At times, it’s difficult to decide which of these is more fascinating or mind boggling: actually encountering a ghost or a going through a list of different types , classifications , categories and sub-categories of ghosts—a list which outstrips by miles the once hugely popular Ripley’s Believe it or Not. That’s because there exist more than a thousand different types, classifications, categories and sub-categories of ghosts. Here’s a teeny-weeny sampling. According to the Paranormal MD Investigative Research & Science website, “there are 7 basic types of haunting or ghosts: intelligent, residual, demonic, demonic possessed Intelligent human entity, poltergeist, shadow people, and elementals”, while some list 8 or more classifications of ghosts.

Wikipedia has its own list of ghosts and so do several other websites, books and papers. There are Apparitions, Parchayian or Shadow Ghosts, Orbs, Ghost Lights or Will-o’-the-Wisps , Earthbound Spirits, Ghosts of Grief, Sexually Perverse Ghosts: Incubus, Succubus, Demons, Negative Entities, Evil Spirits, Family Ghosts, Ghost Children, Animal Ghosts, Ghouls, Guardian Spirits, Faceless Ghosts, Headless Ghosts…

Worldwide, folklore and mythology ghosts ensconced in different cultures number more than a hundred. They include Banshees, Acheris in Indian folklore or the ghost of a young girl that spreads disease to children, Bhoot—also in Indian folklore, usually an evil ghost of a dead man who died through tragedy or execution; Calling ghosts—similar to sirens of Greek mythology and the Nishi in Indian lore, calling ghosts lure people to death by calling their names, Domovik—in Russian folklore, a spirit or ghost that lives within the home, El Silbon Ghost—in Venezuelan folklore, “the frightening lost spirit of a young man who killed his father, who now carries his bones in a bag while remaining upon the earth”.

Then there is Ikiryph—in Japanese lore, an evil spirit created by a person’s bad thoughts and feelings, La Siguanaba—in Central American folklore, “a horrific ghost that walks the jungle looking for men to entice with her false beauty; up close she is said to be hideous”, Melusine GhostMare—in Swedish folklore, a spirit that visits people during sleep to bring nightmares by sitting upon their chests, Phi tai hong—in Thai folklore, a ghost who was not afforded proper rites after a tragic death, Seven Whistles—in English folklore, spirits that fly together and sing or whistle to foretell of a death, Snarly yow—in North American lore, a large, black, ghost dog that makes Maryland’s South Mountain area its haunt, Zombie—in voodoo a deceased person brought back to life by a voodoo sorcerer called a bokor, doing his or her bidding….

Yet despite the mind spinning number and forms of ghosts and spirits that share the earth’s environs with us, there is usually only one basic question, with some off-shoots, that troubles virtually everyone who encounters or sees or hears or senses a spirit or ghost. What do I do? Will it harm me? How do I get rid of it? How do I protect myself?

What type of ghost or spirit it is happens to be only a secondary consideration for most people, yet it is the most important one for whoever takes on the task of handling such supernatural cases. That’s because each particular type of ghost or spirit has to be “treated” according to its specific characteristics. However, over the years I have observed and experienced that almost invariably the key to defusing a supernatural situation lies in bringing peace to the haunting entity. Of course, wiping out supernatural replays of certain events that took place long ages or years ago are a different proposition, but addressing individual hauntings has a high success rate.

Take the case of Nidhi. Even though she met a violent death—hit by a speeding truck—she had looked so composed as she lay on the road that people thought at first perhaps she had survived. Nidhi’s two children aged five and three were too young to realise the enormity of the loss but Vimal, who had been a doting husband, and his parents were shattered.

The extent of Nidhi’s loss became painfully obvious in the days ahead. But it also became obvious that something was amiss. Both the children would be crying out pitifully during the day, often calling out “ma, ma” but as evening fell, a marked change would come over them. They would cry out “ma, ma” breathlessly, happily and then run towards a low divan which had been a favourite resting place for Nidhi. It was evident that they were snuggling upto somebody. Other inexplicable incidents began to take place. The family priest advised a series of special rituals to release Nidhi’s soul. But even after they were performed they seemed to have little impact. Nidhi’s family began to fear that her soul would remain trapped on earth as a ghost forever, bereft of peace.

Somebody recommended pujas at Sapt Rishi Ashram situated in Haridwar. Coincidentally, we too were there when Nidhi’s family came to perform the pujas on the ashram’s ghat on the banks of the holy Ganga. As Pandit Subodh, the head priest began the puja for Nidhi, there was a commotion. A black snake emerged from the river, and ignoring other groups performing pujas, slithered up the stairs, straight towards Nidhi’s family. It curled itself before the group, flared its hood, and began swaying. Pandit Subodh, though young in years, was rich in experience. “Place whatever offerings you have brought before the snake”, he directed Nidhi’s family.

They did so, and the swaying snake uncurled itself and then curled itself again, encircling the offerings. That done, the snake touched its hood on the ground, as if bowing to the family, and then slithered down the steps, back into the river. “We’ll complete the puja”, Pandit Subodh told Nidhi’s family, “but your purpose has been fulfilled, Nidhi’s soul has accepted the offerings and both you and she will now be at peace”. And that’s how it proved to be. Nidhi’s soul had been freed and could travel onwards to another realm. Being at peace is important for both the dead and the living. The heartfelt “RIP” that can now be frequently seen thanks to the social media has a truly profound essence.

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