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  • Writer's pictureDesirae-Haunted Traverse

What is a Ghost?

Updated: Jun 5

What is a ghost? Good question! Glad you asked. When ghost hunting, we are looking for anomalous activity that has no natural reason for existing. Another way to look at it is when we look at the order of how our world works, we use rules created by science to explain those happenings. Anything that exists outside the explanations of science is deemed paranormal or supernatural.

Ghosts exist in the paranormal classification not the natural order of our world. When we see spirits, we see that ghosts take form in a variety of ways. We call this manifesting. Read on to know what you are looking for as you unfold your paranormal investigation.

A Ghost Haunting a cemetery at sunset
What is a Spirit or Ghost?

What is a Ghost?

A ghost is an event that happens in the paranormal realm of existence. But before we delve into what a ghost is, we first need to identify what is and is not paranormal. After all, not all things that go bump in the night are spirit. Sometimes, it's just a tree limb scraping up against the outside of the house. Once we identify what is and is not paranormal, we will explore what forms spirits or a ghost may take and why a ghost may manifest in one of the many forms discussed.

What is Considered Paranormal in this World?

Paranormal is the unexplained world, the majority of human beings today, believe exists alongside the natural observed order. Paranormal includes those with psychic abilities, spirits, poltergeists, and such.

The natural order is from the planets to the microcosm of our universe explained as existing through the lens of science.

Knowing the laws and theories of science is key for any good ghost hunter to help differentiate between a naturally occurring phenomenon and the paranormal. For now, just know that spirits/ghosts manifest and our first task as a ghost hunter is to determine if it is paranormal. Sometimes this is easy when a spirit forms right in front of you!

What form do Ghosts & Spirits Take?

When the spirit is present in the natural world we perceive, it can be a bit of a shock. Here we are just plugging away working on our broken down car, sitting reading a book or trying to drift off to sleep, and then BAM! Something strange and unusual happens.

I often joke with my tour guests on my ghost tours that 99% of my life is normal. Really! It truly is boring! What I described above is just me going through the minutia of existing within my life.

Then the 1% unfolds such as when I am just trying to keep my Jeep's roof from leaking and I hear my dad call my name. Smell the cream for sore muscles he used so much in my life, and then feel him there with me. Sometimes I hear him, sometimes I smell him, sometimes I feel him, and sometimes I see him.

It's the seeing that I will touch on in this article. What form do ghosts and spirits take?

There are usually certain forms that the spirit will take in our realm of existence (what we know as our reality and our day-to-day lives). But before we proceed, just know I am only attempting to humbly quantify what human spirits and ghosts take. Maybe I will speak on the darker aspects of the paranormal in future posts, but not today.

How Ghosts Manifest

In the field of paranormal investigation, the word 'manifest' is defined as the observation of a spirit taking on a form in this plane of existence. Ghosts can manifest as orbs, full/partial-body apparitions, and paranormal plasma.

Orb pictured while ghost hunting
Orb Captured During an Investigation


This type of spirit is more of a reflection of the shape it presents to us. After my father passed, it took me a few years to finally experience him reaching out to me from the beyond. I speak more in-depth about this in my YouTube vlog- @hauntedtraverse. But for now, just know that he was a sphere of light. The orb's color was a beautiful emerald green. And I will always be thankful he made himself known to me that day.

I do get asked does the color of the orb makes a difference. I believe so and may touch on how different colored orbs represent different states of being for spirit in a later post.

In the case of my father's orb, a green orb means a healing spirit. I believe that was EXACTLY why that orb, of what I believed to have been my father, presented to me that day. To help me heal the rift between myself and my mother.

A spirit of a boy outlined in  yellow
Boy Spirit Photo during Ghost Hunting Experience
Full/Partial Body Apparitions

Full Body Apparitions are a full form of a spiritual being in its new energy state. What I mean is that the spirit is presenting as their past lived self to an investigator. This is from head to foot a manifestation of the ghost as he/she looked in their former life.

I get asked why some spirits come back as their old self just before they stepped off this plane of existence and some present as a younger version. Investigators have their theories. Some are based on the laws of energy, some are based on psychic abilities, and some are based on the choice of the spirit itself. Keep reading to the end of this post for a more in-depth explanation.

