since ancient times, ghost stories—tales of spirits who return from the dead to haunt the places they left behind—have figured prominently in the folklore of many cultures around the world. A rich subset of these tales involve historical figures ranging from queens and politicians to writers and gangsters, many of whom died early, violent or mysterious deaths.

What Is a Ghost?

The concept of a ghost, also known as a specter, is based on the ancient idea that a person’s spirit exists separately from his or her body, and may continue to exist after that person dies. Because of this idea, many societies began to use funeral rituals as a way of ensuring that the dead person’s spirit would not return to “haunt” the living.

Did you know? The notorious mobster Al Capone has reportedly appeared to disrespectful visitors at his funeral plot in an Illinois cemetery. Spectral banjo music has supposedly been heard coming from inside Capone's old cell at Alcatraz, where he was one of the first inmates.

Places that are haunted are usually believed to be associated with some occurrence or emotion in the ghost’s past; they are often a former home or the place where he or she died. Aside from actual ghostly apparitions, traditional signs of haunting range from strange noises, lights, odors or breezes to the displacement of objects, bells that ring spontaneously or musical instruments that seem to play on their own.

Early Ghost Sightings

In the first century A.D., the great Roman author and statesman Pliny the Younger recorded one of the first notable ghost stories in his letters, which became famous for their vivid account of life during the heyday of the Roman Empire. Pliny reported that the specter of an old man with a long beard, rattling chains, was haunting his house in Athens. The Greek writer Lucian and Pliny’s fellow Roman Plautus also wrote memorable ghost stories.

Centuries later, in A.D. 856, the first poltergeist–a ghost that causes physical disturbances such as loud noises or objects falling or being thrown around–was reported at a farmhouse in Germany. The poltergeist tormented the family living there by throwing stones and starting fires, among other things.

Three Famous Historical Ghosts

One of the most frequently reported ghost sightings in England dates back to the 16th century. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I , was executed at the Tower of London in May 1536 after being accused of witchcraft, treason, incest and adultery. Sightings of Boleyn’s ghost have been reported at the tower as well as in various other locations, including her childhood home, Hever Castle, in Kent.

America’s own rich tradition of historical ghosts begins with one of its most illustrious founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin . Beginning in the late 19th century, Franklin’s ghost was seen near the library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ; some reports held that the statue of Franklin in front of the society comes to life and dances in the streets.

Though many ghost sightings have been reported at the White House in Washington , D.C., over the years, perhaps no political figure has made so frequent an appearance in the afterlife as Abraham Lincoln , the nation’s 16th president, who was killed by an assassin’s bullet in April 1865. Lincoln, formerly a lawyer and congresseman from Illinois , is said to have been seen wandering near the old Springfield capitol building, as well as his nearby law offices. At the White House, everyone from first ladies to queens to prime ministers have reported seeing the ghost or feeling the presence of Honest Abe—particularly during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt , another president who guided the country through a time of great upheaval and war.

Haunted Places

Some locations simply seem to lend themselves to hauntings, perhaps due to the dramatic or grisly events that occurred there in the past. Over the centuries, sightings of spectral armies have been reported on famous battlefields around the world, including important battle sites from the English Civil War in the 17th century, the bloody Civil War battlefield of Gettsyburg and the World War I sites of Gallipoli (near Turkey) and the Somme (northern France).

Another particularly active center for paranormal activity is the HMS Queen Mary , a cruise ship built in 1936 for the Cunard-White Star Line. After serving in the British Royal Navy in World War II , the 81,000-ton ship retired in Long Beach, California in 1967; the plan was to turn it into a floating luxury hotel and resort. Since then, the Queen Mary has become notorious for its spectral presences, with more than 50 ghosts reported over the years. The ship’s last chief engineer, John Smith , reported hearing unexplained sounds and voices from the area near the ship’s bow, in almost the same location as a doomed British aircraft cruiser, the Coracoa , had pierced a hole when it sank after an accidental wartime crash that killed more than 300 sailors aboard.

Smith also claimed to have encountered the ghost of Winston Churchill–or at least his spectral cigar smoke–n the prime minister’s old stateroom aboard the ship. Many visitors to the Queen Mary have reported seeing a phantom crewmember in blue overalls walking the decks. Around the ship’s swimming pool, reports have been made of mysterious splashes and ghostly women in old fashioned bathing suits or dresses, along with trails of wet footsteps appearing long after the pool had been drained.

Among major cities, New York is especially rich with ghost stories. The spirit of Peter Stuyvesant, the city’s last Dutch colonial governor, has been seen stomping around the East Village on his wooden leg since shortly after his death in 1672. The author Mark Twain is believed to haunt the stairwell of his onetime Village apartment building, while the ghost of poet Dylan Thomas is said to sometimes occupy his usual corner table at the West Village’s White Horse Tavern, where he drank a fatal 18 shots of scotch in 1953. Perhaps the most famous New York ghost is that of Aaron Burr, who served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson but is best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. Burr’s ghost is said to roam the streets of his old neighborhood (also the West Village). Burr’s spectral activity is focused particularly on one restaurant, One if By Land, Two if By Sea, which is located in a Barrow Street building that was once Burr’s carriage house.

meaning of ghost haunting

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October 18, 2021

Ten Things about Ghosts and Haunting

Article begins.

1) We begin with a premise and provocation: haunting is a universal condition. Where there is history, there is haunting. Being haunted is a condition of living in the world, and ghosts are everywhere, whether we attend to them or not. Ghosts also belong to all times. One of the great promises of the Enlightenment project was the “disenchantment of the world” and the banishment of ghosts to the realm of tradition. In the end, however, the Enlightenment only added new spaces in the world for novel kinds of haunting to emerge. Modernity’s rational secularism is similarly haunted, as is the professed hypervisibility of postmodernism and the surveillance state. Ghosts dwell at the heart of modern nation-states, late capitalism, and technoscientific materiality. There are ghosts in all of these machines, so to speak. The ghost may take on new forms and haunt in new ways, but they remain resolutely and stubbornly present , even in their assumed absence. Nearly half of all adults in Canada and the United States believe in—or have encountered—ghosts. According to a recent New York Times article, paranormal researcher John E.L. Tenney has even noted a distinct uptick in hauntings during the pandemic. In countless ways, we are all caught.

2) At the same time, there is no such thing as a universal ghost . Ghosts are singular and specific; they can only be understood within their own proper historical and ethnographic context. From this perspective, the ghost is an object (and a subject) ripe for ethnographic inquiry. Following Avery Gordon , we might say that the ghost is a “social figure” tied to a specific site or location. Engaging with ghosts as such necessarily involves investigating the economic, political, and socio-cultural landscapes that ghosts haunt. What makes a ghost, why they haunt, and what can be known about them are all culturally specific and historically contingent questions. How we act with and toward the ghost is likewise culturally prescribed. We have much to learn from each other about how to reckon with ghosts. Amid current global crises and decolonial projects that have been years in the making, this task is perhaps more urgent than ever.

3) Ghosts invite us to dwell on our relations with the dead, but also with the living: our family and friends, our neighbors and acquaintances, our enemies, even perfect strangers. Sometimes the ghostly encounter allows us to recognize the ghost as our own ancestor; it repairs a familial relation or undoes a forgetting. Other times, it involves recognizing that the landscape of the dead is populated by ghosts who we ourselves do not and cannot claim as ancestors but who nevertheless demand and deserve acknowledgment. It is about listening to and making space for these ghosts and realizing that our fates—those of the dead and those of the living—are bound together. Ghosts remind us that we live with and must be in good relation to people we may never know. The ghostly encounter is, after all, a matter of justice . It means coming to terms with how the past animates the present.

4) Engaging ghosts is a form of memory work. It is about reworking the past and establishing our relationship to it. It is about making claims on the past that implicate us in profound and enduring ways. As such, engaging with ghosts has transformative potential—it has the capacity to transform action, affect, and politics. As a form of memory work, engaging ghosts is an act of the imagination, an interpretive labor, and a moral practice all at once. It is at once a deeply personal exercise and always more-than-personal, an engagement within and beyond ourselves. We want something from ghosts, and our engagement with them has stakes ; our presents and futures are tied up with their pasts.

