Beyond visual sightings of apparitions or mysterious goo dripping from walls, one of the other signs of a haunting is the presence of an inexplicable – and sometimes unfortunate – smell. A smell that has no identifiable or even possible source, something truly out of the ordinary.
Oftentimes, the ghostly smell will be reported as familiar – such as a type of perfume or cologne once worn by a deceased family member, especially if said perfume is no longer present in the home. Other reported smells have included flowers and cigar smoke (among other less pleasing scents, but we’ll get to that).
These smells may occur randomly, or you may find them in specific areas that may be more prone to paranormal activity.
Even those circumstances, however, don’t necessarily mean that any given smell is supernatural. But let’s take a look at the possibilities.
We’ll start with the worst type of otherworldly smell – that of demons.
A demonic smell is often described as terrible, something rotten or grotesque, perhaps like sulfur or even a corpse. Witnesses have reported the scent of feces, as well. Some say that people possessed by demons also give off this putrid smell.
But, usually, it’s the house that seems to have the most trouble.
2013 saw the story of a Romanian lawyer who had such a problem. His home, he claimed, had been invaded by “flatulent demons” who made various rooms smell, well, very bad. He also reported electronic disturbances, such as the television turning off and on, as well as manifestations of demons in the form of various animals.
A “black shadow” also reportedly jumped out of a possessed hair-dryer whenever they tried to use it.
He requested an exorcism, and although a total of four priests gave it a shot, it apparently failed. The house continued to smell of demons.
Even Ariana Grande has claimed that she once smelled demons. During an interview with Complex, also in 2013, she talked about an experience she had with a potential demon while visiting Stull Cemetery in Kansas.
She said they had smelled sulfur in the car, “the sign of a demon,” and after viewing photos she took at the time, she also saw “three super distinct faces in the picture…of textbook demons.”
I guess that sort of thing happens when you visit one of the gates of Hell.
How Do Ghosts Smell?
All of that said, not every paranormal smell, even a bad one, is a demon. Many cases of “ordinary” hauntings have involved inexplicable smells.
An investigation by Black Hills Paranormal highlights one such haunting. It was back in September 2008, when they were called in to check out the Lucky Nugget Casino in Deadwood, South Dakota.
They’d had reports there by staff of shadow people, odd sounds, and an unidentifiable smell of perfume.
As it turned out, that very same building had once been used as a brothel, and had a history of paranormal phenomena. To cut a long story short, one of the members of Black Hills Paranormal experienced the “phantom” perfume smell for himself, and even heard footsteps in the hallway. He was alone in that area of the building at the time.
Did he smell the scent of a ghost from the old days, wearing the same old perfume, who had chosen to hang around?
The Wet Dog
In April 2016, The Sun reported the odd story of a man who believed he caught the spirit of his dead dog on camera. He’d been taking random photos of his children in their kitchen, when he noticed the presence of “strange orbs” and the scent of “wet dog.”
Prior to this event, they had also noticed the same smell, as well as floating orbs, in their hallway, an area where their pet frequented when alive.
The man later returned to this kitchen to investigate further, calling out his dog’s name, Mutley, and taking more pictures. The orbs returned, but he also found something else in one of the photos – what he believed was the shape of his dog sitting on the floor.
Is it possible that this family not only experienced haunting ghost orbs but also a smell from the beyond? Is their dog still with them, even after death?
The Ghost that Smelled Like Fish
Wet dogs are one thing, but how about ghosts that smell like fish? The story of Laura Dickson involves a ghost she believes “stalks” her, and, according to the Mirror, gives off a “fishy odor” as a warning of bad things to come.
When she was younger, the alleged ghost had given off its fishy smell right before she learned that a relative had suffered a stroke. She believes this was the spirit preparing her for the bad news.
Throughout her life, Dickson claims that she would first sense a presence, then the smell. Is she being given warnings, in the form of an odd fish smell, from the other side?
A Psychic Connection
Something else to consider is the possible existence of a unique psychic ability, called Clairolfaction (or, as I’ve also heard it called, Clairalience or Clairscent).
While most are probably familiar with clairvoyance (the ability to “see” the future), clairolfaction is the ability to, well, smell the other side, or to otherwise gain extrasensory psychic information from smells.
There are more than a few reports online of such an ability, including the one up there about the fish ghost.
For example, in 2012 the Paranormal Georgia Investigations group posted about an experience they had at the Georgia Aquarium while investigating a Titanic exhibit.
The exhibit included perfume bottles recovered from the wreckage, but there was something else in the room – one member of the group distinctly smelled the cologne of a man. This despite no one else being in the room, nor any air vents being present. It was as if someone wearing cologne had just walked in front of them, but no one else was there.
As a side note, stories about the Titanic were some of my first exposure to the wider world of the paranormal. In the game Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time, there’s a character named Leyland Sachem Trask who has the psychic ability of of psychometry, or having premonitions or extrasensory perception from physical contact with objects. But that’s a story for another day!
In another more related case, this one shared in 2011 on the website True Ghost Tales, a user told the story of a woman who could “smell” when someone was soon to die. It would manifest in the form of a “fresh dirt” or earthy smell right when she woke up.
After this happened several times, she made the connection. Within a few days before a family member’s or friend’s death, she would wake up to that peculiar smell. It got to the point where she wanted the bizarre ability to “go away,” but it never did. Whenever it would happen, she could only wonder who was next.
Can smells seep over from the other side? Do ghosts themselves have an odor? Can some people predict the future via smell?
The idea raises yet another question: Can ghosts, being incorporeal and likely not giving off a physical scent, intentionally manifest familiar smells in order to reach out to the living? Smell is one of our strongest senses, after all, and can illicit a range of emotions. It’s also very much linked to memory. Perhaps ghosts give off these familiar scents to remind us that they’re still here…
What do you believe?