Ghosts Vs. Spirits – The Definitive Guide

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The terms ghosts and spirits are often used interchangeably, but they are two very different beings. Ghosts and spirits appear and feel differently to each other, and it isn’t too difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Knowing the key differences between ghosts and spirits will help you identify what might be in your space, visiting you at night or hovering in the corner of your peripheral. 

The Differences Between Ghosts and Spirits

Ghosts and spirits appear and make contact for different reasons, and the way they ‘act’ and communicate is the strongest difference between them.

Let’s talk about each one so we can better understand the differences.


Ghosts are most similar to humans, but without the control and resolution that the living have. They are almost incapable of reason or using a sound mind. They are often tied to the location at which they died.

Their death is usually sudden, a murder or tragic passing. Often, ghosts do not realize that they are in fact dead, which in most cases causes them to be in a state of frenzy.

Many say that ghosts have unfinished business on earth, which is why they are so strongly tied to one place.

Unfinished business also ties in with sudden or tragic death, as they didn’t have adequate time to get their items in order before death.

Sometimes, unfinished business could be a strong emotional bond to a person, or even just tending to their home.

This strong tie to the emotional and physical aspects of our world is often what keeps them here from day to day.

A violent death can also lead to dark energy, as the person was surrounded by anger and violence when they passed into the ghostly realm. Don’t worry though, ghosts really aren’t out to hurt you.

Ghosts are most famous for being sighted, and many people think that ghosts do not possess any power other than ‘being seen’. This isn’t always true.

Some ghosts, depending on their strengths, can manipulate the temperature of the room, can speak or change the odor in a room.

Because ghosts usually result from tragic deaths, they are mostly troubled souls. It is important to remember that this doesn’t make them evil or malevolent unless this is what they were like in real life.

A person who passes to become a ghost doesn’t always have to have a violent death, but they could have lived a troubled life which has caused them many negative emotions, which could prohibit them from moving on and finding peace.

If you feel sudden chills or smell a strange odor in the room, you may have a ghost lurking near. You might also have the sensation of being watched, you might hear strange voices or noises, and you might notice things moving in your peripheral.

If you want to know if a ghost may be in your room, be sure to read this article.

Or, if you want to become an expert on what ghosts are, and what we know about them, take a look at my absolute favorite book on Amazon.


Instead of manifesting as the appearance of a dead person, spirits are more the personality or soul of someone who has died a fairly normal death.

Spirits are able to travel, as they are not tied to the site of sudden death or tragic event.

A spirit is the soul of a person wishing to live on, but without a physical body to survive in any more. It is thought that spirits can travel to different realms and dimensions, and can return to the living realm at free will when they wish to.

The spirit of a person might have a strong emotional tie to a person, most often a family member.

They may check in on this person regularly, which is why most people feel a warm and comforting presence surrounding them, often with the feeling that is a loved one who has passed.

Often, spirits have been through the light, but choose to come back and visit. Spirits tend to communicate with us in a peaceful and positive way. This could be through dreams which are known as visitations.

Usually, these visitations are brushed off as imaginative dreams, but so often it is a way of a lost loved one letting us know they are okay or saying I love you.

Spirits are also able to appear as different forms of nature. Dragonflies and butterflies are often thought to be the spirit of a lost loved one making a connection.

They are also strongly tied to coins, either by communicating dates through coins or dropping coins to announce their presence.

Many people also swear that a loved one has communicated with them by playing a song through the radio. There are many different signs that spirits communicate with us, we just have to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to receive the messages.

Different Types of Ghosts

Most of us are not aware of the many different types of ghosts that exist. There isn’t one box that a ghost fits into, they appear in different forms, sensations or feelings.

Ghosts aren’t usually summoned, instead many go looking for their existence and use different tools and technologies to try and find proof that they are living and traveling among us.


Poltergeists are also known as ‘noisy ghosts’. They are able to manipulate the environment around them.

They open windows, drawers, throw things across the room, move chairs and topple books off of shelves. They cause lights to flicker, slam doors and in severe cases, they can start fires.

The presence of a poltergeist usually starts off mild, and the signs are often brushed off as coincidences. The occurrences become stronger over time as the poltergeist increases in power.

Poltergeists usually have bad intentions, and very rarely leave on their own. Their object is to cause harm and distress in a home, they feed off of bad emotions.

Interactive ghosts

Interactive ghosts are the most common type found living among us. Usually, they are loved ones who have come to convey a message of love or importance.

You can usually feel their presence or smell a scent that is familiar to them. In some cases, they are able to make a noise or even communicate with you.

