It Really Seems Like I'm Haunted.
March 26, 2010 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Weirdness. Am I haunted? Is my house haunted? Strange, unexplainable things are happening.

Today a book of matches spontaneously combusted in my hand. The book of matches was closed. A witness was present, she didn't see them ignite but she saw the flames as I dropped the pack. I did NOT ignite the matches. No damage was done, but this was the first potentially dangerous thing that's happened.

A couple of approx. 4" circles appeared on a plain sweatshirt someone had given me. They weren't there a day earlier. It was as if someone had drawn them with a magic marker.

There are two "burned" (yellowed) circles on my lawn, one about 8 inches, one about 2 feet in diameter. They are not lines, it's as if someone put a can, something solid, on my grass and left it there for a month~it's very dry.

When I take my shoes off, I leave them on the floor. I found one on a table 6 feet from where I took it off. I live alone. I have the only key, no one gets in without my knowledge.

A washrag that I was using in my car appeared on the kitchen floor 12 hours later.

I'm not amused, I was curious at first, but since the matches incident, I'm getting freaked out. I don't know where to turn. I asked a priest to intercede, and he told me to go see a shrink. I've prayed. I've had other people go into my house and talk to "them," I'm a bit scared that if the local herbalist comes in and burns sage or some other herb that it will make the problem worse, but I have no idea what to do.
posted by davoid to Religion & Philosophy (44 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Gaslighting, maybe?
posted by jquinby at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you should take the priest's advice and see a shrink.
posted by ghharr at 1:00 PM on March 26, 2010

I think you should probably a) check the carbon monoxide levels in your home and b) see a neurologist.
posted by proj at 1:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [23 favorites]

I recommend seeing a mental health professional.
posted by VikingSword at 1:03 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

The carbon monoxide advice is solid; it can't hurt to drop $20 on a detector from Home Depot, and everyone needs one of those in their house, anyway.

In fact, I would recommend all of the above.

But really, I think it's going to come down to simple misunderstandings, such as: You accidentally rubbed the matches together. The circles on the sweatshirt were always there, or you rubbed it against something. The burned circles in the lawn is an animal peeing on your lawn. You're misplacing things (shoes, rags, etc) and forgetting that you're misplacing things. Your first reactions are priests and ghosts, which tells us you're not thinking about things in a calm, methodical way.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [23 favorites]

proj is right on. I don't think a shrink will help you- I'd be more concerned that something is impairing your memory.

Definitely check for carbon monoxide or a gas leak. It may sound odd, there was a great bit on This American Life this past Halloween (?) about how most/all turn-of-the-century hauntings could be explained by leaky gas lines and poor ventilation causing hallucinations.
posted by mkultra at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can maybe help you with the dead grass rings. There is a fungus that is common in lawns that causes amazingly symmetrical dark green or brown rings. They're called Fairy Rings.
posted by cecic at 1:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your first reactions are priests and ghosts, which tells us you're not thinking about things in a calm, methodical way.

Oh, and you have friends coming in to talk to "them," which tells us you're surrounded by people not offering you good advice.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]

Set up a USB camera and record everything to a large hard drive in case someone is getting into your house without your knowledge.
posted by benzenedream at 1:14 PM on March 26, 2010

Also suggesting that you check for carbon monoxide.
posted by borkencode at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2010

Your lawn has a fungus. When the weather warms up it will probably go away.
posted by IanMorr at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2010

Check the edges of the moved shoe for toothmarks. You might have rats.
That would work for the washrag, too.

In a dry climate or on a dry day, I have had electrical discharges from walking
in a carpet ignite flammable things that I was handling.

Construct a timeline for the discovery of supposedly supernatural events, and
which of your acquaintances (friends, semi-friends, etc) knew of your interpretation
of events.

The person who gave you the sweatshirt, did they know you were haunted when
they gave you the sweatshirt?