5) Ghosts want something from us, too. Haunting is the way ghosts make their desires known. This means acknowledging two things. Firstly, the ghost is not just, as Sigmund Freud once framed it, a “projection of…mental entities into the external world.” Rather, ghosts are beings outside of us with their own agency and are therefore outside of our control. Secondly, through the ghostly encounter we might come to reckon with a ghost’s demands. These demands are always specific to the ghost. Sometimes these demands are satisfied through acknowledgment, but sometimes they demand action. We must also entertain the possibility that sometimes ghosts just like to haunt—that the act of haunting is satisfying in itself.

Painting of a ghost in an office

6) Ghosts express unsettled relations, and they themselves are unsettled. Their very form indexes that which they represent. Ghosts trouble, inhabit, and mediate the borderlands between life and death, past and present. As transient beings, they signal to the living that the boundaries we draw—and which we then naturalize—are unsettled as well. To accommodate ghosts, we must make ourselves accountable to the pasts they bring into the present, even when those pasts are painful, and even when they threaten to unsettle our present and futures. Ghosts can perhaps never truly be settled because the “labor of memorialization is unlimited” —it is a repetitious act of care that carries itself into the future.

7) Ghosts invite us to think outside classic modes of representation. They are endlessly elusive, flashing up for brief moments as a whisper, a tap on the shoulder, a hazy specter, a rumor, a scent, or an uncanny feeling, only to disappear again. Ghostly encounters are often met with both indefinable certainty and nagging doubt: we feel the unsettling reality of what it is to be haunted, but we are left without a concrete image, a fixed meaning, or a cohesive narrative. We cannot reckon with ghosts without rethinking our contemporary evidentiary schemes and value systems. To think with and through ghosts, we must think beyond binary oppositions (like visibility/invisibility, absence/presence, now/then) to the excesses produced between and around them.

8) The ghost’s temporal mode is one of repetition. The arrival of the ghost (which is also always a return) disrupts linear time, bringing past, present, and future together in unexpected ways. As the past bursts into the present through and alongside the ghost, it makes demands on the future and forces us to contend with time differently. Ghosts disrupt linear time and trouble progressive historical narratives because they reveal multiple, coexisting temporalities and the complex layering of different pasts onto fractal presents and futures. Importantly, their returns present openings for imagining other pasts, presents, and futures, of what “could have been and can be otherwise” —and indeed, for reimagining temporal, social, and political arrangements at larger scales.

9) Ghosts make the present waver, but they also manifest in moments when the present is wavering. Ghosts manifest in times and places where radical change is afoot. Haunting occurs when the present feels inexplicable or unsatisfactory or when it punctures the present with a loss that has not been properly mourned. It may also occur when something has gone missing in the upheaval of things but was not noticed or replaced. But so too does the ghost’s appearance make the present waver in material and immediate ways, by way of an atmospheric charge, a glitch, a presence, a feeling that comes before (re)cognition. This feeling of disturbance is something to follow. It points us toward a fractured present. The work starts here.

10) While we began with the assertion that haunting is universal and ghosts are everywhere, we close with a reminder: Ghosts are but one of many types of spectral beings that occupy the invisible landscape. Not all spectral beings are ghosts, and not all haunting is ghostly. Ghosts often exist alongside elemental, familial, or wild spirits, jinn, angels, devils, and a whole host of other (super)natural beings. All of these have their own history, pedigree, and sets of demands, not to mention their own social meanings and rules of engagement. What is more, to be haunted always involves feeling the presence of invisible forces like power, global capital, and politics—forces that are more worldly than otherworldly. As Michel de Certeau reminds us: “There is no place that is not haunted by many different spirits hidden there in silence, spirits one can ‘invoke’ or not. Haunted places are the only ones people can live in.”

Kassandra Spooner-Lockyer

Katie kilroy-marac, more related articles, healing vibrations, the la brea tar pits, cognitive dissonance, and anthropological memoirs, black women, hiv, and health equity in hostile territory.

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Definition of ghost

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of ghost  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

intransitive verb

  • bogie
  • familiar spirit
  • hant [ dialect ]
  • haunt [ chiefly dialect ]
  • materialization
  • fantasm
  • poltergeist
  • spectre

Examples of ghost in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ghost.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Noun and Verb

Middle English gost, gast , from Old English gāst ; akin to Old High German geist spirit, Sanskrit heḍa anger

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

circa 1616, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Phrases Containing ghost

  • ghost of a chance
  • ghost kitchen
  • ghost / shadow of one's former self
  • ghost pepper
  • ghost story
  • give up the ghost
  • ghost chili

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Dictionary Entries Near ghost

Cite this entry.

“Ghost.” Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Nov. 2023.

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meaning of ghost haunting

If you followed the Dear David saga on Twitter , or you've seen any paranormal-themed movie, then the idea of being haunted probably terrifies you and intrigues you at the same time. Despite the scare factor, many people are curious about what it's like to encounter the supernatural. The creepiest signs you're being haunted include unexplained sights, sounds, temperature changes, objects moving, unexplained physical injuries, and more. In short, if your ghost isn't friendly, it sounds pretty unnerving, especially if you live alone.

Maybe the haunting is fun at first, like in the movie Poltergeist when the kitchen chairs start rearranging themselves on their own. However, it stops being funny after Carol Anne gets sucked into the TV set . What's more, this movie franchise is rumored to have been cursed with a number of its actors meeting an early demise IRL. Because I've had my own haunting experiences , I'm a believer, and I'm pretty content to shut myself off from the ghost world.

"Sometimes, ghostly hauntings are so intense they make believers out of non-believers. Sometimes, ghosts are so faint that even the most adept and in-tune psychic can't pick up on their energy waves," Kitty Fields, a paranormal writer, explained on Exemplore. So, whether you feel it or not, there's probably a ghost hanging around your pad. But if you fear that ghost is haunting you, be on the lookout for these creepy signs.

Objects Moving On Their Own

OK, a lot of signs of a haunting can be easily explained by non-believers who will point out that other things could be causing your strange experiences. However, unless someone is playing a really scary joke on you, objects in your house aren't going to move on their own . "I’ve seen books thrown through the air by an invisible force. I’ve watched a grown man with a $2,500 camera in his hand drop the camera to the ground because something was strangling him," ghost hunter Greg Newkirk told Reader's Digest . If this happens to you, it's time to call in some ghostbusters ASAP.

Strange Sights

This one has totally happened to me. A few years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night (two nights in a row) to my dog barking at a shadowy figure hovering in my bedroom. According to Fields, " shadows in your peripheral vision , flickering lights and electronics, objects seeming to switch places/positions when your back is turned, figures in the dark, etc." are clear signs you might have a haunting on your hands.

Feelings Of Being Watched

When you're being watched by someone IRL, you might experience an intense feeling that causes you to look around to see who has you in their sights. If this starts happening to you on the regular when you're alone, it's worth investigating the history of your home to see if anything creepy has happened there in the past. When you feel like you're not alone in your home, "Cold chills move throughout the room," Newkirk noted, "and even just the feeling of being watched . Sometimes whispers, or being awoken in the middle of the night because of the feeling that somebody’s standing there."

Phantom Mania

This one is not only the creepiest sign you might have a haunting on your hands, it also means your ghost isn't at all friendly. According to Fields, phantom mania refers to feeling like someone is holding your down in your sleep and waking up with unexplained bites, scratches, or bruises on your body. If this happens to you, get out ASAP.

Persistent Electrical Problems

If your ghost wants to make its presence known , it might decide to mess with your electricity. On her website, author and paranormal investigator Joni Mayan explained that disruption to your electronics could be a ghost's way of powering itself. However, she added that sometimes actual electrical problems can be identified and allow investigators to debunk a haunting. So, before you call the ghostbusters, you might want to consult an electrician first.

Unexplained Sounds

According to Joel A. Sutherland, author of Haunted Canada, Volume 5 , strange sounds are the most commonly reported sign of haunting, Yahoo News Canada noted. While a lot of unexplained sounds can be attributed to things other than the supernatural, that's not always the case. "People often report hearing voices as well, in other rooms. Sometimes it sounds like one person speaking or moaning or crying, other times people report hearing what seems to be a conversation — perhaps a few spirits. When they run into the room, there’s nobody there."

