Don't Panic! - It could all be in your imagination!

Things going bump in the night?  Strange tapping sounds? Something seen out of the corner of your eye? Unusual odours in the air? Whispers on the wind? It’s true to state, all these things could constitute a haunted house. However, have you ever considered that it’s all in your mind?...


The point I’m trying to make is… If you think you live in a haunted house, you will convince yourself that you have found the evidence to support it, thus reinforce the idea. Many people report hearing paranormal disturbances at night whilst they are lay on their beds or sat in silence.


Silence is considered unnatural and is often associated with danger which can evoke certain innate warning responses such as fear, panic and the production of Adrenalin. It’s true that human perception can certainly be altered by silence and darkness. In some cases the human auditory system can become more sensitive as it becomes quieter thus causing any little sound to become amplified. This is known as Hyperacusis. In a study carried out by MAPIT in 1998, 86% of people said that they would fear paranormal sounds equal to, or higher than sounds generated by a household burglar, showing that certain sounds that have significant meaning during quiet times of the night have much more prevalance than those in the day, when there are much more sounds generated. Again, this is simply a psychological response. Possibly an innate warning mechanism against predators.


Darkness and low level light does not help neither. There are many reports of people seeing things out of the corner of their eye. This is known as Peripheral Vision, which is produced by retinal rod cells in the eye, which differs from cone cell imagery which are the more commonly used parts of our eye when looking as something central or in view. Rod cells are more sensitive to light levels and movement as well as having less resolution thus making it easier to see such imagery out of the corner of your eye when lights are low or off. Coupled with the fact that the human brain has a tendency to make certain images out of nothing such as faces and figures, (like looking at photographs of paraedolia), would most certainly send you on the way to believing your house is haunted. The human brain finds it difficult to judge the distance of images seen in the peripheral Vision, thus the witnesses could believe they had seen something relatively close, when in fact it was much further away.


Natural house sounds can often be heard which can consist of creeking boards, tapping sounds and even dull thuds. This is brought on by natural thermal expansion and de-expansion.


Rodents and other animals are more active by night and can generate sounds as they move around. Many houses have mice or even rats in close proximity. They can sometimes be heard under floors, in walls and ceilings scratching, eating or moving around.


Central heating systems can cause unusual sounds in pipes and radiators. Such periodic sounds can give you a clue as to what they are. Such as the heating system turning on and off at set times.


Psychotic symptoms can cause audible hallucinations. According to studies, between 6 and 18% of Europeans have experienced some form of psychosis in their lives without them even knowing it.


Psychosymatic odours can be produced by the mind via suggestion. Studies show that the power of suggestion can cause people to believe they smell certain odours.


Also, when straining your eyes to look at a small light, it can cause what is known as Autokinesis, which is when your eye muscles move involuntary and can cause a small fixed light to look like its moving or shaking about. Darkness puts the human psyche into alert mode and causes our processes of information to be enhanced.


Its also important to remember that the human eye can take about 15—20 minutes to fully adjust to the dark and that anything that you might have thought you had seen within that time may very well never have existed. Sensory deprivation such as darkness can cause some people to have hallucinations and some to suddenly become fearful. Fear of the dark is a natural trait in humans, an old survival sense kicking in you could say.


People natural look for exits when faced with fear and cannot stop themselves looking into the dark corners and recesses of their rooms and thinking someone may be there. Again this natural survival sense takes over making us look into the most dangerous areas in case of predatory attack. If you believe strongly enough that someone is there, then its not impossible for the brain to manufacture an image for you. Also, similar to the T-Rex scenes out of Jurassic Park, our eyes can also act in a similar manner. This is known as Attentional Focus, when our eyes seems to be drawn to possible movement even if its in your peripheral vision. Darkness can bring out the fear in people, some may even have Nyctophobia, (a fear of the dark) and be unaware that their fear is a result of a phobia as appose to incident induced fear.


Its been said many times that people think things have been moved in the night, be it their keys, a letter, a chair or something else, when in fact they hadn’t. On many occasion we have shown people video surveillance showing them that nothing had been moved and that certain items were left in the same position they were discovered in the following morning. This happens because certain people are so sure that paranormal phenomena is taking place and convince themselves that certain items had moved in the night simply because they cannot clearly remember where they were left. Psychosymatic responses can also be attributed to the paranormal.


