Types of Ghosts and Spirits

Last Updated on May 31, 2021

The number of different types of ghosts and spirits and the ways they can attempt to make contact with the living may surprise you. Most people think that there are only one or two different types. We’ve put together a list of the most common types that people encounter.


Possibly the most well-known type of apparition, orbs are those tiny balls of light/energy (most often seen as white or blue) that appear mostly when developing photographs. Although many orbs can be disproven as just tricks of the light or flaws on the film, genuine orbs do exist and have been documented for as long as the camera has been around. Orbs are said to be a soul (normally either from a human or an animal) that is traveling in the shape of a circle, as it is the easiest way for them to get around. Orbs that have been present in the physical world for a long enough amount of time are more likely to be able to successfully perform full-body apparition.

There are also common theories about the meaning of the color of an orb. For instance, a clear orb may indicate that the spirit wants to communicate with you, or that they are specifically attached to the area they are seen in. White or silver orbs are generally seen as very positive and protective in nature, while brown or black orbs indicate a negative presence or an unsafe area. Blue orbs are usually a spirit who seeks to be a guide, while grey may mean the spirit is depressed or confused.

Interactive Ghosts

One of the most obvious ways that ghosts and spirits reach us is through interaction. This can happen in a variety of different ways, and can really vary depending on the type of ghost. Examples of interaction from ghosts and spirits include brief physical touch, scents like perfumes or cigar smoke, and even actual apparitions (where they are able to be seen by the living). Interactive ghosts are the most common type of ghost in the world. They are said to be able to maintain much of their personality from when they were alive.

In nearly all cases, the interactive spirit is haunting for a reason. They are ghosts of people who have been close to you, and they have returned to either provide you with closure to their death or to pass on information that they believe it is important for you to have. The best way to stop this type of haunting is by simply listening to what they have to say, and allowing them to feel like they have achieved what they needed to achieve before passing on to the other side. That’s why these types of hauntings are also frequently known as intelligent hauntings.

Funnel Ghosts

This is a less well-known type of ghost, but one that is actually fairly common. Funnel ghosts are not physical apparitions, but spirits that can be “felt.” They are often noticed in private homes or at historical sites, and more commonly recognized by their “cold spots.” They get their name from the swirling funnel or spiraling light shape that can be seen on photographs.

Most funnel ghosts are not considered dangerous and are almost never found outdoors. Due to their “weak” ability to apparate, there are theories that the funnel ghost is actually not its own category but the final phase of other, stronger types of ghosts as they pass on.


Slightly less obvious than full interaction, ectoplasm (or ecto-mist) is that weird, usually, slightly off-colored (grey, black, or white) mist that you see floating around in inappropriate places. A defining feature of ectoplasm is that it often moves and swirls independent of any airflow, and tends to move quickly while staying at least a few feet from the ground. Ectoplasm based spirits are often seen at old historical sites like battlefields and graveyards.

Ectoplasm is said to have originated from psychic mediums, but has since taken on a life of its own and is generally used to refer to any paranormal mist or material that can not be easily explained. However, the origin of ectoplasm came from a substance that mediums would actually expel from their bodies and that ghosts or spirits could use to better be seen by human eyes.


The word “poltergeist” originates from a German word, which roughly translates as “noisy ghost.” This type of ghost is one of the most frequently represented in movies, like the 1982 American classic that bears the same name. They were given the name due to their ability to interact with the physical human environment, which often comes in the form of moving objects around. Poltergeists commonly open and shut windows, doors, and cabinets, push books off bookshelves, turn lights off and on, and even start fires.

With poltergeist activity, signs of a haunting usually start off small, which means that many people tend to initially write them off as simple coincidence. Ultimately, the haunting ramps up until it is impossible to ignore. In almost all cases of poltergeist hauntings, the ghost must be forced to leave and won’t simply choose to stop on its own. However, there are some schools of thought that suggest that sometimes what is thought to be a poltergeist can actually be a manifestation of traumatic energy. This can come either from the memory of an event that happened in the home itself or from someone in the home who may not even know they are causing it (known as psychokinesis). Before deciding you have a poltergeist, that factor may be worth considering.