Sutherland told Yahoo News that another sign people often report when they suspect a haunting is unexplained cold spots in their home. While he said there is usually a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, when cold spots accompany several of the above factors, it's possible that a haunting is the culprit. If you experience any, or several, of these creepy signs, and you can eliminate medical reasons, electrical problems, etc., you can call in a paranormal investigator to see if you actually are being haunted. If your ghost turns out to be a clown, grab whatever you can carry and get the hell out of there. Because, IMO, there's nothing creepier than a supernatural clown holding you down at night.

meaning of ghost haunting

15 Terms Every Ghost Hunter Should Know

By michele debczak | oct 22, 2021.

Reference these terms on your next ghost hunt.

'Tis the season of believing every bump in the night is proof of ghostly activity. You may not feel very professional looking for ghosts in your closet at 3 a.m., but paranormal investigations are serious business. They’ve become so widespread that the industry has its own lingo—and there’s nothing stopping amateur ghost hunters from learning it. Whether you plan to binge-watch your favorite ghost-hunting show or embark on your own paranormal investigation , these are the terms you should know.

If you’ve ever noticed a shiny, pale circle floating in your photograph, you’ve captured what paranormal investigators say is evidence of the afterlife. The orbs that sometimes show up in pictures are believed by some to be the spirits of the dead. Another explanation is that they’re specks of dust illuminated by the camera’s flash.

An anomaly is something unexplainable—i.e. many things attributed to paranormal phenomena.

3. Haunting

A haunting is a concentration of reported paranormal activity attached to a specific person or place.

EMF stands for "electromagnetic field." Some paranormal investigators believe ghosts disrupt electromagnetic fields or emit electromagnetic waves themselves. An EMF meter can be used to detect such energy.

5. Ghost Box

A ghost box describes any device that supposedly allows spirits to communicate verbally through technology. Some tools scan radio frequencies, occasionally catching snippets of speech that could be interpreted as the disembodied voices of the deceased. The Ovilus puts an arguably creepier spin on this concept. When it senses environmental fluctuations or EMF disturbances, the gadget translates them to “words” (or more accurately, noises) spoken in a robotic voice.

6. Physical Manipulation

Evidence of spirits altering the material realm is called physical manipulation. This could be anything from a ghost creaking open a door to one tossing a chair across the room.

7. Cold Spot

A cold spot is an area where the temperature drops in a supposedly haunted location. Ghost hunters often cite patches of cool air as evidence of ghostly activity.

8. Apparition

An apparition is a manifestation of a spirit that can be perceived by the senses. Though apparitions are often thought of as visual phenomena, they can be heard, smelled, and felt as well.

EVP is short for "electronic voice phenomena." Unexplained, disembodied voices that are captured using ghost boxes or picked up spontaneously on voice recorders are considered EVPs.

10. Manifestation

The physical, sensory evidence of paranormal activity is thought of as a ghostly manifestation. Physical manipulation, apparitions, and EVPs all fall under this category.

Entity is a vague term that can be applied to any distinct being. In paranormal investigations, the label is often given to the ghosts haunting an area.

A medium purports to use their psychic abilities to contact and communicate with spirits—whether they’ve crossed over into a different realm or they’re still haunting our world.

Psi is a shorter way to say “psychic phenomena.” Examples   of psychic phenomena include communicating with others psychically (telepathy), moving objects with the mind (telekinesis), and seeing the future (precognition).

14. Clearing

Clearing is the process of purging a location of its ghostly entities.This may be the goal of a medium or ghost hunter when they’re investigating a haunting.

15. Shadow Person

A shadow person can be a type of ghostly manifestation. It describes the black, mysterious figures some witnesses report seeing out of the corners of their eyes.

Paranormal Glossary: 60 Terms Every Ghost Hunter Should Know

This article is more than one year old.

Ghost Hunting At Southport's Botanic Gardens Museum

1. Apparition

3. astral projection, 4. automatic writing, 5. calling out, 6. cat balls.

Cat Ball Paranormal Detection Ghosts

Pet toys can be used on paranormal investigations as trigger objects. The type most commonly used are plastic balls that are designed to light up and flash to entertain cats and dogs when they are played with. On an investigation these pet toys are placed on the floor or a flat surface in the hopes that a spirit may interact with it causing it to light up.

7. Cold Spots

9. demonology, 10. direct voice phenomenon (dvp), 11. dowsing rods, 12. dybbuk box, 13. ectoplasm, 14. electronic voice phenomenon (evp).

Audio Recorder EVP

Electronic voice phenomenon is the mysterious sound of disembodied human-like voices of unknown origin that are heard through electronic devices. They are usually heard in the form of sounds imprinted on an audio recording or through radio noise.

15. Elemental

16. emf meter.

K-ii EMF Meter On A Ouija Board

An electromagnetic frequency meter is a common piece of ghost hunting kit, with the recognisable K-II EMF meter being one of the most popular ghost hunting gadgets of all. The device is simple to use with nothing more than a single power button. Once turned on it will alert you to spikes in the ambient electromagnetic field, giving instant feedback via five coloured LED lights. It's said that this EM spike could be a sign of spirit manifestation or spirit interaction.

18. Estes Method

19. exorcism, 21. full spectrum camera, 22. geophone.

Ghost On Stairs

It's generally accepted that a ghost is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that has manifested into a physical, or at least visible apparition, that can be seen by the living. These apparitions may appear to be solid or translucent. Dark figures, although technically a ghost, are more often referred to as shadow figures. The word ghost is often used as a more broad term to describe the supernatural entity behind any haunting.

24. Human Pendulum

25. hydromancy, 26. infrasound, 27. instrumental trans-communication (itc), 28. intelligent haunting, 29. laser grid.

Laser Grid Ghost Detection

A laser pointer or laser pen can be used to detect motion in the darkness during a paranormal investigation . To do so a simple light-scattering filter is attached to a laser pointer, this causes the laser to split into multiple beams, creating a grid-like pattern of dots which spreads across the walls, floor and ceiling and if anything moves in front of the laser you will see a shift or discrepancy in the grid.

30. Lone Vigil

31. manifestation, 32. near-death experience (nde), 33. necromancy, 34. night vision, 36. ouija board.

Ouija Board

Ouija boards, also known as spirit boards, talking boards, or séance boards, have been a popular method of spirit communication since Victorian times. Ouija boards are usually wooden, they have the letters of the alphabet marked on them, numbers zero to nine. Participants must each place a finger lightly on a planchette in the hopes that a spirit will then guide it across the board in order to spell out words or phrases.

37. Out-Of-Body Experience (OBE)

38. pareidolia, 39. pendulum, 40. planchette, 41. poltergeist, 43. possession, 44. psychic mediums.

Psychic Abilities

45. Psychokinesis

46. rem-pod.


The REM-Pod , or radiating electromagnetism pod, is named based on it operation. It radiates its own electromagnetic field from a telescopic antenna and can detect fluctuations in the field if a conductive material enters into it. The device will flash a light and give an audio alert if something moves in or out of its field.

47. Residual Haunting

48. scrying, 50. shadow figure, 51. sls camera, 53. spirit box.

Spirit Box Ghost Box Paranormal ITC Tool

Sometimes called a Ghost Box, a spirit box is a popular tool that rapidly scan through the AM or FM radio spectrum, or a combination of the two. As the box sweeps through the spectrum you are likely to hear fleeting bursts of white noise and static, but also radio broadcasts. It's believed that spirits can make their voices heard amongst these burst of noise.

54. Spirit Photography

55. stone tape theory, 56. table tipping, 57. thermal imaging cameras.

Thermal Imaging Camera Paranormal

Thermal imaging cameras are a useful piece of photographic equipment that visualises infrared radiation on a screen to show areas of heat. Because thermal imaging cameras capture the heat being radiated by an object, instead of visible light, they give the user an indication of the temperature of everything within the camera's field of view.

58. Trigger Object

60. word bank communication, more on ghost hunting view all.

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Ghost stories: Why tales of the undead still mean so much (even if you don’t believe in ghosts)

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meaning of ghost haunting

We all know the stories: A dark shape lurks in the background, just out of view. A house seems to have a life of its own, doors opening and objects moving untouched by human hands.

Whether they’re told around a campfire or on the big screen , ghost stories still haunt and intrigue people today, particularly Americans . But why? What do ghosts mean to us, and why do they still matter, even in 2023?

