The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Hauntings
The ultimate a-z of spirits, mysteries and the paranormal
By: Theresa Cheung
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. –Oliver Wendell Holmes
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. –Albert Einstein
Acheri- In Native American folklore Acheri is thought to be the ghost of a little girl who died of a disease. Legend has it that acheri is a frail and pale looking female spirit who lives on mountaintops and hills. At night she travels into the valleys to spread infection, disease and pain, usually to children, by casting her invisible shadow over innocent sleeping victims.
It is thought that the color red affords protection against this entity and amulets of red thread worn as necklaces will protect children from the disease acheri brings. Similarly, in European folklore, red charms are used to protect against harm from evil spirits.
Afterlife- Afterlife (also known as life after death) is the continuation of existence beyond this world or after death. There are various sources for this belief, but the one most relied upon is the testimony of individuals who claim to have knowledge of the afterlife because they have. Died and been sent back to life (near-death experience).
-Visited the afterlife when they were unconscious (out-of-body experience).
-Seen the after life in a vision.
-Remembered the afterlife from a previous experience (reincarnation).
-Been visited by a representative of the afterlife such as angels or spirits.
-Believe the testimonial of shamans or intermediaries between the living and the dead.
Almost every society known has some belief in vary enormously. Some common ones are: a continuation of life with little change in the nature of existence, spiritual improvement through a series of stages, planes or levels. A series of lives and deaths before ultimate extinction; or the afterlife as a plane of reward or punishment based on faith or good deeds on earth and bodily resurrection at some future date.
Christian folk traditions suggest that the souls of good people are converted into angels upon death. However, a more orthodox reading of scripture suggests that the dead are not transformed until the Last Judgment, which is followed by a resurrection of the faithful.
Christian ideas heavily influenced nineteenth-century spiritualist authors like Andrew Jackson Davis, who dictated his lectures in a trance. Davis suggested that after their death, humans continue their spiritual progress, through a series of spiritual spheres until they reach the seventh sphere and become one with the infinite vortex of love and wisdom.
Other cultures believe in a land of the dead and locate it in various places: for the Zulus, for example, it is under the earth, an underworld mirror of this world, for the ancient Egyptians, the afterlife was very important. The believer had to act well during his or her lifetime and know the rituals in the Egyptian Book of the Dead to gain entry into the underworld. If the corpse of the pharaoh was properly embalmed and entombed, the deceased would accompany the sun god on his daily ride. Other societies believe in universalism, which holds that all will be rewarded regardless of what they have done or believed, while still others consider the afterlife less important compared to the here and now.
Another afterlife concept, found among Hindus and Buddhists, is reincarnation, either as animals or as humans. Followers by both traditions interpret events in our current life as consequences of actions taken in previous lives. Some traditions believe in personal reincarnation, whereas other believes that the energy of one’s soul is recycled into other living things as they are born.
Those who practice spiritualism believe in the possibility of communication between the living and the dead. Some societies distinguish between the ghost, which travels to the land of the dead, and a different part of the spirit, which reincarnates. The ghost part of spirit is thought to be strong three or four days after death, and therefore various rituals are performed to discourage the ghost from returning to haunt the living.
Ancestor Worship- ancestor worship involves paying respects to the spirits of the dead relatives or ancestors in the hope this will ward off evil and bring good fortune to the community.
As the ancestors are not really thought of as gods, ‘worship’ may not be entirely the right term to use. Typically, offerings of food or drink or gifts for the spirits of the dead are made in the hope this will please the ancestors and make sure that they continue to look out for the community. In West Africa, each family has its own ancestral shrine, inhabited it is thought, by the founder of the lineage. These shrines are often carved in the like be so of the founder and must be tensed and cared for.
Animism- animism is rare today, but this very ancient way of perceiving the world may once have been universal. At the root of magic beliefs and practice, animism is the belief that every natural object, both living and non-living, has a spirit or life force and is endowed with reason and intelligence. The animist sees movement in trees, rocks, streams, wind and other objects and believes that everything is inhabited by its own spirit.