Demons are another well-known but often misunderstood type of spirit. They are so powerful that they can take possession of human bodies, inflict both physical and mental torture on those unlucky to run across them, and even attach themselves to a physical object. They are also able to change their own shapes, but most people commonly report seeing them as simple, hulking black masses that stand in the doorway. It is incredibly important for anyone who suspects a demon haunting to contact a professional, as they are capable of seriously injuring or even killing people. People who have reported being haunted by a demon often state they frequently smelled sulfur or rotting eggs in their homes with no apparent cause.

A subset of the demon category is the crowd demon, who are specifically attracted to large groups of people and crowds due to the energy that they provide. They are most commonly recognized as being distorted shapes in photographs and are generally not noticed until after the fact. They also generally come in groups of at least two or more.

Demon Possessed Human

While not a ghost, strictly speaking, humans that are possessed by demons can be just as frightening to encounter. Spirits that are able to successfully gain control of a human being are infinitely more powerful than any other more traditional spirit. They are able to do everything that a poltergeist can do without the need to recharge, and can freely interact with the living without drawing attention to themselves.

If you suspect that you are interacting with a demon-possessed human, immediately seek professional help. In many cases, the demons are incredibly tricky and persuasive and may come across as completely genuine to anyone untrained. However, only an exorcism will help in these situations, and those must be performed only by trained professionals in the proper environment as they are extremely dangerous.

Cultural Ghosts

While the majority of the ghosts and spirits in this article are universal, each culture holds onto its own mythology as well when it comes to types of hauntings. For instance, in more traditional areas of Japan, there are said to be “wandering spirits” known as gaki and meun-botoke. The spirits are able to inhabit the bodies of recently deceased people who died while feeling extreme rage or jealousy, and the only way to stop or prevent this from happening is for a relative to place a knife or blade on the chest of the dead loved one. In Ireland, ghosts called Tash or Thevshi are spirits of people who died suddenly or are sometimes called away by fairies. And in the Jewish culture, there is a spirit called the dybbuk that is continually looking to possess a living human. Every area of the world has its own unique take on where ghosts come from and how to help them pass over.

Shadow People

Shadow people are the type of ghost or spirit that people tend to see from the corner of their eyes but are unable to see by just looking at them. In the unlikely event that you do come face to face with a shadow person, many people describe a simple black figure with an empty black hole where their face should be. They are generally quick to flee, either through walls or just simply into the darkness.

These spirits are often described as having masculine and oppressive energy and are seen as being very tall and humanesque. There are theories that their human shape allows them to better blend in with people, while other theories state that shadow people are actually extraterrestrials in disguise. Shadow people have also been blamed for being behind sleep paralysis, though they are normally viewed as being fairly neutral or benign.

Residual Hauntings

Instead of having an actual ghost or spirit haunting your home, some areas are actually home to residual hauntings. With residual hauntings (very similar to signs that mimic a poltergeist haunting), a negative event that happens in the home and stays there psychically. This is often described as a home feeling just generally heavy or oppressive or with people reporting repetitive sounds like pianos playing the same few notes, boots walking down specific hallways, children’s laughter, etc. The difference between a residual haunting and a poltergeist is that, even if only for a few seconds, ghosts involved in these hauntings are visible. They also do not interact with the living so, if possible, it is recommended to just ignore them.

Animal Ghosts

We saved the best for last. While animal ghosts aren’t often seen (more than just briefly out of the corner of the eye), they are usually felt and heard by their former owners during times of distress. Animal ghosts have been known to jump up on beds and settle into places they used to sleep, rub against legs, and make their trademark noises. Our former pets often leave a psychic impression on the place they knew the best and the people that loved them so you can be assured that your beloved cat or dog isn’t stuck in between worlds. Fido or Fluffy has moved on to a better place, but their comforting aura and desire to love and protect you lives on, even in the afterlife. However, if you do not have a pet, there are certain spirits (like the Black Dog) that are said to be physical warnings of impending doom!

There are nearly an infinite number of ghosts and spirits in the world, from the benign to the significantly more dangerous. Being able to recognize the specific type that you may be in contact with can help you decide what the next best step is, whether that is to call in a professional, ignore them, or just to attempt to reach out to get to know them better. If you think you may be experiencing a haunting, keep a record of the dates, times, and specifics of any strange phenomenon. This alone may be enough to help you decipher a pattern! Never go into any interaction with a ghost or a spirit unprepared. Be safe, and happy haunting!

About Brandon Hall

Hi! I am Brandon. Writer and content creator for PA, specializing in phenomena that is sometimes beyond normal scientific understanding. My mission is to help guide people seeking answers in a positive and enlightening way.

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