Any time we experience something that we do not understand, we want to dissect it to see how it works. That is the human mind at work – above all other species, we have the capacity to seek out how things are the way they are, and why. At this time in our history, we understand our world pretty well, but there has always been a part of man that wonders about things unseen, and about the veil that separates the living from the dead.
We do not fully understand or comprehend the paranormal, we are only just scratching the surface. All we can do is dissect our experiences, and marvel one bit at a time. That is what we will do here: take one small part of the paranormal, in this case ghosts, and run through some theories on how things work. If you want to know some ideas of how ghosts manifest in the physical world, it helps to differentiate between the two main types of haunting: residual and intelligent.
If the ghost or apparition is appearing in the same place and performing the same task every time, chances are that you have a residual haunting. The theory behind this type of haunting is that certain minerals (usually limestone and quartz) can act as a type of recording mechanism that takes an imprint of highly emotionally charged events, and can play them back is the atmospheric conditions are right. In many ways, it is a direct window into the past, in that you are witnessing an event happen before your eyes, even if it actually happened years ago.
With these types of manifestations, the apparitions interact with the environment as it was in their time, not necessarily ours. For example, if you live in an old place that has been renovated over the years, you might see a ghost walk up an invisible set of stairs, or pass through a solid wall. According to residual haunting theory, this could be because there might have been stairs or might not have been a wall present when the spirit was living. You are just a spectator, and the entity doesn’t even know that you are there.
If the entity that you encounter interacts with you, or otherwise seems aware of your presence, you have what is called an intelligent haunting. These ghosts manifest by pulling energy out of the environment and using it to interact. For example, the locations where an apparition or entity has been spotted will usually be 10 to 20 degrees colder than the surrounding environment. This seems to be because the entity pulls the heat energy out of the atmosphere to facilitate manifestation, creating a so-called cold spot.
Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed according to the first law of thermodynamics, there must be some reason that batteries and other electronic equipment sometimes go dead when a ghost is manifesting. Like heat energy, it seems that paranormal entities pull electric energy out of their environment. This also seems to be the case with electromagnetic fields. Our brains (and by proxy, our whole bodies) are run with electromagnetism. It is believed, due in part to the fact that the Earth itself is covered by an electromagnetic field, that paranormal manifestations are accompanied by a flux in that field. A lot of experienced paranormal investigators make an electromagnetic field detector a part of their toolbox, taking base readings in an environment so that any spikes in the field can be noted.
It must be noted here that high levels of electromagnetism has been shown to induce feelings of paranoia, sickness, or even hallucinations in controlled lab experiments. It is for this reason that testing the electromagnetic field is important to verify a haunting. If EM spikes can be proven to exist outside of mechanical means (like copper wiring or older electric machinery), and be shown to appear independently, the paranormal explanation gains much more credence. If strange things happen and there is a definable source for a high EM field, the paranormal explanation is much harder to prove.
As stated before, when it comes to understanding the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of ghosts, we are just scratching the surface. All we can do is quantify our experiences and describe them in terms we already know. That is why these are still theories, and paranormal studies aren’t quite yet considered a science. Of course, that means that the paranormal enthusiast and amateur ghost hunter is on the edge of the effort to explore a new frontier. By keeping informed on paranormal theory, taking investigations seriously, and doing thorough work, paranormal investigators are paving the way to an understanding of the world we cannot see.