There are several different phenomena that are sometimes described as ghosts.
Sometimes a spirit doesn't complete its transition to the spirit world when its body dies. The spirit may stay on the earth plane rather than moving on to the spirit world (heaven). These are called "earthbound" spirits. Usually this is caused by a sudden unexpected death or if the spirit had a strong emotional attachment to something or someone on the earth and doesn't want to leave it. Their mind may be obsessed with something on the earth, and when you are a spirit, your thoughts influence where you go. Also, sometimes a spirit may be afraid of punishment in the afterlife and so may linger near the earth rather than make the transition. An earthbound spirit has a complete personality and can sometimes communicate with and react to living people. When encountered, even if they seem friendly, but particularly if they are causing problems, earthbound spirits should be helped to complete their transition to the spirit world. The way to do that is explained in my article: How to help spirits complete their transition to the spirit world.
In a normal death due to declining health, the spirits on the other side have time to prepare the person for the transition and it usually goes smoothly. Evidence of this preparation comes from death bed visions.
Sometimes spirits that have completed their transition to the spirit world will come down to the earth plane for a purpose such as communicating with a loved one who is still living, to help a dying person make the transition to the spirit world, or to act as a spirit guide for a living person. In rare cases they can be seen by ordinary people, but usually only someone who is psychic will see them although some people might be able to sense their presence.
In some cases a "ghost" is just the shell of the astral body without the spirit in it anymore. These ghosts don't really have personalities. They are often seen just repeating the same thing over an over, like walking down the same hallway in a house. They are just a shell after the soul has moved on.
In other cases a "ghost" is just an impression of a person who used to be at a location which someone who is psychic can perceive. Particularly if the person who left the impression had a strong emotional experience at the site, they may leave a strong impression there. If a psychic is not experienced at using their psychic abilities, they may mistake their psychic perception of that impression for a ghost.
Sometimes ghostly phenomena is caused by unintentional psychokinesis from a living person.
Also see: Evidence for the Afterlife.
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