Sometimes, a partial apparition may appear. This is where only part of the body forms. For example, we may only see the legs or the upper torso of a spirit.

When an Apparition appears the manifestation may be clear, sharp as if the person is still alive standing in front of you. Sometimes, it can be static-like, as if the person is not quite able to present clearly. And then, it can be a whisp of a human shape or form. Enough to know that a spirit is manifesting, but not enough to pick out details.

An example of a spirit not presenting clearly can be observed in my picture above. This picture was captured during the Ghost Hunting Experience hosted by Haunted Traverse Tour Company. In the picture, you can see the spirit of a boy-that is reported to be haunting this location- outlined in red.

Ghost Hunting photo of a spirit
Paranormal Plasma Photo

Paranormal Plasma

Smoking-good-time to be had when one sees paranormal plasma! When I was a little girl, I would describe these types of encounters as smoke. Now hunters believe this to be another form of the manifestation of a ghost. The spirit's shape takes on the form of a wispy-like gathering of energy that looks like smoke or fog.

Why do Ghost & Spirits Take One Form Over Another?

I get asked why some spirits come back as their old self just before they stepped off this plane of existence and some present as a younger version. I can only begin to theorize as to why a human spirit may present at times as an orb, other moments as paranormal plasma, and then as an apparition of their former self in different moments.

Theories Over Different Types of Manifestations

These are all theoretical-meaning that it's conjecture. Unless you pass that plane of existence into the next, the beyond, your religion's equivalent of Heaven, I believe that this answer may never truly be known here in the known world.

  • A spirit must have some choice in the manner of how it chooses to present to us.

  • Another theory is that it is all happening in our minds and our mind itself is interpreting the 'data' relayed to us psychically by the ghost. We might choose the form based on this psychic communication.

  • The spirit's form is determined by the amount of energy the spirit has to present to us in this realm of existence. One form may take more energy to manifest than another.

I do hold to my theory, based on my encounters, that a spirit can move fluidly from one to another phase of the visual paranormal phenomenon discussed in this post. Some may only present in one form. This may be less a choice and more of what the laws of energy require for that spirit to manifest or simply a residual haunting and not a spirit that is aware.


What is a Ghost? The simplest way to answer this is to base this on the observation made by the paranormal investigator or the person this phenomenon presents to. The observer should be as unbiased as possible and seek out first a scientific explanation for the observed event. If no scientific reason can be found and the observed event takes on the form of an orb, apparition, or plasma, ghost investigators believe this to be a spirit, apparition, or ghost.

Ghosts make themselves known in other ways as well through other forms of paranormal phenomenon. Read more on how to unfold paranormal investigations with these helpful, insightful Ghost Hunting Posts.

More Ghost Hunting Blog Posts

Come Explore the Paranormal with Haunted Traverse Tour Company!

We offer ghost-hunting experiences and ghost tours in haunted, Traverse City Michigan. We also do multi-day ghost trips that explore the many facets of the paranormal throughout the United States and abroad. Hop on one of our tours today and let your paranormal adventure begin.

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What is an apparition?

An apparition is a ghost or spirit. The words ghost, spirit, and apparition are used interchangeably in the paranormal world.

What is a manifestation?

Manifestation is where the spirit/ghost/apparition makes itself known in a visual sense and can be perceived by observers in our natural world.

What is science?

Science is a system of data and knowledge that helps to order, structure, and make predictions about the universe. We use theories, experimental investigations, and observations to explain and predict how all that exists in the universe operates. It is said that only 1% of the universe is known and that 99% of how the universe exists is not known.

What is the 'beyond' in the paranormal world?

With so much of the universe yet to be explained, one might argue that the paranormal world is an event of energy based on the existence of beings that interact between dimensions or between the observed and unobserved happenings in the dimension we exist in today.

A more basic explanation is an event or observation in this world that science cannot explain and the subject in question is spirit, ghost, or psychic phenomena that paranormal investigations believe originate from another dimension i.e. plane of existence.

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