What Does the Bible Teach About Ghosts and Hauntings?

Because the Bible says very little about these phenomena, the subject of ghosts, apparitions, and hauntings is controversial among followers of Christ. Still, many reliable people have had experiences relating to these phenomena, and their accounts are so strikingly similar that a simple denial of their existence seems unwise.

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During the Middle Ages, people often believed that ghosts were “earth-bound” spirits of the dead, who, for some reason or another, were trapped here on earth after death. There is no biblical support for this point of view, although it probably was associated with the Roman Catholic view of purgatory generally held at that time. The Protestant Reformation brought a rejection of Roman Catholic teaching on purgatory, along with the consensus that hauntings are produced by evil spirits who impersonate people and recreate events.2 However, even this explanation leaves some questions unanswered.

Some observers speculate that there may be some presently unknown natural process by which especially horrible events involving intense emotions (such as murders) may be “recorded” and replayed again and again through the centuries. Some believe there is evidence that poltergeists3 are a natural phenomena involving telekinesis.4 Often young women — usually adolescent girls — are associated with such poltergeist phenomena. Witnesses claim that when a particular young woman is removed from the vicinity of the occurrences, the poltergeist phenomenon ceases.

But, again, there is no compelling evidence proving the existence of telekinesis as a natural phenomenon, nor is there any scientific evidence that intensely emotional events can produce “psychic recordings.” It is unlikely that we will have a definitive answer to this question soon. And since this whole area borders on the occult — an area stringently forbidden by Scripture (┬áDeuteronomy 18:9-13 ) — it is wise for Christians to be cautious and not delve too deeply into it.

Christians, and even thoughtful unbelievers, should bear in mind that whatever the ultimate cause of a particular ghostly manifestation, it may serve a subtle satanic purpose — stimulating a morbid curiosity in the preternatural that could draw susceptible people into occultism. People who pursue interest in the occult — even if their interest is “scientific” — can be drawn into occultism more deeply. Their “scientific interests” are prone to degenerate into personal obsession.

  1. Many people who report these experiences have no prior interest in “ghosts” and are simply taken by surprise when suddenly confronted by weird events. Geisterscheinungen und Vorzeichen is an interesting anthology of such experiences, assembled by Amelia Jaffe, personal secretary to the famous German psychologist, Carl Jung. It has been published in English as Ghost Appearances and Omens. Back To Article
  2. The term “haunt” is related to the word “home,” and referring to the fact that “hauntings” are manifestations (ghostly apparitions, movement of objects, sounds) in a dwelling that are often associated with people or animals that once lived there. The manifestations often correspond with major events, especially violent events like murders. Back To Article
  3. poltergeist [G, fr. poltern to knock + Geist spirit] : a noisy usu. mischievous ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises (as rappings) Webster Collegiate Dictionary Back To Article
  4. According to the Webster Collegiate Dictionary, telekinesis is “the production of motion in objects without contact or other physical means.” Hypothetically, the telekinetic “externalization of psychic conflict” might be a natural process by which inner emotional conflicts would somehow have physical effects — causing books to fall off shelves, dishes to move on a table, loud noises, and so on. Back To Article
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