Anatomy of Apparitions

Since most people haven’t witnessed an apparition, I’m going to use an example for this post so we can break down the anatomy of an apparition. On the SyFy show “Ghost Hunters,” the TAPS investigation team went to the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona. While there, they had a very active night. At one point, Jason and Grant climbed up some stairs to another level and when they rounded the corner and looked across the room towards another set of stairs, they saw an apparition gliding towards and down those stairs. They gave chase, but found no one anywhere. They later described the same woman with a white gown and a hat.

Here are the features we can discern:

1. The apparition did not acknowledge them or seem to know or care they were there.
2. They had no precipitating “aura” that this was about to occur, i.e. chills, hairs standing on end, or other usual bodily signals.
3. More than one person can see the same thing, so it is not something created by an individual’s mind.
4. Later that evening and earlier that evening, no one else saw the same thing.
5. The apparition had been said to frequent that specific area.

Let's play devil's advocate in regards to apparitions and whether they represent spirits or replaying of a past moment in time.

Case against apparition as spirit: Apparitions are seen in the same places, doing everyday tasks, not necessarily waving their arms or trying to get a person’s attention. They may look in someone’s direction, but they don’t show expressions or signs of recognition. If a spirit had the ability to make itself known visually, why not in the living room instead of the bedroom? Why not inside the house instead of seen through a window from outdoors?

Case for apparition as spirit:
People have seen apparitions who look like family members.

Case for apparition as replaying of past event:
They have a repetitive nature, same activity, same place, doing mundane things. They don’t seem to recognize anyone. They have no typical “ghostly” aura like temperature drops, hair standing on end, et cetera.

Case against apparition as replaying of past event:
The event doesn’t seem to be anything “traumatic” enough to warrant being imprinted in the environment.

Where I grew up the residual haunting was a huge feature of the house. The dark apparition was seen in the same small area. The footsteps were heard on the stairs and down the hall which was a typical pattern used over and over and over again by the 250 years of residents. Lighthouses often report the sound of steps going up and down the spiraling stairway, a path taken several times a day by lighthouse keepers for hundreds of years. Any one of those times, that event might have been recorded.

If we are to believe that apparitions are nothing more than a visual imprinted in the environment, then why don’t we see them all the time, in all places, with all people who have ever been to that place? Why only one apparition in a building, in the same spot, doing the same task over and over. Why did, say, Sally walk down the stairs in a white gown and hat and somehow imprint herself for all time in that spot? But Harry in the kitchen didn't?

I looked up that summer of 2006 when TAPS went to Tombstone. I’m sure you all noticed that the team has gotten basically nothing of consequence this season and if you note geomagnetic activity, 2009 has been a completely quiet year, but 2006 was an insane banner year of activity. Nearly every episode they filmed had exciting action. It was a dream time to film. I do believe bursts of geomagnetic activity correlate with the “recording” of an apparition. Other factors such as geology, emotional state of mind, and unseen forces we have yet to identify could also contribute strongly. It would take the ideal set of circumstances for such a thing to occur and a specific location.

Why location related? Well, if at one moment in time everyone was imprinted doing a task wherever they are, then every building, every city park, should all have apparitions that go off occasionally from that one moment in time. So, we can assume that it is location/timing/earth conditions/physics/perhaps emotionally related, and other unknown.

As always, I hope to get your take on this anatomy of an apparition. I love to get lots of viewpoints on theories.


  1. During that time I lived in an old brick house and I’m wondering if there was limestone built somewhere into it (yet another theory)? It was built in the 50’s or 60’s I think, with a couple recorded deaths on the premise but nothing traumatic. It was the first and only “haunted” house I’ve ever claimed to have lived in.

    I (and the rest of my family, both at separate times and together), witnessed everything from shadows to being touched. Whatever was there I think liked me the most since I also heard someone coming home and walking into the house when no one was there but me and saw a floating light wink on then fade out in the middle of the room where no windows were and while everyone else was asleep. I felt a hand touch me on the back when I was in the shower and also seen the shadows of a man and a woman (at different times) walking past my living room window where no people could have been. Others heard bangs coming from the basement, and footsteps down the hall. One said they heard the piano in the basement playing. On my way to bed one evening, I was walking down the hall to my room and felt a deep chill and the crackle of static in the air and right then the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

    Needless to say, there was a lot of activity. The guy that sold us the house practiced invocation and other bad juju. There was also a lot of fights during that time in the house and I was in my mid to late teens then as well. A lot of factors to consider that may have added to the mix. Personally I think it was the original builder of the house that may have been haunting it, as his workshop was in the basement (where a lot of the bad vibes came from) and my cat would stay on the top step whenever we put her down there. He was also one of the two people to have reportedly died there before I moved in. All I know is that ever since then my view on the paranormal has never been the same.

