What’s it like to live in a haunted house?

What’s it like to live in a house that’s really haunted? Do people always have to leave their haunted houses if the ghosts won’t leave?

Most haunted houses are benign. I’ve lived in a few.

haunted stairwayGenerally, it’s like living with an invisible roommate. Some ghosts can be annoying.

That’s especially true if the ghost likes to turn lights on and off, adjust the volume on the TV, or turn a faucet on and leave the water running.

I don’t mind ghosts in my house. I do mind any inconveniences they create.

Downtown Houston’s famous ghost

One of the most persistently annoying ghosts haunts downtown Houston, Texas. She is Mrs. Pamelia Mann, one of Houston’s most famous madams.

Many evenings, Mrs. Mann strolls around the Market Square block she once owned.

She visits ladies rooms (toilets) in modern-day clubs and restaurants on that block.

Once in each ladies room, she locks the door so others cannot enter. Then, she vanishes. The staff are not amused, because they have to keep unlocking the door at the request of impatient patrons.

However, the living and spirits of the dead usually find ways to stay out of each other’s way.

Other famous haunted homes

Lantern outside Salem haunted houseAt some locations, such as the Myrtles Plantation, the staff regard the ghosts as friends. Many people who live in haunted houses feel the same way about their ghosts.

I know one homeowner in Salem (MA, USA) who is extremely protective of “her” ghost. Although the first floor of her haunted home is a shop, she won’t allow anyone inside if she thinks they’re looking for her ghost.

That’s a little extreme.

The owner of the Lizzie Borden house seemed comfortable with that house’s ghosts.

TV, movies, and reality

Many TV shows and movies present scary ghosts. Reality is very different.

Once people become accustomed their ghosts (and vice versa), some seem to forget they live in a haunted house.

When I’ve lived in haunted houses, I’ve been unable to forget they’re there. Not for long, anyway. Sometimes, I’ve been startled by an apparition floating across my kitchen. Unearthly footsteps still surprise me when I’m tired, especially if the ghost has been silent for a while.

Despite that, living with ghosts can be easier than living with roommates.  Ghosts don’t steal your food, come home drunk at night, or leave the seat up.

I’m okay with that.

How can I see a ghost?

If you’d like to see a ghost, you may need to do a lot of ghost hunting.

Many long-time ghost hunters have never seen a ghost. Not one that they were sure was really there.

Apparitions — ghosts that you can actually see — are rare.

Most of the time, people think they may have seen something, but — at the time — it surprised them so much, they didn’t instantly think “ghost.”

  • It may have been an unexplained flicker of light or a shadow.
  • It might have been just part of a ghostly figure, like a face that was there one moment, and gone the next.
  • It could have been a full apparition that they mistook for someone living, dressed in a costume. (That’s common at some living history events.)
  • It could have been a full or partial apparition the person saw for just a second, out of the corner of his or her eye. And then, it was gone.
  • In many cases, the ghostly image shows up as a reflection in a window, mirror, or shiny surface like a table top.
  • It may be a shadowy figure, whether or not it’s a “shadow person.”

However, seeing a ghostly figure that looks “like a ghost” (either solid or translucent) and realizing it’s a ghost while you still see it… that’s so extraordinary, I can’t recall anyone talking in those terms.

ghostly mistIn other words, if you want to see a ghost, be observant. Notice everything, especially the things that make you do a quick double-take.

Chances are, you won’t be sure it was a ghost until minutes after it’s vanished. And, even then, you may have doubts.

Keep your expectations low. Don’t insist that you have to see a ghost to believe in them.

Some people see anomalies. Some only photograph them. Others hear anomalous sounds or voices. Yet others only record them. And so on.

As you investigate haunted sites, you’ll develop a “sixth sense” related to your unique way of tuning-in to ghosts.

It may not be anything visual. If it is, let me know what you experience. Leave a comment at this article. I’m always interested in apparitions… when they happen, where, and exactly what they look like.

