Ghosts and Molecules

Plasma - illustrationThis morning, when I was thinking about quantum physics and developments that started with string theory.

(Yes, some of us are admittedly geeky about ghost hunting.)

Physics has vast applications to ghost hunting. Today, I’m thinking about molecules and the ways some ghosts interact with our world.

In a nutshell, what if apparitions (including “shadow people”) have physical bodies, but there are far larger spaces between the molecules… if we can even describe them as ‘molecules’?

This could explain why they can pass through walls without slowing down.

(I’ve seen a ghost walk through a wall at Bradford College, in Massachusetts.  I’ve seen other apparitions “vanish” but maybe they also escaped through walls.)

Maybe that’s how space clearing works. Perhaps the sound, incense, or whatever invades the spaces that the ghost considers part of his or her body. So, the entity leaves to protect his or her new form.

Maybe this is why we find more ghostly manifestations around water. Maybe the moisture fills the spaces with a conductive material, and — since we can measure them with EMF — it enables them to function better in our physical world. After all, at least 50% of our bodies are made up of water.

The fact is, in ghost hunting, we’re often making this up as we go along. We’re starting with anomalies, and trying to imagine explanations that fit and (sort of) make sense.

There are days when those explanations resonate as real possibilities.

The next day, in a different light, it seems like speculation piled on top of fantasy.

I think speculation is important.  We must ask the “what if” questions.

However, remember this: When we take fantastic theories too seriously, we’ve lost the our focus and our integrity as researchers.

Go ahead. Ask the “what if” questions. They’re important.

Then, keep looking for better answers.

Ghost Hunting in the Daytime

alley-misty-veniceGhost hunters will get the best research results after dark. I’m not sure if it’s like radio stations that can be heard more clearly without interference from the sun.

Whatever the reason, after-dark ghost hunts are usually far more successful.

However, daytime ghost hunts aren’t always a waste of time. I’m reminded of Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH. The haunted/psychic energy builds there each day, starting around 11:30 or noon. Put your attention — perhaps your ‘psychic radar’ — on the woods in back of the cemetery. Even in broad daylight, you may sense (or even see) some very odd things.

By night, eerie lights seem to flicker in those same woods. Animals are “too quiet,” or suddenly seem to panic. A few people see a hooded figure with glowing eyes. Compasses and EMF meters go haywire. Strange things happen.

The energy is gone by dawn. Around noon the next day, the cycle starts all over again.

In Texas, I like downtown Houston’s La Carafe wine bar at 813 Congress Street. Though the bar is closed in the morning, people who work there report odd discoveries when they arrive to open for business.  It’s haunted enough to provide anomalies, 24/7.

Fiona Broome's adviceLook for locations with a long history of power struggles or violence.  Battlefields are a good example.  (Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH, was the site of multiple Native American wars, as well as violent clashes with colonists.)

Check your daily commute.  Look for roadside historical markers.  Many indicate sites of violent clashes and intense, emotion-rich meetings of powerful people.  Something important happened there. The question is why, and did it at least leave some residual energy?

Former hospitals, funeral homes, and politicians’ homes are also good sites for daytime paranormal research.

If your only research time is during daylight hours, don’t worry. Somewhere nearby, at least one site is haunted, day and night.

Ghosts don’t only come out at night.

You may need to investigate several sites to find one that’s active in daylight. With enough patience and persistence, you’ll find one.

Carpe diem! 

Noises That Are Not Ghosts

As I write this, it is December (2005), a time of year when many people start hearing “ghostly noises” in their homes.

In many cases, these will be ghosts.

However, there may be logical explanations, and those should be considered, first:

Temperature changes cause houses to moan, shift, and creak. Desert climates have the widest temperature swings between day and night, but even temperate climates have seasonal changes that can cause your house to shift slightly. And when a couple of floorboards rub against each other and echo in an attic, the noise can sound like someone in agony.