As to the yellowed yard grass, anyone can access your yard without your knowledge.
If the grass continues to die, I would suspect herbicide.

Other causes are of course possible, but it isn't anything supernatural.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2010

Your priest was right. You're not being haunted. Do what proj said.
posted by equalpants at 1:36 PM on March 26, 2010

Here is davoid's previous question. davoid, if you are being serious and both of these questions are really about you, please get help immediately.
posted by peep at 1:37 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and you have friends coming in to talk to "them," which tells us you're surrounded by people not offering you good advice.

Sounds to me like you are surrounded by people setting you up for an April fool's prank. I wouldn't be so sure that no one can get in your house without your knowledge, set up something to record and find out.

Grass can be yellowed with the right chemicals, it would be pretty easy to do. You can buy fabric markers that disappear after a few days, so there's probably some way to make something appear after a few days -- you mentioned someone gave you the sweatshirt. What about the matches? Did the person who was with you handle them at all?

Also, small items moving around in your house can also be due to things like rats, mice, squirrels, etc. Any evidence of those?
posted by yohko at 1:40 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mod note: a few comments removed - could we not talk about the OP as if they are not here, it's really not okay. You have MeTa and email at your disposal.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:46 PM on March 26, 2010

Set up some sort of camera - especially for where you place your shoes. It could help you figure out what's happening in the very short term, but keep in mind that if your brain is playing tricks on you, which is much more likely than paranormal activity, you may imagine you saw something in the recordings too. So proceed with a healthy sense of caution and skepticism, and definitely follow the other advice to check for gas leaks and talk to a mental health specialist, worse comes to worse.

I know "see a shrink" can sound dismissive, but it's well-intentioned advice considering your circumstances. You are not being haunted by ghosts.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 1:52 PM on March 26, 2010

Davoid, you should listen to proj. I'm fascinated by the crap they show on TV about haunted stuff, but I don't believe it, and realistically speaking, it is impossible to be haunted. I've been somewhat forgetful about things myself, and think I've encountered something I left behind or misplaced for the first time.

You should listen to your priest about seeing a doctor asap. The brain can be very weird sometimes.
posted by anniecat at 1:52 PM on March 26, 2010

Small data point to consider: once upon a time, a friend and I couldn't get into her house, despite her having the key. She tried every jiggle/pull/twist/shove she could think of, to no avail. I said "let me, I have a way with doors", reached out, turned the knob -- and the door opened without any effort whatsoever. I am not made of magic, and I do not actually have a way with doors, it was just a delightful coincidence that my false bravado lined up with the door giving way as I attempted to open it.

I also have round circles on my lawn, from dog pee, and they eventually clear up. Sometimes we get fairy rings, too. And often I believe I have placed things somewhere, only to discover them somewhere else, and I can't remember bringing them there -- except that I can conceive of how I might have done it absent-mindedly. I have left things in one room, or outside, and ended up with them in another room, or outside, because they stuck to my shoe or to my pant leg when I sat down, or because I picked them up absent-mindedly and forgot I'd done it.

Checking for carbon monoxide is a good idea. Going to a shrink to help you deal with your irrational assumptions about haunting is a good idea. Meanwhile, everything you're talking about (including the matches -- remember, even a closed matchbook can light if it is hot enough or under enough pressure, such as being held and squeezed and figited with) can be explained rationally.

In short: you are not being haunted. That is the only theory that is 100% false. All others (carbon monoxide, april fools' prank, a need to seek professional help, the explanations I've provided) are possibly true, and only the carbon monoxide and need to seek professional help are potentially urgent -- so start there.
posted by davejay at 1:55 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are things kind of chaotic in your life right now? If there are malicious spirits in your house, your own energy can incite them. I would try some grounding exercises for your spirit, like standing outside in the grass and thinking about your feet on the earth. Take some deep breaths and think about how you are real, and your body is touching the dirt. Just being calmer overall can help.