Interactive ghosts are usually friendly, as they have an emotional bond with the person they are contacting, and would not wish to do them any harm.


Orbs are the most common way for ghosts to present themselves through photographic evidence. The orbs appear as translucent or blue bulbs of light that appear hovering above the ground.

It is believed that orbs are the physical representation of human or animal souls that are traveling. The circle shape helps them travel easier, and it is considered that the more time they spend on earth, the more human their appearance will become.

Funnel ghosts

Funnel ghosts are often found tied to historical buildings or personal homes.

They present themselves as a swirling funnel of light and as cold spots. In photos, funnel ghosts can appear as a spiral of light.


We are all familiar with the ectoplasm found in Ghost Busters, but this is a little far from the truth.

Ectoplasm presents itself as a swirling mass of mist that is either white, black or grey. They are usually several feet above the ground. Although they are able to move around quickly, they mostly stay in one place and orbit.

Ectoplasm is most commonly found in graveyards, historical sites, and battlefields. They are considered to be old spirits, stuck in time and history.

Demonic possession

Demonic possession is always dark and dangerous. It is when a demonic ghost possesses a human body, taking control of their consciousness.

They have much greater strength than another ghost, as they have a physical body to act through. They move their new bodies just like we do, and are able to do great harm.


Demons are not to be contacted or messed with. They are powerful supernatural beings that can attach themselves to objects, invade homes and inflict physical and mental torture.

They are able to morph into different shapes but are most commonly witnessed as black masses.

Shadow people

There is so much mystery surrounding shadow people. They appear in the corner of your eye but vanish as soon as you turn to look at them.

Those who have been able to look at a shadow person directly recall seeing a dark void that is endless. S

hadow people are in the shape of a silhouette of a person, and sometimes appear to be wearing a cloak or hood. Once spotted, they retreat back into walls, televisions, or into the dark of the night.

Different Types of Spirits

Spirits are usually positive, encouraging entities that visit earth to spread good messages and connect with loved ones, or to offer protection.

Many people look to connect with spirits for guidance, protection, or comfort. Those who look to make contact with the supernatural try and cover themselves in a positive spiritual light, to help keep them safe through different forms of paranormal contact.

Guardian angels

Guardian angels have spent most of their time in the spiritual realm, and because of this, they can offer a different perspective to those who have resided in the physical world.

They help guide us spiritually and support us in uplifting and activating our spiritual self. They protect us through spiritual interactions and warn if something is amiss.


Archangels usually have a specific field that they watch over, helping better the physical and spiritual world.

Often, archangels help larger groups of people, and if the time calls for it, they can take on human form to help guide others.

Spirit guides

Spirit guides are usually known as humans who are more in touch with the spiritual world than others, but they can also be in the form of spirit who helps to guide us along a spiritual journey.

Spirit familiars can come in many forms, but they usually attach to one person whom they guide and watch over.

Ascended masters

These types of spirit are similar to archangels but have lived on earth at least once before.

Having lived on earth and then in the spiritual realm, they have knowledge and experience to guide a larger group of people. Some consider religious deities to be ascended masters.

Loved ones

Spirits who are deceased loved ones are probably the most common spirit found among us. It could be a deceased family member or even a pet. They can even at times act as a spirit guide. 

Many people feel the presence of a passed loved one around them, and sometimes have contact with them in dreams. These spirits often have a loving message to pass along and can do so through dreams or different signs.

Elemental spirits

Among the spiritual community, these are often debated on. Elemental spirits are thought to be beings that live in the physical realm, but who have a spiritual presence.

Some examples are faeries, gnomes and plant and crystal spirits. They are mainly found in nature, in forests, oceans, meadows and lakes, places where nature is wild and easy to connect to.

Common Misconceptions

As unexplained as the paranormal realm might be, there are common misconceptions that occur within the community, and with those who are interested in the subject. This is often exaggerated by rumors, myths, and tales that seek to confuse and scare people. 

Beware of the common misconceptions when it comes to ghosts and spirits, don’t get caught up in unbelievable stories, and don’t believe those who try and disprove your experiences or beliefs.

Paranormal facts

There are some in the paranormal community who claim to know it all. They say they know how to make a ghost appear or react, and will often try and sell their services.

The truth is that there is not one person or group who definitively know everything about the supernatural realm. It is such an endless world where there are things we could not even imagine.

Scientific facts do not apply, no matter how much people push for this to be believed. Contact and experiences with spirits and ghosts is a very personal thing, and cannot be dictated by someone who claims to be a professional.

