cohabitating with ghosts

The most rewarding part of working with people who experience phenomenon in their homes is helping them to reframe the experience and make peace with the fact that ghosts represent something most modern humans do not appreciate; they are unpredictable!

At some point in your life, you’ve probably gone into a place, maybe a basement or attic or shed, and someone with you became unbelievably hysterical, clawed their way out of there, and couldn’t stop squealing and trembling. Why? The sight of a spider. Why didn’t the girl on the other side of you react the same way? Because a spider means nothing more than how you perceive it. To some, a spider is a crawly thing that can be poisonous, hide in places, get caught in your hair, and tickle your flesh. Ick! To others, they’re the ones who belong in the place you’re poking around in. It’s their home. They’re fascinating in that they can build these enormous webs and catch bugs. They remind them of “Charlotte’s Web.” The creatures certainly aren’t interested in humans, in fact, they’d like to stay clear of us (many of us happen to scream loudly and rush about scaring off their prey).

A haunting is exactly the same. To some, an unexplained sound, a dark shadow, or anything that represents a haunting is unnatural and surely dark and evil. To others, it’s a fact of life and death and, like the spider, they have equal right to the property. If you don’t fear people when they’re alive, you certainly shouldn’t be getting frantic when they’re in their spirit form. In fact, you have less to fear from them; they don’t pack guns.

When I wander through old graveyards, I bring flowers. I leave one graves of people long deceased, ones who have no one to visit them anymore that ever knew them when they were alive. I set down the flower and I say their name aloud several times and read their headstone and introduce myself and thank them for letting me visit. Now, I am not in any way certain a spirit is hovering around its bones waiting for a visit, but there is something very respectful and wonderful about knowing that for decades and sometimes centuries no one has said their name out loud and now you have. You made them exist again for a few moments. Someone was talking about them.

The same level of respect should be shown for haunting cohabitants.

We’ve been taught that ghosts are sort of like Patrick Swayze in “Ghost.” They are the same person, only invisible and hovering around watching your life and desperately trying to warn you of impending doom. The fact is, even though a place can be haunted, it usually has long stretches of time with no activity and then bursts of it all at once. It’s as if the right conditions must be present for a spirit to be in attendance.

The exception to that would be a residual haunting which I believe are easily 80% or more of hauntings. That’s an event that replays through sound (footsteps, voices) or visual (person standing in front of the window).

Before you get your knickers in a knot, see if you’re dealing with something that can communicate or something that's nothing more than a recording.

Keep a journal for some time. Take note of whether you often hear footsteps upstairs or you smell cigar smoke in the den or several people have seen a figure in the hallway. These are not in any way indicative of an interactive intelligent haunting. When these are reported over time in similar places and similar manners, you’re dealing with a residual and there is no one there present to see you undress in your bedroom or pee on the potty, so take a deep breath and relax. You are dealing with memories held by the environment and played over. It’s sort of like the way the house groans on a cold night when the heater turns on or the grooves in the floor where you drag your office chair or the heat on the desert causes mirages. Perfectly natural.

It’s still up in the air if poltergeists are intelligent beings or simply some kind of kinetic/psychokinetic activity. It does tend to happen in homes where haunting activities are also displayed, so they seem to go hand-in-hand. Should you have objects pop up in strange places or things come crashing down for no apparent reason, it’s a good idea to keep a watch on it. A true poltergeist activity will come in waves so there should be many more coming up. If it’s one random thing—probably an explainable thing like an item in your home simply set on its edge and slipped.

Intelligent hauntings? We usually find out about those through EVPs that appear to display answers to questions. I’m highly skeptical of the efficacy of EVPs, but an intelligent haunting would involve a display by the spirit that it heard you and is responding, interacting. We see this on ghost hunting shows a lot when they ask for the spirit to finish the “shave and a haircut” finger knock (why they do this for 100+ year old spirits, I don’t know--isn't that a depression era ditty?) However, even if an intelligent haunting were the case in your home, that doesn’t mean he’s got nothing else to do with the afterlife than to study you naked or making love on your bed. Remember, these are spirits, not humans. Humans have chemicals, urges, and anatomy. Nor is there any need for anger, pettiness, or possessiveness in the spirit world. They are beyond the issues we have in human form. They know pure love and complete and total release from worldly sorrow. Just recall what NDE (near death experiences) folks report; absolute true love.

So on those rare occasions ghosts may be present in the time line of your existence in your home, consider yourself quite honored and lucky to bump up against a set of circumstances that are extremely rare to create in order for the contact to occur.


