I light some candles, turn on a fog machine, and try to channel the other side. I learn all about ghosts across time and cultures, study common ghost hunting techniques, and try to detect paranormal activity in my house.
I ain’t afraid no of Ghosts
Let’s get it out of the way: I don’t believe in ghosts and never have. I come from a family of skeptics and it rubbed off on me.
But as I mentioned, I’ve dedicated this month to all things occult and other worldly. I’m up for trying most things at least once. What better place to start than with Ghosts?
This is especially timely because with COVID and so many people being home for months, the number of haunted houses reported is on the rise. [https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-the-friday-edition-1.5571716/haunted-house-reports-on-the-rise-during-pandemic-says-paranormal-researcher-1.5571882]
A ghost is the soul or spirit of a person or animal that appears to the living. They vary from being completely invisible, translucent, barely visible shapes to realistic, life-like forms.
The belief in ghosts and the afterlife go back to pre-literate times and plenty of burial practices and ceremonies were to appease the spirits.
The word “ghost” comes from the old English “gast”, which is rooted in German and eventually leads to the Old Norse word for “to rage”. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the word came to mean “the soul of a dead person seen in a visible form”.
The word “spook” is Dutch and came into the English language in the 19th century.
These spirits generally work alone and haunt specific locations, objects, or people. Enough people feel haunted that 18% of Americans surveyed in 2009 said they had seen a ghost and 34% say they believe in ghosts.
Fear of ghosts goes as far back as the belief of their existence since they were seen as unnatural and the fear is the basis for a significant part of modern horror fiction.
Ghosts have been seen as airy, misty materials since they represent the soul resembling our breath when it’s cold outside. They’re usually out for vengeance or imprisoned on earth because of bad things they did when they were alive.
Common ghosts are “white ladies”, women who were thought to have died tragically or suffered trauma, like losing a child or husband, and were a precursor to one’s own death.
Then there are the ghost ships of the 18th century and Pirates of the Carribean.
Ghosts have been around for millennia across the world, but have they actually been around? Do they really exist?
Ghosts and Science
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that ghosts do not exist and are categorized as pseudoscience.
As early as 1813, ghosts were seen in the science community as optical illusions and 30 years later as hallucinations. Generally, the limitations of our perception and ordinary physical explanations account for ghost sightings and hauntings.
Some of these physical explanations include:
- changes in air pressure when doors open and close causing other doors to slam shut
- humidity causing floor boards to squeak
- condensation on electronics causing them to behave erratically
- lights of a passing car at night reflecting on things
Our vision itself is also to blame since we don’t have the greatest peripheral vision and tend to confuse things we see just on the outside of our vision at night or when we’re tired.
The Earthy’s tectonic plates have been blamed as well – the geomagnetic fields they create are said to mess with our temporal lobes and produce the haunting experiences.
Our sense of sound can also be blamed. Using infrasound, we can experience anxiety and stress, a feeling of being watched, and chills.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is another very real cause of ghosts sightings and thoughts.
I remember reading about a case on Reddit where someone posted in the Legal Advice subreddit that their landlord was leaving notes around their home about things they had never told anyone. There were no signs of break-ins and their webcam set to record if it detected motion had no recordings.
When one comment suggested that they were actually suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, the poster got a detector and confirmed that it was in fact a carbon monoxide causing them to write the notes and not remember doing so.
As we learn more about sleep and the lack of sleep, sleep paralysis has been linked to a common factor for people who report seeing ghosts in their sleep.
Alright, so there are a bunch of reasons and ways scientists account for ghosts but then what about ghost hunters – what are they hunting and how do they know they got something?
Ghost hunting is the act of investigating haunted places looking for ghosts. Ghost hunters try to gather evidence to support the idea of paranormal activity. That sounds pretty scientific.
They use a bunch of different tools to detect paranormal activity and ghosts, including:
- Electromagnetic field detectors to detect unexplained fluctuations
- Digital thermometers
- Thermographic and night vision cameras
- Audio recorders
- They also conduct interviews and research location history
Ghost hunting and paranormal research dates back to the 18th century and blew up in the 2000s with shows like Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters, doubling memberships to paranormal groups and societies.
Small business have sprung up selling specialized, ghost hunting tools and equipment, books, DVDs, tours
Do we have Ghosts?
To try ghost hunting, I figure there’s no harm in checking if our house is haunted. So I Googled how to check and here’s what I found:
- Pay attention to temperature. Remember the Sixth Sense? Unexplained temperature changes are a good indication of other worldly presence. Or in our case 2 years ago, a broken furnace in February in Canada.
- Strange technological glitches. This one caught my eye because our house has been filled with them, especially when my wife is present. We have had lights flicker and even smart home speakers start playing random Spotify playlists in the middle of the night. That last one we tracked to a hacked account, but in this day and age, even ghosts must know how to use Spotify.
- Unusual scents. This can range from cologne and perfumes you don’t own to the traditional sulphur smell. I can’t say that we’ve seen a lot of this. I’m pretty sensitive to smells and don’t even like the smell of freshly baked cookies.
- Objects moving or unidentifiable sounds. This is your typical poltergeist scenario. We’ve actually had a lot of unidentifiable sounds, especially in the middle of the night. It doesn’t help that we were once burglarized in the middle of the night while we were sleeping. With as much stuff we have in as many closets as we do, it’s not a surprise things tend to fall and settle. By why overnight…?
- Pets making contact. If you listed to the Grooming episode, you know we had a dog. We also had a cat, who seemed to have been possessed by himself. He would randomly run full speed in and out of rooms and lung at people and even up windows and doors. This is probably the strongest indication that we have some sort of spirit occupant.
Since I’m skeptical, I enlisted the help of my wife, Laura, to really give this ghost hunting thing the college try. I asked her a few questions to get her perspective:
- Do you believe in ghosts?
- Do you think our house has ghosts?
- Which room or rooms do you think are most likely to be haunted?
- Have you experienced any of the following:
- Strange temperature changes
- Strange technological glitches
- Unusual scents
- Objects moving or unidentifiable sounds
- Either Waffle or Gus acting strange
If you find a Ghost
What happens if you find a ghost? How do you get rid of it or cleanse your house?
According to Google and Reddit, it’s pretty easy:
- Using sage, start at the top of your house and work your way down, including closets. This is actually called “smuging” and is part of a healthy, energy cleanse ritual. This may take a few sweeps to get the spirts to leave and may require chants.
- Leave a window open as you work so that the spirit has some way to leave
- Put a crystal under your pillow to protect you while you’re sleeping
- Sprinkle sea salt outside your doors and window sills
- If none of this works, you need a professional shaman.
- Finally, check for gas leaks
I admit that I went into this hobby with the same seriousness as mooing, but it turned out to be a bigger part of our shared history. Death and the afterlife have always been a big part of our culture and where we have for thousands of years tried to give some sort of structure and logic.
Fearing death is normal and common, and I think ghost hunting and hunters are trying to conquer those fears. It makes sense then that I’m skeptical because I look at death as a natural part of life and don’t attach any superstitious, spiritual, or religious meaning to it. Where do we go when we die? The same place we were before we were born.
This hobby is not for me..wait..what was that noise? Did you hear it too?