How Do We Explain Mysterious Spectral Scratches?

Picture this scene: a group of ghost hunters are standing quietly in the abandoned cellar of an old haunted mansion. It’s night. One of them is talking to the air, another takes readings with an EMF meter she bought on eBay. Things are getting downright spooky, and everyone is having a good time. Mostly everyone.

But something happens. One of them feels a pressure against his back, something that burns and seems to push him forward. He cries out, and the startled team gathers to investigate. They lift up his shirt, and what they find shocks them all: three red marks sliding down his back.

The Anatomy of a Spiritual Attack

If the above story sounds familiar, that’s because it happens all the time. Or, at least, that would appear to be the case. Look and you shall find – tales of ghostly assaults, scratches, bite marks, welts, and bruises that spontaneously manifest on an individual’s skin, often during a paranormal investigation.

But are these truly paranormal, or could there be rational explanations for what, at first glance, would appear to be legitimate proof of something beyond our comprehension?

While I’m sure most of us have experienced the odd “unexplained” scratch – maybe on our hands or arms, usually after a night’s sleep or perhaps due to our tendency to run into things (or is that just me?) – these alleged scratches, or so it’s said, are far more sinister in nature.

Three scratches in particular may be interpreted as “demonic art,” a mockery of the Holy Trinity, as claimed by some paranormal investigators. Some, in fact, believe different marks have different meanings.

As I said, you can find many, many examples of these spectral scratch marks on the Internet. But here’s an interesting one that happened in 2014. A news team were reporting on an alleged haunting at a property in Hanover, Pennsylvania when the cameraman – while filming – suffered a scratch and burn on his wrist.

“Because you’re telling the story. Because you’re putting it out there … right now that is their way of a warning,’ Deanna Simpson said while putting holy water on Petrillo’s arm.”

The homeowner, in that case, claimed to experience “terrifying apparitions” and strange dreams, as well as doors opening and closing on their own. She also captured what she described as a “seven-foot-tall shadowy figure” – a demon – on film, which you can see in the above video.

Poltergeists, Demons, and Hives

How do we explain any of this? There’s, of course, your stock explanation, the one we all keep handy: it’s a hoax. For the above story, that may very well be true. These things can also be accidents or normal occurrences, only thought to be paranormal after the “priming” that investigators tend to experience before entering those haunted locations. But that’s not very exciting, is it?

On the ordinary side, we have a few possibilities. The presence of raised red marks on the skin – welts, for example – could indicate something like hives. An allergic reaction, perhaps to mold or dust or any number of potential allergens. Another possibility is something called dermographism, a peculiar skin disorder in which the skin may become raised and inflamed at the slightest touch.

On the supernatural side — the one we’re all here for — we could be dealing with poltergeists. This would be the physical manifestation of some kind of psychic energy by the individuals being haunted. A poltergeist, as we’ve talked about before, can arise from any kind of emotional or psychological turmoil and cause all sorts of bizarre activity. If it occurs during a ghost hunt, perhaps it’s a manifestation of the fear or stress of one of the “hunters.”

Finally, there is the most common paranormal explanation: that these scratches are caused by negative spirits or, worse, demonic entities.

A Word On Demons

This final explanation raises a question for me, though. If these are, indeed, malicious demonic attacks, why do they stop at the surface? Scratches or welts that appear mysteriously on the skin are terrifying, I imagine, but these entities presumably exist unbounded by spatial dimensions. And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t a demon scratch an eye or part of the brain or the heart?

More importantly, if a demonic entity could scratch, why couldn’t it do more? Well, maybe they do…

Questions, questions.

Paranormal Investigation Is Hard

I’m not a paranormal investigator. I wouldn’t even call myself a paranormal researcher, to be honest. But I’ve read enough and seen enough to say that, even after all the research I have done, I’m still as in the dark as ever.

