Ghost-Hunting For Dummies
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The residual haunting is likely the most common type of haunting. Such hauntings are more prevalent than most realize, and a large percentage of paranormal activity falls into this category. When investigating haunted places, be careful not to confuse this type of activity with an intelligent haunting. It is possible that residual hauntings have little to do with what we think of as ghosts.

The following signs indicate a residual haunting:

  • Apparitions reported will be like moving pictures and typically will be seen in the same spots, walking down the same hallway, appearing in the same window, doing the same motion over and over. They will be unaware of the living people around them. Such cases do not have any interaction between the ghost and the witnesses.
  • Strange sounds, such as footsteps, voices, knocking, and rappings, are common.
  • There may be high levels of humidity at the location, as this seems to be a possible sign that a residual haunting is taking place. It’s been suggested that water embedded in the location may hold a sort of recording of the haunting that is taking place.

Residual hauntings will not involve missing or vanished items, as there is no consciousness present. While windows or doors may be opened and closed, it is because of energy expending itself, not because it is physically being manipulated by spirits.

The simplest way to explain this kind of activity is to compare it to an old film loop or a recording. It can be a scene or image that plays over and over through the years. Many of the locations where these hauntings take place experience an event (or a series of events) that imprints itself on the atmosphere of the place. This event can suddenly discharge and play itself at various times, just as a recording would. The events are not always visual either. They are often replayed as smells, sounds, and noises that have no apparent explanation. The famed phantom footsteps that are reported at many haunted locations are a perfect example of this.

mysterious footprints ©By Cory Seamer/

Mysterious footprints appear in an abandoned building.

Often, the mysterious sounds or images that are recorded relate to traumatic events that have taken place and that have caused some sort of disturbance (or impression) to occur there. This is the reason why so many battlefields, crime scenes, and areas related to violence have become famous for their hauntings.

A residual haunting may not be caused by trauma or violence, though. Sometimes, the image or sound might be created by an event that has been repeated over and over again. These frequent and repetitive releases of energy also seem to be capable of leaving a lasting impression. A good example of this can be realized from the large number of haunted staircases that have been reported over the years in homes and public buildings. It’s possible that because of the number of times that people go up and down these sets of stairs the energy expended leaves a mark on the site.

These locations act like giant storage batteries, saving up impressions of sights and sounds from the past. Then, as the years go by, these impressions appear again as if a film projector has started to run. No one seems to know how this might work, but there are many theories.

Some theories have connected atmospheric conditions to residual hauntings. It has been suggested that perhaps barometric pressure, or even temperature, may have something to do with hauntings becoming repeatedly active. Some have noticed an increase in paranormal activity in the winter months, when more static electricity is in the air. It might also have something to do with the phases of the moon. Since the full moon has been known to affect the ocean tides, it is possible that it affects hauntings, too.

For years, investigators have referred to the stone tape theory as a possible cause for residual hauntings. This idea suggested that the building materials of various structures could absorb the energy and then replay it again later. Researchers noted that most buildings where residual hauntings occurred were older structures. Of course, this could also be explained by the age of the building. The number of people that passed through an old structure over time, and the tapestry of history played out in it, seemed a more convincing reason for the haunting to occur.

One of the most promising theories behind residual hauntings involves water. Thousands of haunted places are associated with water. Many of them are on rivers or lakes or have an underground water source nearby. Since water is a great conductor of electricity, perhaps it can be a conductor of paranormal energy as well.

This brings us back to the stone tape theory. The main problem with it is that no one has ever found a satisfactory explanation as to how the haunting that is “recorded” on a location occurs, or how the solid fabric of the location was able to retain the energy of the events that took place. A possible answer to this question was discovered by science many years ago and has only recently been introduced into the paranormal field.

For well over two centuries, people have been using homeopathic remedies and medicines to a great degree of success. With these medicines, a natural therapeutic agent is given to a person with an illness, but this agent is often so toxic that in order for the person not to be harmed by it, it has to be diluted with water. In fact, the original substance is often diluted to the point that all traces of the agent are effectively removed. The person is given nothing more than ordinary water. It seems impossible that anyone could be cured of an illness using nothing but water, but it happens. The sick become well using homeopathic remedies, which is why they have been used for so long. Scientists ignored this for years, but people continued to use the remedies, not caring how or why they work.

Homeopathic medicines remained a mystery until the 1980s, when a respected French scientist named Jacques Benveniste, an expert in the field of allergies, made a strange discovery. In his research, he was studying a type of blood cell involved in allergic reactions called the basophile. When basophiles encounter something that a person is sensitive to, they activate, causing symptoms like red blotches and itching. Benveniste developed a test that could tell whether a person was allergic to something. He added a kind of dye that turned only inactive basophiles blue. In this way, by counting the blue cells, he could determine whether an allergic reaction had taken place. But then something very strange occurred with his experiments.

