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PPI Investigator Debra Page, a specialist in world religions, discusses one of the rarer forms paranormal phenomena in "Elemental Haunting: An Overview for the Paranormal Researcher." 

Currently, paranormal investigators use two main classifications of haunting:  Intelligent Haunting, and Residual Haunting....This paper will be an overview of the elemental, a class of non-human haunting, in an attempt to clarify the classification. 

  1. logo elemental haunting

    Intelligent Haunting, whereby the spirit or spirits involved interact with direct responses to the investigators.  Within the category of the Intelligent Haunting, we have:
    1. Human Spirit, A former human associated with the people or place that has not let go of the material realm after dying.
    2. Elemental Haunting, a “non-human” haunting; i.e., a spirit that was not formerly a human being.
    3. Poltergeist Haunting, an entity that appears to be attached to human (predominantly adolescent and female).  These entities wreak havoc by throwing and moving objects, starting fires, manifesting objects out of the air.  The word “poltergeist” means “noisy ghost.”
  2. Residual Haunting, whereby the phenomenon is an imprint of a historical event upon the environment.  The event is usually one that created strong emotions in the people who lived it, such as a murder, attack, or shocking news.  Positive emotions, such as attachment to a place can also create residual haunting.  Theoretically, the event is recorded in the environment and replayed over time under specific circumstances.

This paper will be an overview of the elemental, a class of non-human haunting, in an attempt to clarify the classification.

Elementals:  A Brief History

All evidence and descriptions in this paper are from anecdotal evidence only.  The existence of elemental beings has not been proven in a laboratory setting.

The Greeks called all otherworldly beings daemons (also daimons).  Daemons included guardian spirits, helpful spirits, spirits of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), and spirits of a place (spiritus loci).  Muses and non-corporeal teachers such the “inner teacher” of Socrates (493-399 BCE) were also considered daimons.  It was Paracelsus who solidified the idea of pure elementals:  the living forces behind the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.  It should also be noted that with the advent of the Judeo-Christian worldview the daimon, in all its forms, became “demon.”

Paracelsus (Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541 CE) was a physician, philosopher and an alchemist.  He classified nature spirits according to the elements they were composed of.  This is the system our own culture has adopted for classifying elementals.  Below is a brief description of elemental nature spirits.

nature spiritEarth Elementals—Gnomes (from Greek genomus “earth dweller”): They have power over rocks flowers, trees and minerals.  They are traditionally guardians of hidden treasure.  They prefer caves and deep forests.  Some of the more familiar beings in the gnome classification include tree and forest sprites, satyrs, pans, dryads, elves, brownies and “little men of the woods” (Hall/2003).   They can be helpful or harmful to humans.

Water Elementals—Undines: They have power over water, including streams rivers marshes, ponds, waterfalls, oceans and fountains.  They also associated with rain, mist and fog.  Other beings classified as undines include water sprites and mermaids (Hall/2003).  They can appear as human beings, as wells as small creatures.  They are emotional, love beauty, and are fond of humans.  In the Tibetan and Indian cultures there are Nagas, who are half human, half serpent.  They are associated with prosperity, hidden treasure and are dharma protectors.  A female Naga was said to be the first being on Earth to receive the esoteric teachings of the Buddha.  It is said that angering them can cause illness.

[It is interesting to note here that many historical accounts of goddess appearances are associated with water, including the Virgin Mary in Europe and the U.S., Kwan Yin in Japan, Saraswati in India, Brigit in Ireland as well as many “White Ladies.”  The bodies of water associated with these appearances are later declared to have healing properties.]

Fire Elementals—Salamanders: They have power over flame and smoke.  They do not directly communicate with humans.  They can be placated with incense.  According to Paracelsus, they appear as little balls of light, fireballs, or tongues of fire.  In medieval literature they have been described as little lizard-like beings.  One class of salamander, the Acthnici, appears as St.  Elmo’s Fire on the rigging of ships.  They can sometimes be seen as a glowing orb over a body of water (Hall/2003).

Air Elementals—Sylphs:  They have power over clouds, snow, gases, and winds.  They prefer mountaintops.  They also reside in the air around us.  It is the sylphs that are the origin of the story of gossamer winged fairies.  The elementals of air are also associated with muses, genius and inspiration.  The inspired artists, poets and musicians are said to be blessed (or cursed, as the case may be) by the sylphs.  Sylphs are mirthful, changeable, and eccentric (Hall/2003).

Angels have occasionally been suggested to be elementals in some paranormal literature.  The lore of angels clearly has them lording over elementals.  An angel’s nature is one of “pure spirit“ and not of combined material elements.  They often appear as an energy created with a specific intent.  Once the purpose or intent is fulfilled, the angel disappears.  In occult, magical, and religious lore, there are specific angels who command specific elementals, and they are called upon to do so.

