Here are 18 potential signs your house may be inhabited by a wayward ghost, containing the most commonly reported phenomena surrounding alleged hauntings.
I’ve broken them into five stages, each representing the growing likelihood that your home is occupied by a paranormal entity. Or, at least, what is said to be true in such cases, according to paranormal folklore. Whether or not you choose to believe them, well, that’s up to you.
1. Traumatic history of your home. We’ll begin with something that’s not necessarily a sign. More a precursor. Not every haunted house is one with a sordid past — the scene of an untimely death or other traumatic event — but a home with a history of such unfortunate circumstances may be prime real estate for a restless phantom.
2. Strange dreams. An odd dream is usually nothing extraordinary, but many would say there are occasions when dreams serve an ulterior purpose. Uncharacteristic dreams of accidents, strange figures hovering over you, or even death may all be signs that a spirit is trying to get your attention. Perhaps you’ve been visited by the Old Hag, or the Hat Man.
3. An unnerving feeling. In the dead of night, when you’re the only one awake — and perhaps alone — you can’t help but feel that someone, or some thing, is watching you. Blinds are drawn, the television is off. No one is there. But if that’s the case, where does this feeling come from? A ghost watching you from the shadows?
4. Changes in temperature. Areas of varying temperature, particularly spots in your home where it seems unusually cold, may be a sign of paranormal activity. It would, however, be an obvious chill, a dead spot in the air. Or, conversely, a hot spot. Look for any drastic changes in temperature, hot or cold.
5. Electromagnetic interference. Electronic devices acting up? Televisions, radios, computers or cell phones giving you problems? It’s a bit of a stretch to assume that any basic malfunction would be caused by a ghost, but it’s been said to happen. Experiments with electronic voice phenomena and instrumental transcommunication indicate that the other side may, under some circumstances, reach out through modern technology.
6. Strange Noises. Footsteps in the attic, a mysterious knocking at the door. Creaking stairs where no one is present, or the quiet sound of breathing in an empty room. If you’re alone in the house and you hear scratching through the walls — sure, it could be a mouse. But if, after further investigation, you find no trace of the noise’s origin, you may find you have more than a simple pest problem.
7. Odd smells. Many accounts of hauntings include reports of peculiar smells. These smells include sulfur, tobacco or cigar smoke, flowers, perfumes, and other scents related to individuals while they were alive. A general mustiness in the air may also occur. Conversely, demons may bring about foul or rotting odors.
8. Animals behaving erratically. It’s clear that animals — and in many cases, small children — are able to sense things that adult humans cannot. Not just the supernatural, either — weather changes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are all noticed by animals well before humans are aware. Some animals are even known to sense illness or predict imminent death.
Dogs barking at the air, cats hissing at walls, or general irritability and nervousness are all said to be signs that they see something you are unable to.
9. Imaginary friends. Countless ghost stories involve parents noticing their children speaking to imaginary friends, which, if you choose to believe them, eventually turn out to not be so imaginary after all.
10. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). While it’s rare that you’ll hear phantom voices unaided, many ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts use a technique known as Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP, to attempt to capture the sounds and voices of ghosts on recordable media. If you suspect the existence of an entity, consider using an electronic recording device to pick up evidence of spirits. If you do pick up something, that’ll be one more check in the My House Is Haunted list.
11. Strange occurrences in photographs or videos. With all the digital editing software available today, it’s hard to tell a real photograph of paranormal activity from a fake. But if you spot any unexplainable objects in photographs or video taken within your home, such as ghostly orbs or strange misty vapors — or even a full apparition — your house may be haunted.
12. Missing items. Sometimes you forget where you put something. Other times, no matter how hard you look, something so ordinary and commonly used — a television remote, a glass, something you wouldn’t likely misplace — turns up missing. Days later it may reappear in an equally ordinary spot, one you’ve check repeatedly. Where had it been? In the possession of mischievous ghosts? Such an occurrence is known as Disappearing Object Phenomenon.
13. Moving shadows. You may think you’ve seen something, out of the corner of your eye. A moving shadow? Was it yours? There exists a certain phenomenon known as Shadow People that may be their own form of supernatural entity, or may be wisp-like traces of ghosts that you can only just glimpse.
14. Disembodied voices, crying, or laughter. Ghostly voices are usually heard through EVPs, but reports of phantom cries or laughter are not uncommon.
15. Residual manifestations. Certain “hauntings” come in the form of ghostly events that repeat, typically following some kind of schedule, over and over again. These hauntings aren’t “intelligent” — they’re more like natural recordings of events, or slices of time from when the ghost was living. If you hear footsteps walking through your hallway at the same time every night, or strange events that seem to happen like clockwork, you may be experiencing a residual haunting.
16. Moving objects. Caps popping off bottles. Coffee pots turning on by themselves. Hauntings can begin with the more common signs, but at a certain point a ghost’s presence becomes more obvious. Cabinets or doors opening and closing on their own, objects falling for no discernible reason, other items flying across a room — signs of a ghost, or perhaps a poltergeist?
17. Physical manifestations. The feeling of being touched by an unseen hand, or waking up with odd marks and spectral scratches, are sometimes claimed to be signs of a spirit or demon.
18. Apparitions. At a certain point, there’s no question in your mind that you’re dealing with something beyond your comprehension. That point is when you physically see an apparition. Spirits, or so they say, may take the form of white, vaporous figures, but they can appear in a number of ways: Glowing orbs of light, solid shadows, or even as they had existed in life, fully formed and almost tangible.