The supernatural, I suspect, resembles nature in that, though you drive it out with a pitchfork, it always comes creeping back….
— D.J. Enright, editor, The Oxford Book of Death
Much study and research have been done to determine why someone becomes a ghost and the prevailing theory is that when death is sudden and traumatic, it is more likely to result in a haunting.
Though some ghosts may stay here simply because they want to, most ghosts are caused by one of the following situations:
Murder — especially those that remain unsolved. Sometimes the ghost will not move on until the murder is solved.
Accidents — Sudden death from accidents such as car wrecks, drownings, falls, and fires. Hauntings are far more prevalent from accidental deaths than those caused naturally.
Suicide — The pain and torment that a suicide victim feels will often cause them to remain here in ghostly form.
Broken hearts — Much like suicide, the pain and torment felt by someone who dies while mourning a lost love or a family member may cause them to remain earthbound.
Desecration of a grave — While these spirits may have initially passed on, they will often return if vandalism, tombstone theft or other desecration of the grave occurs.
Greed — Sometimes humans carry a preoccupation with land or money which can create hauntings when the ghost is unable to let go of its earthly possessions.
Lack of a proper burial — If the spirit believes he or she did not receive what they believe is a proper burial, they may remain.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2021.
Is it not wonderful that 5,000 years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided, whether or not there has even been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death? All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.
– Samuel Boswell, “Life of Johnson”