    Oh, and another odd thing? The lady that bought the house from us died in it as well, a year later to be exact. Spooky? Definitely. Strange? Of course. Coincidental? Maybe, but the events there will probably remain a mystery for as long as I live.

  2. Oops. Forgot the first paragraph to my comment. Sorry for the book. :)

    This is pretty interesting. I haven’t really heard too much on the correlation between paranormal and geomagnetic activity but it seems an area worth taking note. Where or how did you look up the activity for a certain year as I’m interesting in checking on the years of 2002-2003?

  3. Hey Grim;
    So excited to hear about someone who experienced the paranormal and hasn't been the same since. People ask me why I ghost hunt--I can't leave those experiences behind me. I'm a very logical person and I really want more than just the old rot about what ghosts are--I want to know more, much more. To check up the archives on geomagnetic activity go to this site --I keep it bookmarked because when I go on a hunt, I always note the activity that day. I spent this past summer doing a lot of research on 50 supposedly haunted places around the country to find similarities and to create what i call a "haunted formula." I came up with an area of states that by geology and history are the very most densely haunted areas...Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The month of June in my archives, you'll see a lot about the places I studied, but here's the summary:

    The house where I grew up at was atop of freshwater springs, limestone and quartz. Yes! They really do have a huge influence.

    What you've described from the house you lived in were a combination of things; much of them were residual from shadowy apparitions to sounds. Some things, like the floating winking light and hair standing on end type of things are often strange EMF and static issues in these sites with the ideal geology. Being touched, however, is a different and more classically "haunting" feature. I hope to discuss soon physical encounters because the sensation of touch can be either touch or it can be a sensation created by the same conditions that make a haunting appear, creating sensations in all our senses from scent to sight to hearing to touch...

    If there's any subject you're particularly interested in, let me know. I've written about just about every facet I can think of in the ghost hunting world and I can direct you to past posts.

    Keep searching for answers!

  4. Thanks for the links. I'll make it a point to get to them.

    Some subjects I'd definitely be interested in are shadow people, demonic entities, sigils (I heard these are used in exorcisms but know little about it), thoughtforms, and perhaps exorcisms not related to Christianity. You hear so much about Christian exorcisms but there are so many other cultures in existence that it cannot be the only modes of ridding oneself of a troubled ghost, at least in theory anyways (which much of this territory is). I don't subscribe to every one of these ideas but am always open to learning more about the field. Thanks!

  5. Hey Grim;
    You're totally correct. Almost all religious and spiritual practices deal with ridding oneself of bad energy. I tend more towards feng shui and cognitive counseling myself for helping people, but I'm not above using crystals/stones and a method I like to use to "retrain" an area to carry positive energy instead of dark memories. It's really about clearing the spot of clutter and sitting yourself down on the ground with a photo album and some happy pleasant memories a couple times a day about 15 minutes each time. Usually after a week of doing this, even dowsing rods won't cross there anymore. I once wrote a post about that, but now you have me thinking it's time to write about it specifically. If you want to learn about the posts I've written about shadowpeople, just look on my blog and on the right side there's a column "about me" and below it is a search bar. Just type in "shadowpeople" and it'll find my posts. Hope to hear from you again as you continue your search for answers.

  6. I think another question to throw into the mix is how long can residuals last? Not how long each sighting lasts, but how long sightings can continue to occur. Could the same residuals we see today still be seen hundreds, or even thousands of years from now? Or do they fade away eventually? It's one thing when you see ghosts on a Civil War battlefield or in a Victorian mansion or an old British pub, but those residuals come from a times within the last few hundred years. How often do people today see residuals of Roman soldiers crossing a battlefield? Or an ancient Egyptian residual hanging around a pyramid (and that's a lot of limestone too...and it's been in the same spot for thousands of years!)? I suppose residuals from the ancient past may still exist somewhere, but you don't seem to hear much about them if they do.

    I'm also curious as to whether or not changes in the environment can effect residual activity. It would seem to me that if a residual is known for walking up a staircase and then the house gets torn down, does the residual go away? Without a staircase to walk in, it would seem that the activity would just be 'erased' so to speak. Alternatively, if a shopping mall was built where a ghost train used to go by, would the ghost train cease to go by?

    And what about ghost ships? It would seem that on the seas, the recordings on stones theories wouldn't fit. I wonder what effect the water itself could have though. Edgar Cayce said his ability was stronger near the sea, which is one reason why he moved to Virginia Beach. I wonder if other psychics have ever noticed being near the sea increases their ability, or if it was just something unique to Cayce. Can you tell any difference in your ability based on how close you are to the sea? Or is it basically the same whereever you go?

