Help! My House Is Haunted!

(A DIY Guide for Reluctant “Ghost Hosts”)

By: Karen Stevens

You’ve just moved into your new home. Everything seems fine at first, but once the excitement of the move is over, you begin to feel as if someone is watching you. Perhaps you catch a glimpse of movement from the corner of your eye, but when you turn to look, no one is there. Maybe the children complain about seeing someone who quickly disappears, or your pets appear to be watching something that you can’t see. You may smell cigar smoke or the scent of bread baking when no one is smoking or cooking. Sometimes water faucets or electrical appliances turn themselves on, doors inexplicably open, or you’ll hear footsteps when no one is visible. You may step into cold spots that can’t be explained by drafts, cold spots that disappear after a moment or so. Is your new home haunted?

Not necessarily. Most “paranormal” phenomena can be explained by using a little common sense. Does a toilet flush itself? Check for a leaky flapper valve. Does your balance seem inexplicably “off?” Roll a marble to see if the floorboards are uneven. Did something trip you at the top of the stairs? Perhaps your heel just caught in worn carpeting. Do faucets turn on by themselves? It’s probably worn stem valves. Doors that open or close by themselves may just need to be leveled. Does your house have old wiring? Unshielded wires can create strong electromagnetic fields that can cause headaches, fatigue, rashes, or even make you feel as if you’re being watched by someone you can’t see. Shared ventilation systems may carry odors and noises from one apartment to another. Bats, mice, or other critters may cause odd sounds in the attic. Perhaps what you need is not a paranormal investigator but a plumber, electrician, carpenter, or wildlife expert.

If you’ve ruled out natural causes and the activity continues, have courage–there’s a lot you can do to help yourself. Begin by creating a log to record the events. Dates, time of day, names of witnesses, location, and a full description of what happened can help you spot a pattern that might reveal the cause of a haunting. The log will also be useful if you decide to call in a paranormal investigative team, who will attempt to find reasonable explanations for the phenomena you have experienced.

The next step is to decide whether you have a “residual” or “intelligent” haunting. We all give off energy as part of daily activity. Researchers theorize that energy can be absorbed by buildings, particularly those built of brick or stone. Residual energy never reacts to you. It’s like watching an old film, just a replay of something that occurred so many times in the past that the energies have become imprinted on the building. The phenomena may scare you, but it can’t interact with you. Eventually, the energies will fade away, although it can take many years. This type of haunting sometimes disappears when a building is remodeled, causing the embedded energies to disperse. About ninety percent of cases involve residual energies.

An “intelligent” haunting, on the other hand, involves an actual spirit that can interact with you. Have you heard a disembodied voice call your name? Have you been touched? If you see an apparition, does it react to your presence in some way? These cases account for about ten percent of all reported cases. Often the spirit is emotionally attached to the property and cannot or will not leave. Spirits may also linger near a treasured object that once belonged to them. Did you recently bring home a piece of used furniture? Antique dealers who buy furniture, jewelry, and other household items are well aware that “Grandpa” may come along with his old rocking chair or favorite pipe.

Want to play detective? Collect all the information about your home that you can. When was it built? Have there been any structural changes? Ask former owners or renters or neighbors if they’ve heard any stories about your home or apartment. Was there was a death on the premises? How about a murder or a suicide? No need to panic–contrary to popular opinion, murders and suicides rarely cause a haunting.

Have you concluded that you have an “intelligent” haunting? There’s still no need to panic. You’d be surprised how many people share their homes quite happily with a spirit. And why shouldn’t they? Many spirits are your own relatives or friends, just dropping in from time to time to see how you are doing.

Other spirits may not be as friendly. A few might even try to scare you away. Try to view the ghost’s situation with compassion. He (or she) may not know he has died. People he doesn’t know are living in his house and don’t seem to be able to see or hear him. Naturally he’s going to try to create noise or make things move in order to attract attention. Wouldn’t you?

Acknowledge the ghost. Talk to him, just as you would talk to a living person. He’ll hear you. State the current date and explain that he has died. If he’s welcome to stay in what is now your home, tell him so. If his behavior is unacceptable, let him know what you expect of him. If you don’t want him in the bathroom, tell him so! If you don’t want him frightening the children or scaring the dog, say so! Be decisive and firm. It’s your house, after all!

Ghosts, like children, will test the limits you set. To a large extent, how you and everyone else in the family react will determine the results. If someone gets a secret thrill from the activity and encourages it, don’t expect the ghost to pay much attention to your rules. Try to ease tension or discord among family members since negative emotions may attract negative entities. (OK, now you can panic!)

If unacceptable behavior continues, it’s time to insistthat the ghost leave your house. Point out that there are better places to spend eternity than lurking in your basement or a dusty attic. Suggest that he look around for a bright light and move toward it. Usually a member of his family who has already crossed over will come to help him across. If the ghost was estranged from his family, perhaps a beloved childhood pet will guide him. You can also ask your own deceased relatives and friends to help the lost soul cross over. Often, that’s all it takes. If it works, you’ll notice the difference immediately because the atmosphere will seem lighter.

If you decide to call in paranormal investigators, be aware that their objective is to try to find reasonable explanations for the phenomena, not to “drive out” ghosts. Be wary of anyone who promises to be able to “cleanse” your house of spirits, especially if they demand a large fee for their services. If it doesn’t work (and it probably won’t), their excuse will be that another spirit must have moved in and they’ll demand more cash for another “cleansing.” Would you take a second bite of a rotten apple? Probably not!

Many people have coped successfully with a haunting. You can too. All you need is courage, compassion and a large helping of common sense. Good luck!

about the author

Karen Stevens

Karen Stevens is a retired librarian who grew up in a haunted house. She has been fascinated by ghosts ever since. As a librarian, she enjoyed ferreting out answers to difficult questions. That's why she finds paranormal research so fascinating: there are no easy answers. The author of two books, "Haunted Montana" and "More Haunted Montana," she is currently working on "Glacier Ghosts" and another book in the "Haunted Montana series." In her spare time she accompanies the Montana Paranormal Research Society on investigations.

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