The answer is, it depends. Ghost stories have a long history in American culture and media, but almost every culture has its version of a “ghost” –– and they aren’t all here to haunt us.

“What a society calls a ghost is really reflective more of the society than it is necessarily the entity itself, depending upon your belief system,” says N. Fadeke Castor , an ethnographer and assistant professor of religion and Africana studies at Northeastern University. 

meaning of ghost haunting

It might sound simple, but to understand why and what ghost stories mean to us, it’s important to first understand what a ghost is –– and what it’s not.

Other cultures have their own interpretations of spirits –– like the duppy in the Caribbean –– but the idea of a ghost seen in American pop culture, a spirit that haunts a house or people, is specific to the West. Carie Hersh , a teaching professor of anthropology at Northeastern, says ghost stories are usually about the transition between life and death. But in the West these stories are often about what happens when something goes wrong in that process.

“Whenever we talk about funeral rituals and things like that, there’s always a fear or an anxiety that something’s going to go wrong, that people aren’t going to move on to the next phase of existence or that part of them will remain,” Hersh says. “We tend to have a lot of rituals around death, and some of that is to enact a sense of control over this ultimately unknowable transition.”

If spirits are just another relationship and ghost stories are our way of depicting that relationship, then Western ghost stories are all about fractured or unresolved relationships. But Hersh says modern ghost stories like horror movies are connected to very contemporary concerns. Tales of the undead end up saying more about the living than about the spirits that haunt us.

“It probably tells you more about our society’s trauma/depression around natural life cycle stuff –– we tend to hide death away,” Hersh says. “We make it a very sterile, distanced thing, and as a result, like with anything that’s out of sight, out of mind, it becomes something we either don’t think about or we’re scared of. I see contemporary ghost stories more as a reflection of our society and our engagement with death than something universal.”

However, not every ghost story is even about a ghost. Ghosts, spirits, ancestors –– different cultures call them different things. They also mean something very different: Not every ghost story is about cheap thrills, fear or unresolved relationships. 

Headshot of Carie Hersh.

For many people of African descent in the Americas who are part of the African diaspora, the ancestors, those who have died, are not feared but embraced.

“People who have passed on, especially your relations, are still in relationship with you,” Castor says. “They still have a vested interest in your life and are still in active communication with you in a relationship of exchange.”

Unlike the ghostly tales that come from a Euro-centered tradition, these stories provide comfort, kinship and a connection to the past. Hersh observed something similar in her work with a New Age community in Virginia. 

“I made friends with a lot of mediums who would be like, ‘Hey, there’s someone at your elbow who wants to talk to you,’ and it was just accepted,” Hersh says. 

Even within one culture or community ghost stories can mean different things. Not all ghosts are the same, not all spirits are the same and not all ancestors are the same. Castor points out that the duppy, a more malevolent kind of spirit, can exist alongside the positive power brought by the ancestors in some Caribbean cultures.

However, the biggest reason ghost stories are still so powerful might be that we are always talking with the dead, Castor says. 

We read books, watch movies and recite plays and poems by people who are no longer living. Academics cite the work of other academics who have long since passed away, using the voices of the dead to support their own work. We maintain relationships with ghosts, even if we don’t believe in them.

“People are in relationships with non-embodied spirits, and they may conceptualize that relationship in many different ways and ghosts are one of those ways,” Castor says. “When do those who have passed become recognized by a society as spirits, as ghosts, as the ancestors, as the dead and when do they not? We are invoking people’s names all the time. … That is another way that society normalizes being in relation to those who have passed.”

Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at [email protected] . Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer .

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the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons.

a mere shadow or semblance; a trace: He's a ghost of his former self.

a remote possibility: He hasn't a ghost of a chance.

( sometimes initial capital letter ) a spiritual being.

the principle of life; soul ; spirit .

Informal . ghostwriter .

a secondary image, especially one appearing on a television screen as a white shadow, caused by poor or double reception or by a defect in the receiver.

Also called ghost im·age [ gohst -im-ij] /ˈgoʊst ˌɪm ɪdʒ/ . Photography . a faint secondary or out-of-focus image in a photographic print or negative resulting from reflections within the camera lens.

an oral word game in which each player in rotation adds a letter to those supplied by preceding players, the object being to avoid ending a word.

Optics . a series of false spectral lines produced by a diffraction grating with unevenly spaced lines.

Metalworking . a streak appearing on a freshly machined piece of steel containing impurities.

a red blood cell having no hemoglobin.

a fictitious employee, business, etc., fabricated especially for the purpose of manipulating funds or avoiding taxes: Investigation showed a payroll full of ghosts.

to ghostwrite (a book, speech, etc.).

Engraving . to lighten the background of (a photograph) before engraving.

to suddenly end all contact with (a person) without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship: The guy I’ve been dating ghosted me.

to leave (a social event or gathering) suddenly without saying goodbye: My friend ghosted my birthday party.

Digital Technology . to remove (comments, threads, or other digital content) from a website or online forum without informing the poster, keeping them hidden from the public but still visible to the poster.

to ghostwrite.

to go about or move like a ghost.

(of a sailing vessel) to move when there is no perceptible wind.

to pay people for work not performed, especially as a way of manipulating funds.

to suddenly end all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship: They dated for a month and then she ghosted.

to leave a social event or gathering suddenly without saying goodbye: I'm getting tired so I think I might just ghost.

Digital Technology . to remove comments, threads, or other digital content from a website or online forum without informing the poster, keeping them hidden from the public but still visible to the poster.

fabricated for purposes of deception or fraud: We were making contributions to a ghost company.

Idioms about ghost

give up the ghost ,

to cease to function or exist.

Origin of ghost

Synonym study for ghost, other words for ghost, other words from ghost.

  • ghost·i·ly, adverb
  • ghost·like, adjective
  • de·ghost, verb (used with object)
  • un·ghost·like, adjective

Words Nearby ghost

  • Ghiordes knot
  • Ghirlandaio
  • ghost dance
  • ghost fishing Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ghost in a sentence

The expansion of ghost kitchens was well underway before the pandemic.

The spread of third-party delivery apps and ghost kitchens means that many customers largely interact with restaurants through apps, not the restaurants directly.

New “ ghost kitchens,” or delivery-only restaurants capitalizing on the rise of Grubhub and UberEats, popped up, many specializing in wings.

Last year police in New York state arrested an Army drone operator and alleged Boogaloo Boi on charges that he owned an illegal ghost gun.

Group Nine has been thinking about expanding further in this direction by leveraging the ghost kitchen it launched through Thrillist back in December.

The well, ghost or no ghost , is certainly a piece of history with a bold presence.

Now, she says, her coworkers are actively pranking each other and blaming it on the ghost .

First, the ghost of his departed partner, Jacob Marley, comes calling, his face emerging from the doorknob.

As Monday turned to Tuesday morning, five hostages had escaped and the Central Business District had turned into a ghost town.

The ghost writer in question is assumed to be one Siobhan Curham—an established author of both YA and adult fiction.

T least, thet's all I think 't wuz; though thar wuz those thet said 't wuz Claiborne's ghost .

Meanwhile Fleurette had her nourishing food, and grew more like the ghost of a lily every day.

Our poor planet will be but a silent ghost whirling on its dark path in the starlight.

For a moment there was no consciousness in their gaze; then a whimsical ghost of a smile crept about his mouth.

Now it will be as well here to inquire what good has ever resulted from this belief in what is commonly understood to be a ghost ?

