Ghosts or Angels...or what?


In Religious Ed. class, the topic of ghosts and spirits came up. What would ya’ll say to someone who claims to have seen a “ghost” of a diceased relative? Can aparitions of dead friends or relatives happen? If so, how does this fit in to our belief of the afterlife and the communion of saints? If not, then what are people seeing when they see a “ghost” or feel a real presence of someone they love that has passed on? If Mary can appear to us for the good of the Kingdom, or to increase faith, can others?

Or are all of these things related to angels and demons?


Short answer, no. Long answer, if someone thinks that they are probably under a great deal of stress and/or mentally unstable. Tread carefully.


There’s a large hospice forum somewhere where a lot of nurses have posted stories of people seeing loved ones (or dark shadows! :eek: ) before dying, or even seeing someone’s deceased loved one coming to their bedside just before the person dies.

I do think that people can see their loved ones, or even angels just before dying. But, if it’s someone who’s still quite healthy, and they’re seeing something, they might want to seek the assistance of a priest.


Come on people. Any other thoughts on this?


The saints in heaven can most certainly communicate with us. Those souls in hell assuredly cannot. Those in purgatory…:shrug: Who knows? I do believe that some dead relative have asked me for they’re prayers.

I think that if a spirit is evil or malicious it is most likely a demon of some sort, possibly imitating a dead relative. But I also think Shakespeare’s take on it certainly applies here.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy


Interestingly enough, I’ve been working through this issue for a paper at seminary. Dr. Peter Kreeft mentions the possibility of ghosts in his “Angels (and Demons)” book listing a few reasons for the possibility: 1) they don’t realize they are dead 2) they were so attached to something on earth they can’t detach themselves from it 3) they are working out some form of purgatory or purification 4) they are consoling their loved ones who have been bereaved. The Anglican Exeter report (official report on Exorcism) also mentioned “place memories” and souls of the departed as possible reasons besides demonic for “haunts”. Justin Martyr held that the souls of the Nephilim became demons, and in that sense held to “ghosts” (cf. 2 Apo. Ch5) See also “The Unseen World” ed. Anthony Lane, Pater Noster Press for an article on demons and ghosts (I don’t agree with it completely, but it is interesting)

On the other hand if you can pick up “A Treatise of Ghosts” by Father Noel Taillepied (1540-1589) translated by the famous (?) Montague Summers, he argues departed souls to return but only to bring specific messages and not to “haunt” places. Which is somewhat consistent with Tertullian who testifies that at times demons would pretend to be some dead spirit, but when Christians cast them out they were made to tell the truth and confessed to being demonic. (cf. Treatise on the soul Ch57)

Scripture seems somewhat ambiguous, although would imply that “haunting” by actual spirits of the dead may be very rare, and that demons certainly can trick people into thinking they are some dead family member or other. One Anglican book that tries to answer the question from a pastoral perspective is “Healing Death’s Wounds” by Michael Mitton and Russ Parker. Ultimately an Exorcist should be called in to assess the situation because if it is not a ghost it may be demonic. (Mitton and Parker suggest a Requiem Eucharist/Mass in case of dead spirits)

That is some of what I know so far, which I could help you one more of the Catholic sources, but there does not seem to be a definite position within Scripture or Tradition.


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