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  • Amy MacKinnon

What are Ghosts?

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Are they spirits?

It depends.

Are they just our imagination working overtime on us?


Are they angels?


Since angels don’t have bodies, when they appear to us they have to take on matter and temporarily form a body so we can see it.

They could also appear directly just to our imagination, but not to others. That’s what can happen when one person sees an angel but others, standing right there, don’t see it.

Still, that could also be our imagination, and not really an angel.

A good angel wouldn’t usually appear as a ghost though, especially not in an attempt to frighten us, but a bad angel—a demon—might.


If you hear floorboards creaking in the middle of the night, or see some strange light in your room or outside your window, it definitely draws your attention!

And that is the goal of demons: to keep our attention and focus, and then to become fascinated by it and what it can do.

Whatever our focus is on determines what direction we take. We definitely know this when we walk, ride a bike, or drive a car. If you don’t keep your eye on the road, you won’t stay on the road!

It’s the same for our spiritual life: whatever we focus on is where we go, and if our focus is on a demon, that is who we listen to and follow. And of course that’s the goal of every demon who interacts with us: to distract us from listening to the Word of God and following Him.

So a ghost could be our imagination working overtime, or it could be a angel or demon.

There is also third possibility:

It could be a human being who has died that appears to us.

We Weren’t Supposed to Die

One of the preternatural gifts that God gave to Adam and Eve was that we wouldn’t die. We have material bodies, just like plants and animals do, but immortal souls.

When a human being dies, the soul is separated from the body. That was never supposed to happen—God created human beings with both a body and a soul.

Death is the separation of the body and the soul. Our soul continues to exist, because it’s immortal, but the body is not, which is why it decays.

That’s why when we die, our body is then called a “corpse.”

So what happens to the soul?

It continues to exist, but has no body.

That’s when a human soul is also called a spirit: we still have an intellect and will because we have a soul, but our body is gone. A human spirit is the soul without the body.

Angels are also spirits—they are pure spirits—but they were created that way; they weren’t created with material bodies the way that we were. Even when an angel uses matter to form a material body so that we can see it, the way the angels did when they appeared to Abraham, and as Gabriel did when he appeared to Mary, the matter that is used to form that body is only temporary, and not part of the angel.

Think of it as a human being putting on a shirt. It changes our appearance to others, but only temporarily. If we change into a different shirt that’s a different style and color, then we appear differently to people, but we haven’t changed who we are. We’re still human beings no matter what clothes we wear. And an angel is still an angel no matter how it appears to us.

So when we die, where does our spirit go? Our souls are immortal, so they will always continue to exist.

But Where?

There are only two choices for where we spend our eternity: with God, or apart from Him.

Ghosts stories were popular at Christmastime in the Victorian Era (and still are), because that’s when we celebrate the birth of the Savior.

So it was a reminder to everyone to reflect on how we’re living our lives now, because that is what determines where we end up.

That was the purpose of telling ghost stories at any time of the year in the Christian tradition: to remind us that our time here is short, but the way that we live our lives determines where we go when we die.

This is the second part in a series of 3 "ghost posts"

Click here to see the first post in the series, Why Are We Afraid of Ghosts?

Click here to see the last post in the series, “A Little Dickens of a Ghost Story”

For quotes about ghosts in stories, download my

FREE PDF with lots of literary quotes:

If you like ghost stories, I can recommend several!

The series "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz. Oddly enough, I liked the odd numbered books in this series better than the even numbered books, but each one in the series of 7 books adds to the entire story. He also makes a LOT of wisecracks along the way, which is a good thing because some of the scenes are... yeah, just go read them!

“Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories: The Complete Ghost Stories of M. R. James, Volume 1” And that's just the first volume! M.R. James wrote a lot of ghost stories, but they're not gory/scary the way so many are today. He wrote in the late 1800 and early 1900s. The linked version is annotated, so the notes can help put the stories into context for you if you're not as familiar with older ghost stories.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is possibly the best-known fictional story for Christmas, but it's also a ghost story!

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Cover image and Ghost at top of post: Medieval Ghost by Gallowglass. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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