How to Spot Real Paranormal Activity in a House
Common Paranormal Activity
How do you know if the ‘footsteps’ you hear overhead are those of a ghost or just floorboards settling? When the lights dim and go out—is it a ghost that's causing it or just a faulty light bulb? It’s very easy to be duped by natural events in a house we think might be haunted. Weird sounds, odd smells, creepy shadows and eerie lights can all have logical explanations. When you can rule out common causes for peculiar effects, it is easier to spot real paranormal activity. The most common events are listed below but there are many others. A haunted location may have one or more of the incidents given, but it is rare for a location to have every kind of phenomena present at the same time. Some common indications of paranormal activity include:
- Unexplained Noises
- Objects/furniture misplaced and/or moving
- Electrical Disturbances
- Animal behaviour
- Feelings/Sensations—smells, being watched, cold and hot spots, being touched
- Seeing and hearing
Let's take a look at some of these anomalies and get a better idea of what to look for.
Ghosts, like ladies, never speak till spoken to.— Richard Harris Barham
From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!— Scottish Saying
Understanding Paranormal Activity
These can vary considerably in a haunted location but the most usual are footsteps, scratching, banging, thuds and knocking. Other sounds often reported are described as deep scraping noise as if heavy furniture was being moved around. Smashes and cracks have also been reported. However, when investigations take place the witnesses frequently report that nothing is out of place in the rooms the noises were heard in.
Objects Moving or Disappearing
Doors opening and closing on their own are common and normally these incidents are not seen by the witnesses, but on occasion are heard. Observers report leaving a room knowing they had securely closed either a cupboard or room door and on returning find it wide open. Chairs are another common object that move mysteriously. Eyewitnesses report chairs being moved anything from a few inches to the other end of a room. Other objects not only move but disappear altogether, only to turn up in either an impossible place—such as car keys in the shower—or in places where the visitors know they have already searched.
A very well known phenomena is that of lights dimming on their own and even switching on and off. Movie makers have made a horror film very atmospheric by the use of this creepy phenomena. However, it's no fun for the people whose home is subjected to this activity and it's not only lights that are affected. Televisions, telephones and computers all have reports of weird things happening including unknown faces appearing on the tv or computer screens.
Feelings & Sensations
There is a huge amount of recorded evidence from witnesses who testify to all manner of feelings and sensations in haunted locations. These can range from the feeling of being touched, poked, pushed, having their hand held, nips and slaps. In haunted locations it's also common for people to report odd smells that are not associated with any activity in the household—cooking smells, perfume and flowers are three of the most common. Foul odours are claimed by many to be a sign of a dark or evil spirit haunting. But before you run screaming from your house—I would check your plumbing, rubbish bins and so on for natural causes. Another phenomena that is very common is cold spots. People describe these 'cold spots' like walking into a freezer. Frequently the cold spots are described as icy breezes that have passed right through the person. Hot spots are also known to occur in active paranormal areas—again natural sources such as pipes behind a wall need to be ruled out if you have discovered a hot spot.
Animal behaviour—especially that of dogs and cats—can be an excellent indicator of paranormal activity. Pet owners in haunted locations often relate how their pets seem to be watching and following the movement of something that is not there. Pets will often react to certain areas of the house for no reason. This can either be with pleasure - as if they can see someone they know. On other occasions, pets have become aggressive and/or fearful of for example a particular room as if they are sensing an intruder and danger. The natural causes for unusual pet behaviour are numerous. Poor health is one, but you should also consider whether the pet's nervous behaviour is happening because of the anxiety of their owners. Pets are not only sensitive on a psychic level but are super sensitive to the feelings and moods of their owners.
Visual Signs & Hearing Voices
Real apparitions are rare. However, what is more commonly reported and are strange shadows, mists and lights. Shadow people as these strange manifestations are now called can in fact take many different forms—human and animal are the most common, but people have also reported other shadow shapes that have no definite outline. Mists are also very common. often appearing in areas of the house where mists shouldn't occur naturally—such as bedrooms, living areas and so on. If mists are only seen in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry areas then this is natural and not supernatural phenomena.
