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Spiritual Warfare Forum: How to tell the difference between a ghost and a demon?

by Catherine Frakas 08 Nov 2002

How to tell the difference between a ghost and a demon? QUESTION from PatrickM on November 18, 2002 This is a weird one, as so many other posts on this site, but it's something I've been wondering about for a long time. It's similar to a recent spirit or demon post, but different enough for me to ask it again.
First, the background: I have an aunt who has a home on Cape Cod & I visit her there between 2 and 5 times a year. I've had strange experiences on two weekends in the 20 years that she's lived there. The first time was in the late '80's, when I was a teenager. As I was lying on the bed reading a book (sitting across from it, my back against the wall, that is) the bed began to shake -- so violently that the headboard started banging against the wall. I thought it was one of my brothers playing a trick on me, but no such luck. As soon as I looked under the bed, the shaking stopped.
After that, I was convinced the house was haunted, but nothing happened to anyone else. My aunt never mentioned anything unusual in the house and the one time I asked her if she had ever seen a ghost, she said she thinks she did -- and told a story from when she was a kid in Ireland. Nothing in her own house.
The second weekend was just last Thanksgiving, when a number of things happened. The first night I was there I was awakened by a woman's voice. She didn't say anything understandable -- it's what sounded to me like pot pot allen allen pot pot allen allen, in a normal, conversational tone. I turned the light on immediately, but didn't see anything. I had trouble getting back to sleep and each time I began to drift off I heard the floorboards creaking as if someone were walking around. I assumed it to be out in the hallway, but the next day when I checked where the floorboards creaked, it was the ones just inside the bedroom door that did so, and not the ones outside. This would have been odd enough, but something even stranger happened the next night. I was watching TV when everyone else had gone to bed. I heard a woman's voice coming from upstairs, and music. I assumed that someone had turned a radio on -- loud at first, and then turned the volume down a bit (the woman's voice was louder than the music). I got up and went to the foot of the stairs to listen. I couldn't place the music, and there was no singing, but it sounded generic enough so I didn't think much of it. When my aunt came downstairs to get a glass of water later (she reads in bed before sleeping) I asked her if she'd been the one listening to music. She said, Music? What music? and I dismissed it, saying I thought I heard music. The next day I found that not only had no one been listening to music, but that nobody even had a radio.
I've been to the house since and nothing unusual has happened. I'll be going up again for Thanksgiving & I assume nothing odd will happen, since it seems to happen so irregularly.
So much for the history. My questions are these: I'd read somewhere that only demons can move physical objects. If this is true, the shaking bed would suggest a demon. However, nothing malicious has ever occured, just a few curious experiences, and none of them ever directed at my aunt. I've always been curious about ghosts and have even read books about hauntings in the house itself, so I always assumed that's why I've been the one to whom contact seems to be directed. Also, if it's a demon, wouldn't it be more aggressive, and attempt to contact me more than once every 10 years or so? I've read of others who have heard ghostlike voices, but didn't understand the words, so that in itself doesn't seem unusual. Also, I'm never fearful in the house (except when the odd things are actually occuring) and I always look forward to my weekends there. On a previous post, you state that there is scriptural evidence for the existence of ghosts. My real question to you is, given these experiences, would you say I've run across a ghost or a demon?
ANSWER by Mr. Joe Meineke on November 22, 2002 Dear Mr. PatrickM,
Thank you for your question. I am glad to hear that these are not regular experiences for you.
Barring any possible natural explanations, what you have described sounds as though it could possibly have been demonic in nature.
It is our experience that violent shaking of a bed is not something that a human spirit will do (for a good information source on ghosts from a Catholic perspective, see Brother Ignatius' essay, Seven Types of Ghosts). Granted, some of the things that you describe are the types of events that we expect to hear about in a human spirit haunting. However, one red flag is enough in any case to draw the entire experience under the umbrella of great suspicion. There are other red flags in your case, such as the fact that these events seem to be focused solely on you and, one other possibility, your interest in hauntings.
Demons are phenomenally deceptive and use every trick in the book to lure unsuspecting persons into every conceivable trap. One such trap is mimicking human spirit haunting activity in the hopes that, through such actions, they may entice the unsuspecting but intrigued and curious onlookers into sin. Our experience shows us that this tactic is used to inspire onlookers into the mistake of making contact through such forbidden practices as Ouija board use and séances. Often times this ruse works by using diabolical temptation to augment our natural curiosity (i.e., sometimes it is not a coincidence that we have a desire to buy an Ouija board and start asking innocent questions). When the demons do succeed in this tactic, they can then proceed with far more rights to act in the situation than they would have had otherwise (see the essay Demonic Deceptions for a detailed look into the issue that I've described here).
Finally, some practical advice is probably in order since you will be visiting your aunt again soon. Just as a precaution, you may want to consider taking along a bottle of holy water to bless the room and the bed that you will be sleeping in. Also, for reasons that I hope are now obvious, do not attempt to contact any spirits in your aunt's home. A visit to the Spiritual Warfare Prayers Catalogue may also be wise, paying attention to prayers of protection.
My intention was not to frighten you, and I sincerely hope that I have not done so. Know that God is watching over you and has given you a guardian angel that is constantly at your side protecting you. Be confident in God's protection and in these truths.
I hope that this has helped.
God bless you,
Joe Meineke Assistant to Bro. Ignatius

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