I know they do. And Catholic author, Dr. Peter Kreeft, agrees.
“The dead often do appear to the living,” Kreeft asserts. “There is enormous evidence of ‘ghosts’ in all cultures.”
The first and most important thing Catholics should know about ghosts is that we should not try to contact or communicate with them. Any kind of participation in the occult or spiritism is not only sinful, but also deeply dangerous.
The second thing we need to know is that ghosts sometimes contact or appear to people who are not seeking them. If that happens, the best response is prayer.
Kreeft suggests there are three kinds of ghosts, one kind from each of the places of the afterlife:
- Spirits 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.”
- Spirits from Purgatory – This is “the most familiar kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones,” Kreeft 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.”
- 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.”
Thankfully, I have only read about the first kind. But I have personally experienced the second and third kinds on half a dozen occasions.
I have also first hand stories from people I know and trust about their experiences with these types of spirits.
I also once read a fascinating book by a psychiatrist who had a phenomenal success rate with anorexia patients whose disorder had resisted all other forms of treatment. His cure consisted of having Mass said for the repose of the tortured souls in the patients’ family trees.
He very often found that these patients had one or more people in the immediate family tree who had died violently, usually without being properly buried and prayed for. Most often, the deceased was an aborted sibling, but sometimes it would be a suicide or murder victim. His theory was that the anorexic was particularly sensitive to the pleadings of these unhappy relatives.
One British couple came to him for their daughter who was on the other side of the world. He interviewed them and found that they had aborted a premarital pregnancy. He counseled them through repenting, then they had a Mass offered for their murdered child.
Later, they received a letter from their no-longer-anorexic daughter. In the middle of writing it, she had written, “I don’t know what happened, but I suddenly want to eat.” The date and time were the same as when the Mass had been celebrated, half a world away and without her knowledge.
I wish I could remember the name of that book.