We may receive a commission for purchases made by using the affiliate/partner links in this post at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to support our podcast!

In the course of our paranormal education, we’ve noticed that liminal spaces seem to attract the paranormal. What is a liminal space?

The word “liminal” refers to a threshold, either in the physical world (as in a doorway between rooms) or in time (as in the time between the job interview and the job offer). Physical liminal spaces include tunnels, bridges, and elevators. Because they exist in space, they tend to have a pre-determined beginning and end, and connect two pre-determined, concrete points. We may not always know what’s on the other side, but we trust the physical world to be there at the end of the bridge. In other words, what’s on the other side already exists in our dimension, whether we can perceive it or not. It may be scary to enter a dark tunnel, but we do it at 70 miles per hour because we have complete faith that we will get to exit them again in a predictable destination.

Liminal Spaces
A bridge shrouded in fog is a perfect example of a liminal space. Photo © Paweł Michałowski for Adobe Stock

But liminal spaces in time are scarier, because we can’t perceive the future.

But what about liminal spaces in our lives? When referring to a time period, the liminal space’s pre-determined nature is the opposite. As soon as we enter a liminal space in life, we face uncertainty. This is because the other side is not yet defined in our dimension. Handing in that assignment, we enter the uncertainty of wondering what our grade will be. Confessing our love for someone, we enter the uncertainty of whether they feel the same way. Dying…well, depending on your beliefs, that may be the most liminal period of your existence.

So, let’s assume that the ghosts that haunt our plane have a soul, a consciousness, and agency. Could we say that ghosts are those who have died, and just haven’t reached the other side of that liminal space in their existence yet? Would that explain the unparalleled hauntedness of physical liminal spaces? That beings stuck in a liminal space in time would also get stuck in physical liminal spaces? We’ve had so many guests tell us about hauntings that occurred on bridges, that we believe it.

Why do shadow people lurk in doorways?

We asked a recent guest why she thinks shadow people tend to lurk in doorways. As far as physical liminal spaces go, doorways are one of the shortest journeys to the other side. Contrast that with a tunnel, which you could be in for quite some time after entering before you’re 100% certain there’s another side. When the door is closed, it counts as a liminal space. You can use spatial reasoning, object permanence, and pattern recognition to predict what’s on the other side, but you still don’t KNOW. Any longtime player of the Resident Evil game series can tell you that opening the door is the scary part.

We’ve had so many guests tell us about hauntings that occurred on bridges, that we believe it.

As soon as the door opens, you can see your destination. The space goes from liminal to having a defined end point before you even start your physical journey through the doorway. As such, it’s only really a liminal space while the door is closed (or perhaps if the room beyond is too dark to make out). It’s like a two-dimensional liminal space, that only exists if you cannot see through it…

…much like…

…a shadow.

We put the physics in metaphysics.

We’ve mentioned before that shadows are the only truly two-dimensional objects that exist within our three-dimensional world. Sure, we say that a photo is two-dimensional. But that paper with ink has substance, it really only approximates two dimensions because it’s too thin to easily perceive its depth. What about a film projected on a screen? No physical substance…it’s just another type of shadow.

As NEITHER an expert on physics or metaphysics, I’d like to speculate that shadow people lurk in doorways because, as two-dimensional creatures, they feel more at-home haunting two-dimensional liminal spaces. And think of how they feel about us! To these Flatlanders, three-dimensional creatures moving through the doorway are probably difficult for two-dimensional shadow people to perceive. We would therefore be unpredictable, startling, and seem to appear and disappear without moving. The shadow people in our homes probably fear us worse than we fear them. I’m going to start saying “tabi tabi po!” as I approach doorways, just in case.

P.S. Bathrooms are liminal spaces, too.

While we’re at it, here’s a bit about bathrooms, a notoriously haunted liminal space