Nothing about the paranormal confounds me more than all the so-called evidence that seems to lead us nowhere. The pictures, the videos. These unexplained scratches and weird marks. The anecdotes. I suppose it wouldn’t be paranormal if we had the answer — then, it’d just be normal. But I often feel like we’re walking in circles.

Anyway, what do you think? Are most of these scratches hoaxes? Inadvertently self-inflicted wounds? Allergies? Or the marks of demons wishing to do harm to us mere mortals? Let me know your thoughts.

Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.


  1. the video of the news crew i meant. I don’t ever believe any of the so called ghost hunter videos

    1. I don’t blame you, Luke! I included that video just as an example of your typical ghost hunter allegedly getting hit with the three marks. I don’t really buy into that stuff, either.

      1. Rob, I was doing ok with sleep and my faith in Christ has shot through the roof after a couple of experiences of my own (and yes I believe these events to be 100% factual. December 2014 i woke from a sleep paralyzed unable to move and just full of fear. This has happened before and many times awaking from terrible nightmares. Usually during a difficult time in my life. But this time I heard the worst growl I’ve ever heard I couldn’t even explain it. When i came to i remembered my old man telling me years ago how he awoke paralyzed in his sleep in the jouse we grew up in, heard footsteps running up the stairs and then an awful growl. Last week at my old mans house I opened the sliding door to go smoke a but and I heard s growl. I was wide awake mind yiu and couldn’t see anything where the growl was coming from. I thought an animal was pissed or about to fight another. To not make too much noise i left the door cracked ran into the laundry room the an open door to grab my pistol. Then i heard a loud smash or bang on the laundry room door that was closed. I jumped ten feet and drew my pistol and walked out the door i came in the confront whateber it was. My father woke form it and he was coming downstairs as I realized nothing was in the house. So odd. Two nights later i get this awful feeling – the hairs on my neck see standing. I start to pray thsts when I walk away firm the living room of my girls olace and before I got to the couch again my left leg stopped workinf

      2. I believe you. It happens to me all the time. I think I have a demonic infestation in my house. But no one would believe me any way.

    2. Not to say that you are wrong. You just don’t know. It does happen. It is real. It is very real.

      1. Yes it’s nothing but real. Amanda I’m experiencing the same please email me I need help. I’m am with God just could use a shoulder.

  2. I cannot shake the suspicion that it may be our own minds at work here. Creating a physical reality based on what one’s involved in at the time, Especially where heightened emotions are involved…

    1. That would be great. But unfortunately, once you experience it especially if other witness something you witness, and 2 or more obvious signs of it manifest so close together, logic would have to say that is isn’t coincidence or “tricks of the mind” unless of curse you’re all tripping ok acid or shrooms. The worst thing to do is consult with mediums or necromancers of any kind. Justbstay away from any occult oractices like burning sage and havig mediums enter the house to channel or communicate with anything at all. You cannot communicate with rhe dead, just the evil that roams the earth.

  3. I was washing dishes when i felt a burning sensation on my arm, i looked down had nothing there. Afterwards when I was done with the dishes the burning sensation got worse and I noticed 3 scratches… in an odd angle and the gaps between each scratch were different. It was strange.

  4. As far back as I can remember I have felt like I might have a sense of a haunting. As I got older I started getting prophetic like end of times dreams and other horror type dreams. One could say that it’s from movies I watched or such. That could work, but in those days I did not watch horror movies. In most of the places I lived I felt it may have been haunted. Not all of them, but like 99%. A few years ago I started getting scratches often. I even got bruise finger print marks on my arms a few times. I have a few of these photos still. Wish I had a lot more. I have seen unexplained things as well. I don’t care if I am not believed. I know what I see, sense, feel and have marks at times as well. I was told that I had a little girl following me. I don’t know who it could be, but I have lost a lot of family and been through some hard things. Maybe I am cursed.