Animism is found among many tribal societies throughout the Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. Having observed that during sleep and dreaming, visions and trances- what today we call out-of-body experiences- the spiritual part of a body could detach from the physical, animists deduced that it could also survive death. Instead of going to the land of the dead, the soul might take control of another person (possession) or send messages into the living through mediums or shamans. It might lodge in various features of the natural world, such as trees or rocks, or in human objects such as spears or statues.
Beliefs that a person may have more than a single soul are not unusual. For instance, among many Eskimo groups, a name is one type of soul. In societies that lived close to nature not only people but also animals and plants were thought to have souls and human spirits might be reborn into animals (reincarnation). In some cases people may have a special affinity with certain species of animal, and the animistic belief concerning this human relationship to animals are known as totemism.
For the animist, the world abounds with spirit entities. Water spirits and forest spirits are especially common, but animism is more than just a belief in soul and spirits, it has its own logic and consistency and in many respects can be called a religion.
Bakechochin- translated as “haunted lantern”, in Japanese folklore a bakechochin is a lantern inhabited by ghosts. According to lore the lantern has a long tongue and wild eyes and is home for the ghosts of people who died with hate in their hearts, for this reason, they are doomed to haunt the earth for all time. If someone should light one of these haunted lanterns, it is thought that a hateful ghost may leap out of it and attack.
Beans- beans have along tradition of association with ghosts and the dead. American Indian traditions include elaborate rituals and dances involving beans: ancient Greeks believed beans were associated with the souls of the dead, and the ancient Romans considered beans to be sacred and used them in rituals connected with the dead. They threw beans behind their backs as food offerings for ghosts, and they also spat beans at ghosts as a protection against them.
The connection of the bean to the real of ghosts seems to be that it grows in a spiral and that its white flowers are symbolic of the purity of the bleached bones of death. Because breath is the evidence of life, as bizarre as it may seem to us today, the eating of beans and the flatulence it causes were through by ancient Romans to be proof that the living souls of the dead reside inside the lowly bean.
Bhut- In Hindu mythology a bhut is believed to be the restless ghost of someone who has died a violent death or committed suicide. According to legend, the bhut has no shadow and can be detected by the smell of burning turmeric. It is thought that lying on the ground offers protection against it, as the bhut never rests on earth.
Birds- birds appearing in dreams are thought to represent spirits, angels, transcendence and the supernatural. In mythology birds are messengers from the spirit world, souls of the dead or carriers of souls of the dead. In European folklore blackbirds, such as crows and ravens, that cross your path or gather near your house are thought to be death omens.
Buruburu- buruburu, meaning the sound of shivering, is a terrible ghost from Japanese folklore that for reasons unknown is said to lurk in forests and graveyards in the form of an old person, who is sometimes one-eyed. According to legend it attaches itself to its victims spine and causes a chill to run down them, or in the worst case causes them to die of fright.
Cerebral anoxia- the medium term for a lack of oxygen flowing to the brain, which sometimes triggers sensory distortions and hallucinations. Some believe it to be the physical means by which phenomena such as near-death experiences and out-of-body episodes might be rationally explained.
Chiang-shin- In Chinese folklore Chiang-shin, or ‘hopping ghost’, is a combination of spirit monster and unburied corpse, which vaguely resembles a western vampire, it comes to life, and wreaks death and misfortune. The Chinese believed that an unburied corpse was a great danger because it could easily be inhabited by evil spirits.
Traditionally the Chinese would bury their dead in garments that bound their legs together, so the spirit was thought to hop instead of walk. The Chiang-shin are blind but intensely powerful, with great supernatural powers, including gale-force breath, sword like finger nails, incredibly long eyebrows that can be used to lasso or bind an enemy, shape-shifting powers and the ability to fly.
The Chiang-shin is created when a person dies a violent or painful death or when the soul has been angered because of an improper burial or improper preparation for burial or when improper respects are paid to the dead. Something even being buried in the wrong location can cause a person to become a Chiang-shin.
