You've been hearing bumps and unexplained footsteps in the middle of the night, or get the feeling that someone is watching you, but when you turn round there is nobody there. The door opens or closes on its own, the dog is behaving strangely, or you keep having the same dream over and over again. You can smell pipe smoke, but no one in the family smokes, or, inexplicably, you feel an icy chill and goose-bumps on a hot summer's day.
Do any of these scenario's sound familiar? If so, you could have an unexpected house guest!
According to ghost investigator Lori Settle, these are all signs that your house could be haunted. Settle has been researching the phenomenon for six years, ever since her husband's untimely death which she attributed to the presence of an unwelcome entity in their home.
Since then, Settle has uncovered a host of evidence to support her theories that life persists beyond the grave, and she suggests that many people are unknowingly sharing their home with one or more ghosts: "There are more haunted houses than the public realizes or is willing to acknowledge," she said. "I denied everything in my house, so it's easier to deny it's happening than admit what may be causing it."
The chances of hangers-on from the hereafter are more likely if you live in an older house, as it is more likely that someone may have died there or formed an attachment to the building, but Settle says that every home, new or old, could be haunted as some ghosts are transient:
"Every home has the potential to be haunted, because sometimes entities will just be passing through," she said.
Scientists have yet to provide conclusive evidence that ghosts exist, but there is a weight of anecdotal evidence from reliable witnesses worldwide describing first-hand encounters of the supernatural. Despite this, the view of many scientists is that ghostly encounters are easily explained by legitimate natural phenomena, such as electromagnetic fields (ELF) from power lines causing 'flicker's in people's vision, or because people were psychologically disturbed and pre-disposed to feel fearful or paranoid.
Of course, sightings of "ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night" have been reported for hundreds of years, so ELF would not have been a viable explanation in history. Ghost hunters would also agree that mental illness is a trigger for paranormal activity, but only because spirits can be attracted to negative energies.
Bonnie Sauter, a psychic medium and owner of Good Vibrations New Age & Metaphysical in Blackwood, N.J. warns that feeling depressed or a cluttered, stuffy environment can attract entities:
"Ghosts are attracted to negative emotions or negative feelings, so if you're keeping everything shut, not letting fresh air in or light, right there you're creating an environment that could attract negative energy," she said.
Susan Bove, one of the founders of the Gloucester City-based South Jersey Paranormal Research, says that it is important not to dismiss anything unusual as just your imagination, but instead, to trust in your intuition:
"If you felt someone walk in a room, you turn around and don't see anyone," she said, "but in reality someone did walk in the room and because your eyes didn't see it, you dismissed it."
So, if you think that you may have visitors from beyond the grave, what can you do about it?
First of all, it is a good idea to research the history of your house to see if any significant events or deaths have occurred there. A new website has been launched called Diedinhouse.com may help to shed some light on pesky poltergeist predicaments, as the search engine allows home-owners to find out if anyone has died in their home. The idea for the site was conceived by landlord Ray Condrey when a tenant reported a spook in one of his rental properties. Condrey saw a genuine gap in the market, as this is information that many people think is significant when purchasing a new property as it can affect property prices, and in some states house vendors are not required to disclose this information unless the death has been violent. The site has proved to be extremely popular and is now selling around a thousand searches per day, both to homeowners and also ghost-hunters who often use the information when they are investigating cases for clients.
Some people are quite happy to live with unseen presences in their homes, however, especially if these are perceived to be non-threatening or the comforting spirits of deceasedrelatives. A recent survey by Realtor Mag revealed that 35% of the 1,400 respondents had already lived in a haunted house, and 34% said they would consider buying a house that was believed to be haunted as long as they received a discount on the asking price.
The most popular "warning signs" that a property could be haunted included a cemetery nearby; a home over a hundred years old; proximity to a battlefield, or an inexplicably low price for a "quick sale."
Fearless home-buyers did draw the line at some forms of paranormal activity and if the ghosts were seen to be too active then respondents rated the following five incidents as having the potential to scare them away:
- Levitating objects
- Ghost sightings
- Supernatural sensations
- Flickering lights/appliances
- Strange noises, such as footsteps and doors slamming
If you believe that you are already living in a haunted home, and don't want to share it with a banshee in the basement or a spectre in the study, then a sensible course of action would be to contact a reliable paranormal investigator or medium who will advise you on the many ways in which you can send your spirit off into the next world.
As a modern-day "Ghost-Buster", Susan Bove helps clients to "ghost-proof" their homes. She says that spirits are attracted to water as it is a good conductor of energy, so homes built over running water have the potential to attract a lot of supernatural activity. Seemingly innocuous household fixtures such as granite worktops can also be a magnet for lingering ghouls as granite stores energy.
Bonnie Sauter is used to providing a full-service when it comes to house clearances - as well as evicting errant entities she also runs F&F Pest & Termites Control in Turnersville, N.J. "I consider it another type of house cleaning," she chuckled.
The most widely-used method of cleansing a house is by burning white sage, shaking sea salt and ringing a bell whilst walking . Sauter, a former member of South Jersey Paranormal Research, says to first open every door, then sprinkle sea salt along each doorway.
For those who may mock this practice, one should remember that similar tools and burning incense have been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years on the premise of clearing negative energies.
Sometimes, if living occupants are known to be depressed then taking steps to address these issues and raise positive energy in the home can be the answer, though Sauter cites the shamanic belief that depression can be caused by a parasitic "spirit attachment."
"A lot of times negative energies are attracted to people who are depressed, that's just the way it is," Sauter says. "If that's the case, I recommend they do something with that."
For many people the subject of spooks and spectres will never be taken seriously and, should they themselves be subjected to unexplained phenomena, they will always seek a prosaic explanation. For others, such as Lori Settle who genuinely believes that an entity may have caused her husband's death, the subject is no laughing matter. Ultimately, these type of experiences must be interpreted in a way that feels comfortable for the individual. Certainly creating a comfortable home environment which one associates with positive, loving energy can be no bad thing, whatever the motivation for doing so. Addressing mental issues and depression, clearing clutter and keeping a home freshly aired and clean are all practical measures which will keep living occupants happy, regardless of their ability to encourage loitering wraiths to move on.
For pagans, Hallowe'en, All Hallows Eve, or Samhain, is considered to mark the end of the old year and the beginning of a new cycle. It is meant to be a time of reflection, transformation and regeneration, when the dead and the past are honoured, but preparations are made to welcome in the new year. What better time to look around your home and rid yourself of that which no longer serves you, whether this be old attitudes, items which are cluttering your home, or entities which may be existing in the shadows...
Here at Unknown Country we wish you a very Happy Hallowe'en and hope that you have fun - why not start this new cycle with a subscription to our unique site?