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What is Residual Haunting?

What is a residual haunting

What is residual haunting? According to many paranormal investigator’s residual hauntings are the most common type of haunting. It is basically described as a playback of a past event. These playbacks if you like, can result in repeated, auditory, visual, or other sensory phenomena. It is often connected to a traumatic event, or even a person’s routine in a particular space being repeated over and over again. It is thought that unlike an intelligent haunting, a residual haunting does not involve a spiritual entity that is aware of its surroundings, or the living world around it.

What is residual haunting and why does it occur

Residual haunting activity can occur when something traumatic or stressful happens, this may be a death for example. This causes the negative energy to be blasted into that space; it could be the ground, the building, or an item, causing it to imprint like a recording of the events. It’s like you are downloading it onto a hard drive, and it will replay that cycle over and over again. It is believed a residual haunting or a ghost loop will never step outside of that repeated loop of events.

Spirits involved in this kind of residual activity are unaware of their surroundings, having no concept that time has moved on, and they are certainly not aware of our presence as investigators. One example of this scenario, where people on tours, often hear children laughing and water splashing within the pool area. Only the pool is well and truly empty nowadays.

And another famous one that comes to mind is the location of the Gettysburg battle that location brings up a lot of paranormal footage and captures. The grounds are literally embedded with that battle.

Other common places are hotels or pubs, where you hear reports of visitors and staff from years gone by sighted still going about their business. One such hotel famed for this is the North Kapunda hotel right here in South Australia. Schools, hospitals, and old homes are other common places one may encounter residual hauntings.

Why do ghosts walk through walls?

Residual hauntings also explain some of the paranormal phenomena we witness from time to time such as ghosts appearing to walk through walls or hearing a conversation in another room but there is no one there. Let’s have a look at some of the possible reasons for this.

Some people wonder why ghosts appear to walk through walls in their homes. It is believed the residual haunting inhabits a home or building that has since been renovated or completely rebuilt. So, when the ‘imprint’ walked the halls as a living person, there were no walls or obstructions there. Thus, these ghosts are not walking through walls. They are simply going about their business in the location, as they remember it. In other words, they are unable to update their patterns to accommodate us demolishing and rebuilding in that location.

Residual hauntings are sometimes related to what is called the stone tape theory. This was first made popular by the 1972 television special, ‘The Stone Tape’. This theory put forward that hauntings are like tape recordings that create impressions during emotional and or traumatic events and are projected in the form of energy. This is in a way recorded and replayed under certain conditions.

These hauntings are not interactive, but almost like you are watching a movie being played on a projector. This is not something you can tap into and have intelligent communication with. They do not know you are there, and they are not the spirit of the person, but rather an energetic imprint left in that location for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it is the energy level associated with the event such as a battle in the case of Gettysburg, or it may be the repetitive continued activity of the same activity each day, such as a person’s routine in their home over their lifetime. It is not always the event itself. Sometimes it can be the land, and that is seen in places like a town called Kapunda, home to the previously mentioned North Kapunda hotel in this town the copper quartz and water come together in a very particular way. This is believed to heighten the activity of that entire region, acting as both a magnet, and amplifier.

There are many places all over the world like this and one that comes to mind has had a TV show made about it; ‘The Ghosts of Shepherdstown’ where a lot of things being encountered by people were combination of residual activity and ghosts with unresolved issues in this town. It was suggested that the unique makeup of the land itself and waterways acted as both magnet and amplifier. It also appeared that the intelligent hauntings used the waterways of the town to move around.

With residual hauntings even when we use the latest and most technologically advanced paranormal investigating equipment it is not thought to be possible to get any kind of intelligent interaction going with it. However, with intelligent hauntings it is possible to enter into communication and receive evidence of the entity’s presence.

What is an Intelligent Haunting?

Intelligent hauntings are those in which the ghost interacts with the present, it’s aware that time has moved on and is aware of our presence and will likely do things to get our attention. It is intelligent, in that the ghost may communicate or otherwise interfere with our daily lives, the disembodied person has elected for some reason or another, to stay here.

This might be due to a connection with a particular person, place, or object. Intelligent hauntings sometimes happened due to a spirits need to deliver a message from the other side, or watch over a loved one. An intelligent haunting can occur due to attachment that ghostly person feels to a trauma or tragedy or other emotional tie effectively binding them, they may not realize that they have indeed died, they may not have finished some earthly business.

They may be reliving a traumatic event, in much the same way as residual but they are able to communicate.

How can we tell when investigating?

If one is unsure if they have encountered residual or intelligent hauntings, we can ask questions or use investigation equipment to helps us determine what we may be dealing with.

You can use investigation equipment of different kinds to determine if activity is residual or intelligent. Trigger objects can be set up giving the spirit a chance to communicate. These are objects which may light up or make sound when touched. You can use these to ask a spirit to interact in a particular way, touch the item for Yes, etc. If it is an intelligent haunting the results may surprise you with how accurate and responsive, they can be.

However, if you were using paranormal investigation equipment, and are detecting activity but it does not at any time match up with your questions, and it does not respond to you in any way but simply is. It is likely you have residual activity. You could chase it all night and not get any response. Residual hauntings can come through on a spirit/ghost box or in EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings and appears like chitchat amongst a variety of voices. Almost as if you have stepped into a crowded room.

An intelligent haunting can begin to respond with intelligent answers, such as telling you your name, or what year it is, as well as give detailed answers as to how they came to be in that location. Both are interesting to investigate for their own reasons. And it is always fascinating to learn why residual activity is occurring.

Can we create a residual haunting of ourselves?

Recently I came across an article from last year during the lock down in Melbourne, in which the Australian Paranormal Society director William Tabone reported a sudden increase in reports of paranormal activity. He reported dozens of calls during that lockdown period of people suddenly aware that maybe they were not alone in their home.

Many paranormal investigators have found such increases have occurred, and it has been reported worldwide. A common theory is since everyone was at home, and we were not in and out so often we might have become aware of things that were always there. We just did not know about because we were so busy.

Another theory, and one that I happen to think maybe responsible for at least some of it is that we were all at home together, nobody was able to leave in these situations. So, we were in effect, creating our own residual activity of ourselves stuck inside, day after day. For most families it is not common to always be home under the same roof, all day long together. This might only take place when everybody is asleep in normal circumstances.

However, as William of the Australian Paranormal Society points out, it may also be due to an increase in anxiety and isolation that some people were simply seeing things that were not there, he stated:  

‘We must always look for the physical or human and scientific reasons for why something may be taking place before we immediately class it as paranormal.’

However, it is one of the possibilities that we were in fact ourselves creating residual activity of our own routines in a much faster timeframe and this accounts for why there was an increase in calls for paranormal insistence.

Your home does not have to be hundreds of years old either, to have a residual activity taking place. Our home is only 60 or 65 years old, but we have the residual activity of an owner from the past, who does walk up and down the hallway, appearing to go to a particular location, complete a task and walk back.

We have done all sorts of investigating and making sure that it really is simply residual. However, during the times where we were all inside during various lock downs, I did notice and so did other family members, an increase in this activity which settled down again once the lockdowns were over. Whatever the reasons it is an interesting notion.

Both intelligent and residual hauntings are fascinating to investigate for their own reasons. Many locations with residual energy have a rich history of various events. As with all paranormal phenomena we must first work to ensure there is no physical or other non-paranormal cause for the events occurring – but when this is not possible, we then must look to the unseen and unheard leftovers of the past.

For more on different types of hauntings see our Blog post on Ghosts, Demons and Poltergeists

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