If that doesn't work, I would try sage next. Do you have a friend interested in other-worldly things? Maybe have them go through the house together when you smudge it.

Keep us updated.
posted by frecklefaerie at 1:57 PM on March 26, 2010

Follow the above advice and check for carbon monoxide. Talk to a mental health professional about causes of possible forgetfulness or black-out periods.

BUT, I'm not going to jump on the there-is-no-supernatural bandwagon. I'm fairly skeptical myself, but I smudged my place with sage a while back because some stuff was freaking me out. I am not saying it worked. I'm saying it made me feel better, and that's all that matters. So go for it if you think it would make you feel better.
posted by motsque at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would argue against any "other-worldly" considerations or actions. Worrying about malicious spirits is going down the wrong, unhelpful path. All the things you mentioned, davoid, can have very real and logical explanations, and it would do you the most good to try to figure out what they are before resorting to more spiritual methods. Remember that our world is full of some interesting and bizarre coincidences.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2010

While the advice to be calm is always good, please don't say things like "[i]f there are malicious spirits in your house, your own energy can incite them" as if they are fact. These are in fact superstitions.
posted by proj at 2:02 PM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

You could be haunted by why all of the sudden? Usually these things happen when you move into a new house, bring home old antiques, and/or someone close to you has recently died. You probably aren't crazy as many people are saying in the comments but you should check out the logical things first (CO2, rats, forgetfulness, etc), then consider why you would all of the sudden be a target of a haunting.
posted by MsKim at 2:04 PM on March 26, 2010

You probably aren't crazy as many people are saying in the comments

Suggesting that someone see a medical doctor (which includes psychiatrists) is not calling them crazy. For you to characterize it as such is profoundly unhelpful.
posted by peep at 2:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [17 favorites]

Nobody's saying OP is crazy. Don't feed the superstition.

It's probably a case of confirmation bias. One unlikely thing happens, like the matched igniting because of grabbing the pack wrong or static discharge or anything and suddenly mundane things, like a stained sweater, dead grass, or an absentmindedly carried rag are strange and unlikely. They're not. I've got stained clothes, a dead patch in my lawn, and I have no idea when my tee shirt got to be in the floor in the room I'm typing in.

If OP is freaking out about this, then a doctor's visit is not for being crazy, it's for being safe.
posted by cmoj at 2:17 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My former roommate has neurological issues and did a lot of things that he didn't remember. He did this (when confronted, he didn't remember what happened, and I still believe that he didn't know what he did, but I still kicked him out since...well what else could he do totally out of character and completely forget about?), he put all of my toiletries in the sink one day while I was at work (when asked, he said he thought I did it), and he once tried to give me utility money twice (in cash!) because he didn't remember giving it to me the first time the day before.

See a doctor. I don't think you're "crazy", but it could be something medical.
posted by AlisonM at 2:18 PM on March 26, 2010

There is a quote: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

davoid, to figure out what's going on here, you're going to have to eliminate some things from the possible. In order to do that, please follow all of the advice here: check the CO2 levels in your home, see a neurologist, see a mental health professional, then move on to the supernatural from there. But please, please do not assume its anything in particular: start with the most common causes and move on from there.
posted by anastasiav at 2:20 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

Are you getting enough sleep? It could be a memory issue, I'm in the see a doc camp. Best wishes.
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:22 PM on March 26, 2010

Am I haunted? Is my house haunted?

No, and no. You should listen to the priest.

You didn't actually ask any other questions, so I'll assume the question is "what should I do?". What you should do is check the carbon monoxide levels in your house and see a doctor. The doctor will be able to determine if you should be referred to either a neurologist or a shrink.