    1. I have lost allot of people in my life and been through Allot! It pretty much correlates with demons following me around. I don’t know why. Every once and a while I will get scratched by these things. I have never told anyone but my son. He gets scratched sometimes. It does bother me. But not to the point I worry about it. I just really don’t understand it. Last night I got scratched on my right arm. Today I had allot of anger. I know that is why. Every time I get scratched I have allot of anger. I hate it. This is real. It really happens.

  5. this just happened to me i went to lie down on my bed to feel a stinging pain now im scared i get three lines time to time but ppl say thts the ghosts warning sign….. this has happened at least 6 times

  6. I was scratched last night. I saw the demons hand!! It had old skin and very long nails. This is not the first time. I was also scratched 3 years ago somewhere else. It’s like this thing follows me around! WTF? I don’t really know what to do. Does anyone have any advice?

    1. I would start a relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask him for help and to protect you.

      “But the Lord is faithful. He will give you strength and protect you from the Evil One.”
      ‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ERV‬‬

      Finding Jesus was the best thing I ever did and he brings so much peace and happiness to my life. I really hope you look to him for help and can find peace.

  7. If you are being scratched, you need spiritual protection. Whatever your faith, be you Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, etc., prayer will help. If you are a non religious person, asking the Benevolent, Loving Universe to protect you will have the same effect. However, for some cases, prayer alone may not be enough and you must do a protective ritual. (Fundamentalists, let me stop you right here. Don’t bother trying to preach to me, I’ve heard it all before and I find holes the size of dump trucks in your logic. Please shove off and let me help some suffering people out, eh? Blessings to you and yours and you can go away now. I will ignore any Fundy responses so don’t even waste your time. )

    Throughout human history, people have always practiced house blessings. In some cultures they still do it, but in general us Western Europeans have forgotten how.
    In Native American culture or South American culture, one traditionally smudges the property with either sage or Palo Santo before moving in. This removes a lot of negative energy, unless it is firmly entrenched.

    Spreading blessed salt throughout your property (or at least in your room) is also very helpful. Where salt is, no evil can dwell. Some herbs such as sage, Rue, holy Basil, rosemary, etc. will also have a dispersing effect on negative astral entities too.

    There is a common house blessing prayer in the Jewish faith called the Birkat HaBayit. The English translation is:
    Let no sadness come through this gate.
    Let no trouble come to this dwelling.
    Let no fear come through this door.
    Let no conflict be in this place.
    Let this home be filled with the blessing of joy and peace.

    You might combine smudging with sage and sprinkling salt while blessing your space while saying the Birkat HaBayit or something similar. This forms a spiritual “fence” or “wall” so you should not be disturbed. Good luck and brightest blessings to those afflicted.

  8. LOVIE Robinson I too have experienced a Demon being attached to me. I have found thru believing in God and a bunch of other stuff how to get it off me and my family as we’ve been going thru this for 3 years. It is still with one of my boys witch I’m working on now. Please fill free to email me and I will try to help .

  9. you know, I have been interested in the paranormal for a long time and even more after I realized I am getting older. I have or should I say I believe I have lived in a couple “haunted” houses. I live in one where I had to do a cleansing. I received help from one of the mediums on the show rescue mediums (BLESS YOUR HEART JACKIE) with that being said, I have given a lot of thought about theses things and just had a thought . is it possible the ppl that are being scratched and are being marked somehow? “claimed” if you will by a dark entity? if demons if you will have this mission I have heard about it might be getting souls? putting their mark on them kind of like the 3 6’s. its just a thought . I’m not trying to scare anyone this is just a thought I had and this is the first site I went to to share it.

  10. Laying in bed on my phone this morning when my right arm started burning. It was red and now I can see what appears to be 8 possibly 9 scratch Mark’s. I honestly dont know what to think at this point.

