Living in a haunted house

Written by jaime guillet
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Spirits could be in your home. Should you invite them to leave or happily coexist?

Living in a haunted house
Experts say there are signs to indicate if your house is haunted. (Getty Thinkstock)

It’s not even about necessarily wanting to stay, it’s just not wanting to go there, wherever there happens to be.

— Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach

Odd noises at all hours, objects falling for no reason and drawers moving on their own. These spooky experiences may give you a chill if you see them in a movie. But when they happen in your own home, that could elicit a real fear. You may think you're sharing your place with some ethereal guest, but don't be led astray. Scientists say most paranormal events are spawned by live humans.

Ghost tracks

If you think that flickering shadow in the hall is more than odd shading from the streetlight, you might contact someone like Loyd Auerbach.

That's because most people don't believe in ghosts and Loyd Auerbach is not one of them.

“A lot of hauntings, strangely enough, are of noises in your kitchen or just very innocuous things that still freak people out because they have no explanation for them,” Auerbach said.

A master's degree in parapsychology and 30 years of study in psychic phenomena lends Auerbach a wide berth in the notion of paranormal activity. People in his field try to define the types of supernatural events that accost the living, especially in their homes.

Knowing the difference between a haunting and a ghost is important. Hauntings, which parapsychology defines as incidents of an “imprint” of a former live event, are more common than ghosts, Auerbach says.

Apparitions or ghosts are the presence of a deceased human’s consciousness in a physical location. An apparition likely will not involve moving objects, Auerbach says. Also, there will be no pattern.

There is a third element -- the poltergeist. Movies have persuaded most people that a poltergeist is a spirit that moves objects. Auerbach says the term actually describes a living person affecting objects with mind power, or telekinesis.

It's in your mind -- maybe

Another way to know if your home has a supernatural entity is from the frequency of occurrences, but don't rule out the possibility that it could be a product of your mind.

Marilyn Mandala Schlitz studies the power of human consciousness, including the possibility consciousness can transcend the physical body or engage another person. In fact, Schlitz says a powerful mind may create certain experiences.

"Ambiguous stimuli,” she said, might be interpreted through the lens of "a particular cultural filter or world view." Schlitz is an anthropologist and research fellow at Stanford University.

"I think the most important thing is to be grounded and to not allow yourself to get agitated or stressed by the situation because the most important thing is to take care of yourself,” she said. "Do you have any control over what’s happening, your own reactions to it, or is it dominating your life? If it is dominating your life, you probably need some help with that because ultimately it’s not going to be healthy."

If you must do something, she suggests consulting a mental health practitioner -- one who isn't close-minded to the possibility the events could be a reality.

Meanwhile, if you want proof you're hosting a ghost, you could be out of luck. The real ghostbusters employ electromagnetic field meters, but they're mainly used to establish correlations between people's experiences and environmental conditions.

“While the jury is still out, many of us have found magnetic fields in the environment of many haunting cases that can't be explained away -- that connect to the imprint as experienced by the witnesses,” Auerbach said. “The more consistent correlations are to (imprint case) hauntings."

Dealing with your ghost

One option to deal with the unknown is to look at each separate event and seek another explanation.

"That’s really important; that’s what we do," Auerbach said. “You can have a house with an apparition, and if the apparition freaked the family out, anything out of the ordinary that they hadn’t noticed before -- like a picture falling off the wall because a truck rumbled by -- that’s all the apparition’s fault. They now have an explanation for all of the bad stuff that’s happened to them.

“You can't do that -- you have to separate every single event from each other, then look for an explanation, and then determine what’s left that’s unexplained.”

The next step is to try to get the figure to react to you. If it does, Auerbach says you have an apparition. He recommends asking the entity three questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What can I do for you?

“That may seem a little crazy for people to walk up to a ghost and ask a question, or if they're hearing things they can just ask those questions out loud or even just in their mind,” he said. “But, you know, there’s a reason that person is there, (and) it helps to find out why they're there. That’s what we would do.”

Hauntings are harder to deal with than a ghost because it is in the environment.

“Knowing it’s a pattern of someone who used to live there allows you to just screen it out like you would the really big road noise outside,” he said. He also advises incorporating laughter in the home during the pattern time to "record" over the environment.

Fear not

Auerbach's main advice for either the apparition or the haunting is to remain unafraid of the event. These occurrences can't harm you, and the entity likely means no harm.

"Most people are pretty reasonable, living or dead," he said. "It may be that they are confused.There are some ghosts that are in denial, they don’t even know they're dead. Sometimes, the reason they are there is because they are afraid.

"One of the things we’ve done...(is) ask the ghost when they were alive was there any other place in the world they wanted to go that they never got to go to. We have to then remind ghosts that they're not stuck in the house, they don’t need a plane ticket, they can go wherever they want just by thinking it and wanting to be there. And lo and behold they go away.

"Now, whether they actually go to those locations, I could not tell you."

House for sale -- with ghosts

You established your home’s specimen of paranormal entity, but if you sell should you inform the prospective buyer?

The possible existence of an apparition or haunting could increase the value of the home. Realtor and blogger Anita Clark said if you're in doubt, it's "usually best to disclose the information, even at the risk of losing the sale.”

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