Posted Under Ghosts & Hauntings

What to Do When You Have a Ghost

Silhouette at Top of Stairwell

So, you just realized you are sharing space with a ghost; now what? A startling amount of folks will tell you to build an altar and give them offerings, or call a priest and have the home exorcised, but I would not recommend either of these options. I've been a paranormal investigator for fifteen years, and a psychic medium for much longer than that. Along the way, I've gotten to know quite a few ghosts, and helped many of them find peace by crossing over to the other side or by cohabitating comfortably with their living roommates. If you find yourself sharing space regularly with a ghost, here is my advice for what to do about it.

Understanding Is Key
You can't really interact with or help a ghost if you don't know what they are or how they function, so learning about them can be extremely helpful. The first thing to realize is that ghosts are just people without bodies. They don't become something super scary and different on the other side; they are just like us, and so I always recommend interacting with them the same way you would with people. If you had a houseguest or roommate, you wouldn't build an altar to them, or buy them a bunch of presents because well… that would be weird. It would also create a power imbalance between the two of you rather quickly. You also wouldn't ask a priest to chase them out of your home because well… Rude! Ghosts, like any regular embodied person, are not harmed or banished by prayer or holy water. Some will even take great offense to you trying.

The second thing you need to understand is that not all ghosts are happy where they are. Many are lost or confused, and some don't even know they are dead. This can prevent them from moving on to the next place. I've noticed there is a big misunderstanding among many witches I speak to who think that any attempt at investigation is some form of harassment. However, many ghosts have been waiting decades for someone to notice them so they can get help. So, if your ghost is particularly active or seems to be trying to get your attention, it may be asking for assistance.

For further education on life as a ghost, I recommend picking up books like When Ghosts Speak by Mary Ann Winkowski, and my new book, The Witch's Guide to the Paranormal, for more detailed information.

Set Boundaries
While ghosts have free will just like the living, they respond well to boundaries being set for them. Before you bust out the Ouija board, call the ghostbusters, or hire an occult professional, simply try talking to the ghost. When you feel their presence, simply say hello, introduce yourself, and set any boundaries that will help you feel more comfortable. Some boundaries you may want to enforce include, "Don't startle or interact with my children, they don’t like it," or, "If you want my attention, please stir the windchimes, but don't poke me," or, "Please stay out of my bedroom." Normally, they'll follow the rules you set for them.

Similarly, while you are setting boundaries, I would refrain from giving specific permissions about anything. For instance, I wouldn't say, "You're welcome to stay here, just don't go in my room." The reasons for this are: First, they're already staying in the home, so they don't necessarily need your permission to do so. Second, your perception might be off, and it may be something more sinister than the ghost of a sweet old lady and giving it permission to stay in the home will make getting rid of it that much harder.

But How Do I Know if They Need Something?
Many ghosts are simply living their afterlife peacefully alongside the living. Sometimes, they don't even pick up on the living people in the home, and may perceive the house as being empty, or they may have a faint sense of the living the same way the living may only occasionally sense a ghostly presence. Others may be able to fully see and hear the living, but still choose to keep to themselves while cohabitating in a space. If this is the case, you may experience very light activity such as a whiff of perfume every now and then, or small infrequent noises. If this is the case, they may need nothing from you.

Other times, however, a ghost may create activity in order to try and get your attention. So, if you are experiencing some ghostly shenanigans such as knocking, objects falling off of shelves, or occasional pokes or prods, it may be an indication that the ghost is attempting to get your attention. If that happens, they may be asking for help, and you may need to reach out to local professionals for assistance. In some cases, you may get them to move on peacefully by placing fresh lilacs around the home and visualizing a beautiful white light opening to take them to the next place. Other times, they may need more complex care before they're ready to move on.

But What If They Are Aggressive?
If the activity seems to be more than just a cry for attention, or if their behavior suggests they are trying to harm you, it may be for a few reasons. First, they may be trying to claim territory. Many spirits will feel possessive of an area because they either feel like they own it or because it contains a secret they don't want discovered. These ghosts may or may not know they are dead as well, so please have compassion for them; you'd act aggressively, too, if a new family just moved into your home while you were still living there. Second, they may have objections to who you are as a person. Yup, ghosts are just dead humans, and that means they can be racist, homophobic, against pre-marital sex etc. and may forcefully object to you or your life choices if they don't approve. Furthermore, they may have trauma; for instance, you may look like the person who murdered them, and therefore they may target you. Third, they may simply be awful people. Murderers, abusers, predators, and the like all have to die at some point, and can continue to be aggressive harmful people in death.

In this situation I would highly recommend calling upon local professionals, and/or getting a copy of my book The Witch's Guide to the Paranormal, which goes in depth on these issues in a way that can't be covered in an article like this. You may be able to get them to move on using the technique described above, but if they are unwilling to go, you may have to resort to something a little more drastic. Using things like salt to repel them, as well as expellant smoke from cleansing herbs can help. Neither one of these will automatically boot them out, but prolonged use will make the space uninhabitable and force them to leave. Once you feel they have gone, be sure to put protections in place so they don't return.

At the end of the day, just remember that ghosts were people, too. Even in death, they have their own hopes, dreams, fears, desires, beliefs, and secrets. So, when it comes to a ghostly roommate or office helper, always remember not to frame them as something unknowable and otherworldly, because after all, the specter stealing the pens from your cubicle is probably not an eldritch creature from the void, but is instead more likely to be Chad, the copy guy who died in a bike accident a year ago. Knowing this, our everyday conflict resolution and communication customs are likely to do the trick.

About J. Allen Cross

J. Allen Cross (Oregon) is a practicing Folk Witch and paranormal investigator. He serves as psychic-medium and occult specialist on a well-known investigative team out of the Portland metro area. He enjoys working as a ...

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