Nighttime is best for ghosts

This is also a myth that is grossly incorrect. Yes, if you are seeking out spirits and ghosts it might be easier to hear and feel their presence at night when the world is quiet and at rest, but they are around all day.

Many ghosts are still in-tune with their old lives, so probably feel more comfortable being out during the day.

Ghosts only attach themselves to buildings

While it is common to find a ghost living in their childhood home or the place in which they died, they don’t actually have to be tied to a specific place.

Sentimental objects with a lot of meaning can be haunted, or even people themselves. As long as there is a strong emotional bond for the ghost to cling to, anything can be an item for a haunting.

There is a new wave of paranormal fascination

Thanks to the internet, we are more aware of the paranormal realm, but people have been researching ghosts throughout history.

Spiritualism is something that comes naturally to humans, we feel a connection to the world around us, and it is often inexplicable.

This leads to a curiosity of the unknown, and we cannot resist diving into the darkness to find out what surrounds us, and this is as much true for us as it is for those who lived hundreds of years ago. 

Ghosts and spirits haven’t only started making contact now, they have been around as long as man.

Spirits and ghosts are omens

It isn’t difficult to understand why many people are petrified thinking of the presence of ghosts and spirits. They do not understand the paranormal world and believe that anything to do with death and the spirit world might be evil.

While there are bad ghosts and demonic possessions, most spirits have good intentions. They are family members or loved ones who are looking over us, reassuring us that they are happy, and it is okay for us to move on.

How To Tell If a Ghost or Spirit is Present

With so many distractions in the modern world, it can be difficult to stop and notice the signs that a spirit or ghost might be present around you

If you stop for a second and take notice of your surroundings and senses, you might be able to pick up on an unknown presence. Here are some signs that a ghost or spirit is around:


Spirits find it easy to communicate with us through dreams. It is when we are most peaceful and give the least amount of resistance to outside influence.

Many people experience dreams with words or symbols, sent from a lost loved one. Don’t dismiss these as only dreams, take note of what the dreams are telling you as it might be a message from the other side.

Moving objects

Some ghosts are able to manipulate objects in the physical world. They do this as a way to catch our attention.

They usually focus on one item, like keys or a photograph. They will move this around or hide it, again and again, to try and get your attention.


Spirits and ghost find it easy to play with the electricity we are so used to using. It is a form of energy, just like them.

They will flicker the lights, turn the television on and off and even drain battery from electronic devices.


Ghosts and spirits are famous for using familiar smells to gain your attention. It might be a smell that has no cause or something that is familiar to you, which you associate with someone that has passed.


This is one of the most beautiful ways spirits let us know they are around. It is a complicated theory, but simply put it is hearing the same name twice in the day, hearing the same song multiple times or being recommended something by different people.

Spirits are throwing a sign in our direction, we just have to be awake and aware to realize when this is happening.

Sensing a presence

Most people sense a presence before any other signs appear. The change in energy or temperature alerts your attention, and you have a feeling of being watched. Hopefully, it is comforting and warm energy that brings peace and healing.

Related Questions

How do I communicate with a ghost?

Communication with the supernatural should always be done with precaution. While you might be wanting to reach out to a familiar or ‘good’ ghost, you never know who might be reaching out back to you.

Ask your spirit guides for protection and call out to the ghost or spirit you want to communicate with.

In your mind, secure yourself so only this spirit may communicate with you.

Use a tape recorder or video camera to catch a response you might not hear when asking a question.

Are Ouija boards dangerous?

Ouija Board

For the inexperienced, yes. You never know who might try and contact you through an Ouija board, and you might be opening yourself up to being contacted by an unsavory spirit.

Ask for a person in specific and have candles and sage burning in the room to cleanse the area.

Can animals sense a ghost’s presence?

Absolutely yes. You might notice your dog or cat acting anxious to enter a room, or snarling at a corner in the living room.

They are able to pick up on energies and frequencies that we cannot. T

hey are not distracted with mundane things like we are, and are more aware of spirits around them.

Spirits and Ghosts

There is not one definitive guide to explaining ghosts and spirits, instead, it is an accumulation of hundreds of years of experience and knowledge.

If you suspect you are being visited by a ghost or contacted by a spirit, take note of all the signs and symbols that may appear.

Record your story and share it with others. This is how we learn and discover more about a world that is shrouded in so much mystery and myth.

Take comfort in the fact that not all spirits and ghosts are bad, and if you are being contacted, it may be a lost loved one looking to offer support and peace.

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