Few people actually see a ghost, but — if you do — it can be extraordinary.

How do ghosts affect the afterlife?

Three things are required to answer this question:

– First, you must believe in ghosts. I believe spirits visit us and sometimes interact with us.

mirror– Then, you must believe that the afterlife can be studied from our plane of existence.

I’m not sure we can make many inroads there. We seem to do better studying ghosts and spirits — visitors from the realm of the afterlife — than trying to perceive where they do (or should) reside.

– Above all, you must conduct this research yourself. It’s such a subjective topic, little that I can say would (and perhaps should) be useful.

These are topics best explored and decided by the individual, perhaps with a spiritual counsellor.

Speculation is okay… for fiction

In general, we can speculate that spirits on the other side are sympathetic to the plight of ghosts.

I believe some spirits are trying to help ghosts cross over, just as people on this side want to help.

Also, I’ve wondered if ghosts represent something that pre-dated the “in limbo” concept, because that’s what they’re doing, more or less.

So, it’s a great concept for fictional tales in which an angel or spirit briefly reincarnates to help a spirit (or ghost) cross over.

But, that’s fiction.

I also wonder if some ghost hunters — especially mediums and psychics — are prompted by spirits on the other side. Those spirits may lead the ghost hunters to sites where ghosts are trapped, and need some encouragement to cross over.

It seems like a happy thought, but I have no basis for it.

Mostly, this is wandering so far into spiritual topics, I cannot address the subject credibly.

Is the ocean haunted?

Some of the most enduring ghost stories describe haunted ships and galleons.

– For over a century, we’ve heard tales of the ghost crew on the Flying Dutchman.

– Ghost ships regularly visit Salem (MA, USA) harbors.

– According to a recent PBS series, a ghost ship appears before the death of each Duke of Argyll.

Ships - is the ocean haunted?Stories like those are difficult to investigate.  Those ships appear without warning, and at different locations.

Nevertheless, sightings are so well documented, it’s a mistake to think all of them are folklore.

Evidence suggests a connection between ghostly anomalies and water. Famed researcher Colin Wilson noted the poltergeist-water connection at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose (CA, USA).

Researchers reported far more ghosts in New Orleans’ after it flooded during Hurricane Katrina. Of course, graves and crypts were disturbed or destroyed by high water. I think it was more than that.

However, I’m not sure the ocean is more haunted than land masses.

Maybe it is. For example, I’ve heard reports of normally stalwart divers feeling uncomfortable around the sites of sunken ships.

For now, it’s an interesting question, but one I can’t answer.

I think lakes may be as haunted as parts of the ocean. Visit almost any isolated but popular lake in the off-season, and see for yourself. If the lake has an island and you have access to it, rent a canoe or motorboat and investigate it.

Similarly, coastal islands seem to have more ghosts (and ghost stories) per square mile than many nearby towns on the mainland.

The problem is the inconsistency of reports. Until we know when seafaring ghosts and haunted ships will appear — and how soon they’ll vanish, once reported — we can’t confirm these great legends.

Besides Ouija boards, how do people talk to ghosts?

We’re asking ghosts to talk to us. But are we certain the spirits hear us when we talk to ghosts?

I’m not sure many ghost hunters have considered this issue.

Sure, look at past episodes of ghost-hunting TV shows like Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures. You’ll see “ghosts” talking to investigators through  ghost hunting tools, from loosened flashlights to EVP recordings to real-time communications devices.

However, that may not be the question.

Maybe people aren’t asking how ghosts communicate to us; they’re asking how people can talk to ghosts.

(I’m ignoring the fact that we don’t use Ouija boards to talk to ghosts. People talk out loud to them, while poised at the Ouija board. Does the board help ghosts hear us? It’s possible, but I’m not sure it’s likely.)

So, is it as difficult for people to speak to ghosts, as it is for them to contact us? I think this needs to be considered and explored. I’m not sure if ghosts if have difficulty receiving messages from us.