Hearing voices and whispering is another very common manifestation, as is hearing music, bells and all manner of other noises. Frequently investigators can capture these voices/sounds on camcorders. There are other voices and noises not heard by the ear that are picked up on gadgets such as tape recorders. These are known as EVP's (Electronic Voice Phenomena). As with all other phenomena, natural causes such as radios, TV's, computers, neighbours and passers-by need to be ruled out before classing any event as paranormal.
The first and most important rule when investigating alleged paranormal activity is to rule out natural causes first. For example, if you have unexplained noises and cold spots in your house does this mean it’s haunted? Perhaps, but it is more likely that you have creaky floorboards, bad plumbing and drafts coming in from a window, door or attic. This is the mode of thinking you need to keep: open-minded but levelheaded—whether it’s your own home you’re investigating or somewhere else.
The following is some of the basic but important tasks to carry out when investigating alleged paranormal activity:
- Interview witnesses and find out what they have experienced and when, also find out if anyone else was present to verify activity. If the activity is in your own home, then carry out the same routine among the family.
- Take notes and form them into a journal, (or on your computer). State the day, date and time activity is said to have occurred and then note down the experience. If you can, then research the history of the local area. In areas where true hauntings happen, the history of the house and surrounding environment often give clues as to why the place has ghostly events happening. A notebook or journal is also crucial for documenting paranormal activity that cannot be caught with electronic equipment, such as strange smells, feelings of being touched, and so on.
- Check the house for cold spots and hot spots. Although cold spots are by far the most common sign of paranormal activity, investigators have also found curious hot spots in haunted locations. You will of course need to rule out any possibility of draft from windows, doors and the roof before deciding you have an unexplained cold spot. With hot spots find out if the area has hidden pipes or any other means of transmitting heat.
- If there is a history of moving objects, such as doors opening and closing on their own, water taps turning on and off and so on, then set up a camcorder in the areas most affected. If you can't get access to a recorder you might have to arrange for vigils to take place in order to observe the activity as it happens.
- A common phenomena with hauntings is electrical disturbances such as lights and televisions going on and off with no apparent cause. Computers are also known to be affected. One manifestation that may occur in some haunted locations are the appearance of unknown faces on the TVs, computer screens and cameras. A camera can sometimes capture these, but often the results are not that good.
- If witnesses have reported visual activity such as strange shadows, lights (known as orbs) mists, apparitions or any other strange visual anomaly, then try to capture these with a camcorder/camera. As with other phenomena you have to rule out natural explanations such as reflections on glass, natural shadows and so on. One of the most mistaken ‘ghostly’ phenomena is orbs. Often people believe they are the energy of spirits, when in fact further investigation points to the lights being nothing more than insects or dust. Spirit lights and orbs have been captured on film - the best evidence are photographs and videos that have been scrutinised by experts who ruled out natural explanations.
- Other phenomena that can be fairly easy to catch at times are spirit voices. These are technically known as EVPs or Electronic Voice Phenomena. You don’t need sophisticated equipment. A simple and inexpensive hand held tape recorder will do. If you are using video then voices are often caught with this method anyway, so you would not need a tape recorder. The problem with EVPs is that they can be very difficult to understand even with sophisticated equipment and again you have to rule out common causes of voices such as TV's and radios. However, many people seem to have captured very good, clear evidence of voices that can't be explained by normal events.
What to Do if You Think You Have Paranormal Activity
What do you do if you find there is activity that you can't explain naturally?
Well for those of you who are frightened of the paranormal—don't panic! Despite what you see in movies and on 'real life' TV, people being harmed by spirits is not that common. If you feel you can't live with the phenomena in your home then one way to get rid of spirits is to tell them to leave! Seriously! This does work for many people.
If you feel that you need more support then there are a number of options open to you. Firstly you could contact a local investigation group. Most groups do not charge any fees for investigating but some might or they may ask for a donation to their group. Check out these details before you ask anyone to call.
There are also numerous web sites, some with forums and live chats, that can give immediate support. Most of these web sites also give direct links to groups that can help you.
I hope at least some of the information in this article has been of help to you with your possible ghostly problem. But remember, If you do have a genuine haunting, any spirits lingering about may be just as scared of you as you are of them!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Helen Murphy Howell