What to do if your house is haunted
Have you ever walked into a room in your home and felt that something just wasn't right? Or thought you saw someone, or something, out of the corner of your eye, but when you turned to look, nothing was there? Maybe it's footsteps, funny smells, cold spots or missing objects that have you hiding under the covers. If so, you're not alone.
According to a 2006 Ipsos Reid poll, one in five Canadians say they've been in the presence of a ghost, and nine per cent have lived in a haunted house. What's more, almost half of Canadians polled say they believe in these spooky spirits.
If you've ever thought there might be more to the things that go bump in the night, read on to find out what you can do to rid your home of unwanted houseguests.
Signs of a haunting
Funny sensations, smells or sights don't necessarily mean your house is haunted — sometimes there's a perfectly logical explanation for these phenomena. If ominous-looking shadows send shivers up your spine, look for the sources of light casting those shadows. Ghostly knocks and groans could simply be an undiagnosed plumbing or furnace problem. Objects falling could be caused by your house settling, or perhaps heavy truck traffic is causing vibrations.
"There are several indicators to a possible haunting," says Sue Darroch, a paranormal investigator and founder of ParaResearchers of Ontario, such as seeing apparitions, animals acting strangely or a general sense that something isn't right. "The important thing is to try to rule out all natural causes before jumping to a supernatural one."
Once the natural causes have been eliminated, you can start thinking about the paranormal ones. Rest assured, blood dripping from the walls or televisions that communicate with children are the stuff of Hollywood fiction. The first step to busting ghosts is frighteningly mundane: Write down everything that's been happening.
"Documentation is the best thing you can do," says investigator Steven Dietrich, previously of Golden Horseshoe Ghost Haunts in Hamilton, Ont. "Try and keep a record. Where did [the activity] happen? Who was there at the time? What time was it? Is it affecting certain people?"
Gathering this information will help you figure out any patterns and maybe even a rational explanation. If you're still stumped, don't panic. Some experts, such as ParaResearchers, suggest taking ownership of the situation. In a firm, but polite voice, say out loud that this is your home and certain scary behaviour is unacceptable. The ghost may choose to behave itself or find another home to haunt.
If that fails, you can ask a local priest to bless the house. Or a psychic can assist with a cleansing, in which the house is rubbed clean of the spirit, or a clearing, in which the psychic communicates with the spirit to let him or her know it's time to move on.
Who you gonna call?
If this seems too much to handle or the activity is increasing in intensity, it might be time to call in a team of paranormal investigators. They'll be able to help you determine what kind of an entity or haunting you're dealing with and help you choose the best course of action.
Is it a residual haunting whereby an apparition repeats the same activity over and over without realizing you are there? Or is it an intelligent haunting where the ghost is aware of his or her surroundings and may try to communicate with you? Loud noises, rapping or lights turning on and off could be signs of poltergeist activity.
Finding an investigator is as easy as typing "ghost haunting" or "paranormal investigation" into an online search engine. Ontario residents can also check out the comprehensive links and resources page at TorontoGhosts.org. The tricky part is distinguishing the good investigators from the bad.
"Ask for their credentials and verify them," says Darroch. "Do not assume just because someone has been on TV or in the paper they are reputable. Do not open your wallet to people who have made a for-profit business out of ghost-busting."
Take a look at their website and see how long they've been investigating. Check out what kind of equipment they use — it can be everything from cameras, voice recorders, camcorders and thermometers (for measuring temperature variations) to electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors, night-vision cameras and thermal imaging equipment. Remember, the tools aren't the important part — it's how they're used.
Read up on how they conduct their investigations, then look at their case histories to see what kinds of situations they've dealt with. Contact several investigators and be sure to ask lots of questions. If any of them ask for money, walk away.
"If they're a good investigator, they should be able to go into the home completely unbiased as to what they're going to find," says Morgan Knudsen, co-founder of Entityseeker, an Edmonton-based paranormal researcher and investigator. "They should have a good array of equipment to monitor the environment and they should be able to formulate a plan to figure out a solution no matter what you want."
The last thing you want is for a team to come into your home, explain what's going on and then leave. A good investigator can help you find ways to cope with the stress of having your home turned upside down and then devise an effective eviction plan.
And yet sometimes, says Knudsen, it's best to leave your unseen houseguests alone.
"I've got a ghost in my place right now and he's fine — you'd never know he was there," says Knudsen. "He shows his face from time to time doing things around the house but there's such a healthy respect between the two of us, there's no issue." She adds, "It's a balanced situation — you can live with these spirits."
Fiona Wagner is a freelance writer who lives in Georgetown, Ont.
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