In many cases, when someone is troubled by a ghost in his or her home, I say, “Just talk to your ghosts, out loud.”

So far, readers report success with this.

However, they may have a special connection with their ghosts. After all, they share the same space, day in and day out. That may improve communications across the divide.

When I’ve talked out loud to ghosts at haunted sites I’ve visited, I’ve had mixed results.

– At Gilson Road Cemetery (Nashua, NH), I get the feeling the ghosts really don’t care if I talk to them or not.

Oh, they’ve misbehaved when I’ve investigated the site with skeptics. (That always amuses me, but that may be a reflection of my sense of humor.)

They also manifest in various ways when researchers are there. But, do ghosts actually care what we say to them? I have no idea.

Old house in England
We may not need to talk to ghosts in England’s Stratford-upon-Avon. Some of them seem to read our minds.

– I’ve seen the other extreme, too. It was at Falstaff’s Experience/Tudor World (Stratford-upon-Avon, England).

There, at least one ghost responded to almost everything that was said. He also seemed to read thoughts. It was disconcerting.

– Between the extremes of Gilson Road Cemetery and Tudor World, ghosts have responded inconsistently, even at very active sites.

So, how do people talk to ghosts?

So far, we just talk.

Maybe we need to try other means. Many of us — including me — have assumed ghosts are hanging on every word we utter.

But, what if they hear only 10% of what we say, or less?

There’s a lot to consider.

  • Maybe ghosts can read what we write.
  • Can they detect EMF spikes on their side of the veil? Perhaps we could try turning EMF generators on and off, repeatedly, to get their attention.
  • Maybe they can hear whistling, or singing, or… well, this could be a very long list.

Do we really know the best ways to talk to ghosts?

I think it’s a time to explore better way to communicate with ghosts, instead of focusing exclusively on better ways to hear from them.

How can you catch a ghost?

As far as I know, you cannot catch a ghost.

CryptSo far, no one has proved that ghosts have physical form in our world. So, there is no trap to contain them.

Some people believe that “dreamcatchers” also snag ghosts. I’ve seen no evidence of that.

However, dreamcatchers may confuse ghosts or prevent them from entering a home.

That defense might help if a ghost is immediately outside your home. (Of course, that’s the opposite of attracting and catching them.)

You might convince a ghost to remain in a particular location, temporarily.  For example, if the ghost has unfinished business and you act as if you could help, the ghost might linger. (If you know you can’t help, it’s cruel to suggest that.)

Other than that, I don’t think there’s any way to catch or entrap a ghost.

I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that, anyway.

Some paranormal entities can be caught. For example, some believe you can trap a leprechaun — or at least a clurichaun (in Irish, clobhair-ceann) — in an open bottle of whiskey. This requires having a clurichaun on the premises, and leaving an uncorked bottle of whiskey near him. Around dawn, the trapper must sneak up on the clurichaun and cork it while the clurichaun is still inside.

Some people believe a bottle can hold a ghost, as well. As I’ve heard it, the person waits in a haunted location until shortly before midnight. (That’s another “between time.”)

As midnight approaches, place a candle inside a bottle and light it. When any ghost is so attracted to the light, he or she goes into the bottle, cork it quickly.

That particular idea is riddled with problems. For one thing, some bottles will crack or explode if exposed to flame.

Another is more obvious: If ghosts were actually attracted to light, they wouldn’t show up at night.

Finally, I’m not sure how anyone could tell if a ghost enters a bottle.

I’ve also heard variations of Vodun and Voodoo practices involving. One “ghost catcher” uses cemetery dirt and a metal-lined (or lead-lined) box with a lid. I don’t know the specifics.

If someone tries to convince you that this works, run in the other direction. Vodun and Voodoo are intensely spiritual practices. The Guédé should not be treated lightly.

Likewise, “summoning” ghosts is a bad idea. You might summon something much darker. Sending it back might require expert spiritual help.

