Hallowe’en is almost upon us, and with it an assortment of ghosts, goblins and Green Lanterns soon to arrive at your door.
But what if your abode doesn’t just receive phantoms and phantasms during the annual costumed candy grab of All Hallows’ Eve?
How would you know if you’re being haunted – for real?
(Insert creepy organ music and distant maniacal laughter here.)
“The most common signs would be people reporting hearing sounds in the house, particularly when they’re all alone, or everybody else is asleep,” says Joel A. Sutherland, author of the newly minted Haunted Canada, Volume 5.
“People often report hearing voices as well, in other rooms. Sometimes it sounds like one person speaking or moaning or crying, other times people report hearing what seems to be a conversation – perhaps a few spirits. When they run into the room, there’s nobody there.”
Unaccountable footsteps from upstairs, from down the hall. And again, nobody there.
“Another really common sign would be cold spots, or unusual drafts,” Sutherland adds.
“If somebody feels a cool breeze, and looks around and doesn’t see any vents, and all the windows are closed, that might be a sign that a spirit just passed right by, as well.”
Or not. Many a thing that goes bump in the night turns out to be nothing more than merely a thing that went bump in the night.
“What I find really interesting is when people I interview have many, many different signs present in their house that a ghost may be there. Not just one cold spot: then it’s just a problem with their A/C. But when they have cold drafts, they hear voices or footsteps, when they start capturing weird light orbs or misty apparitions when they take pictures – when a lot of things happen in one house, that’s interesting.
“Furthermore, it’s intriguing when multiple people in the same family have experienced the same phenomena, are seeing or feeling the same odd sensations, or there are different families that have lived in the house. That’s even better. When people don’t know each other, and start experiencing the same thing. That’s really cool. Then you think: maybe there’s something else to these claims.”
We’re being largely light-hearted here, of course.
But there are experts out there who take ghosts and haunting very seriously.
Greg Pocha is director of paranormal/parascience/parapsychology studies at Eidolon Project Canada.
Ghosts and haunting are his area of professional expertise. He agrees most haunted house claims can be readily explained away, but stresses that this field of inquiry and exploration cannot – and should not – be dismissed.
“My purpose is not to debunk hauntings, or to disprove the existence of ghosts or an afterlife,” he says.
“On the contrary, my search is for proof – but not at the expense of the truth. Like doctors, we just don’t tell a person the first time we meet them that they have a disease. We run tests, talk, diagnose, and then come up with a conclusion.”
Pocha notes that pop culture has overloaded many an imagination, to the point where any odd little creak or bang gets instantly blamed on a ghost.
“Media – especially television – has sensationalized the paranormal to cult levels,” he says, adding that TV can drop brain activity into a lower frequency, and quite literally be hypnotic.
“The Alpha stage of brain wave activity, like hypnosis, can make susceptible people believe that what they are seeing is true in nature. They are programming their subconscious to become more open to the idea of ghosts and hauntings, especially if they have a strong belief in such things to begin with.”
So those bangs, creaks, voices and cold spots are not – in most cases – ghosts.
But they might be.
“To this date we have reached no conclusion, so the search for the truth goes on,” Pocha says.
“Neither a stout believer nor a blind cynic, I explore.”