Real but Dangerous: A Catholic Account of the 3 Kinds of Ghosts

Susan Ackeridge, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Do ghosts really exist? And if so, how should Catholics think about them?

The prolific Catholic Dr. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, gives a resounding ‘yes’ to the first question and a great explanation to the second.

“[Even] [w]ithout our action or invitation, the dead often do appear to the living,” Kreeft asserts. “There is enormous evidence of ‘ghosts’ in all cultures.

The first thing Catholics should know about ghosts, Kreeft explains, is that we should not try to contact or communicate with them.  Any kind of participation in the occult or spiritism is sinful. “We are out of our depth,” Kreeft explains, and there is “danger of deception by evil spirits.” This is why, when it comes to supernatural things, we should stick exclusively with God, his revelation, and his Church.

But how does the existence of ghosts fit into our faith?

Kreeft suggests there are three kinds of ghosts, one kind from each of the places of the afterlife:

1) Ghosts from hell

“[T]here are malicious and deceptive spirits,” Kreeft explains, “and since they are deceptive, they hardly ever appear malicious. These are probably the ones who respond to conjurings at séances. They probably come from Hell. Even the chance of that happening should be sufficient to terrify away all temptation to necromancy..”

2) Ghosts from purgatory

This is “the most familiar kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones,” Kreef explains. “They seem to be working out some unfinished earthly business, or suffering some purgatorial purification until released from their earthly, business. These ghosts would seem to be the ones who just barely made it to Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to learn many painful lessons about their past lives on earth.”

3) Ghosts from heaven

Lastly, “there are the bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family, especially spouses, who appear unbidden, at God’s will, not ours, with messages of hope and love. They seem to come from Heaven. Unlike the purgatorial ghosts who come back primarily for their own sakes, these bright spirits come back for the sake of us the living, to tell us all is well.”

[See also: The Triduum of Death: The Forgotten Season of Allhallowtide]

[See also: Why Christians Should Love Halloween]




  1. What about those echoes left behind with no awareness behind them- of strong emotions or certain events. Things from the past that we sometimes glimpse. There is nothing there to interact or be aware of us. But it can be frightening for those who perceive them.

  2. You’re wrong. Purgatory was never done away with. Hell does exist. Someone approached St. Padre Pio and told him they didn’t believe that he’ll existed. St. Padre Pio’s response was, “You will believe when you get there.” If Hell doesn’t exist, where do you think evil people go when they die? You think Hitler is in Heaven? I will pray for your soul.

  3. Read the amazing secrets of purgatory written by sr. Emmanuel if medjugore. The Catholic Church teaches the reality of purgatory and hell. there is an afterlife called eternal life; heaven. The buck doesn’t stop here.

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  8. You are in for a surprise and Purgatory has not been done away with by any Vatican Council. Also Jesus mentions Hell or analogies of it over 50 times.

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