Traditionally the Chiang-shin were believed to suck the breath out of their victims. The main items used in defense against Chiang-shin are death blessings, written on yellow paper and stuck in the forehead of the deceased, garlic, mirrors, straw and chicken blood.
Clairfragrance- often considered a form of clairsentience, clairfragrance occurs when a person smells the fragrance of those who are no longer alive, for example, the perfume of a deceased loved one who no one close to them is wearing or using that perfume, or from which the source is unidentifiable, for example whiffs of flowers or plants when one are around.
Devas- from the Sanskrit meaning ‘shining’, in Hinduism and Buddhism devas are believed to be exalted beings with great powers. In theosophy and occult traditions they are a class of beings midway between angels and elemental spirits, having special authority over the world of nature. In modern times devas are popularly thought to be nature spirits, in charge of the elemental spirits of air, water, fire and earth. They are invisible and ether is in nature, inhabiting the astral plane. They communicate with people by psychic means, such as channeling and ESP. It is thought that the channeled wisdom of devas was responsible for the location of the Find horn Community in Scotland.
Evil Eye- the ancient and greatly feared belief that certain people can inflict bad luck, misfortune or death simply with a glance or intense stare. Negative energy is transmitted to another person with a glance or lingering look from a malevolent person.
The superstition was known as far back as 300 B.C., appearing in the cuneiform texts of the Sumerians and Assyrians. There is also evidence that the Babylonians and ancient Greeks believed it. Women in ancient Egypt would paint their eyes and lips with makeup to keep the evil eye out. Most tribal culture are aware of it and it is mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran. Even today in Mexico and Central America superstitions about the evil eye still exist.
The evil eye is said to most likely strike when an individual is at the height of his or her happiness and success and for some unknown reason children and cows seem to be special targets of the evil eye. Witches, sorcerers, magicians, medicine men and witch doctors are said to cast the evil eye. Native American shamans often combine the menacing look with a pointing stick, finger or wand. A person may also be cursed with the evil at birth and not know it. Pope Leo XIII was said to possess the evil eye. Because of this those who believe in the evil eye must constantly be on their guard as a malevolent stare could come from anyone, even a stranger on the street.
If a person is hit by the evil eye varies, superstitions offer protection against disaster striking. If a witch or sorcerer is not available to offer a counter-spell, the fig hand- a clenched fist with the thumb stuck through the middle ad fourth fingers- and a curved horn are said to offer protection. Other protective amulets include bells, brass, red ribbons, blue beach garlic, horseshoes or hanging charms in windows to confuse a witch’s gaze. Denying success and good fortune could also deflect it, and admired infants would be smeared with dirt before being taken out. Touching wood was also thought to offer protection against the curse of the evil eye.
Focal person- person or agent who is at the center of poltergeist activity. This person may or may not be aware that paranormal phenomena center around them. Typically, but by no means in all cases, the focal person is a female approaching or in puberty.
Gashadokuro- In Japanese folklore a giant skeleton many times taller than a human. It is thought to be made of the bones of people who have starved to death. After midnight the ghost roams the streets making a ringing noise that sounds in the ears. If people do not run away when the gashadokuro approaches it will bite off their heads with its giant teeth.
Ikiryoh- In Japanese folklore the ikiryoh is the named used to describe an entity that is thought to be created by the evil thoughts and feelings of a person. When it is energized by hatred the ikiryoh becomes so powerful it can leave the person harboring hateful thoughts and enter and possess the person who is the object of the hatred. Once inside it can kill the victim slowly by draining away the person’s energy. The ikiryoh is thought to be extremely difficult to exorcise and there are numerous rites to drive it away, including the reading of Buddhism scriptures.
Kachina- Native American spirits of the ancestral dead who is believed to be a messenger from the gods. Most kachinas are thought to be benevolent, and in addition to bringing rain they will also entertain and discipline children.
According to myth, kachinas live in the sacred San Francisco Mountains. At first they would visit the villages to dance and take the souls of the newly dead back with them to the mountains, where they transform into rain-giving clouds, but the visitations became such hard work that they decided others should go in their place. The kachina cult was born. At appointed times men would dress in costumes and masks and perform the kachina dance.
