What is a ghost? It is simply a discarnate human being (a person without a body), one who’s already lived and died but experienced here on earth. Some folks think of the word as meaning any non-physical being (angels and demons), but that is not correct (Wikipedia discusses the controversy over the word as well as some interesting history surrounding it). All ghosts were once human, with a human body.
Most of the time when we think of ghosts, we’re thinking of seeing someone who’s earthbound. Most likely, if you see or experience a deceased loved one, that won’t be the case at all. Sometimes there’s closure just after death – a wave goodbye, a reassurance that the loved one isn’t really gone … entirely. After awhile, these goodbyes end and the dearly departed does really depart.
Some who have crossed over, and are not earthbound, return to help, to check in on us. These souls are not stuck here. They are simply helpful visitors. I would not call them ghosts but spirit visitors. No matter what they are called, their situation is not the same as those who have not crossed over after death.
Not a ghost: Another thing that can happen is an energy imprint, kind of like a flashback, or a record of history that keeps replaying itself in a loop. In this case, people may witness a reenactment of something that happened in the past. It’s as if the energy of the event was so powerful that it’s somehow stuck in that area (whether a home, a ship, a road, etc.). These historic imprints are not ghosts – that is, they are not beings with whom you could converse. It’s more like a movie that just keeps replaying.
Some folks contend that all ghosts are these imprints. I don’t believe that’s true because many times, these spirit people (ghosts) can be conversed with and helped to leave (hopefully to cross over). If the experience is of a sentient being, this is not an imprint.
In March, I wrote an article for Real Town on ghosts & residential real estate. If you’d like more on the basics of what a ghost is or isn’t, when you are most likely to experience a ghost, and what to do about it, please take a look at my article there:
Haunted Real Estate: A Primer for Real Estate Agents