In addition to the many words for ghost, there are various types of ghosts themselves.
One of these is the Poltergeist, Whose name comes from a German Word literally meaning:
'Singing' (or noisy') ghost. The Poltergeist is traditionally thought of as a troublesome ghost who haunts a house, moves objects around and makes banging noises at night..
The Poltergeist may be feared as a demon, threatening and destructive, or may simply be seen as an irritating nuisance. Some people believe that Poltergeist's may be former residents of the house, who are jealous of the incomers, and wish to drive them out. Other people suggest that the Poltergeist's may be the restless spirits of people who were wronged in life, or who may have experienced trauma in the house where they still reside. In some cases, even today, people will have their houses exorcised by a priest to rid themselves of a Poltergeist, believing that this process will banish the restless spirit for ever. Instances of Poltergeist's have been reported in many parts of the world, and seem to be a part of the folkloric beliefs of most cultures.
In many cases, Poltergeist's are thought to be connected with the presence of teenagers in a house.
The theory is, that the Poltergeist's tap into the turbulent emotions experienced by many teenagers, causing inanimate objects to move around of their own accord.
THE STONE THROWING DEVIL..
One of the first reports of Poltergeist's comes from the late 17th century, when a pamphlet was published on 'Lithobolia', or 'The Stone-Throwing Devil', by a man named Richard Chamberlain, a government official in New England, USA.
In 1682, Chamberlain boarded at a tavern run by George and Alice Walton and recorded the damage wreaked by the Poltergeists that apparently haunted the house. His introduction to the pamphlet read as follows...
"..Being an Exact and True account (by way of Journal!) of the various actions of infernal spirits or (Devils Incarnate), Witches or both: and the great Disturbance and Amazement they gave to George Walton's family at a place called;
Great Island in the country of New Hampshire, in New England,
Chiefly in throwing about (by an Invisible hand), Stones, Bricks, and Brick-Bats Sizes, with several other things, as Hammers, Mauls, Iron-Crows, Spits, and other Utensils, as came into their Hellish minds, and this for space of a quarter of a year'..
Another type of ghost is the 'Fetch'.
This is the disembodied spirit of a living person.
The 'Fetch' most commonly appears to a friend or relative at the exact moment that the living person is about to die. This idea of the 'Fetch' helps to explain the commonly reported phenomenon when a person dies, a friend or relative will report having a strong memory of them, or desire to contact them again, only to find that at the exact moment they had this impulse that person had passed away. 'Fetch candle' is a term used to describe a light that appears at night and supposedly foretells the death of the person who sees it..
Another type of ghost is the revenant, an animated corpse who returns from the grave to visit the living. In most cases, the purpose of the revenant is to terrorise or wreak revenge on the living,
out of Anger, Jealousy or Spite. In some cases, revenants, may return from the grave to see their loved ones again and provide comfort and reassurance to those grieving for them.
The term comes from the 'French Revenir', to come back.
At the basis of Stories of the revenant is a primal fear that the dead will come back to destroy the living. This comes, in most instances, from a feeling of guilt - either because of maltreatment of the dead person in life, or from a more generalised sense that the dead do not deserve to die, any more than the living deserve to live. In such instances, there is a troubling perception that death comes randomly, often to those who least deserve it, while others survive quite happily for no reason other than luck...
VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES AND ZOMBIES
In medieval Europe, the fear of revenants seeking revenge on the living took a terrifying form - the wide spread belief in the vampire. The attributes of the vampire, as a reanimated corpse, included such features as bleeding orifices, long fingernails, pale skin and pointed teeth.
There was also a detailed mythology as to how the vampire would stalk and bite its victims, thus claiming them as living corpses. In the same way, and at the same period, a body of belief also rose up about other supernatural, and largely vindictive, creatures such as the shape shifting werewolf. In other parts of the world, at different epochs, many variations on the theme arose, includingthat of the zombie. The notion of the brain-dead, emotionless zombie as a
'Walking Corpse' originally comes from the West African and Haitian voodoo tradition.
In recent years, it has been expanded on by filmmakers and fiction writers, and a notable feature added - that the zombie wants to eat the flesh of the living, thus eventually destroying humankind altogether in an apocalyptic plague...
FORMS OF DECAY..
What characterises all these revenants - the vampire, the werewolf and the zombie - is a preoccupation with the physical, material body. In the case of the vampire and the zombies,
there is an emphasis on the peculiar, and horrifying, forms of decay of the body after death.
And our very human, yet doomed, attempts to escape our fate. In the myth of the werewolf, too, we see a fascination with bodily change and with mental deterioration - what we would now call mental illness - that accompanies it. All these stories concern bodily death, change and transformation, and how the human spirit survives, or is corrupted, by the process...
THE GHOST AS A SPIRIT OR BREATH..
In contrast to this, the ghost remains, in most cultures, as insubstantial creature.
The ghost is what remains after the body has gone, whether buried, burned or simply left to rot.
Unlike the vampire, the zombie or the werewolf, the ghost is not a creature of the flesh, it is the 'Breathe' that has departed from the body, the essence of the deceased that survives once the body is no more. In this sense, the ghost is quite distinct from vampires, zombies and werewolves - although, of course, as a supernatural member of the un-dead it may have some features in common with them. It must also be pointed out here that the world 'Ghost' is often used, in a general way, to refer to any supernatural being. However, this should not prevent us from understanding that 'Ghost'- as 'Spirit', breathe or 'Essence' - has a specific history of meaning..