By now, we’re all familiar with the different ways a haunting can manifest and we’ve discussed how to alleviate its ghastly symptoms, but how can we tell for sure that a home is haunted?
To recap what we’ve learnt in our previous Ghost Guide, common paranormal activity includes:
- Sudden temperature changes
- Unexplained noises
- The sighting of apparitions
- The movement, disappearance and reappearance of objects
- Feelings of being watched
- Unusual or extreme emotions
There are earthly causes for strange phenomena, as many a skeptic is eager to point out, and as good paranormal investigators, we should be more than willing to explore them. So whether you’re a seasoned ghost hunter, or a haunted homeowner, let’s separate the ‘super’ from the ‘natural’ and examine the alternative causes of haunting activity.
Common Household Interference
Imagine you’re sitting in a house with a fearsomely haunted reputation. You experience a chill and it becomes noticeably colder. If there are others in the room, they notice it too. You share a look between you, as you’re sure the energy is building. Then, without warning, a door slams shut.
One of the most common symptoms of a haunting is probably the easiest to debunk. Many in the paranormal field believe that sudden temperature changes indicate ghostly activity and often act as a warning of such activity. The theory behind this is that the spirit draws energy from its surroundings in the form of heat in order to manifest. Of course, without the help of a thermometer, or better, a thermal camera, this leaves such evidence anecdotal. Be mindful that it may be a case of a simple draught. But what about the example above, where the temperature drop actively correlates with activity such as slamming doors? You probably don’t need an expert to remind you that a draught can be more than a simple breeze and a door left ajar can be pulled from pillar to post by a sudden gust.
So, if you’re suffering from sudden temperature changes, I’d advise first checking for draughts. Getting to know what’s normal for your home will help you in your search for evidence by letting you rule out the mundane.
If, like me, you’re a fan of BBC’s Ghostwatch, the very mention of ‘Pipes’ will send you into a shiver. Knocking, groaning or that weird rustling that had me convinced a rat lived in my roof for the longest time, are often perfectly normal house noises. In the day time, these sounds are often masked, but at night, they echo through the halls and send your imagination into a spin. If you find yourself troubled by phantom knocks or footsteps in the attic, it’s best to make note of where your pipes sit. If the noises originate from the same areas, or seem to coincide with the heating routine, they may be the cause.
Back when I was beautiful, a friend came to me and said, “Lucius, I fear our house is haunted!” When I inquired further, he told me that whilst attending to his personal business in the latrine, he was startled by the ghostly voice of a little girl chanting, “I really love you,” in that ominous sing-song tone that only children are capable of. As we were a house of five strapping bachelors, this was rather unusual. Now, this house backed onto a graveyard which – I am certain – encountered a change of boundaries at some point in its history due to the haphazard arrangements of the stones closest to our fence. I encountered more than a few residual travellers during my time there, but my friend’s auditory visitation was out of place. I would like to say I investigated thoroughly, however a chance encounter with our new neighbours and their young daughter debunked the whole ghostly debacle. Our houses shared a poorly built interior wall which, with open windows and a moment of uncharacteristic silence, transmitted sound between them with unusual effectiveness.
The moral of this story is, be mindful of your neighbours as a home is not nearly as soundproof as you’d hope. I do not know which of the neighbour’s room our wall shared, but I do hope it was rarely used, as the sounds (and smells) emitted from the bathroom of five bachelors was surely akin to something demonic.
Remaining in the realm of shared living, sometimes simple paranormal activity can be attributed to awful roommates, visitors and family members. Items disappearing and reappearing can easily be attributed to living roommates or family members, even if they swear they haven’t borrowed your earrings, even though they were wearing them in that picture on facebook. Maybe a ghost magically put them on their dressing table, maybe they just “forgot”.
If however, you’re finding food or toiletries going missing – especially if you live alone – maybe get some friends ‘round and check that attic, ok? If there’s one thing scarier than sharing your home with an uninvited guest, it’s sharing it with an uninvited living guest.
Uncommon Household Interference
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Some people find a haunted location effects them physically. They may feel dizzy, weak or nauseas, or experience chest pain and headaches. This may occur in certain areas more than others.
These effects can be caused by any number of things – physical, psychological or spiritual – but it’s important to rule out the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, particularly when investigating a haunted home or domestic location.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning can also cause confusion, as experienced by this Redditor, who reached out to the Reddit community for help after experiencing troubling events in their home.
Whether or not your ghostly experiences are down to gas leaks, setting up a carbon monoxide detector in your home is never going to be a bad thing.
Sound is a funny old thing, you know, and infrasound is even weirder.
Also known as low-frequency sound, infrasound consists of sound waves with a frequency below 20Hz, which is the lower limit of human hearing. This can be created by natural and manmade events, such as earthquakes, and is also produced by animals such as wales and elephants.
Studies have shown that when humans are exposed to infrasound, it can induce a feeling of anxiety, sorrow and nausea. Similar experiments conducted by the U.S Space Program indicated that extremely high levels of infrasound can cause nausea, visual disturbances and difficulty communicating.
Although infrasound at this extreme level is not easily replicated in a domestic setting, frequencies of around 17Hz – which can be caused by fans, wind turbines, engines and some sound systems – have been reported to cause feelings of unease. As such, the effects of infrasound have been proposed by some to cause some “paranormal” experiences.
So, if you find yourself constantly uneasy in your home, try unplugging your electrics or reassess your surroundings – something may be generating an infrasonic frequency that’s getting right on your nerves.
Psychiatric Conditions Including Alzheimer’s & Dementia
Dismantling the stigmatisation and misrepresentation of mental illness in the media – particularly within my beloved horror genre – is a soapbox I’m willing to die on, and regardless of whether you’re a firm paranormal believer, or die-hard skeptic, the mental health of the person or family at the centre of any supernatural activity needs to be addressed.
For the person at the centre of a haunting, it’s easy to hear, “you’re seeing ghosts, you must be crazy,” when people say, “Let’s rule out a psychiatric cause for the events you’re experiencing.” It’s a tricky subject, made more difficult if there is a history of mental illness, but by uncovering the cause of such experiences, we can take steps to make it better.
Symptoms of an underlying condition may be easier to spot in someone else, rather than yourself, so a full assessment of your health by an outside professional won’t go amiss if you’re being troubled by distressing unexplained events.
If you, a live-in family member or the haunted home owners are of a certain age, it’s also important to rule out the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia.Items going missing or appearing in strange places and visual or auditory disturbances can occur in such conditions, so, particularly if the “paranormal” activity has developed recently, it’s always advisable to have a word with a doctor and go from there.
Epilepsy is a condition that is often brought up in cases of supposed demonic possession, but is sometimes overlooked when discussing haunted homes.
Seizures aren’t just convulsions and can present in periods of “strange feelings”, deja vu, tingling sensations, unusual smells or tastes or intense feelings of joy or fear. Alternatively, a person may have periods of lost awareness, and exhibit ‘random body movements’, ranging from lip movements to walking or fiddling with items.
Some of these symptoms may seem hard to keep track of, particularly if you live alone, so don’t be afraid to visit your doctor.
For people who believe wholeheartedly in the paranormal, it’s easy to convince yourself that every bump in the night is a ghost, but as paranormal investigators and homeowners, it’s irresponsible not to explore every option. As boring as it sounds, most haunting phenomena can be explained by some combination of the above, but by ruling out the mundane, we’re left with the unknown and that, my friends, is where adventure awaits.
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–Dr LJ Hawthorn