MJ STEEL COLLINS has gone back to the classics to discover master ghost hunter Peter Underwood’s thoughts on types of ghosts!
King of the ghost hunters, Peter Underwood, had a career investigating hauntings spanning seven decades. He was also President of the Ghost Club and a prolific writer of over 50 books.
In The Ghost Hunter’s Guide (1986), he outlines a classification of different kinds of ghost, which is of vital importance to paranormal investigators today.
Types of Ghosts
Atmospheric Photograph Ghosts
Perhaps more familiar today as residual hauntings, which follow the Stone Tape Theory:
“There is most certainly considerable evidence, from all parts of the world over many, many years, to suggest that certain events, often but not always tragic or violent events, occasionally imprint themselves in or on the atmosphere of the place where the event occurred. “ (p14 The Ghost Hunter’s Guide)
Underwood theorises that climatic conditions perhaps have some impact on this type of ghost, noting that he had seen very few ghost sightings of this kind reported during extremely windy weather. Or that some sort of imprint was made on light particles, to be experienced later by someone in the right place at the right time. The presence of the percipient, he writes, might even fuel the appearance of such ghosts, the key characteristic of which is the apparition always being seen in the same place doing the same thing.
The ghost then vanishes when approached. Other key characteristics include a drop in temperature and perhaps sounds, such as footsteps. These ghosts might fade over time, like a worn out photograph.
Historical or Traditional Ghosts
Associated with old, historic houses and recognised as the shades of the people who once lived in the property; Underwood writes that these kinds of ghosts appear to be ‘perpetuated’ by a long and uninterrupted residence in the house. Sometimes they appear solid as they flit about the place in the same way they did whilst alive, and seem immune to structural alterations.
They will still follow the layout of the house that was familiar to them in life, melting into walls where doors once stood, or appearing from the knees up, thanks to the floor level having being raised. They will rarely speak and be found to have suffered in life. Underwood writes they have a kinship with Atmospheric Photograph Ghosts.
Cyclic or Recurring Ghosts
Ghosts which return at regular intervals on certain dates, the most common interval being 12 months long. Part of the problem of investigation such ghosts is the expectation raised in the mind of perhaps seeing a ghost, making the would-be experient more convinced that anything mundane they encounter is actually paranormal.
Underwood advises taking along a witness who knows nothing of the alleged haunting to reduce the chances of this happening, and visiting the location before and after the date the ghost is said to appear with different observers.
Underwood includes ghosts of modern people and even modern things, such as vehicles, in this category, citing the case of the phantom bus seen for years racing along the road in North Kensington that caused a number of accidents, until one fatal incident resulted in the road being altered.
Ghosts of the Living
This involves apparitions of people who are very much living in the material world. It might involve someone seeing a friend in the street, when the friend in question is very much in another place in their physical body:
“Under this heading we must also consider the experimentally induced apparition, the ghost not of a dead or dying person, but of someone alive and well who has deliberately made his or her image visible to someone else.” (p 18 The Ghost Hunter’s Guide)
Underwood also notes that G N M Tyrell, President of the Society of Psychical Research 1945 – 46, had listed 16 successful attempts at creating a ghost of the living in his study Apparitions, which has been just about ignored by research into Outer Body Experiences.
Crisis Apparitions or Death Bed Apparitions
Hauntings of a limited duration where the apparition of someone dying or newly dead is witnessed during or soon after the moment they pass over. They are very common and rarely seen more than four days after the key moment. During the World Wars, it was common for women to see their husbands or sons apparitions and find out later they had been killed in combat.
“It seems likely that such figures are ‘thought forms’. In a moment of crisis or danger a person is likely to think of a loved one and, in picturing their wife or mother or father or son or daughter, it may be that they telepathically transmit a likeness of themselves to that person. “ (p 18 The Ghost Hunter’s Guide)
Such ghosts, Underwood writes, tend to be attached to a particular family for a particular reason, which is normally to warn of impending death. They are particularly common in Scottish families, though Underwood also includes the Banshee, the screaming entity attached to Irish families or those of Irish descent.
Underwood writes that it possible for objects, like houses, to attract ghosts, but much rarer. He writes that some objects are more likely to become haunted, citing skulls as a prime example, with the haunted skulls of Chilton, Wardley Hall and Burton Agnes, to name a few. Another example he gives is the Busby Stoop at the Busby Stoop Inn in Yorkshire.
This is a seat said to belong to a thief called Busby who was hanged for murder. When he was hauled from the seat and his home, he cursed the seat, promising an early and bizarre death for anyone who dared to sit in his seat. Subsequently, so many people died mysteriously after sitting in the seat, that the owners of the Inn suspended it from the ceiling to prevent anyone else from sitting in it.
A contemporary example of an object more likely to be haunted than most these days would of course be dolls. Cases of these are rather prolific in the 21st century!