The Zuni tribe call their kachinas koko, spirits men who take the form of ducks to bring rain and visit the living as clouds. The koko live happily in a great village at the bottom of the mythological lake of the dead, which is thought to be located at the junction of the Zuni and little Colorado rivers. In Zuni myth the original koko were children who drowned after the emergence of people from the underworld. Koko also include the recently deceased and spirits of ancestors long dead who can bestow health, rain and good corn crops.
Konakijijii- In Japanese folklore the spirit of a baby who has been left to die in the woods. The konakijijii lures people out to the woods with the sounds of its crying, but when people get close they see that the baby has the face of an old man. If they pick the baby up it is impossible to put down and suddenly becomes so heavy that it crushes unsuspecting victims to death.
Kubikajiri- head-heading ghost from Japanese folklore. The kubikajiri has a distinctive smell- that of flesh blood- and is said to lurk around graveyards at night searching for its head. If it can’t find its own head it will try to eat the heads of anything living or dead- that crosses it path.
Mononoke- In Japanese lore the mononoke is a ghost that resides in inanimate objects. It is found in temples, shrines and graveyards and likes to scare or even kill people. Priests are thought to be able to drive it away by reciting Buddhist sutras. According to Shinto belief, all things, including inanimate objects, have their own unique spirit (kami), which gives them life.
Native American Spirit traditions- as the indigenous people of North America, Native Americans have always honored what they believe to be the spirit energy of the world around them. Rather than controlling, using and destroying the environment, the Native American belief is that humanity needs to take care of the environment, the earth and the riches it supplies to make life possible. It is the daily business in a responsible fashion. Failure to do so destroys the balance and results in disease, illness and misfortune, not only to the offering creature but to the whole Native Americans feel a strong connection with animals and in many respects regard them as superior beings, because they were placed on the earth before humankind.
Within most Native American belief systems is the idea that life is unending and unbroken existing across time and space. Those who have passed to spirit simply exist in a different form than those who have physical bodies. Rituals and ceremonies stress the connection between the earth plane and the spirit world and communication between the two.
For Native Americans the sacred is part of everyday life, accessible by everyone not just a select few. At an early age most Native Americans will be exposed to the supernatural through experience of dreams and visions, and what a westerner might term paranormal, a Native American would consider part of ordinary reality. Therefore it is not considered unusual to communicate with animals or supernatural beings and have precognitive dreams. Medicine men, endowed with greater than normal powers, are able to use these powers to serve, help and heal others.
Nurikabe- in Japanese folklore on the island of Kyushu, the nurikabe is said to be a ‘wall poltergeist’. It appears as a large, white wall, with pairs of small arms and legs, in front of people out walking late at night. If a person attempts to pass the wall it may fall and crush them and if attempts are made to run away or turn around the wall reappears in front. According to lore the only way to escape the phantom wall is to hit the bottom of it with a stick and it will vanish. The origin of the nurikabe legend is uncertain but it may have developed as a way to explaining delays caused when people got lost or went out walking for a long time without reaching their distinction.
Preta- a type of ghost in Buddhists and Hindu lore.
In Hindu belief the preta is a tiny ghost of the dead, no bigger than a thumbnail, that resides in the corpse or lingers near the home of the dead person for one year after the funeral. When the year is ended rituals are performed to send the soul to heaven, where it will be rewarded for good deeds formed while on earth.
In Buddhist belief the preta or hungry ghost is the lowest segment of the wheel of life. Their task is to work off, in a state of constant hunger, the bad karma accumulated by anger, greed, envy, etc. Their hunger is only relieved when their karma has been balanced. Pretas are said to have tiny throats and huge bellies. They are thought to live at crossroads, which are well-known hiding places for witches, spirits and ghosts of the underworld.