  • Settling houses make snaps, thuds, creaks, and groans. If your house is new, it may be settling. A hastily-poured foundation, or one poured at the wrong time of year, can produce outrageous noises for years after the house has been built.There are other reasons why a house can “settle.” If you’ve had an earthquake in your region, your house may now be settling back into place. If you’ve had unusually high rainfall, or a drought, the ground around your house will shift. A piano or waterbed moved in or out of a room can cause the whole house to readjust itself.
  • Critters in the walls or attic can sound bizarre. The scurrying noises alone can sound like little ghostly footsteps. A bushy tail of a squirrel or raccoon, rubbing on all sides of a narrow passageway inside a wall or alongside a chimney… Well, you’ll be convinced that a ghostly woman in a full Victorian skirt just passed you.If two animals decide to argue or chat within your walls, in your basement, or overhead in your attic, sometimes they sound like ghostly whispers, or a full-fledged argument in a strange dialect!
  • Check for even smaller critters, such as wood ants or termites. If they’re weakening the house’s structure, the house will moan and groan as it shifts its weight.
  • Is there construction going on near you? Perhaps rocks tumble from their recently-blasted niches, at a certain hour of the night when the temperature dips low enough to cause contractions and shifts. The roof of a new house can make astonishing noises, especially at night. Ask anyone who’s put a roof on a house, or repaired one, about the nails that pop out overnight.
  • If it happens at the same time every night, it’s not necessarily a ghostly hour. Temperatures and humidity change at night. When these natural effects reach a “critical mass” level, the house may shift. A loose shingle may pop up again. The mortar in your chimney may contract just enough to cause dust to echo as it tumbles to the ground or hearth. These kinds of things happen night after night. It’s part of the natural cycle of a house.This “critical mass” effect is usually at approximately the same time, each night. Seasonal changes and unseasonable variations can shift the hour back or forward, but it’s still within the same approximate time period.
  • Do you live near a commercial area? You may live far enough from a shopping center that you don’t hear the garbage collectors’ trucks. However, when they lift one of those huge containers of trash and empty it into the truck… wow! If that noise echoes off a neighbor’s siding or cement wall, it can seem as if something is crashing on your patio, or in an another room, particularly if the windows are open.

Not all ghostly noises are this easily explained. However, consider the logical answers first. Perhaps your noise is a ghost, but you won’t know unless you use your critical thinking skills to explore the alternatives.

And, just because the noise could be faked, or caused by something logical… well, that doesn’t mean that it is.

Webmaster’s note: When I was a kid, I used to hear noises in the attic overhead, many nights. My parents dismissed my insistence that it was a ghost. “Squirrels in the attic,” they replied, and nodded sagely.

Well, we did have a lot of very friendly squirrels in our neighborhood, and a nest in our backyard. I tried to accept my parents’ logical explanation of the noises.

However, when we were selling our house and had it inspected, I mentioned the squirrels in the attic.

“No evidence of that,” the house inspector replied. “I’ll check again.”

And so he did. And he found no place where a squirrel could get into the attic, and no evidence that animals of any kind had been up there.

So, even when the answer seems logical, it might still be ghosts. I may never know if our house’s nightly noises had been a ghost, or something else.

If a Ghost Hunt Frightens You

Young woman, alone.After a particularly vivid ghost hunt, people sometimes get nervous about what they’ve just experienced.

A few people may become genuinely frightened.

Generally, there is nothing to be afraid of. Not from the dead, anyway. Here are a few facts to remember, from an article I wrote in 2005.  My opinions haven’t changed much since I wrote this.