British Dictionary definitions for ghost

/ ( ɡəʊst ) /

the disembodied spirit of a dead person, supposed to haunt the living as a pale or shadowy vision; phantom : Related adjective: spectral

a haunting memory : the ghost of his former life rose up before him

a faint trace or possibility of something; glimmer : a ghost of a smile

the spirit; soul (archaic, except in the phrase the Holy Ghost )

a faint secondary image produced by an optical system

a similar image on a television screen, formed by reflection of the transmitting waves or by a defect in the receiver

See ghost word

Also called: ghost edition an entry recorded in a bibliography of which no actual proof exists

Another name for ghostwriter : See ghostwrite

(modifier) falsely recorded as doing a particular job or fulfilling a particular function in order that some benefit, esp money, may be obtained : a ghost worker

  • give up the ghost

(of a machine) to stop working

See ghostwrite

(tr) to haunt

(intr) to move effortlessly and smoothly, esp unnoticed : he ghosted into the penalty area

Derived forms of ghost

  • ghostlike , adjective

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with ghost

In addition to the idiom beginning with ghost

  • Chinaman's (ghost of a) chance

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Cambridge Dictionary +Plus

Meaning of ghost in English

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ghost noun ( SPIRIT )

  • A headless ghost walks the castle at night - or so the story goes.
  • According to tradition , a headless ghost walks through the corridors of the house at night .
  • The Society for Psychical Research is investigating reports of a ghost at the old vicarage .
  • Have you ever seen a ghost?
  • There's no such thing as ghosts.
  • astral plane
  • astral projection
  • incorporeal
  • necromancer
  • reincarnation

ghost noun ( MEMORY )

  • abiding memory
  • associative memory
  • at/in the back of your mind idiom
  • confabulation
  • corporate memory
  • have a memory like an elephant idiom
  • learn something by rote idiom
  • live (on) in the memory idiom
  • long memory
  • memory bank
  • rediscovery
  • reminiscence
  • short-term memory

ghost verb ( WRITE )

  • Around 80 percent of celebrity books are ghosted .
  • Tony is ghosting the memoirs of Eddie, an ex-con who went to prison for his part in a bullion robbery .
  • He is a freelance writer who is ghosting an article for a corporate executive .
  • bang something out
  • bash something out
  • borrow something from something
  • re-registration
  • readability
  • reformulate

ghost verb ( END COMMUNICATION )

  • She was furious about being ghosted by Dan.
  • If you want to finish with a boyfriend , tell him, don't just ghost.
  • He ghosted his girlfriend and then she became his boss .
  • affiliation order
  • break something up
  • break up with someone
  • child support
  • give someone the elbow idiom
  • give someone the heave-ho idiom
  • give someone the push idiom
  • go off with someone
  • run out on someone/something

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

ghost verb ( MOVE )

  • Sarah suddenly ghosted out from behind the shed .
  • Three youths ghosted out from a narrow alleyway a short distance ahead of her.
  • Several black shapes were ghosting swiftly over the grass .
  • ballistically
  • make for somewhere/something
  • make towards something/someone

ghost | American Dictionary

Translations of ghost.

Get a quick, free translation!


Word of the Day

go against the grain

If something goes against the grain, you would not usually do it because it would be unusual.

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meaning of ghost haunting

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  • ghost (SPIRIT)
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What Is Ghosting?

When a Friend or Romantic Interest Disappears Without Explanation

Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.

meaning of ghost haunting

 Verywell / Catherine Song

  • Increased Use
  • Why It Happens
  • How to Cope
  • Why You Shouldn't Ghost

Alternatives to Ghosting Someone

  • Is It Ever OK?

Ghosting is a relatively new colloquial dating term that refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone without giving that person any warning or explanation for doing so.

Even when the person being ghosted reaches out to re-initiate contact or gain closure, they’re met with silence. As you can see, it’s called ghosting because it involves someone essentially “vanishing” into thin air as if they were a ghost.

The term is generally used in reference to a romantic relationship, but it can technically refer to any scenario where contact unexpectedly ceases, including friendships and family relationships.

Signs of Ghosting

Ghosting is often obvious, but it can also be a gradual process. The other person might start by 'soft ghosting,' where they progressively minimize contact over a period of time. Some early signs that someone might be ghosting you include:

  • They regularly bail out on plans to get together
  • They struggle to make commitments
  • They don't like to share personal information
  • They don't want you to meet their friends or family
  • They disappear from social media
  • They rarely respond to your texts or calls
  • Your conversations with them lack depth, and they seem disinterested

If you have made repeated efforts to contact someone and they won't respond, it is a strong indicator that you've been ghosted.

Ghosting can also occur on social media. It involves cutting off all social media contact with another person without explanation. The other person may unfriend, unfollow, or even block you on all social media platforms. They may even go so far as to deactivate or delete their social accounts to prevent all contact.

The History of Ghosting

The term "ghosting" became mainstream about seven years ago alongside the surge in online dating ; it became an official entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2017 . Interestingly, though, the term was actually used as far back as the 1990s. Some pop culture writers and scholars have even used the term to describe ghostwriting in hip-hop music.  

Bree Jenkins, LMFT

The word ‘ghosting’ gained popularity long before [2017] via ‘90s hip-hop, often in the sense of escaping.

Though a new term, the act of ghosting existed well before the digital age. “I think references of ‘going for a loaf of bread and never coming back’ are examples of ghosting," says Bree Jenkins, LMFT , a dating coach in Los Angeles, Calif. "Ghosting used to be leaving a person and moving away or not leaving [them with] your contact information—its earlier origins are even the simple act of leaving a party or social gathering without notice and goodbyes.” 

How the Term Became Popular

So why did the term “ghosting” become mainstream just within the last decade? The argument is that online dating has simply made it way easier to ghost people.

With the higher frequency of ghosting instances, and with more people who could relate/understand being ghosted or doing the ghosting, the term was widely adopted.

Why Do Some People Choose to Ghost?

Ghosting is often seen as an immature or passive-aggressive way to end a relationship. In other instances, it may even be a form of emotional abuse.

There are two primary reasons why a person ghosts another, and often it's a combination of the two.

It's the Easy Route

The first is that some find it's way easier (in the short-term, anyway) to ghost someone than to have an awkward, uncomfortable heart-to-heart about why you’re not interested in maintaining contact.

The person doing the ghosting often wants to avoid confrontation or dealing with someone else’s hurt feelings, so they simply cease all communication and hope the hint is delivered.

Option Overload and Fatigue

“With internet dating comes what may seem like infinite choices as opposed to walking into a bar and having limited options," explains Margaret Seide, MD , a board-certified psychiatrist based in New York City.

"Because there are so many choices, online daters are quick to have the ‘OK, next’ or the ‘Yeah, but what else?’ mindset," says Seide. "Sometimes the person is nice enough, but is juggling a few other people and that person just didn’t make the cut.”

There are also other reasons why people ghost, including being fearful of the other person's reaction to rejection.

How Ghosting Can Impact the Ghosted

As you can imagine (or know from personal experience), ghosting can have a real psychological impact on the person who’s being ghosted.

It’s almost like sudden loss [or] grief, especially the first time you’ve ever been ghosted. You are shocked, and you’re in denial, thinking things such as ‘maybe they didn’t see my text.’ Then you feel anger.

Jenkins adds, “Next, the feelings of depression [can] kick in along with feelings of poor self-esteem as you mentally reexamine your relationship and last conversation for possible warning signs."

Ghosting is inherently ambiguous because there is a lack of explanation for why the relationship ended. For the person who has been ghosted, it can lead to significant feelings of rejection, guilt, grief, and shame.

A person who has been ghosted may be left wondering what this type of behavior says about them, but it is important to remember that ghosting says more about the person who cuts off contact than the person who is ghosted.

Working Through Grief After Being Ghosted

The grief cycle may not run that exact course, but being ghosted often triggers a flood of ranging emotions. Thoughts of ‘Not only did the person not want to date me, but I wasn’t even deserving of an explanation’ can make someone feel dehumanized and devalued.

It’s often more painful when it’s a relationship that’s marinated a bit, but the ghosted person can also feel this way if it was a new connection. It can take some time to work through the pain, but with acceptance the person being ghosted can move on.

To gain closure in a situation where you feel you’ve been ghosted, Meide says it can help to send a message by saying something like, “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while. I’m not sure what happened, but I don’t want to continue pursuing this. My time is valuable and I don’t want to leave this door open. Best of luck with things.” While the ghoster may not respond, it can help provide closure.

How Ghosting Can Impact the Ghoster

Ghosting doesn't just impact the ghosted; it also is a detriment to the ghoster. The bottom line here is that ghosting is either a passive aggressive way to end a relationship, or it is the “easy way out.” Either way, it’s not doing the ghoster any favors in their ability to communicate with others.

“Ghosting doesn't take into account how you affect other people and it makes it easier for the person to dip out or disengage when things get uncomfortable. There’s no way to have a healthy, long-term relationship without being able to work through problems and use your communication skills,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins adds that ghosters create unhealthy problem-solving patterns for themselves, and that they also contribute to a larger pattern of societal flakiness that increases their chances of being ghosted as well.