  1. I always thought nothing would be more "cool" than to live in an intelligently haunted place-thanks for phrasing it so beautifully!!
    I couldnt agree more about possible dangers from ghosts -(if and when spirit possession occurs this view changes considerably) but I think on the average my cat could do a hundred times the harm a ghost could- the "unpredictable" and "quiet" phases of hauntings have always interested me too- all the best to you my friend- and great article- I would be honored to have a condo ghost - I imagine he/she would be a helluva lot nicer than some of the flesh and blood people who live in this place!!

  2. Hey Dev;
    Is baby brother still having prob's with the neighbors? Yeah, I know what that's like. I've had to deal with some whoppers and the people on both sides of us have always been renters--no offense to renters but in homeowner neighborhoods--they can be a bloody nightmare when the landlords don't think about who they rent to. You just gave me another idea for a post--what ghost would you want to haunt you? Maybe that'll be the next poll!

  3. I have lived in houses that have had recordings as well as poltergeist style activity.

    The unpredictability of the "poltergeist" was fun - our boys were teenagers at the time & the poltergeist was no worse than them!

    We've always felt honored to have found the houses that have been so 'special'.

  4. Jeanne;
    That's a great attitude. Kids can really take it like an imaginary playfriend if the parents aren't afraid of the strangeness. Like I always say, growing up with that activity, I had no reason to think it wasn't part of the natural world like things falling to the ground when you toss them into the air or making mist on windows when you breathe on them.

  5. I like how you point out that just because a place is haunted, doesn't exactly make it a portal to hell. Paranormal State immediately sprung to mind in their haste to label all hauntings "demonic" and that ALL demonic cases are caused by people into Wicca and the Ouija board. I can't count the amount of times I bristle at their logic (if you can call it that). No one I know that is Wiccan is in league with the devil and into child sacrifice. Not to mention that all who dabble in divination I've ever met (myself included, yes, I admit) have NEVER become possessed, since divination for the most part is all about common sense. If you're a moron or completely naive, you should expect bad things to happen! Duh! It's like giving a gun to someone who's never handled one and telling them to make a head shot on a paper target. They'll probably end up shooting themselves in the foot! Same thing.

    I did lived in a "haunted" house once (I think I told you this before) and I swear it was intelligently haunted. Some of the things that happened to me while there sounded residual for sure but there are others that just don't match up and there is NOTHING that can be said to me to make me think otherwise. It was kinda one of those "you just had to be there to understand" situations. Everything from balls of glowing light in the middle of my bedroom at night, to the sensation that I had just been "walked-through" that chilled me to the core, to being touched--NOT tapped or brushed--by a cold, icy hand on my BARE back. I could literally feel weight of the fingers and palm and the mild grip in the hand. There aren't things that can just easily be explained away by some residual energy caught in a piece of wood (to me at least) and these were the experiences that set me on the path of interest with the paranormal.

  6. Grim;
    You shed a great light on the subject. Yeah, the Ouija board thing and the Pagan thing just makes me roll my eyes. I made a comment on someone's post recently about the subject of people destroying the pagan worship area at an air force base and I was like, "you know, not much has changed since we came off the Mayflower, except we built some highways and high rises, but socially--we're still puritans." I don't know how scientists could move forward with experiments if they were constantly thinking "oh my gosh, if I figure out what causes gravity, I might unlock Pandora's box" or, as I like to say, God didn't give us brains to not create and ask questions and look for answers. Any proud parent wants to see their kid take what they gave them and run with it! Personally, I have zero belief in demons or possession or "evil" as a noun. Absolutely not one bit of belief or proof that it exists, except in people's reactions to things. That's where it all goes horribly wrong. Your encounters were really unique and very interesting. I yawn when I find residual, but when I find hints of intelligence, I get very excited. Keep seeking answers. People who have experienced it, they never stop seeking answers. And having something "go through you," has happened several times to me and I must admit a kind of strangely crossing-over feeling inside like I just had something amazing happen. I think it's a soul walking through a soul. Your body can't even register what it's like. But, you do feel it go in one side and out the other and every single cell recognizes it. Totally amazing!

  7. Living in a tourist town, I can thoroughly relate to how you feel about renters.

    We have a cottage across the alley from us, and when someone nice and quiet is staying there, my little Garden Spirit (I've been told it is a little lady well on in her years)becomes quite active. You can smell apples in the air, even though there isn't an apple tree around for miles and miles. (I've been told that she loves to sit on our garden bench, in the shade, and peel apples. .this was before I ever mentioned smelling them). But if obnoxious people move in there, I don't feel her around, and I most certainly don't get that refreshing treat of fresh apples.

    You explain everything SO well, and so gently, I don't know how anyone who would have any fears, could rationalize them.

    As for myself, it would be an honor and a thrill to be able to communicate with someone who has lived before me. I'd have SO many questions, they'd probably be sorry they ever came around me! lol

  8. Suzie;
    You might consider actually planting an apple tree in her memory. I would try lining up a row of apples on a table out back and see if they move... Hmm...


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