Signs of Elemental Haunting

The literature on elemental haunting is predominately from anthropological sources, occult lodge literature and folklore.  Occult lodge literature is interesting because it contains (anecdotal) experiences of magicians interaction with elemental.

Most elemental hauntings take place in isolated, mountainous, desert, or forest settings.  It is rare for elementals to haunt within a city setting.  The exception to this is if a person or group performs magical/magical rituals, which directly invoke the elementals.  Buildings used for religious purposes could possibly be elementally haunted.

All types of elementals can cause mental unbalance in sensitive people.

In most indigenous cultures the nature spirits are given ritual offerings to maintain the balance of the community and the environment.

Earth Elementals: Eyewitnesses claim reports of little men 2-3 feet tall, usually bearded, dressed in caps.  Reports of females are rare.  They alleged g-reports show gnomes to be mischievous—even threatening—to humans.  When they are heard to speak, their voices are reported as “gruff.”  They do not like man-made metals.  They may hide metal objects or make metal objects appear.  They may be attached to mines and caves.  They may be attached to crystals and rocks.  They may cause animals to behave strangely, often scaring them (Lenihan & Green/2004).  They can cause a person to be suddenly overcome with a fear of being buried alive.  Occultist Dion Fortune also noted that agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home) may be a symptom of an earth elemental haunting  (Fortune/1971).

Water Elementals: Humans who interact with water elementals can become obsessed with water.  In occult literature, it is claimed that water elementals can cause a human to commit suicide by drowning themselves (Fortune/1971). Unexplained and repeated plumbing problems have allegedly been associated with water elementals.  Unexplained pools of water appearing are also reported.  Note:  water has been shown to be a conductor of electromagnetic fields (Kling Brothers Ghostlab/2010, and Wilson/2008).

Fire Elementals: Unexplained eruption of fires have been reported (Fortune /1971).  A human developing a sudden obsession with fire is also a symptom of fire elemental haunting.  Fireballs, self-reflecting orbs of light, and tongues of flame have also been reported.  Objects (i.e., furniture) spontaneously catching fire have been reported.
[Side note:  spontaneous human combustion has NOT been linked to elemental behavior.  Tests have indicated chemical imbalances, and alcoholism as possible sources of spontaneous human combustion (Wikipedia/2010).]

Air Elemental: Most elemental hauntings that have been documented in literature appear to be due to the influence of air elementals.  Air elementals throw and break objects.  According to occult literature, it is this elemental that is associated with sexual assault.(Fortune/1971) Air elementals cause agitation and fighting among humans in the locale where they are active.  Air elemental haunting have been associated with the suicidal impulse to jump from high places (Fortune/1971).  Air elementals have been connected abduction experiences and episodes of missing time.  They are also associated with joyful music, bell tones, and the sounds of happy parties.  Animals associated with their presence includes black dogs, horses, badgers, hares and pigs (Lenihan & Green/2004).  They have been known to leave “fairy rings” in the fields that they frequent.  The fairies are also associated with “fairy forts”, cairns, henges (stone circles) and hills (Evans-Wentz/1911).

[Side Note:  Recent studies have shown that old henges in Europe, America, India and South America have elevated electromagnetic fields, and are built using specific stones with elevated electromagnetic fields (Burke & Halberg/2005).]

Artificial Elemental or Tulpa: According to Tibetan, Theosophical, and Kabalistic occult literature, there is one more classification of elemental haunting:  the artificial elemental.  Alexandria David-Neel (David-Neel/1929) first used the word tulpa to describe an artificial elemental she created using an ancient Tibetan meditation technique.  The same being in Kabalistic literature is called a golem.  This is a thought-form created by a human, and has taken on a life of its own.

Unconscious thought-form creation occurs when a human mentally obsesses on an idea, object or person.  Conscious thought-form creation is a deliberate act of magic/magick.  A magician creates an entity for a specific purpose, infusing it through mental visualization with energy from his or her own vitality.  The entity becomes a problem when it comes back to be revitalized by the creator’s energy (Fortune /1971, Bearden/1980).

Some apparent poltergeist and/or “self-haunting” phenomenon may be an artificial elemental or tulpa haunting.

The Fifth Element: A Consideration:  In a future paper I will explore the type of beings associated in pre-Platonic and Eastern literature with the fifth element:  space.  Space is also known as ether, Akasa, or basic space.  It is this element that alchemists and philosophers have been concerned with.  Possible beings associated with space include jinn, dakinis, grey aliens and angels.


There is a vast amount of anecdotal material regarding elementals and their behavior.  The material spans from antiquity to modern times.  However, science has yet to prove the existence of these beings.  This leaves the paranormal investigator in a bit of a quandary.  We have make determinations regarding our cases based on folklore, mythology, religious, and anecdotal literature.  And even if we are skeptics, it is beneficial to our clients to have an understanding of the cultural conditioning that influences their belief systems.