  • Ghosts aren’t likely to follow you home. Ghosts haunt a location, particularly cemeteries, for a reason. If they felt like they could leave, they wouldn’t be at the cemetery (or house, or battlefield) in the first place.  Except for legends like The Flying Dutchman (a ghost ship) and the John Alford Tyng hauntings, few stories describe a ghost that moves from one location to another.
  • Ghosts cannot make you do things you don’t want to do. Ghosts are not hypnotists and they do not have powers beyond those that they had in life. Frankly, any spirit of the dead that’s tied to the earthly plane, has a specific reason for being here. Usually, their powers are significantly less than an average living person’s. If you’re having “unwanted thoughts” after encountering a ghost, get professional help. Ghosts are not the problem. Hollywood imagery can be fun, but it’s not real. Steering wheels don’t jerk out of your hand. Bed canopies don’t sprout spikes and fall on people. People are not “taken over” by ghosts unless they agree to accept the trance state, or unwittingly give permission for something to use their bodies. Usually, if someone is “possessed,” something else is going on. It’s not a ghost.  Get help right away.
  • Ghosts do not “curse” you. Ghosts are just people living in another dimension, or perhaps on another plane. They have no superhuman powers other than — perhaps — enhanced telepathy. They cannot curse you. They do not turn into “witches” when they die.
  • Ghosts cannot hurt you. Poltergeists are the only “ghosts” that ever harm people, and even then it’s usually nothing worse than bruising. People often ask why I  warn against ghost hunting alone. It’s not because of ghosts, it’s because you might turn an ankle in a neglected yard or cemetery, and need help. Or you might encounter a bunch of drunk teens or (animal) hunters who don’t want you around. I’m not afraid of ghosts, but I’m very wary of isolated sites.
  • Ghosts will not haunt your dreams, keep you awake at night, etc. Unless you’re deliberately sleeping in a haunted house or camping at a haunted battleground, ghosts do not usually travel from their earthly locations to bother you.
  • Most ghosts “move on,” eventually. Spirits of the dead remain on earth for a specific reason. Usually, they’re fighting reality and want to turn back the clock. They want to change an event from the past. In rare cases, they simply have a message to pass on, or a minor task to accomplish. We’ve only encountered this once in hundreds of hauntings . One notable exception is when a spirit returns to help a friend or family member, or just check to be sure you’re okay. Spirit guides, angels, and totems, are a different topic. They are not malicious, ever. Don’t worry about them. You never have to worry about a ghost following you forever. It simply doesn’t happen.
  • Spiritual energy is pretty much all the same to a casual observer. If you’re in a setting where there is poltergeist phenomena, you probably won’t be able to guess whether it’s from a spirit of the dead, or someone nearby with RSPK. (RSPK is Remote Spontaneous PsychoKinesis, or the ability to move things using your thoughts, consciously or not). Don’t assume that the dish that flew across the room was propelled by a spirit of the dead. It could be a prank by an ESP-gifted person who is very much alive, and near you.

I hope this puts your mind at rest. 

Young woman, anxious.Ghost hunting is fun. For people like me, it’s fascinating to encounter ghostly manifestations.  Haunted sites can have risks, but they’re usually physical (like frail floorboards in the attic, or uneven stairs). It’s nothing directly related to ghosts.

Ghost hunting itself is not hazardous, and ghosts are not maliciously wandering the earth as portrayed in movies and novels.

Nothing bad is likely to happen to you if you go on a ghost tour or public ghost investigation and take proper precautions. (For example, always take a friend with you to an event or tour.  If you’re on your own, watch your back and never treat the evening like speed dating.)

Frankly, most of your concerns should be about the living, not the spirits of the dead.

Consider another hobby if spirits and hauntings really frighten you.

It’s worth repeating:  If ghost hunting isn’t fun, find something else for your spare time.

The more you go ghost hunting, the more spirits and manifestations you’re likely to encounter. If you’re nervous now, things will only get more intense if you continue.

Dealing with a Problem Ghost

trapped-hands-windowWhat to do about your problem/household ghost

First of all, be certain you actually have a ghost. Several articles at this site explain what is (and is not) a ghost.

You can also download the free version of my book, Is Your House Haunted? and the free checklist that goes with it. (That links takes you to my page of free ghost hunting products and worksheets.)

You might be surprised at how many things can look or seem like a ghost… but need only a home repair.  I was amazed when I learned what can cause which effects, and how commonplace those things are.

Is Your House Haunted?For example:

  • You may have a draft that’s slamming doors, or a loose wire that’s making the lights flicker.
  • Some cities (and towns) now have such high levels of carbon monoxide — especially right after the dinnertime rush hour — that people can be temporarily disoriented or otherwise affected by that invisible, odorless gas.
  • There may be an underground stream that causes the house to moan and shift.
  • A recent study in England discovered that some “paranormal” phenomena is actually the result of natural, very low-frequency sounds.

Also, please do not notice “ghost orbs” in your home photos and then decide you must have a ghost.  The majority of indoor orb photos I see are caused by reflections from shiny floors, tables, metal, or glass objects.

In other words, don’t go looking for ghosts in your home.  Unless you have two or three different, unexplained things going on, it’s most likely a normal (but maybe weird) thing that seems like a ghost.  Even after 30+ years in this field, I’m still surprised by the strange, normal things that make me think a location might be haunted.