Has a ghost ever killed anyone?

As far as I know, there is no convincing evidence of a ghost killing anyone, ever. That includes the Bell Witch.

angry man at gateOn the other hand, I’ve heard first-person accounts of demonic attacks resulting in the death of a victim.  Demons aren’t ghosts.  (Aliens aren’t ghosts, either.  These are completely different entities.)

Be cautious about the locations you investigate. If you may have encountered a demon or other malicious entity, get professional help immediately.  (Don’t “wait and see what happens.”  Demonic attacks aren’t anything to fool around with.)

Ghosts are a small part of the unseen world.  Some locations — including Vale End Cemetery in Wilton, NH (USA) — are haunted, but they’re also visited by other kinds of entities. Some of them are dangerous.

Never visit a site that might have ghosts, just for “a good scare.”  The scarier the site, the more dangerous it might be.

(If you want a scare, go to a theme park with scary attractions, or a commercial “haunted house” at Halloween.  Take part in an organized, public, ghost hunting event. Or, watch a scary movie with the lights out.)

Many paranormal researchers carry protective talismans. Some also use spiritual protection such as prayer or rituals. That’s routine both before and after a paranormal investigation.

Generally, those are personal choices that do not involve the entire team.

Many teams gather for a moment of prayer or to request spiritual protection. If you’re uneasy with that, speak up.

If a site is frightening, leave. Don’t even step through the gate or the front door. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe no one should.

If you feel nervous at a site, there may be a very good reason. If you feel unreasonably frightened at any time during an investigation, leave immediately. That’s especially true if the feeling seems to hit you “all of a sudden.”

Demonic threats and malicious activity are rare. You are unlikely ever to encounter them.

Nevertheless, every haunted site has risks. Follow your gut instinct. If you feel uneasy about anything during an investigation, say something.

In many cases, it’s in your best interest to leave right away.

Can ghosts hurt people?

Ghosts can hurt people, but probably not the way you’d expect.

Generally, you have a body but the ghost doesn’t. Most of the time, a ghost cannot hurt anyone physically. Not severely, anyway.

Can ghosts hurt people? A professional says "maybe."We’re not sure how some ghosts scratch people or leave red welts and other marks on an investigator.  The evidence is clear, but how it happens… that’s still baffling.

The exception is poltergeist phenomena which may be ghostly, but it might not.


Normal Explanations

In many cases, normal things explain or contribute to the problem.

First, make certain that you and your team are safe. That’s always the highest priority.

Then, see if you can debunk whatever seemed dangerous.

  • In a house, it could be something as simple as loose or uneven floorboards.
  • Outdoors – at a haunted cemetery or battlefield – it could be a depression in the ground, a vine that’s easy to trip over, or a low branch (or thorny plant) that’s practically invisible in the dark.

Once you’ve studied possible physical explanation, also look for one or more of the following. They can disorient people, and it can be so subtle, the person doesn’t even realize it.

– Elevated levels of EMF from something like exposed wiring.

– Infrasound. This includes underground streams and highways — especially bridges — within a quarter mile.

– Unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector. If you’re regularly investigating abandoned buildings, a portable carbon monoxide detector should be part of your investigation kit.

– Something else that might alter perceptions and behaviors at that location. (Environmental allergies, drug reactions, etc.) Check the correlation between ghost reports at that location or in that area, against spikes in pollen and other allergens.

Is it a Poltergeist?

The subject of poltergeists is very controversial, even among those who believe.

The word poltergeist, translated literally, means “a noisy ghost.”

Poltergeist reports have included unexplained voices, knocking on walls and tables, the sound of musical instruments, and so on.

Poltergeists have been blamed for stones raining on (or inside) a house, and people being pushed, slapped, or scratched.

Ghostly assaults are unusual. Even then, it’s very rare for someone to be seriously injured.

(However, if it happens around stairs, it can be dangerous. Stay away from stairways that have a history of falls or ghostly activity.)