A technician reported that something had apparently gone wrong. A solution had been diluted so strongly that it was at the level of a homeopathic medicine. In other words, it was now just ordinary water. Even so, a reaction had been observed in the basophiles. They reacted exactly as they would have if placed in the presence of the allergen. Suspecting that an error had been made, the experiment was repeated, but once again, the basophiles reacted.

Baffled by what seemed to be impossible results, the team carried out hundreds of experiments, but the results remained the same. The water, diluted to the point that all trace of the original substance was removed, continued to react as if the substance was still present. Dr. Benveniste could come to only one conclusion: The water had a memory.

The experiment was repeated over and over again and since that time has been carried out by scientists all over the world. Although it remains controversial, most scientists will admit that water molecules do seem to retain a memory of substances that they have been in contact with. This seems to lend credibility to homeopathic remedies and, by extension, to residual hauntings.

Water is a component of almost everything. You wouldn’t know it, but an average brick wall, as one example, is made up of nearly 15 percent water. The human body is, of course, largely made up of water, as is the ground under our feet. It’s not hard to imagine that the water that exists within everyday objects could have a memory of events placed into its molecules.

It would work in the same way that we have always theorized that events imprint themselves on locations and become residual hauntings. In the case of a homeopathic remedy, it’s necessary for the water to be strongly agitated during the dilution stage, the same stage where the memories are imprinted. When the water is stirred vigorously, a large amount of kinetic energy is being released into the water. The water also develops a slight electromagnetic charge by this motion, and it could be this charge that implants the memory.

To take it one step further, we can look at the experiments performed by Dr. Masaru Emoto in the 1990s, during which he observed the physical effect of prayers, music, and environment on the crystalline structure of water. He hired photographers to take pictures of water after being exposed to different emotions. When he screamed or yelled angrily at the water, it froze into harsh, jagged crystals. But when he spoke loving to it, played music, or read peaceful poetry, the water formed beautiful, tranquil crystals.

Compare the event of agitating the water with a violent, traumatic, or even repetitive event that occurs and serves to agitate the physical location. It’s possible that this event could leave a memory imprint on the water at this location, just as the chemical compounds and the stirring motions leave an imprint on the water of the homeopathic medicine.

We can even take this idea one step further by examining other ghostly activity that has been associated with residual hauntings. Many investigators have discovered through their own research that residual hauntings often seen to fade away over the years, as if the battery that charges them just seems to wear out. If these hauntings are caused due to some sort of water memory, then perhaps the shelf life of the haunting expires as the water begins to evaporate. As the original molecules dry up, the copy of the memory that they hold becomes weaker and weaker. The original molecules may have passed their imprinted memory to neighboring molecules, but with each successive copy, the memory becomes less distinct. This would be similar to making photocopies of a document; each generation of the copy becoming less clear and more damaged that the one that proceeded it. In time, it’s possible that the memory would just disappear altogether.

It’s also been noted that residual hauntings often seem to become more active following disturbances caused by renovations or remodeling. Again, a water recording may offer an explanation for this. Inside of some structures, water may be locked in and prevented from evaporating, like inside a wall or in the foundation. Disturbing that may cause the water that has been stored for decades to be released and in this way, allow its memory to be played. This stored water could hold a higher quality copy of the original event, and this new ghost (which, in truth, would be an old one) might make it seem that the location is active again. Once this water also evaporates, the haunting then fades away once more.

This certainly seems to give a lot of credence to the idea of residual hauntings and may open an entirely new series of experiments to bolster the credibility of paranormal phenomena. Many of these experiments can be carried out with relatively simple research on the part of the field investigator, making serious observations and measurements of the amount of water present within haunted locations. A basic hygrometer can keep an eye on humidity levels, and meters can be used to measure the amounts of water within the structure of a building. Over time, we may be able to build a database of water and humidity levels at haunted locations and compare them with levels measured at nonhaunted sites. Doing this, we should be able to establish real evidence of residual hauntings.

The question remains, though: When we have ghostly figures, strange sounds and smells, how can we tell the difference between a traditional and a residual haunting? In some cases, the two very different types of activity can manifest in similar ways. However, the most important signs will be different.

It boils down to the interaction between the haunting and the witnesses. Apparitions that are seen during a residual haunting, which are mere images, will not interact with the witnesses at the location. The apparition will be little more than a moving picture, or it may appear to be completely solid, but will vanish when approached or confronted. It is possible that the images and activity may be atmospheric in nature. The haunting may be influenced by storms, temperature, artificial energy sources, or even the proximity of living persons. These factors may determine when activity occurs, and it is important that a log of activity is kept. In this way, a pattern can be developed as to when activity occurs, and the researcher has a much better chance of experiencing it.

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Zak Bagans is the host, lead investigator, and an executive producer of Travel Channel's popular series Ghost Adventures. He travels to domestic and international locations rumored to be haunted in search of evidence proving the existence of the supernatural. He founded the world's largest paranormal organization, The Ghost Adventures Crew.

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