Avoiding the easy route of ghosting someone will benefit both parties. Meide says that the best thing you can do when ending a relationship , however long or short, is to treat the other person as you’d like to be treated.

“I usually suggest two spoons of sugar with the medicine in the middle for delivery,” Meide says. “It can sound something like ‘Hey, you seem like a really great catch, but I don’t feel it’s working between us. I respect your time and just wanted to be honest. Warm regards and take care.’

"Or, ‘Hi—it’s been cool getting to know you, but I’ve decided to take a break from dating and don’t want to waste your time or be dishonest. Best of luck with everything.’"

These messages are short, sweet, honest, and end with an outro to signal that you don’t want to have a long and drawn out conversation. It’s possible that you may get a negative or hurt reaction from the other person, but it’s far better to exit the relationship after giving an explanation than to ghost completely.

Is Ghosting Someone Ever OK?

In many cases, ghosting is considered a rude route to take when trying not to talk to someone anymore, or especially when ending a more serious or established relationship. However, there are most definitely exceptions—when further communication can be a bad thing or even potentially unsafe.

Situations in which ghosting can make sense is if you find out the person is married or in a relationship , participating in illegal or unsavory behaviors, or if they display toxic traits.   In such cases, you do not owe that person an explanation for abruptly ending the relationship. 

If you are uncomfortable or feel threatened by someone in any way, remember it's best to follow your gut instinct. You may simply have a bad feeling. In cases like this, you don't need to prove that this person "deserved" to be ghosted—ghosting might be a useful mode of self-protection and peace of mind.

If you feel your best interest would be to completely cut off contact with the person in question, don't let your feelings of guilt keep you from doing what's right for you and what will ultimately keep you safe.

A Word From Verywell

Ghosting has become more commonplace in the digital age, but just because something is easy or common doesn’t mean it’s always the ideal route to take. Consider how ghosting might impact both parties and do your best to treat others with kindness and honesty. If you’re the person who’s been ghosted, it’s OK to feel confused, sad, and angry. Sending a quick note to end the relationship yourself can help you regain a sense of power and confidence in yourself and give you closure.

However, if you feel threatened or deeply uncomfortable by someone, you don't owe them anything. Sometimes ghosting, when used thoughtfully, can be a healthy mode of self-protection and removing yourself from a potentially bad situation.

Navarro R, Larrañaga E, Yubero S, Víllora B. Psychological Correlates of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing Experiences: A Preliminary Study among Adults . Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2020;17(3):1116. doi:10.3390/ijerph17031116

Anderson HE. No Bitin’ Allowed: A Hip-Hop Copying Paradigm for All of Us . 2011.

 Vilhauer J. When Is It OK to Ghost Someone ? Psychology Today . 2019.

By Wendy Rose Gould Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.

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Scary TV truth: Spirited original British 'Ghosts UK' is better than American 'Ghosts'

Posted: November 16, 2023 | Last updated: November 16, 2023

The prolonged Hollywood strikes that put a halt to movie and TV filming, now blessedly over, offered one spectral silver lining for American TV viewers: They brought us "Ghosts UK."

When CBS primetime coffers were emptied of new shows like the hit comedy series "Ghosts," the network summoned the rights to the BBC's British version that inspired the hilarious American hauntings.

"Ghosts UK," as we're calling it from this side of the pond, makes its unlikely American network premiere Thursday (9 EST/PST) right after reruns of the CBS "Ghosts" (8:30 EST/PST), still trapped in its second season.

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Was adding "Ghosts UK" a desperate timeslot-filling move? Sure! But the eerie truth is "Ghosts UK" is on the next spirit level from the critically lauded American version. Stack up all the mansion-haunting apparitions, and spirit-for-spirit the Brits run away with it by a dismembered head.

And we're not just talking about the decapitated "Ghosts UK" spirit known as "Headless Humphrey" (Yani Xander) a 16th-century English nobleman constantly searching for his noggin in a perfect recurring gag. Even that represents a better body of work than the headless greaser named Crash in the American "Ghosts," who appeared in the pilot episode and has seen background moments since.

Like flickering haunted-house lights, you begin to realize that most of what makes U.S. "Ghosts" next-level funny is the brilliant story set up by the British version, borrowed (or honored) pretty much beat for beat from the original and Americanized.

In "Ghosts UK," young British couple Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike Cooper (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) see their London housing crisis vanish after they unexpectedly inherit the crumbling Button House from a distant aunt whom Alison never heard of.

The squabbling spirits, who have spent generations haunting Alison's newly discovered ancestral home, aren't pleased with the new arrivals who aspire to make the country house a luxury hotel. Conservative politician ghost Julian Fawcett (Simon Farnaby) ‒ forever pantless because of his tawdry sex-scandal death and the only ghost who can move objects slightly ‒ even tries to kill Alison by pushing her out an open window. But the fall and head blow only enable Alison to see the ghosts. Everywhere.

And yes, I'll boldly state that when it comes to trouserless ghosts, the British MP just works better than his American counterpart, the finance bro Trevor (Asher Grodman), who died partying in his boxer shorts.

That excellence continues through the other "Ghost UK" characters, including the spiritual house leader, scoutmaster Pat Butcher (Jim Howick), who is unflaggingly good-natured despite an errant archery arrow perpetually protruding from his neck and poisoned Georgian-era noblewoman Kitty Higham (Lolly Adefope), who wants to be friends with everyone. Smiling Kitty gets her effective freak on when scaring Alison under her bed covers, showing how "Ghosts UK" brings just enough creepy chills along with the laughs.

In American "Ghosts," the cholera ghosts forever stuck in the basement make for a good gag. But the "Ghosts UK" plague ghosts (they do call it The Great Plague) are a spookier lot who can still rattle ridiculous lines as if it were a phantom Monty Python skit.

CBS has already promised new "Ghosts" episodes in the post-strike world: Season 3 is due Feb. 15. And in 100 years or so of haunting, it might catch up to "Ghosts UK." The network hasn't revealed how long the British version will run on the network (episodes are also streaming on Paramount+), so catch these spectacular spooks before they disappear.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Scary TV truth: Spirited original British 'Ghosts UK' is better than American 'Ghosts'

Young couple Alison (Charlotte Ritchie, left front) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe, right front) inherit an estate filled with ghosts including scout leader Pat (Jim Howick, center front).

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The ghosts haunting China’s cities

In the official telling, fears of malevolent spirits are a vestige of old, unenlightened village ways. But today urban China is rife with superstition about death. Why?

O n the 11th floor of a suburban Hong Kong tower, an 86-year-old woman lived alone in a tiny, decrepit apartment. Her family rarely visited. Her daughter had married a man in Macau and now lived there with him and their two children. Her son had passed away years earlier, and his only child now attended university in England.

One September evening, the old woman fell and broke her hip while trying to change a lightbulb. She couldn’t move, and no one heard her crying for help. Over the next two days, she slowly died from dehydration. It took an additional three days for the neighbours to call the authorities – three days for the stench to become truly unbearable. The police removed the body and notified the family. A small funeral was held.

A few weeks later, the landlord had the apartment thoroughly cleaned and tried to rent it out again. Since the old woman’s death was not classed as a murder or suicide, the apartment was not placed on any of Hong Kong’s online lists of haunted dwellings. To attract a new tenant, the landlord reduced the rent slightly, and the discount was enough to attract a university student named Daili, who had just arrived from mainland China .

On the first night that Daili slept in the apartment, she saw the blurry face of an old woman in a dream. She thought little of it and busied herself the next morning by buying some plants to put on the apartment’s covered balcony. She hung a pot of begonias from a hook drilled into the bottom of the balcony above.

The next night, Daili saw the woman again. And so it went every night, with the old woman’s face becoming more detailed in each new dream. Sometimes the woman would speak to her, asking her to visit:

Why don’t you come by? Where are you? How long until you come again?

As the dreams persisted, Daili had trouble sleeping. Sometimes, rather than lying awake, she would go to the balcony to water her plants or look at the moon.

One night, the dreams were particularly vivid, but even after Daili woke up and went to the balcony, the woman’s voice didn’t stop.

Come visit me. Where are you?

Daili climbed a small step ladder to water her begonias at the edge of the balcony.

I’m lonely. You never stop by.

Daili poured some water into the flowerpot.

I need your help, now!

