An experience within an allegedly haunted location which is attributed to a discarnate entity can be classed under the umbrella term anomalous experience. Anomalous experience is here taken from Cardeña, Lynn and Krippner’s definition “as an uncommon experience…or one that, although may be experienced by a substantial amount of the population (e.g., experiences interpreted as telepathic), is believed to deviate from ordinary experience or from the usually accepted explanations of reality” (Cardeña, Lynn & Krippner, 2000, p.4.).

This implies that, at some point however, the experience, especially a haunting experience, has to be defined as not ‘ordinary’ either by an external source (e.g. relative, friend, location owner, parapsychologist etc.), or, perhaps more appropriately, by the experient. For this reason I will not attempt to discern what is a genuine haunting experience and what is not (as opposed to a misinterpreted ‘normal’ experience) or provide explanations for all such experiences or offer theories regarding the possible communicative aspect of an haunting ‘encounter’. Rather, as this section develops, I will review some key aspects that attempt to tackle such experiences thereby providing a brief overview (from a parapsychological perspective) of the domain of haunting experiences as it stands now.s interpreted as telepathic), is believed to deviate from ordinary experience or from the usually accepted explanations of reality” (Cardeña, Lynn & Krippner, 2000, p.4.).


Defining Haunting Experiences

Haunting experiences are generally regarded as being location-focussed whereas poltergeist phenomena (often associated with haunted properties) are person-focussed. In addition, there is an established differentiation between the type of phenomena experienced, whether it is a haunting or poltergeist. Edge, Morris, Palmer and Rush (1987, p. 25), for example, clearly distinguish between the two: “A haunting is characterized by subjective visions (‘ghosts’) and sometimes noises in a particular location, usually an old house. These phenomena typically recur sporadically for years (e.g. Morton, 1892). Poltergeist manifestations usually are associated with a person rather than a place. They consist principally of noises and violent movements and breakage of objects, supplemented sometimes by intelligible communication through raps or mediumistic means. An outbreak typically begins abruptly and fades out in a few weeks or months (A. R. G. Owen, 1964; Roll, 1977).” In addition, there is a commonly held theory, originating with Fodor (1948), that the paranormal origin of poltergeist phenomena (as opposed to the ‘spirit’ origin of haunting experiences) lies with the psychokinetic energy of one of the location’s resident. For instance, consider the following definition:

Poltergeist: Literally ‘noisy spirit’.  Termed Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK) by some modern researchers, the ostensibly paranormal manifestations include the throwing, lifting, and breaking of objects, the setting of fires, and, occasionally, personal injuries to people involved.  There is very frequently a child near puberty at the centre of the activity. While many cases have been shown by researchers to be fraudulent or attributable to natural causes, there are some very well-attested instances of clearly paranormal phenomena of the poltergeist type.

(Ashby, 1972, p. 152)

Elsewhere there is less of an attempt to differentiate two distinct classes of phenomena and an admittance that some cases cannot be attributed to some sort of unconscious PK from a poltergeist ‘agent’ but rather the action of a discarnate entity (e.g., Gauld & Cornell, 1979). Some researchers have even noted that a visual confirmation is necessary for others in order to designate a haunting: “…the term ‘haunting’ usually applies to those cases where apparitions are reported as being seen, usually by more than one person, over a period of time,” (Fontana, 2004, p. 55; but see also Alvarado & Zingrone, 1995). Despite this argumentation there is definite consensus regarding the nature of the experiences. A haunting experience can be constituted by one or more of the following reports and experiences: apparitions; temperature changes; a sense of presence; unusual odours; noises (e.g., rapping, voices, moans, footsteps); touching sensations (e.g., a pinch or ‘brushing’ on skin); etc.

The definition of an haunting experience, for the purposes of this website, then, is taken from an adaption of the term in Thalbourne’s (1983) Glossary of Terms used in Parapsychology: “A sensory experience in which there appears to be present a person or animal (deceased or living) who is in fact out of sensory range of the experient…” (Baker, 2002, p. 110).