  11. i’m scared bc me and my neighbor hear CHLOE COME HERE,JORDAN do u know what hearing those mean .
    p.s. its a shout

  12. Hi something weird happend to my mother today when she woke up in the morning on her left arm near the elbow joint. There where strange marks that looked like if she would have had a connected intravenous infusion drip bag for couple of days that looked like wide plaster in a x pattern and like somewhat looking like there would be bandage in the middle like if she had been laying in hospital for couple of days. For example the marks looked like if would have a bandaid for couple of days and when you finally take it of the skin is slightly white because of the skin not breathing and getting moist. The weird thing is my mom hasnt been in the hospitl for a long time beacuse she is healthy.

    One thing is that we live in a house in Sweden that was built by a man who died long time ago( i think he died in the 1970s) he possibly still visits us. My moms boyfriend that we moved in to almost 2 years ago told that its the owner who still visits us because he probably loved his house he built. My mothers boyfriend has lived in this house for almost 15 years and he told me that when he moved in weird things happend like once he told that he heard a old mans voice trying to communicate and other weird stuff happend. At first he told me he got terrified and was paranoid because the stuff going on because he never experienced such encounters but one thing he told us was that he never felt like the old spirit wanted to do any harm he said that he felt like the spirit was more like a guardian.

    Me and my mother believe in spirits we both have experienced and encountered paranormal activities. Since ive been a child ( it started somewhere when i was in 3rd grade) ive ecounterd and seen spirits and 1 that i wont forget that made me almost lose my mind because it fallowed me for almost 4 years even when we moved out of our 2nd apartment to the 3rd apartment between 2010-2014 and that spirit was really scary. That encounter lastly made me move to my brother for 2 weeks because i couldnt stand it,i was going mad and i couldn’t even study, but when i moved over to my brother for that short period of time my mother went to a small shop in our town (helsingborg) called the sixth sense (English translation) that specialized in different spiritual products and things etc. And then on she bought i think it was like a dried balm tree that had a red knot around it and its used in a way that u light it with fire and when it blazing and smoking you should walk around the house in every corner in every room of the house where you leave the doors open for 1 day to clean the house of bad spirits and energy.

    The freakish encounter started when i was 10 years old when i was laying in my bed and just thinking over things and suddenly i saw a pale girl with black hair floating like she was underwater for almost i think it was 3-6 seconds starring at me. Then after that more weird things started to appear like weird bangs and doors closing at their own. once at night when i was laying in my bed and looking at the tv( Still the same spiritual encounter) i saw 2 morph from the wall that looked like they where trying to grab me. My mother was working most of the entire time under my childhood . So i was basically home alone mostly over night. Here are some short experiences ive encountered. But there are alot more encounters ive had. Sorry for my bad english i live in Sweden so english isnt my main language.

  13. All be laying in bed or the couch Then i feel something move inside bed or couch. I mean i can feel it moving up & down the bed, I guess it want to cuttlow with me it like it rapping around my leg it fell warm & licking my leg it freak me out at first i told my friend they well you know i had screw lose most of them belive me. But now i think the thing pissed off at me & just Sting me everday i mean everyday it even found me at my friend house it can go from my bed to couch it feel like a cat wen its walking on top it feel like big big cat now i dont know what to do been going on for more then 6 mos. sting getting worse.

    1. The same events you are describing have been happening to me. These are demonic spirits and they are following you around. They are attacking you for a reason and with purpose. They will continue to attack you until you seek the assistance of Jesus Christ and you are not imagining things. If you want to discuss this further you can respond to this comment. There is hope to getting rid of these evil spirits, and you are definitely not imaging things.

  14. This happened to me . I woke up with 3 scratches on the back of my neck same place every time . At first I just thought my neck was sore until my husband saw it and notified me of the scratches . they healed and have came back 5 times now within the past 4 months . I’ve never experienced anything like it until now .

    1. I was still awake when I had a burning sensation on my chest , looking down I thought it was dry so I put hydrocortisone on it boy did it burn it got worse , it felt like someone was cutting me with a razor blade very slowly I saw the one scratch form , I sleept to wake up to two more all in a row .some one please help me