Shins- general term used to refer to malevolent ghosts in Chinese tradition. The Chinese have more ghosts than any other people their tradition lists no lower than 60 different kinds of shins. Each of these spirit types has a specific day for appearing, during a continuously repeated 60-day cycle. To appease these spirits, the Chinese leave small gifts of cakes outside their hones with a letter attached to the ‘honorable homeless hosts’, begging the ghosts to enjoy the gift, but then depart from the property in peace. These ghosts sometimes initially appear in the form of a mist before gradually assuming a human form, with the head materializing first, then the feet, and finally the body in-between. Some sub-forms of shins are also reported to have no chins.
Shojo- a traditional Japanese ghost form that haunts the open sea. They are said to have flaming red hair, but intend no harm to humans. They are supposedly addicted to drinking, dancing, and merry-making. Because their favorite drink is sake, some Japanese traditions hold that these spirits may be caught by luring them onto land with a jar of the liquor.
Spook- generally accepted as an alternative term for ghost, the origins of the word may be traced back to American Indian lore and thus regarded as a uniquely American term. In its purest sense, these spirits are regarded as benevolent and benign, capable of temporarily taking control of a living body to perform god works. This type of ghost is sometimes said to be able to haunt a person without him or her even being aware of it, and can absorb themselves into the person at will. Along the eastern United States, stories can still be discovered in rural areas of men who had achieved little in their lives until a spook took over them, enabling them to achieve wealth and success. The term is also now much used in America and the UK to describe intelligence operatives and government spies.
Tsukumogami- spirit in Japanese folklore that closely resembles the Brownie (Scottish folklore meaning kindly spirits). Translated as ‘old tool spirits’, the tsukumogami inhabits tools and perform household and cleaning chores by themselves at night off the tools are mistreated or neglected they take revenge by attacking their owners while they are asleep.
Vampire ghosts- a distinctly different form of the vampire, these spirits have been recorded in the histories of several European countries, as well as India, where traditions surrounding this spirit type are very prevalent. These spirits are generally regarded as invisible entities that occasionally attack human beings, leaving behind a characteristic bite marks in the flesh.
Whirlwind- according to Native North American lore whirlwinds are the vehicles by which spirits of the dead travel and spread their evil about. Various beliefs also exist that whirlwinds can poison or carry off children.
Getting started on the astral travel path:
Like any skill, astral travel takes time and practice, and it is difficult to prove what actually happens, but those experienced in astral travel tell fascinating stories of their experiences. Some travel to secret realms where they meet spirit guides and spend hours researching ancient texts. When they wake up, their clocks show that only a few minutes have passed. In all likelihood, most of us won’t be able to accomplish these feats. But here is an exercise that can help you get started on the astral traveller’s path:
-While relaxing, imagine your astral body positioned just in front or above you. In the exact position of your physical body.
-Take note of how your astral body looks. Check out the back of your head and body and parts of your body you can’t normally see.
-Allow your consciousness to move into your astral body and look at your surroundings from this new perspective.
-Ponder what you would like to do next and where you would like to go. You may want to visit a place or person who is normally far away, through a process called targeting. This can be done by focusing on the image of the location or the person’s face, then seeing it at the end of a tunnel. Move forward through the tunnel until you arrive at the desired place of the intended person.
-When you are ready to return, think yourself back into your physical body, and move your body until you feel comfortable back in it.
DIY psychokinetic dice
Concentrate your mind upon the throwing of a six. You can speak or shoot at the dice but you may not in any other way influence it. If you score a six write this down. Do this 30 times. How many sixes did you score?
-8+ There is less than 1 percent chance of attaining this score. Good evidence for psychokinetic ability.
7 Psychokinetic potential high- there is less than 8 percent chance of attaining this score.
6 Psychokinetic potential still likely as this is above chance.
3-5 Within the area of chance.
2 Less than 3 percent chance of attaining this score.
1 High psychokinetic potential but working backwards- less than 1 percent chance of attaining this score.
Dice Test- experimental technique used in PSI testing for investigating psychokinesis, the psychic power of the mind to influence objects, in which a subject attempts to influence the fall of dice, for example, by trying to throw more sixes than any other number (chance would give a success rate of 1 in 6 correct throws).
