Apparitions | How Ghosts Visually Manifest
Find out how the 4 most common apparitions manifest, if they indicate an intelligent or residual haunting, and read some personal encounters. Get the details after the jump.
A Working Definition For Cozy Ghost Hunters
Most dictionaries define an apparition as the humanlike image of a deceased person or animal.
But not every apparition looks like a person or part of a person. Sometimes, they glow or look foggy. It depends on many factors, so I go with ‘a visual indication a ghost or spirit may be near.’ Let’s explore this below.
Side note: In this article, I won’t write about shadow figures or crisis apparitions. They manifest under different circumstances and may not be the essence of deceased people.
Types Of Apparitions
There are many theories about apparitions. They range from mental illness to telepathic communication, hallucinations, and truly supernatural experiences. No one can predict when, where, and how a ghost manifests. We can only document the occurrence and reference our suspect list.
Here are the most common ways ghosts manifest:
Ghostly mists, also called ectomists, seem to surround a person. It looks like transparent cotton balls filled the picture or video. In other cases, it appears as wisps of smoke. It looks foggy on film, but you don’t see the mist with your own eyes.
Ghostly mists can indicate either an intelligent haunting or a residual haunting.
Partial apparitions can appear as part of a body or as a shimmering silhouette. You may record the top half of a woman roaming the halls of a haunted place. In other cases, you may see a translucent shape walk through a laser grid field like in the Paranormal Activity movies. If you see a distorted silhouette or human-like shape under infrared light, that could be a partial apparition.
Parts of a body likely indicate a residual haunting, while a shimmering silhouette indicates an intelligent haunting.
A full-bodied apparition looks just like a living person, however, there are some clues it’s a ghost. First, the apparition may be dressed in old clothing styles. Second, they may have a grey or pale skin color. Third, they seem to vanish into thin air. There’s one more giveaway: You never hear a sound come from them.
As you can imagine, we may see these apparitions everywhere and not realize it. How many times have you gone to a haunt, seen what you thought was a re-enactment actor, and then vanished? Spooky.
Full-bodied apparitions are more likely to indicate residual hauntings, but there are cases of intelligent hauntings with them.
Ghost lights are glowing spheres about the size of a baseball. They can have an opaque white, blue, red, pink, or green color. You often see them from afar, but the spheres are known to interact with witnesses. They will approach, whiz by you, or lead you to a spot it wants you to see.
Ghost lights indicate an intelligent haunting.
The Difference Between Ghost Lights & Orbs
Ghost lights are different from orbs. Orbs are translucent with specks inside them, and you cannot see an orb with the naked eye. You can see them unaided, and they leave trails when they move.
Tips For The Cozy Ghost Hunter
Apparitions don’t manifest for very long, maybe a few minutes at the most. You need to be prepared for them to manifest in your vicinity. This is why I always bring an infrared-capable camcorder. Set it to record a wide area and equip it with a killer microphone.
Things to note
- Body type (ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph)
- Hair color
- Eye color (if it has eyes)
- Interactions with investigator
- Where it manifests
- What time does it manifest
- Where it leads you
- Who or what it targets (for ghost lights and mists)
- What happens to electronics in the area
It’s also important to debunk the apparition. Look for natural reasons something like an apparition could appear. Windows, mirrors, and other reflective surfaces can trick the mind in low-light settings. Mists can appear in images because of moisture. When in doubt, throw it out.
My Experience With Apparitions
I’ve experienced apparitions three times in my life. Here are the details of those encounters:
An Elevator In Chicago
It was July 2007. I had just finished playing beach volleyball and returned to my apartment building. The elevator got stuck between the 6th and 7th floors, began to rattle, and jerked. As I pressed the intercom button, a shimmering, golden shape appeared. It looked like a man with a bit of belly and a flat-top haircut. I told it to go away and I was fine. It vanished at that point. When I told my brother about it, he said that day was the 30th anniversary of our grandfather’s death. He had a belly and wore a flat-top haircut.
An Empty Movie Theater
I went to see a big-budget, sci-fi flop movie in January 2010 with my other half. We were the only two moviegoers in the cavernous room. My other half went to get popcorn and soda while I stayed behind. A few moments later, I heard the sound of someone sitting behind me. That was odd because I didn’t see anyone come into the theater. A moment later, I felt a hand pressed down on my shoulder, and a woman whispered, “Answer the phone when your mother calls.” Then, it felt like someone stroked the back of my head. Her voice started to fade, but she mentioned that I was such a good boy. At this time, my partner returned and asked who the woman was behind me. She vanished right after that.
My phone rang as the lights dimmed to start the upcoming movie trailers. It was my mother. She told me that my grandma died and that I needed to come home to make funeral arrangements.
Suicide Bridge Apparition
In August 2014, I went ghost hunting with my paranormal partner, Saleen. We stood on Suicide Bridge in Pasadena, California. Witnesses reported the ghosts of people that jumped to their deaths from it. We snapped about 100 pictures over an hour. No one walked by us during our ghost hunt. Yet, when I reviewed the images, a blonde woman stood by a section known for jumpers.
Editors, “Apparitional experiences,” Wikipedia.org, Sept. 4, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apparitional_experience
Z. Graves, “Ghosts: Phantoms, Poltergeists, Apparitions, Specters, Spirits, and More,” Chartwell Books, 2019.
Editors, “Ghost,” Wikipedia.org, March 30, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost
F.B. Dilley, “Apparitions: Two Theories,” Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 182-199, 1995
Father J.G. Roten, “Basics on Apparitions,” University of Dayton, retrieved March 28, 2023, https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/a/apparitions-basic-information.php
J. Rice, “EXPLAINER: How Apparitions Manifest,” GhostsAndMonsters.com, April 10, 2021, https://ghostsandmonsters.com/explainer-how-apparitions-manifest/
J. Rice, “How To Classify Apparitions And Other Ghostly Manifestations,” GhostsAndMonsters.com, Oct. 24, 2016, https://ghostsandmonsters.com/how-to-classify-apparitions-and-other-ghostly-manifestations/