If the same apparition is seen over and over again, doing exactly the same thing, if the same sounds are heard at the same time of day, if the same scene plays out over and over again over a period of years or even centuries, it is a residual haunting. Also called energy remnants and memory imprint, the apparition in a residual haunting never interacts with onlookers, but rather seems totally oblivious to them.
What Are Residual Hauntings?
Perhaps residual hauntings are simply playbacks of past events. The apparitions involved may not even be actual spirits but just impressions or recordings of events that were so traumatic that they have become imprinted on the very materials of the space in which they occurred. There are many theories regarding residual hauntings. One of the first to offer a possible hypothesis of how residual hauntings occur was Thomas Charles Lethbridge, in his 1961 book Ghost and Ghoul.
His theory is that just as audiotapes and videotapes record sounds and images, certain materials used in the construction of older structures may record impressions of events. If a traumatic, emotionally charged incident occurs, these materials record it for future playback. The event can suddenly occur and play out without an apparent cause. Sometimes there is no visual component to the event, only repetitive sounds, such as footsteps, breathing, or smells that have no apparent cause. No one knows what triggers the playback of these recordings.
It could be anything from the observer's own emotional state or sensitivity to weather conditions, such as high humidity or barometric pressure. Whatever its cause, the residual haunting is intriguing. In the Tower of London, people have seen the ghosts of Anne Boleyn and many others who were held within its walls before their executions.
There is a theory that the building materials of the haunted site may have recorded the energy of the event in the case of residual hauntings. Older structures often have quartz, iron, and slate in them, and these are thought to hold an impression of the event.
Europe has many ancient structures made of porous stones, which might function like batteries to store energy. This could explain why there are so many instances of haunted sites in Europe.
American Residual Hauntings
How then do we explain the many residual hauntings in America? Indeed, many of these take place in old buildings as well. New England, as one of the oldest settled regions in the country, seems to be particularly prone to hauntings. When several different witnesses report seeing the same repetitive event, you can be fairly sure they are reporting an energy remnant from another time. Moreover, whether this event is triggered by the environment, the sensitivity of the observer, or a window into the past, the phenomena is totally fascinating.
Battlefields where many fought and died, often in agony, are the perfect settings for residual hauntings. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the scene of a horrific battle during America's Civil War. On the battlefield, men have been seen charging downhill, people have heard troops singing Irish folksongs and the sounds of battle — swords clanging, thundering hoofbeats, the cries of the dying. Devil's Den was the site of heavy fighting on the second day of battle, July 2, 1863. Even before the three-day battle that took place there, the site had earned its name from reports of paranormal activity.
After the battle and up to the present day, visitors have reported seeing an apparition that may be the ghost of a Texas infantryman, sometimes gesturing or motioning but never speaking or interacting with onlookers. Some say that he is the ghost of a sniper who held the Northern troops at bay on Little Round Top.