Basically there are two types of hauntings, there is the residual haunt and the active haunt. The residual haunt is often refered to as a recorded haunt or the energy from an event that took place in the past, yet replays time and time again. This event occures at the same time everytime. It could be the same month, day, or time of day or night that the original event happened. The participants of these occurences or spectral forms that are sometimes associated with these events, do not interact or acknowledge the presence of any witnesses. It merely acts out it's part in the repetitive scene.
The second type of haunting is the active haunt. This involves a spirit or entity that actively involves the people around it. This can be visible manifestation, objects moving, objects disappearing only to be found later in another location, unexplained sounds, smells, or lights, voices that seem to come from nowhere. Items can be thrown across the room in some cases.
This is not Hollywood. These types of occurences don't happen all at once, nor all to the same family. In most cases, a haunting is just the spirit of a deceased person trying to be noticed and acknowledged. They do not want to hurt anyone. In some cases, the ghosts are upset about something trivial like; remodeling that's being done, things happening in the house they don't like, or they think they still own the house and you should get out. In rare instances, you can come across a real nasty spirit who does want to harm someone. They were bad people in life, so they are bad in death. These entities are sometimes refered to as demons because of how negative they are. Bad in life but with a slight sense of humanity equals criminal, bad in death with no humanity at all equals evil.