There is no need to bring in priests, herbalists, or witch doctors. Unless it will make you feel better. In which case you should only do those things in addition to the CO checks and medical doctor visit, not instead of them.
posted by Justinian at 2:47 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd guess you have a sleep disorder and are doing things you don't remember. I have two friends who are narcoleptic and seem to see things natural and supernatural very much as you do.
posted by jamjam at 2:52 PM on March 26, 2010

Do you take a sleep medication? If you do you should talk to your doctor ASAP as there are many cases of people using sleep medications doing odd things then waking up.

As for the examples:
Matches can be defective. You might have rats (or cats or teens) sneaking in and moving things around. Some stains only show when heated or in sunlight or after time. Animals can pee on lawns, lightning can strike lawns in odd patterns, etc.

Maybe you are a bit stressed and should take it easy for a while? Also - getting a cat might be a good idea - once you have a cat then you'll be okay with night-time noises and things moving around, plus stroking them reduces stress and provides companionship.

Another idea: your religious "friends" could be helping you out by doing little things to scare you closer to god, and feeding into your stress and observations. Beware anyone asking for money to fix the situation!

Summary: I'd lose the creepy friends, get a cat, webcam and gas detector and stop taking sleep medications. A new hobby like scrapbooking or Farmville or World of Warcraft might also help.
posted by meepmeow at 4:04 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry I didn't have time to read all the comments because I'm running late for something, but wanted to ask if you are taking Ambien?

I've been relying on it for a while, and for the longest time I would wake up wondering who the fuck turned on all the lights in the house, or how the balcony doors were suddenly open, or why a magazine I'd left on the coffee table somehow found its way onto my bed.

At first I blamed the cats (naturally) but then woke up the other morning to my cell phone exploding with text messages. And emails. On a Sunday. Turns out that under the influence of Ambien I'd been texting about 45 of my friends to go to brunch with me--some of whom live across the country. On the plus side, they were pretty well-written...

Anyway, Ambien can be evil. I also (apparently) propositioned an ex-boyfriend on the stuff. Oy vey.
posted by ohyouknow at 5:03 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

If you get a CO2 detector, try taking it with you in the car as well, could be exhaust fumes leaking into the cabin.

Definitely get checked-out. The brain can do all sorts of weird stuff resulting in you not remembering things you have done.

I was in the hospital a few months ago for 6 weeks being given a slew of medications. There was definitely gaps in my memory, vivid dreams that seemed so real I was confused about what was real and what was a dream. If you're taking anything, consider that.

Things like the lawn circles and unintentional ignition of the matches (friction against adjacent match heads) can probably be explained. The sweatshirt and circles in the lawn may be related as a prank. You said you were given the sweatshirt, and someone above mentioned ink that doesn't appear right away, and anyone has access to your lawn.

The washrag, after cleaning the car maybe you brought it inside, then dropped it for some reason, forgot about it, then 'how did that get there'.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:04 PM on March 26, 2010

judging from the responses here i'm going to be lambasted as crazy and told to go to a dr or neurologist or whatever, but i grew up in a part of the world where saying your house is haunted didn't get you a doctor referral. mind you, i only experienced ghostly things as a child, but then again, i don't live in asia anymore, and i find america to be a lot less haunted.

from my, and people i've knowns limited experience with ghosts and hauntings, if you are being maliciously haunted, it isn't going to be mundane stuff like drawn circles appearing on your clothes and stuff like that. you will feel COLD and sometimes see and hear WEIRD SHIT. you will actually FEEL maliciousness being directed towards you. it will not be limited to your own experience- other people in the same house will hear or see the same stuff. it's not just things around you, you will feel it deep in your bones. however for the most part spirits seem to leave the living alone, so i wouldn't worry so much about it and immediately jump to the conclusion that you are being haunted. being haunted is a much different experience than what you are describing here.

if you are constantly BONE cold for no medical reason and ONLY in the house, if you hear things ONLY at night and consistently the same thing, if other people hear and see the same stuff, if your home has any kind of weird history, you MIGHT be haunted. a childhood friend's house was haunted and this was cleared up by an exorcism performed by a buddhist monk. turns out someone had been murdered in their house. exorcism solved the problem. no, not joking.

however, this doesn't seem to be the case here. that's why it seems like the gaslighting or carbon monoxide theories here seem to be on the right track. hope this reassures you that what's going on in your life right now is a corporeal, easily fixable issue
posted by raw sugar at 5:12 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

A couple of approx. 4" circles appeared on a plain sweatshirt someone had given me. They weren't there a day earlier. It was as if someone had drawn them with a magic marker.

