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The 5 Spirits You're Most Likely to See

Not everyone gets to see a ghost (spirit, apparition) in his or her lifetime, but if you do, there are 5 times it’s most likely to happen.

An earlier study by Greeley (1976) found that 31% of people surveyed in the U.S. felt that they had been in contact with someone that had died. In Europe, the number was 25% (Haraldsson & Houtkooper 1991).

This left Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson (2012) wondering how many people today believed that they had seen or felt the presence of someone that had died.

Haraldsson decided to undertake an extensive study, interviewing 450 people, to find out their experiences seeing, hearing, or feeling those that have passed on (that is, ghosts).

It’s important to note that he included only experiences that occurred when the interviewee was awake (in other words, dream appearances of spirits were not included). His work concluded that there are some common times when we are more likely to see or sense ghosts:

1.) WHEN IT’S DAYTIME. While most of us have learned through TV and movies that ghosts are almost exclusively seen at night, however, that isn’t based on fact. In this study, 54% of apparitions were actually seen during the day.

2.) WHEN THEY’RE YOUR RELATIVES. Fifty percent of the time, people reported that the apparition they saw was related to them.

That’s important because we’ve also learned from TV and movies that ghosts are scary strangers. It seems that’s not always the case!

Recommended: 7 Things Our Deceased Loved Ones Want us to Know

3.) WHEN THEY’RE MALE. This one’s a game changer! Despite the frequent tales of the ghostly “woman in white” being seen just about everywhere, Haraldsson (2012) found that 69.4% of all apparitions seen were male.

Is it because men have more unfinished business or can more easily summon energy? We may never know, but they’re definitely seen a lot more often than women!

4.) WHEN THEY HAVE DIED SUDDENLY (OR VIOLENTLY) OR BY SUICIDE. Study results indicated that 28% of apparitions seen had died suddenly or committed suicide, vs. 8% of the total population that have died in that manner.

Clearly, there is unfinished business or perhaps these spirits really don’t know that they’ve passed on. Either way, these spirits are much more likely to be seen or heard than others that have passed uneventfully.

5.) WHEN AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE NEEDS TO BE COMMUNICATED. One common theme is communication. While 67% of reported ghostly encounters were visual, 28% reported auditory encounters with spirit. (Note that 20% reported a combination of 2 or more types of spirit encounters, including seeing, hearing, sensing, touching, or smelling them.)

This often happens when someone has passed suddenly and is compelled to give a message or pass along a helpful warning to loved ones. Examples of this are messages that are supportive or state that the person that has passed is fine or, occasionally, they are warnings, such as letting you know there are hazards ahead on the road and to slow down, or take another route.

The good news is that these communications are almost always positive!

Now that you’ve learned some of the most common types of ghostly encounters, what are your thoughts? Have you had one?

Carol Pollio

Dr. Carol Pollio

Director, Intuitive Investigations®


Greeley, A.M. (1975). The Sociology of the Paranormal: A reconnaissance. Sage Publications. London. 88 pp.

Haraldsson, E. (2012). The Departed Among the Living. An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters. USA and UK: White Crow Books.

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