What are Poltergeists?

Some psychologists think that real poltergeist phenomena are self-generated. That is, the victims are responsible.

aloneAccording to this theory, victims are individuals with extraordinary abilities. They can affect their own bodies, and remotely influence their environment.  (They’re grouped with people who receive stigmata.)

Other people, including me, suspect that two entities are involved.

– One is the person most consistently connected with the activity. He or she provides the energy, and – as a result – feels somewhat drained after a bout of activity. This person may not realize anything extraordinary is happening.

– The second “partner in crime” is an entity, perhaps unknown or paranormal, that makes the activity occur. That entity is, in a way, a parasite as well as the tormentor.

The two combine to manifest poltergeist activity.

How to Deal with a Poltergeist

Scientists and parapsychologists are still studying poltergeists phenomena. Patterns and answers are emerging.  No matter what your theory about poltergeists, the following  things may help.

– Treatment seems to help when it focuses on the living person most connected with the activity.

– At other times, it’s a matter of waiting for the poltergeist activity to diminish on its own.

Don’t treat the situation lightly. It’s not a “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” problem. If anyone is at risk, mentally, physically, or emotionally, take action immediately.

Analyze the situation from every possible angle, both normal and paranormal.

If the energy involves only one person, remove that person from the environment.  Don’t just escort the person outside.  He or she needs to be at least a dozen miles from the site.

Then, see if the alarming activity continues.

Test that several times.  If the activity always stops when the person is far from the site, that person is part of the activity.

You’re not likely to encounter dangerous poltergeist activity, ever.

Sure, you might witness an object flying across a room or a TV turning itself on or off, but even that is pretty rare.

What should you do if you can’t debunk the danger, and a poltergeist doesn’t seem to be the cause?

If an entity seems intent on causing deliberate physical harm – nothing playful – that might not be a ghost or a poltergeist. 

The Demon Issue

As I’ve said: generally, ghosts do not seriously injure people. They may be mischievous. Some of them might play pranks.

That’s very different from anything demonic.

If there’s any possibility that demons are involved, get professional, experienced help immediately.  That means talking with minister, priest, or other member of the clergy in real life, face-to-face.

Demonic issues are spiritual, and the clergy have spent years (often decades) studying spiritual matters, in depth.

Too many well-meaning amateurs (and a few trolls) are online, claiming to be exorcists. If someone’s life (or spiritual well-being) may be at risk, you cannot take chances.

I don’t want to scare you. Really, 99% of ghost hunters will never experience anything demonic. If I thought it was a genuine risk, I wouldn’t encourage others to get involved in paranormal research, and I wouldn’t be in this field myself.

My Experiences

In over 30 years of investigating haunted locations, I have encountered some very scary, malicious entities. For example, I won’t go within 10 miles of Vale End Cemetery in Wilton, NH (USA).

But, I’ve only been injured once. I don’t believe the injury was deliberate; it was simply a prank by a childlike spirit. And, I happened to be on a stairway when the spirit pushed me, and I lost my balance.

During ghost investigations, keep this in mind: You have a more to worry about from the living than the dead.

But, that doesn’t mean ghost hunting is risk-free. You may still encounter some vicious, angry ghosts, and some of them can injure you.

Take reasonable precautions. If something alarming happens, see if you can debunk it.

But, if the physical dangers persist, leave the site immediately. And then warn others about it, too.

What happens if a ghost gets close to you?

This is a tricky question.

ghostly figureTo ask this, you must believe that ghosts have physical form of some kind.

That’s plain ol’ grade school science.

Even if it’s mental or psychic energy, if you feel as if it’s in a particular location in space, it must have mass. Otherwise, no “close” (near or far) is possible.

Does a ghost have physical form? I’m not sure. Consider other explanations.

– It might be something normal that we sense but cannot see, like an EMF field or a wave of infrasound.