  7. Jeff;
    Wonderful and thoughtful considerations! I'll go backwards...

    Moving water is hugely important. In my study of the 50 haunted places, being near running water (not so much a pond or lake or swimming pool) was very important in the scoring. It would seem there's either energy generated by water, static electricity, electrical storms, and geomagnetic activity that could create a source of activation for hauntings. I think the only effect on psychics is just the peace created by the sea's sounds and smells. It's ideal for the right state of mind for psychic receiving. As for haunted ships, when looking at the Queen Mary, there was a magical combination of lots of metal and rushing water against it. I think it should make a fine conduit.

    As far as if residual remains when a building is gone, this goes in with the -- could Roman soldiers show up and how long can a recorded event play... It's very rare that a building from that time still exists, but certainly the Brit's will tell you that a 1000-year-old castle is still haunted. I see no reason for it not to be. This might even tie in with why renovation of a place can cause a stirring of up activity. I doubt it's past tenants complaining about the redo. It's more likely that the combination of elements interplay to make the ideal "frequency" like the "Gallopin' Gertie" bridge and the lesson in harmonic frequency. Just the right combination and...magic. I believe residual can occur outdoors as well. Many people in Gettysburg have reported seeing soldiers in the field, so there's no reason a Roman soldier couldn't be seen except that maybe Rome is so built up, it's not a detectable occurrence and perhaps the building of these structures interrupted the flow of whatever energy is necessary for the replaying of a residual.

    As for the ancient Egyptians and their limestone structures and the nearby flowing river...It seems nearly impossible that it wouldn't have residual. There are reports of hauntings associated with the pyramids and "Destination Truth" actually did an episode where they stayed in King Tut's tomb for the night. It was pretty weird-o-rama and seemed to disturb their equipment the most. It could be supposed that the wise men of their time protected the resting place of their dead in the very construction and placement of items within to ensure no such activity. The very way it's build could simply negate the possibility of residual by its very symmetry. Since these structures were not to be lived inside of...they might not have had the right context either.

    I'm very curious about whether something in the environment changes in a way that something that wasn't visible becomes visible, such as smoke filling a room and showing where laser trigger lights are OR does an event sort of hiccup briefly and become visual to us OR do we become more receptive to visualize it OR does the meteorological conditions bring it forth.

    I must admit, the things we witnessed at Aspen Grove have been reported by people after we left and were reported by people who lived there before us. I don't see any reason for it to end unless the house is brought down. Should someone else build a house on the same spot, if the stairs are in the same location, they might likely still get booted footsteps. It's more than likely not that there is an actual spirit walking those stairs over and over again, but the sound of him doing so remains. Should the new home builders put in a large high-ceilinged room where the stairs were, they might hear some very strange sounds that make no sense at all. Which could also explain why some sounds don't make sense to the building that's there--the structure has been renovated and yet the sounds or sights remain. Many people report a residual apparition walking through a wall (where a door once was).

    As always, Jeff, I love knocking around these theories with you. You're always asking the right questions!

  8. This was a wonderful article as always Autumnforest and Jeff does ask the right -smart questions-the "apparition vs actual spirit" or spirits debate fascinates me to no end- You mentioned the sightings of Roman soldiers -and I wonder if the reports out of the UK-stem from moving water-if I am not mistaken Roman-and other battles etcetera from English history are reported as sightings often-but with no sound-I wonder if underground streams-or the material of the rock beneath is creating "just" an imprint-not that imprints are not interesting enough!!
    I like how you are always applying actual science to these subjects-fantastic work!!
    You mentioned 2006 as a great year for activity-and you may have mentioned the UFO aspect of 2006 on your blog before-but that was also a "banner" year for sightings -I think the famous "O'Hare" airport sighting and others happened then
    thanks a lot for keeping the rational approach to all of these wonderfully intriguing questions
    all the best to you!!

  9. Hey Dev;
    I can always count on you to be well versed and knowledgeable. I'm excited about the geomagnetic activity connection and will be doing a post probably tomorrow about that. I've taken some major events including the Phoenix Lights and found them to tie to geomagnetic activity. It's something I've stumbled upon, but when I see connections that strong that keep showing up, I can't help but have my "spidy" senses up.

  10. It seems to me that if someone has a very regular routine it can leave an imprint much in the same way it might if a traumatic event were to occur. The repeated action over time is what would cause the imprint and this would account for its lack of acknowledgement when someone saw it. The apparition would be intent on the task it is performing

  11. Panademona;
    Thanks for your input. You are always up on your subjects. I agree about repetition. We hear a great deal about women in front of windows, people taking hallways and stairs, lighthouse keepers (given the task of climbing the stairs relentlessly) and theaters where actors voice scripts over and over again and again. I've noted something interesting in cemeteries and outdoors, as well as homes, is that the major pathways, i.e. roads, paths, walkways, are the most active. I thought it made no sense--if a ghost truly didn't need to be limited by walls, why not walk through them? But, residual repetitive hauntings following pathways make sense. Thanks for your input. Very perceptive.


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