Kitsune- in Japanese tradition kitsune are regarded as fox spirits. They can also transform into a beautiful female apparition dressed in while, flowing robes. Occasionally they will use this appearance to seduce men and, vampire-like, drain them of their life force.
Like their counterparts in the west, Japanese foxes are believed to possess great intelligence, long life and magical powers. Foremost among these is the ability to take the shape of a human, a fox is said to learn to do this when it attains a certain age (usually a fifty). Kitsune usually appear in the shape of a beautiful woman, a pretty young girl, or an old man. Foxes figure in all kinds of Japanese folk tales and are prominent at various Shinto shrines throughout the country. A pair of foxes guard the entrance to these shrines, lean and bright eyed with vigilance.
The word kitsune is often translated as ‘fox spirit’. However, one should not take this to mean that a kitsune is not a living creature, nor that a kitsune is a different creature than a fox. The word ‘spirit’ can also be used in its eastern sense, reflecting a state of knowledge or enlightenment. In Japanese lore, any fox that lives sufficiently long, therefore, can be a fox spirit.
The kitsune are often presented as tricksters- sometimes very malevolent ones. Capable of possessing the souls of the unwary, they have been known to turn their victims into zombies or drive them permanently insane. However, there is a second common portrayal as a love. These love stories usually involve a young human male and a kitsune who takes the form of a woman. Such a story typically centers around a young man (unknowingly) marrying the fox, and emphasizes the devotion of the fox-wife. Many of these stories also possess a tragic element- they usually end with the discovery of the fox-wife, who then must leave her husband.
The oldest known story of a fox-wife, which provides a folk etymology of the word, kitsune, is an exception. In this story, the fox takes the shape of a woman and married a human, and the two, in the course of spending many happy years together, have several children. She is ultimately revealed as a fox when, terrified by a dog, she returns to her fox shape to hide, in the presence of many witnesses. She prepares to depart her home, but her husband prevails upon her, saying, ‘now that we have spent so many years together, and I have had several children by you, I cannot simply forget you. Please come and sleep with me’. The fox agrees, and from then on returns to her husband each and every night in the shape of a woman, leaving again each morning in the shape of a fox. Therefore, she comes to be called kitsune, because, in the classical Japanese, kitsu-ne means ‘come and sleep’; while kitsu-ne means ‘always comes’.
The children of human-kitsune marriages are generally held to possess special physical and/or supernatural qualities. The specific nature of these qualities, however, varies widely from on source to another.
Ravens- considered to be the most intelligent birds with a long life span, carbides-ravens, crows and may pies- have been surrounded by superstition and myth for centuries.
The ancient Greeks and Romans considered the crow to be a weather prophet and the raven is still regarded by the Greeks as a ‘thunder bird’ because gifts alleged ability to predict a storm. In Britain to find a dead crow on the road is considered to be a sign of good luck, while to find one in a churchyard is considered bad luck. In Wales, if one crow crosses your path it is good luck but if two cross it is a bad omen. In Scotland, a raven circling a house is thought to predict a death for someone in the house, while in England it is said that as long as ravens remain in the Tower of London the country will never fall to enemies. An old Irish saying is ‘to have raven’s knowledge’, meaning to have the ability to see and know all things. In Tibets, the raven is the messenger of the Supreme Being.
Counting crows has been a popular method of foretelling the future in many countries for hundreds of years.
-One Crow: signifies bad luck, possibly death.
-Two Crows: good luck, change for the better.
-Three Crows: a celebration, a possible marriage or birth of a girl.
-Four Crows: birth of a boy or significant event to do with a son.
-Five Crows: a positive transaction.
-Six Crows: gold, wealth.
-Seven Crows: a secret.
-Eight Crows: something profound, or a life-altering experience.
-Nine Crows: denotes passion, or something sensual.
-Ten Crows: denotes something overwhelming.
-Eleven Crows: uncertainty.
-Twelve Crows: fulfillment.
I would like to mention here that this is but a small portion of the research that I found interesting, as most of my source links, feel free to check out the book for the full effects of what the book really does have in store.