Rule out the normal things, first.  The free checklist and free book (linked earlier in this article) are a good starting point.

If it’s a ghost, is it a problem?

If you do have a ghost, be certain it’s a problem.

Even experienced ghost hunters are startled by ghosts now & then. I don’t think anyone’s immune to that.  We’re merely startled. It’s not a problem.

Many people feel as if they have something odd and unseen in the house. They don’t mind sharing the space with a ghost or two. In fact, the majority of haunted houses are happily co-habited by the living and the spirits.

If the ghost is a problem

If your ghost is a problem, here are a few things to try. You’ll probably want to print out this page, as it offers many solutions from our research as well as folklore. Start with one or two of these remedies. It should not be necessary to use them all.  And, if you try one or more and the problem gets worse, contact a spiritual minister immediately.  The issue might not be a ghost, and you’ll need a second opinion to know what to do next.

The simplest solution is also the most reliable:

  1. Speak to the ghost, out loud. Shout, if you feel like it’s not paying attention to you.
  2. Explain to your ghost that you live there now and he (or she) is doing things that bother you.
  3. Explain exactly what those things are.
  4. Ask the ghost to stop them, immediately.
  5. If you want the ghost to leave altogether, you need to say that.  (However, in most cases, if the ghost felt like he or she could leave… well, you wouldn’t have a ghost.)

This usually works. However, some ghosts won’t take you seriously, and you may need to remind it to leave you alone several times before it stays away.

PRAYER AND RELIGIOUS RITUALS

Holy Water is another tried-and-true remedy for ghosts, as long as you’re sure it’s simply a ghost.  (99% of the time that’s all it is.  If you have any doubts at all, don’t use Holy Water. If the problem is demon-related, it will make things worse.)

  1. Respectfully and quietly enter your nearest Catholic Church, carrying a small jar or bottle from home. Somewhere in the public area, there will be a large container of Holy Water, usually stainless steel with a cross and a spigot on it.
  2. Fill your container with Holy Water. It’s nice to leave a small donation for this, too. (A dollar or two is customary. I often put $5 or more into the box.)
  3. Upon returning home, pour a liberal amount of the water into a small bowl.
  4. Dip your fingers into the water, and stand in any doorway in the house.
  5. Make a broad Sign of the Cross in the doorway, allowing the water to fly off your fingers as you gesture. (If you don’t know how to make a Sign of the Cross, ask any Catholic.) It can be helpful to add an out-loud prayer, such as “I bless this house in the name of Jesus,” or, “I banish all evil spirits from this home, in the name of God,” or something like that.

(If you feel silly saying this, and can’t help laughing as you do it, don’t do it. This is not a light or casual ritual.)

Do this in every doorway, interior and exterior. Also do this at every window. Don’t forget the attic and the basement, and your garage or atrium, if either are attached.

Prayer can be very helpful.  Your ancestors, deities, and saints are in the spirit world, as your ghost is.

It’s logical to ask the help of these friendly spirits.If you have a shrine — formal or informal (such as a display of photos) — to your ancestors, have a chat with your favorite deceased ancestor. Explain the situation to him or her, and ask for help.

If you’re very upset about your ghost, I recommend the Irish saint, St. Dymphna. She is the patron saint of mental health and spiritual disorders. She’s great for calming situations. [Link]

Personally, I save requests to St. Jude for extreme situations when all else has failed. He’s busy enough with others’ more important, urgent requests.  If your situation is urgent, St. Jude may be a good choice.  However, if you’re that uneasy, it’s probably time to talk with a full-time minister or priest.  They are far more versed in spiritual matters, and your ghost is a spirit.

(Pagans may use a banishing ritual. However,  I’m not convinced anyone needs to “banish” ghosts, or anything except malicious entities.)

FOLK REMEDIES

Folk remedies have stood the test of time.

Personally, I think they’re operating in a quantum context, but I’m geeky like that.

No matter why you think these remedies could be effective, they’ve worked for many people, including hundreds of my readers who’ve written to thank me for sharing this information.

Garlic works.  Don’t laugh! Garlic is a tried-and-true repellant for unpleasant spirits of all kinds. Hang one clove (not an entire bulb) in each doorway and window where you need protection. A clove in your pocket is a good idea, too.

