There are many words describing what a ghost actually is: wraith, spook, spirit, specter, shade, poltergeist, phantom, haunt, or an apparition. All of these terms are used to refer to one thing known within the world of folklore: the spirit or the soul of a dead person (sometimes the definition also includes that of a dead animal) that appears to the living. This apparition can take many forms or shapes; sometimes a ghost can manifest as an invisible presence or a translucent appearance or even barely visible, manifesting in its wispy shape. In some other cases, though, a ghost can appear realistic with lifelike appearance. Necromancy is a term used in describing any attempts at contacting the spirit of the dead, which is also known as séance in spiritism. The manifestations of the spirits of the dead and the existence of an afterlife are components of a dated belief, originating from animism in preliterate cultures. Ritual magic, spiritualism practices, exorcisms, funeral rites are all part of religious practices that are precisely designed to put the spirits of the dead to rest. Many stories about ghosts typically depict that they haunt specific people, objects, or locations that they had a connection with in life.
In a study conducted in 2009, it was found that only 18% of Americans claimed that they have encountered a ghost. This seems to enforce the fact that the general population of today’s world believe that ghosts do not exist at all. Ghost hunting and other attempts to prove the existence of ghosts have been deemed pseudoscience and it is pretty impossible to find the proof of the existence of ghosts. Ghost investigation has been conducted for centuries now but still there is no scientific evidence that goes to show that the spirits of the dead inhabit a specific location.
Etymologically, the word ghost is derived from Old English, gast, which in turn is derived from Proto-Germanic, gaistaz. The word’s Proto-Indo-European root denotes “fury, anger”. The Old English term, however, is synonymous to Latin spiritus, a word denoting any spirits, good or evil. Thus, angel and demons are counted as spirits in this sense. By extension, the meaning of the Old English word for ghost also applies to the spirit of God, hence the Holy Ghost. The modern definition of the word ghost appeared in Middle English during the 14th century, denoting the soul of a dead person, visible to the eye.