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A brief intro and taxonomy of ghosts

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

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“I have long thought that 98% of reported hauntings have a natural and mundane explanation, but it is the other 2% that have interested me.”

The term “ghost” many don’t realize is a blanket term for a much larger taxonomy. While there will always seem to be some discourse over just how many different types of ghosts there are, for the sake of this exercise, I’m going to be utilizing the eight categories laid out by renowned parapsychologist Peter Underwood.

Underwood served as president of the paranormal research organization from 1962 - 1993 after accepting an invitation from the famed Harry Price. The Ghost Research Foundation called him “King of Ghost Hunters.” He is the author of dozens of books and has spent over 70 years in the paranormal field. These are the varieties of ghosts as he categorizes them.

1. Elementals: These are ghosts connected to burial grounds or the four elements, water, earth, fire, and air. Many ghost hunters consider these to be demonic.

2. Poltergeists: Possibly the most well-known type of ghost, thanks to Hollywood, poltergeists present themselves as violent energies and connect themselves to a person. There’s a theory that these entities are the result of repressed or overwhelming negative emotions.

3. Traditional or Historical Ghosts: These are souls of the dead that are both aware of the living and able to interact with them.

4. Mental Imprint Manifestations: An outpouring of mental energy which is absorbed by a place and represents a psychic model of an extreme state of mind. These types of ghosts will repeat the same actions over and over again. Opening and closing doors, walking up and down stairs. There is no consciousness or awareness. These entities tend to be associated with significant times or dates, such as anniversaries of their death or moments of trauma.

5. Crisis or Death-survival Apparitions: People often see or experience someone with whom they have a close bond when that person is at the moment of their own death or experiencing something that may be life-threatening.

6. Time Slips: More elaborate form of a ghost, usually stepped into unknowingly. A time slip is what happens when someone steps into a different time altogether, usually in the past.

7. Ghosts of the Living: Ghosts of the living suggest a connection between brain function and a type of paranormal phenomenon. A kind of ESP used to generate images of the living. Roger Clarke wrote about one of these instances in his book “Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof” Ghost hunter Andrew Green moved out of his house and into a cottage. After a while, the family who purchased his home came to visit him, and the young girl became frightened before telling everyone that she’d seen Green in the garden of his old house many times.

8. Haunted Inanimate Objects: Chairs, toys, trinkets, or objects that may have been significant to someone while they were alive might be something that becomes haunted after their death. Other objects included in this could be ones that are associated with death, such as a gun or a knife.


“Einstein’s conservation of energy law in physics states that energy is neither created nor destroyed but merely changes form or moves from one place to another. Where does the energy from our life forms go after we die?”

Where does our energy go when we die? People hold many different beliefs about this. The movie industry has spent years answering this question in various ways because who doesn’t enjoy a good ghost story? Ghost movies are obviously very far off from being authentic studies of the paranormal, but what if someone were to analyze ghosts on the big screen? We have the obvious ones like “Poltergeist,” but what about the rest?

I’m here to give you the ghost movie analytics that you never asked for as I take a look into some of film’s most famous entities and break down where they belong in the taxonomy of ghosts.

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