If you believe in folk magic, you can create a small pouch with several protection herbs in it, including five-finger grass, cinnamon, and echinacea.

However, don’t overdo this. The point is to repel ghosts, not drive everyone away from you.

Along the same lines, hematite is a folk remedy too. Wearing it, or even carrying a piece of this unusually heavy black stone, will — according to legend — absorb evil energy. This won’t get rid of the ghost, just the negative effects of it.

I routinely carry or wear hematite when I’m investigating a site that may have powerful energy or be risky.

Set your shoes, heel to toe.

The shoe remedy sounds silly but gets great results.

When you go to bed at night, set out the shoes you’ll wear in the morning. Place them at the foot of your bed, on the floor, with one shoe pointing one way, and the other shoe pointing the opposite way.

According to folklore, the ghosts get so confused by this, they leave after a few nights.

I used this as a last resort when I needed to get some sleep at The Myrtles Plantation. It did silence the ghosts for awhile.(If you like this one, scroll down to see the sand remedy.)

Incense and space clearing is a favorite among  New Age practitioners, and that remedy has its roots in a variety of ancient, spiritual traditions.

Some professionals use sage incense, sometimes called “smudge sticks” at the health food store.  In energy studies, sage incense seems to push out negative energy.  (See the demonstration in the movie, Wake Up, about Jonas Elrod.)

I favor Nag Champa incense, but a nice apple pie or vanilla scented incense may be more suitable. Light the incense and carry it around, making certain that you get the smoke everywhere, particularly inside closets, room corners (use a sturdy chair or ladder for uppermost corners), attics, basements, and so on.

Or, you can ring a bell in every corner, and in every room.

Or clap your hands. Some books explain a variety of space-clearing techniques.  However, the whole idea is to get the air moving in stale corners where ghosts may be hiding.

If you can’t do anything else, vacuum!  Vacuum clean (hoover) every corner of the room, especially up by the ceiling.

Convex mirrors can work, as well.

You’ll need one inexpensive convex mirror (from the automotive department of any discount store) for each room that’s haunted.

You’ll need extra mirrors if your windows in the haunted room face more than one direction. That is, if your windows face North and East, you’ll need two convex mirrors, regardless of the number of windows you have.

You’ll need one more convex mirror if your computer is in a haunted room, and your back is to the door when you’re working. If your TV room is haunted and the ghost enters when your back is to the door (watching television), you’ll want a mirror in that room, too.

Convex mirrors are usually very small and plastic, with double-stick adhesive tape on the back. They’re sold for truckers to place on the outside mirror, to improve their field of vision when they’re backing up. At stores such as Wal-Mart, these mirrors can cost less than $5 each.

When you get home with your mirrors, select one window in a haunted room. Place the mirror discreetly in a corner, preferably behind a curtain. The mirror should face towards the outside of the house.

Here’s the theory: When a ghost approaches your window from the outside, he sees his own distorted reflection and goes away.

In haunted rooms where you sit with your back to the door, place the mirror so that you will see anyone (or anything) entering the room, without turning your head. (This is also a feng shui remedy.)

Flat mirrors – Any cheap mirror, even a plastic one, will work for this.

  • Buy one for each room that is haunted.
  • Place the mirror at eye level, inside the room that is haunted, against the door.
  • The shiny side of the mirror should face the door itself, not you.

Supposedly, the ghost looks through the door and sees his reflection in the mirror. Or he sees things reflected and realizes that he’s invisible.  Either way, this scares him away.

I know this one makes no sense. Why would a ghost look through a door but not a mirror…? Nevertheless, readers report excellent results.

I recommend placing a photo, poster, or something artistic over the area where the mirror is. Otherwise, your friends will raise an eyebrow.

Sand, rice, split peas, etc.

  • Randomly toss rice, split peas, sand, salt (but not sugar as it leaves a sticky residue), coffee beans or grounds, or anything small and granular, on your kitchen floor when you go to bed at night (if that’s when the ghosts are most bothersome).

According to folklore, the ghosts will pause to count the grains of whatever-it-is. They aren’t very good at counting, so they have to start over again, repeatedly, or they forget the numbers.

