Emotion in nearby living beings feed the spirits’ power. Fearful humans nearby make it grow stronger, bolder, more powerful but also more unstable. More unreliable. More disturbed.
Since the spirit no longer has a body, or a brain, it is not able to act like it once did. However, as it was formed as a human it still sees itself in the shape of a human. The shadow of a human being. To others, the spirit looks like its old remembered self. This is termed the ‘veil of self’, the facade that memories drape the soul in to keep it calm and focused, to prevent itself from panicking. This causes the outward appearance of the ghost to resemble its image of itself, although distorted by all the memories and parts of its personality that have dissolved since then.
A common exception to the above is that hiding the cause of death is very difficult. The memory of death is deeply seared into its subconscious. Any visible scarring or wounds attributed to its death will show through the facade. The real external self of the spirit is always its old body. The soul is still tied to its old body, after all it is very hard for it to let go. When the spirit is seen through a mirror or reflection, or sometimes when it is observed without being aware of others or itself, this shows through. It then appears as its dead body, or perhaps such as the corpse during the final hours, as seen by its loved ones.
This is also an effect of the spirit losing control of itself. When enraged or disturbed, the ‘veil of self’ breaks and it can appear as its corpse or skeleton to others and to itself. This is not only traumatizing to the victim but can also be so for the spirit, as it still seems to believe in some ways that it is alive. After all that is what most its memories tell it to believe. If one can make a spirit realize that it is indeed dead, that may lead to some hope in breaking the chains that bind it. This is a risky endeavor however, as failure means getting caught up in its vengeful denial of the truth, often with a horrible outcome for the living.
The keys to understanding the spirit are always in its past. Whether one wants to is another question entirely, as these events evidently created enough horror to still echo through time and space. The reader should be aware of the very real dangers it means to tread in the darkness of the human soul. These memories are simultaneously its strength and its weakness, and expressions of this will leave traces behind; breadcrumbs that can sometimes be followed to their source. The closer one gets to the truth, the more power the spirit will come to hold over them.
A spirit is in a sense imprisoned in its own decaying mind, continually living the same experience and unable for the most part to realize it. It is often not in full control of its senses, and while intending to communicate it can often lash out in frustration, causing real harm to the living. While this harm can be physical, it is more often emotional. This, coupled with the fact that the ones easiest affected are the ones who themselves carry trauma or experiences similar to the spirit can lead to irrational or self-harming behavior in us humans.
For those so inclined, carefully observing the spirit over time holds the possibility of slowly understanding it. This, combined with any information that can be gleaned from historical records may help in building the full picture of its eternal suffering. The reader should beware that disturbing it while doing so inevitably leads to enforcing its haunting, and comes with increasing instability and danger. The risk therein is to overestimate ones ability to stand unaffected. The human mind is fragile, and our most powerful mental shield is ignorance.
Just like human beings, all spirits are unique. There is no single way to treat them. They may feel heartbroken, misunderstood, betrayed, vengeful or purely sadistic. Note that I do not use the word evil, as just like with us humans things are never that easy. However, the nature of the spirit will determine how to approach it in the least unsafe manner.
As my closing words on this topic, dear reader, if you ever encounter a being such as this: Do not let curiosity get the better of you. Some things are not meant to be disturbed.
Archibald G. Kardec
Magistrate of the Study of the Supernatural, February 2, 1878