“OK,” Daili replied.

She looked out over the edge of the balcony, jumped from the stepladder, and fell 11 floors to her death.

The police ruled the death a suicide, and the apartment was listed on the city’s online registers for haunted apartments. The landlord had no choice but to discount the rent by 30% – and wait for a tenant who did not believe in ghosts.

W hen a university student in Hong Kong first sent me this story, which I have translated from Chinese and slightly modified, I knew it wasn’t true. Many similar fictional tales of ghosts, hauntings and unnatural deaths can be found online. Though these stories are not factual reports, I have found they reflect the experiences and anxieties of many who live in urban China: elderly parents left without family at the end of their lives; ghosts harming strangers (even leading them to take their own life); a pervasive fear of death; and a strengthening relationship between a fear of ghosts and the real-estate market.

This may appear counterintuitive. In the official view, a belief in ghosts is mere superstition, a vestige of a traditional agricultural society that has been left behind in the name of progress. There is an assumption that people in cities should be less superstitious than their rural neighbours. But ghostly beliefs are integral to the experience of urban living and rapid urbanisation. Though a fear of ghosts may have a long history in China, I suspect that such beliefs both transform and deepen during the process of urbanisation. And, in turn, these fears are altering social life and urban space as they become tangled up with the remembrance and repression of the dead.

Belief in ghosts takes an ambiguous form in contemporary urban China. Though not everyone admits to believing in them, almost everyone I spent time with during decades of ethnographic research in Nanjing, Shanghai, Jinan and Hong Kong has acted in ways that implied that ghosts exist. These people took special precautions when visiting cemeteries and funeral homes; they indicated that abandoned buildings felt haunted; they avoided talking about or having any association with death, including not renting or purchasing apartments that might be, in their words, “haunted”.

General Views of Caofeidian Industrial ZoneA woman rides a scooter along an empty road past residential and commercial buildings at the Caofeidian industrial zone near Tangshan, Hebei province, China, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. The best-performing bank in China is in a struggling city in the northeast where weeds sprout alongside the concrete skeletons of high rises in an industrial zone that mostly looks like a ghost town. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

I have been conducting anthropological research in China since the late 1980s. Back then, I lived in a rural area of Shandong province, at a time when few non-Chinese had the opportunity to live in a Chinese village. I came to Shandong province to investigate patterns of social interactions among village families, and it was here that I was first exposed to rural funeral practices, which are relatively similar across China. After someone dies, the deceased’s body is typically kept at home in a coffin – sometimes made from cedar, now often refrigerated – for a few days between the death and the funeral. People come by and pay their respects to the body, give a gift, and offer condolences to the family. The funeral itself is organised and conducted by familial elders. After the funeral, the body is either buried intact on village land or first cremated and then buried. But in all my time in rural China, I never heard anyone complain that their neighbour might be keeping a dead body at home. I never heard anyone say that the fields where they worked – and where their relatives were buried – were “haunted”.

I assumed funerals and beliefs about the dead would be similar in the cities. But I didn’t really know much about urban funerary practices. In the years after living in Shandong, I had attended only a few urban memorial services for friends and relatives (my wife is from the city of Nanjing). All of that changed when I began a research project on funerals in Chinese cities.

I n 2013, I began interviewing people who worked in China’s urban funerary sector and visited funeral homes and cemeteries in many Chinese cities, with a particular focus on Nanjing and Hong Kong. I found that funerary practice in urban China differed considerably from that in rural locales. In general, people in rural areas appeared less afraid of death, dead bodies and places of burial than people living in cities.

As soon as a dead body is discovered in Nanjing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, it is removed from the home or hospital room and taken either to a hospital morgue or a funeral home. The funeral is organised and conducted by industry professionals rather than family members. After the funeral, the body is cremated and the ashes are buried in a cemetery or a columbarium located far from the city centre – in Shanghai, it took me more than two hours by public transport to reach the popular cemetery Fu Shou Yuan.

When I described rural funeral practices to people in large Chinese cities – where almost everyone lives in apartment buildings – most found such practices distasteful. One man I interviewed in Nanjing was particularly disgusted by the idea of keeping a body in an apartment, even if it was kept in a refrigerated casket with no smell. Such a practice, he said, would bring bad luck and disrepute to the people who lived in the same building. And besides, he added, it would be illegal to keep a dead body in an apartment building. Indeed, when I asked government officials in Nanjing and Hong Kong about such a law, they confirmed that anyone who discovered a dead body in a home setting was required to notify the local government immediately, and that the government would organise the removal of the body as soon as possible.

In China’s largest cities, even practices that announce death publicly have been outlawed. Some of my students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who came from small cities in central China told me about funerals in their home towns where tents for attenders were set up outside apartment blocks. But such tents are no longer permitted in large cities such as Shanghai or Tianjin.

In Nanjing, I have seen home altars in family apartments with pictures of the deceased as a replacement for keeping a body at home. Friends and relatives could visit these home altars and pay their respects. But because of the steady stream of guests coming and going, and the visible placement of symbols related to death on the apartment’s front door, other residents would often become aware that someone in the building had passed away. In Nanjing, though some people set up home altars, others said they found the practice distasteful. As one woman told me during an interview: “How dare a family be rude enough to announce that something as inauspicious as a death had happened in their apartment building!”

In the largest cities I visited, including Shanghai and Beijing, I was repeatedly told that no one set up home altars. In Tianjin, a city of about 15 million people, I saw an official billboard explaining that it was now illegal to set up a home altar in an apartment. If neighbours notified the government that a resident had set one up, a large fine would be imposed.

It seems that the larger the city, the more likely it is that neighbours will not want to know about a death in their apartment block, and the more likely it is that practices announcing death will become illegal.

While interviewing funerary professionals in the 2010s, I learned that urban distaste for announcing death was matched by a cautious attitude towards visiting places associated with death. Urban funerary professionals often told families how to counter the ghostly energy, considered “yin” in the yin/yang dichotomy, that permeates places like funeral homes and cemeteries. This yin energy can be countered with yang activities, including drinking warm, sugary liquids, going to places that brim with people, or performing a fire-stepping ritual. In Shanghai and other cities, places for stepping over fire are built into the exits of funeral homes.

A Dong funeral procession with musicians, Zhaoxing Dong Village, Southern ChinaCR2P9M A Dong funeral procession with musicians, Zhaoxing Dong Village, Southern China

After observing a funeral in Nanjing, I watched a funeral professional light a small grass fire on a metal platform they had set up in the parking lot. The mourners all stepped over the fire before leaving to absorb yang energy and counter the yin that comes from spending time around the dead. I never saw such a ritual at a rural funeral.

P eople in China’s major cities, it seems, fear dead bodies and burial places more than people in rural areas do. Even the thought of a death occurring in their neighbour’s apartment bothers them. Rapid urbanisation seems to intensify a fear of death. Throughout China, cemeteries and funeral homes are constantly being relocated away from city centres. The rapid expansion of cities and their borders has necessitated the repeated relocation of state-run funeral homes and crematoriums, requiring many cemeteries to be dug up.

When I asked one Nanjing official why, he said: “People are still afraid of ghosts. The value of real estate near cemeteries and funeral homes is always lower than in the central districts. So, to protect the value of its real estate, the municipal government always attempts to keep funeral homes located far from the city centre.”

I once told an official in Nanjing’s Office of Funerary Regulation about an American relative of mine whose ashes were scattered in his favourite park. The official replied: “We cannot allow people to dispose of their parent’s ashes in public parks. People fear ghosts. People would not like Nanjing’s parks if they thought they had ghosts, so it is illegal to scatter cremated remains there, even if they do not pollute the environment and are indistinguishable from the rest of the dirt.”

In Hong Kong, fears of the dead echo those on the mainland. This fear even impacts the operation of funeral parlours – places where funerary rituals may be conducted. As of 2022, Hong Kong has only seven licensed funeral parlours and approximately 120 licensed undertakers, who help with funerary arrangements, but do not have the facilities to conduct funerals. Only those undertakers who started their businesses before the current regulatory regime began in the 2000s can openly advertise the nature of their business, display coffins in their shops and store crematory remains. These businesses have what are called type-A undertaking licences. Those with type-B licences cannot store cremated remains or display coffins in their stores if any other business or homeowners in their vicinity object. Those with type-C licences are even further restricted: they may not use the word “funerary” in the signs displayed publicly in front of their stores.