  • Clean up the mess in the morning, and do the same routine again at night.

After a few nights of this, the ghosts will leave.

  • One variation of this is to hang a vial or tube of sand in the window of any haunted room. You can use a cheap test tube from a chemistry kit (or a feeding vial for hamsters, for example), or any similar small container.

You can use a thin ribbon and a pushpin to hang it in the window.

Like the grains of rice on the kitchen floor, any entering ghost has to pause to count the sand granules. After a few nights, he’ll give up and haunt somewhere else.

These counting remedies come from a variety of cultures, including Irish and Native American, so this may be a reliable way to rid the house of ghosts.

Paint your door red. This is an old Irish tradition, but it’s used in many other cultures, as well.

According to folklore, spirits won’t enter a home with a red door.

A related tradition is the Irish Sheela-na-gig (regarded by some as vulgar), and other religious and cultural icons placed at a front doorway, for protection. [Sheela-na-gig link… not safe for office or family viewing.]

On many pious Puritan homes of the Colonial era, you’ll see a geometric pattern of nails. Whether these church-goers were aware of it or not, the pattern in the door was a an ancient form of protection. (And at a time when nails were difficult to find, it’s interesting that the design on the door was such a priority.)

“Hex” signs, also called distelfinks, are popular in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. You can make or buy these signs and use them outside your front door, too.

String hazelnuts at your door – Hazelnuts have been used for protection since ancient times. In my house, we used a string of nine hazelnuts, tied with green ribbon (held in place with discreet dots of hot glue). When we just hung the hazelnuts, they looked… well, odd. So we bought a small grapevine wreath at the local crafts supply shop, decorated it with fake ivy, and wove the hazelnuts through the ivy. It looked great.  (Nine hazelnuts is a number based on the concept of “threes,” especially popular in Irish traditions.)

I still have that wreath, though we don’t have a ghost problem where we live right now.

You’ll want one of these wreaths — or something like it — at every doorway into your house. If spirituality is important to you, you may want to bless the wreath or have your local priest bless it.

There’s no reason to explain what this is for, except to say it’s a “good luck” token for your front and back door, or something like that.

Hazelnut wreath – pretty and a “good luck” symbol

(You’d be amazed at the things that priests are asked to bless. Your wreath won’t even raise an eyebrow. Really.)

Hazelnuts are generally available in the autumn, between the middle of October and December. Stock up on them, then, if you might want to make extra wreaths for the protection of family members and friends, to have one for your office, and so on.

They usually cost about $2 – $4/pound in the bulk section of the produce department. They’re large, smooth, brown, and sort of the shape of a large olive, with a white spot on them. Out of their shells, they’re called filberts, which may work if you can’t get the actual hazelnuts.

Salt

My team used salt as temporary barrier to keep angry ghosts at a distance.

Salt works, but I have no idea how long the effect lasts. It’s a quick fix and I know it’s useful.

We used sea salt and a specially prepared evil-repelling salt. You can ask your local Catholic priest or a minister to bless any household salt and it should be equally effective.

According to legend, ghosts cannot cross a line of salt — or perhaps blessed salt — so you can use it to keep a ghost in a particular area, or create a boundary that he (or she) cannot cross to get to you.

If none of these remedies works and you still have a significant, perhaps life-threatening problem, ask a Catholic priest to find out who is authorized to do exorcisms. However, they will perform this rite only if the case is documented and extreme.

Avoid charlatans who — for a price — will enter your home, wave a Bible or a dowsing wand, or set up a few fancy-looking devices and talk about ghosts as if they know what they’re doing.

Today (2013, when I updated this article), the majority of people charging money to investigate “haunted” homes… they’re frauds. They may mean well and think they’re competent (and worth paying for), but they aren’t.

Since 2005, when I first wrote this article, the ghost hunting field has expanded dynamically.  In most communities, you can find a nearby team to help you, and they won’t charge a cent.  Just be sure they aren’t simply confirming the problem, but are equipped to help you with it, as well.

In most cases, there is no reason to pay anyone anything to help you with a desperate ghost situation.  There’s also no reason to open your home to thrill-seekers calling themselves “ghost hunters,” who offer no references you can check.  So, choose carefully.

And watch out for the crazies in this field anyway.