Again during tests carried by MAPIT in 1999, 7 out of 10 students claimed to smell lavender simply because of a suggestion. On occasion, when someone says ’Oh, can you smell that? I just got a real strong smell of flowers or Lavender. There it is again. Can you smell that?’, people will start to smell Lavender. This is a psychosymatic response, generated by the brain. What happens is that the brain starts to think about the smell of Lavender and tries to use a schema so to identify the odour, thus in the process making you think you can smell that particular scent.


Clever isn’t it?... I guess it’s the same thing when talking about being tiered and yawning heavily, then seeing people physically yawn in response. Again a schema is used to identify and a reproduction is carried out.


OK… What to do if you think your house is haunted. First of all, don’t let your imagination get the better of you. Leave a light on at night, leave the radio or TV on low, so there’s some background sound.


Take into consideration the activities of nocturnal animals such as mice and rats making certain noises. Also the natural expansion and de-expansion sounds of the house. Closing windows may help you block out external sounds from outside. In some cases, people have reported whistling sounds from downstairs, when in fact its been someone passing by outside.


Make a mental note where things are left, such as small items and even kitchen stools etc. Ignore everything people tell you, as their ideas and perceptions may very well be way base. Don’t let anyone encourage you to have a psychosymatic response and Ignore things seen in your peripheral vision. Don’t read stuff on the paranormal. Keep a calm and level head… Always!


During an investigation in Middleton, Manchester in 1995 I met with a young couple who had recently moved into their large 3 bedroom house. After living there for several months, they were convinced paranormal phenomena was taking place. Slowly but surely, their fears grew and the stress level shot through the roof. They complained that things were being turned on such as lights. Objects were found to have been moved in the night. Strange rapping and knocking sounds were heard periodically around 3.00am. Odd smells would sometimes fill the air. Their pet cat did not like the house, and the local vicar who attended the home claimed that there was a evil spirit in the house bent on causing them upset…


Sounds like a typical haunting, Yes?     In fact… No!


First of all, the young couple were fans of scary films and their large 3 bedroom house did have what you might call… a spooky appearance. In other words… a little run down, poor lighting and a slight damp smell in the air. Secondly, the pet cat disliking its new home is of no surprise. Cats can be rather choosey and will often have desires to be at other location. I know this from having a cat for a number of years. So… nothing out of the normal there. The strange smells from time to time were more than likely psychsymatic responses brought about by expectation and discussion between the couple. The items that were thought to have been moved around in the night were probably misinterpretations of paranormal phenomena. As mentioned earlier, some people simply forget where things were left and cannot recall leaving them in certain places. This was confirmed later when after the second night of video surveillance, the couple came down and told us that the car keys had been moved from the telephone table to the kitchen table. However, our video footage showed the couple leaving the keys on the kitchen table before going up to bed.


On one occasion, we presumed a kitchen light had been left on and when they came down in the morning, they had forgotten that they had left it on the night before and attributed it to a paranormal incident. In fact, we were told things were being turned on, but when we asked as to what exactly had been turned on, they could only remember the kitchen light. Sometimes people have a tendency to exaggerate claims. This is not always done purposely. Sometimes it is a psychological response in hope of encouraging belief from whoever they tell. As time passes the more distorted a memory of an incident can be. As for the strange rapping and knocking sounds being heard around 3.00am. The old heating system in the cellar was responsible. It was programmed to come on and heat the water etc around 3.00am and air trapped in the water pipes caused them to make knocking sounds. Also, the couple were unaware of the natural sounds of the house due to expansion and de-expansion. OK… one last thing. This vicar that visited their home. He had told them that there was an evil spirit in their home…. Utter rubbish! More than likely, a story concocted in hope of him gaining two more people to his congregation. Once we told the couple of our findings, and explained how our minds perceive certain sounds and actions, they were fine. In fact, they had felt a little foolish. After which, three months passed without a single incident reported. As for the vicar, we wrote to him explaining our involvement and that we were most upset with his conclusion he gave to the couple. A conclusion that reinforced their inaccurate suspicions…



So… if you really want to be sure your living in a haunted house, forget what you might feel, forget what you see out of the corner of your eye, ignore what people have to say about it. Don’t bother reading up on it or watching TV shows on it. Just do a couple of tests. Try and capture something on video, audio or camera so to be sure its nothing psychological. Note where items are left and try and encourage the alleged phenomena to move something such as a trigger object. (A trigger object could be a crucifix drawn around on a piece of paper and left to see if it has slightly moved). Be sure to eliminate all possibilities of misidentification before concluding you home is haunted. If by chance you do all this and find some evidence to support the fact that your living in a home where paranormal phenomena takes place...




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Compiled by Steve Mera.


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