The logic here is the same as the one described by people I spoke with in Nanjing: if a neighbour fears death or dead bodies, or worries that other people’s fear could affect the value of their business or property, then they have the right to restrict the activities of an undertaker. In practice, this means that the business activities of all proprietors with type-B and type-C licences are affected.

Currently, most of the undertakers with type-A licences are in the Hung Hom residential district of Hong Kong, and many apartments there have a window from which one can see an undertaker’s shop (and shop sign). These apartments rent for less than those without such a view. In Hong Kong, as the story of Daili’s suicide reminds us, there are online resources one can use to locate “haunted dwellings” where unusual deaths have occurred. These apartments also sell and rent for discounted prices.

W hat explains modern Chinese urbanites’ surprising relationship to ghosts? Four factors seem important: the separation of life from death in cities, the rise of a “stranger” society and economy, the simultaneous idealisation and shrinking of families, and an increasing number of abandoned or derelict buildings. What is important to note here is that all four factors are products of urbanisation itself. Urbanisation makes ghosts. There is also a fifth point, which is distinct from these other factors but still compounds the haunting of modern China: a politics of repression.

The first factor is the increasing separation of life from death. People in cities don’t usually die at home. Instead, they die in hospitals, where staff do all they can to hide dead bodies. Even in cases when someone doesn’t die at a hospital, dead bodies are quickly taken to be stored at funeral parlours. The result is that many people in China’s major cities have never seen a dead body. This separation only increases as cemeteries and funeral homes are moved further and further away from city centres. The less people experience death, the more fearsome it becomes. For many, just mentioning death is inauspicious.

More important, I believe, is the second factor: the rise of a “stranger” society and economy. In village settings, relatives are buried together in the same vicinity, but in urban cemeteries strangers are buried side by side – a situation comparable to large apartment buildings where neighbours may not know one another. In urban China at least, the concept of ghost – 鬼, romanised as gui , malevolent spirits of many types, but also, perhaps metaphorically, malevolent people or even animals – is directly related to the notion of the “stranger”. Kin become ancestors; strangers become ghosts. Ghosts can do evil and must be feared. In the story at the start of this article, the ghost of the old lady leads Daili to suicide. In burial ceremonies at urban cemeteries in Nanjing, funeral practitioners often introduce the newly buried to their “neighbours” in the hope that the spirits next door will not act like ghosts.

In this Sept. 1, 2019, photo, an old apartment building stands next to a gleaming tower in Hong Kong. Life is not quite normal after three months of steady protests in the Asian financial center - and yet normal life goes on, as it must, for the city’s 7.4 million residents. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Urban economies are economies of strangers. In cities, we buy goods and services from those we do not know and hope these strangers treat us fairly. Most crucially, funerals in Chinese cities are arranged and run by strangers. These strangers handle the bodies at the funeral homes and crematoriums, and they work in hospital morgues and cemeteries (or at stalls outside, selling flowers and funerary paraphernalia).

As in many places around the world, workers in this sector are stigmatised. They have trouble finding marital partners and often marry each other. They avoid shaking hands with their customers. They lie about their occupation to strangers and tell their children to do the same if anyone asks about their parents’ line of work.

The third factor behind the fear of ghosts in urban China is the idealisation of family. As China urbanises and modernises, not only does contact with strangers become more prevalent, but the size of families and households also shrinks. Rather than a person’s entire social world being composed of relatives of varying degrees of distance, the social universe of urbanites is composed of a few close relatives and a larger society of strangers and acquaintances. As families shrink, the contrast between kin and non-kin becomes more critical. Family becomes an idealised site of moral interaction; the world of strangers is where one might face exploitation, robbery and treachery. But if a family shrinks too much, a person might become completely isolated, and end up a ghost – like the old woman in the story.

As China urbanises, its ideas about ghosts are transforming. Only in urban and urbanising China are ghosts equated with strangers. In traditional, rural Chinese society, ghosts were often thought of as relatives or kin who had been mistreated in life and not given a proper burial. The whole purpose of a funeral was to make sure that a dead relative became an ancestor instead of a ghost. When a person’s social universe is composed almost entirely of family, then both good and evil must be located within the family. In urban settings, these can be separated: family can be imagined as purely good, while evil is located in strangers.

The fourth factor related to the haunting of Chinese cities is the existence of abandoned buildings, neighbourhoods and factories. These places once brimmed with life, but because they are slated for urban renewal, residents and workers have been forced out. Empty and often derelict, they remind the people who are left behind (or who live nearby) of the loss of communities or ways of life. Areas targeted for renewal include rural areas but also previously urbanised locations, especially those not so intensely built up. After redevelopment, these areas become new districts that rise higher and are more densely populated. The communities affected by these projects may have protested, or attempted to protest, but in China such protests are often quickly suppressed.

Ghosts are not only strangers, but also someone or something that should not be remembered, at least in the eyes of an authority figure. Since memories of them are repressed, these spirits must actively haunt the living to receive recognition. The political repression of these memories, especially prevalent in China, makes them only more spectral. This leads to the final point: the ways that a fear of ghosts is connected to a broader politics of memory and fear. Projects of urban renewal are simply one of many kinds of occasions that could potentially lead to anti-government protests, and, in the eyes of the government, all such resistance must be suppressed. The current Communist party regime in China imagines its spirit must live for ever; all other spirits are ghostly enemies, strangers, to be banished. From this perspective, the ghosts from the party’s now-repudiated past – the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen Square massacre – must never be mentioned again. But I believe that the totalitarian impulse of the Communist party regime to banish all spirits other than that of the party itself can only increase the haunting of urban China. We must learn to live with our ghosts rather than repress them.

In China’s cities, cemeteries and funeral homes are visited only when necessary and dead bodies are rarely, if ever, seen. Yet death still forces its way into our personal space. Its sudden and unwelcome appearance makes it only more spectral. As our urban lives increasingly involve interactions with strangers, with people or beings whose comings and goings are complete mysteries, more and more ghosts haunt our cities. As urban neighbourhoods are razed and rebuilt again and again, as urban economies are restructured and disrupted over and over, as the pace of societal change increases and political repression continues, the memories that haunt us will only multiply.

This article first appeared in Aeon

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The Haunted


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    verb (used without object) to ghostwrite. to go about or move like a ghost. (of a sailing vessel) to move when there is no perceptible wind. to pay people for work not performed, especially as a way of manipulating funds. Informal.

  19. Poltergeist

    In ghostlore, a poltergeist ( ˈoʊərˌɡaɪst or əraɪ; German: [ˈpɔltɐɡaɪ̯st]; " rumbling ghost " or " noisy spirit ") is a type of ghost or spirit that is responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved or destroyed.

  20. GHOST

    Add to word list B1 [ C ] the spirit of a dead person, sometimes represented as a pale, almost transparent image of that person that some people believe appears to people who are alive: believe in ghosts Do you believe in ghosts? haunted by a ghost The gardens are said to be haunted by the ghost of a child who drowned in the river. Fewer examples

  21. Ghost Hunting and Paranormal Terms, Glossary and Definitions

    Something that is out of place and unexplained. In paranormal studies, it refers to any phenomena that we cannot explain. Example: A lens flare in a photo is not an anomaly, but an orb that we cannot explain is an anomaly. Anniversary Imprint: An imprint that usually manifests around the same time each year. See Residual Haunting. Amulet:

  22. Ghosting: What It Means and How to Respond

    Ghosting is a relatively new colloquial dating term that refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone without giving that person any warning or explanation for doing so. Even when the person being ghosted reaches out to re-initiate contact or gain closure, they're met with silence.

  23. Scary TV truth: Spirited original British 'Ghosts UK' is better than

    But the eerie truth is "Ghosts UK" is on the next spirit level from the critically lauded American version. Stack up all the mansion-haunting apparitions, and spirit-for-spirit the Brits run away ...

  24. The ghosts haunting China's cities

    Tue 14 Nov 2023 00.00 EST. O n the 11th floor of a suburban Hong Kong tower, an 86-year-old woman lived alone in a tiny, decrepit apartment. Her family rarely visited. Her daughter had married a ...

  25. Urban Dictionary: Haunting

    When someone tries to hit you up after ghosting you.