– If it is a spirit, maybe we perceive them “through the veil” to the afterlife. That veil may be physical energy in our plane of existence. But, spirits on the other side are not actually in this plane.

– Maybe that the spirit is alive and well in a parallel realm.

I’m convinced that many “ghost” encounters don’t involved spirits of the dead. They’re not demons or anything non-human, either.

They’re people like us, and we sense them, but they’re in their own worlds. (If this interests you, look into quantum studies, String Theory, and other explanations for alternate realities.)

However, their physical forms must exist in some plane, reality, or realm. If that’s what you’ve encountered, you can have a “near” experience, sensing a spirit close to you.

Often, when ghostly energy is nearby, a physical reaction occurs. Unseen hands might move an object, or there may be an energy spike on an EMF detector.

At some locations – especially on some ghost tours – ghosts make physical connection with the living. That’s when some people seem to receive slaps, punches, scratches, or their hair is pulled.

During routine ghost investigations, that kind of activity is incredibly rare. If you’re touched physically — especially if it’s an attack — be on your guard.

You might like to believe you’ve had a remarkable encounter with a ghost. Unfortunately, ghostly physical phenomena like that are rare.

Look for other explanations, like a prank.

Also, in rare cases, it might be something paranormal but not ghostly.

During most paranormal encounters, people describe unique sensations when a ghost seems near.

  • Sometimes, the person feels something like a breeze on his (or her) arms when the air is still.
  • Others describe it as stepping into a freezer compartment.
  • Still others talk about everything going completely silent, as if they’d lost hearing for a couple of minutes.

Except for poltergeist activity, there’s no reason for concern if you think a ghost is near you. In most cases, it’s slightly unpleasant. Injuries are rare.

If you’re worried, step away from where the ghost might be.  If you’re still uneasy, leave the location completely. 

The vast majority of ghosts cannot leave the sites they haunt.

What happens if someone sees a ghost?

The simple answer is: Nothing happens to them. They’ve seen something that looked like a ghost. That’s all.

I’m sorry if that’s disappointing. It happens to be the truth. After decades of paranormal research, I’m used to ghosts and things that just look like ghosts.

Strange mist at haunted Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NH (USA)

Seeing an apparition — or any other evidence of ghosts — may change how a person reacts to ghost stories. Aside from the emotional and cognitive impact, I don’t think anything else happens to the person.

No one dies from it. The person isn’t cursed. People who see ghosts aren’t personally haunted for the rest of their lives.

If you see a ghost, that’s usually described as an apparition.  An apparition usually looks like a person, or at least part of one. You might see just a torso, or just a face. The apparition might be solid, translucent (it lets light through), or nearly transparent.

Generally, the ghost appears as he or she wants to be remembered.

Few apparitions look gory, gruesome, or even elderly. When someone thinks they’ve seen something really creepy… it’s rarely a ghost.

Seeing a ghost is like witnessing any other extraordinary (but natural) event. It’s an unusual experience, like seeing the Aurora Borealis, or visiting an active volcano.

Maybe it’s memorable. Maybe the viewer would prefer to explain it as “an overactive imagination” or “the power of suggestion.”

I never try to convince someone that they’ve seen a ghost, even if I’m 99% sure they did.

Spiritual contexts make a difference.

  • Seeing a ghost might be startling, particularly if the person had been a skeptic.
  • To a believer, it affirms the idea of an afterlife.

We can’t prove anything, one way or the other. All we can say is: The person believes he (or she) saw something like a ghost.

That’s a personal, subjective experience.

For some people, seeing a ghost answers all their questions: Ghosts are real. After that, the individual may quit ghost hunting.

Or, the experience might trigger new questions. If so, the researcher may be even more enthusiastic about ghost hunting.

Meanwhile, nothing terrible happens to a person who’s seen a ghost. Real life is different from movies and TV shows.

And, to be honest, apparitions are extremely rare. Most ghost hunters never see a ghost… not one that they’re sure was a ghost, anyway.

You’re more likely to win the lottery.