Spilling certain liquids onto cloth can cause stains that show up later. Speaking with any drycleaner will be able to confirm this, and they may be able to get the stains out for you as well.

There are two "burned" (yellowed) circles on my lawn, one about 8 inches, one about 2 feet in diameter. They are not lines, it's as if someone put a can, something solid, on my grass and left it there for a month~it's very dry.

Several things could cause this:

animal urine
human urine
lawn beatles
a lawn fungus or virus
overly strong application of fertiliser (burns the roots)

When I take my shoes off, I leave them on the floor. I found one on a table 6 feet from where I took it off. I live alone. I have the only key, no one gets in without my knowledge.

A washrag that I was using in my car appeared on the kitchen floor 12 hours later.

Are you ever absent minded or distracted when tired, talking on the phone, preoccupied, watching TV, thinking about something else?

Do you sleep walk?
posted by Oceanesque at 6:32 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Among the vast store of medical knowledge I have accumulated by watching every single episode of "House, M.D." is the wise saying that "If you're in Central Park and you hear hoof beats, think horse. Not zebra."

"My house is haunted" is definitely a case of leaping straight to zebra. I can come up with 10 possible horses off the top of my head, most of which have already been mentioned. You need to rule out horses before you can start talking about zebras.

Since the shirt mystery is the one which is least-addressed, I'll tackle that one. Two possibilities come to mind:

1. You've been sleepwalking, or acting in a fugue (trance) state. This is a common side effect of certain medications, like Ambien. It is also a common symptom of several psychiatric (i.e. medical) conditions.

In your sleepwalking state you drew circles on your shirt, moved your shoe, etc.

2. Before giving you the shirt, someone had set things on it. Are the rings 4" across, or 4" around? Do they match the size of say a coffee cup, a beer bottle, a cereal bowl?

Set a greasy coffee cup on a clean sweatshirt. Wear it around for a few days. The circle will gradually darken (with dirt) and seem to magically appear. But it's not magic - it's laundry.
posted by ErikaB at 6:48 PM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

A couple of stains on a sweatshirt and dead grass circles are not strange in the slightest. There is nothing weird about them at all. The fact that you are including these in your list of strange occurrences makes me think that you do not have a clear perspective on things.

The two moving objects -- the shoe and the rag -- are maybe slightly weird, but nothing at all to worry about. Everyone misplaces stuff. When you misplace something, you forget where you put it, so you say things like "I know I put it on my desk," when, in fact, you didn't. This is not haunting -- it's just forgetting. Alternatively, mice and rats move stuff. They moved a package of bagels clear across my house.

So then we're left with the matches. A closed book of matches igniting in your hand does sound weird, but, frankly, the way you describe it makes it sound like you are not even sure if it happened. You say there was a "witness" to the matches episode, but she did not "see them ignite," so she's pretty much not a witness at all. If I was writing about a thing that I was sure had happened, I would not say that there was a "witness" who did not see the thing happen. It's a very strange and ineffective way to "support" your observation, casting doubt on the observation itself.

Coloring all of this is your apparent predisposition to believe in the supernatural. Most people don't know the "local herbalist," but, apparently, you do, and you think that the herbalist might have the power to make things worse for you. You also have people come over to your house to talk to non-physical entities. So, you don't come at this as a neutral party -- you appear to believe in the supernatural/occult and have some prior experience with it.

All of this suggest to me two options: (1) you enjoy supernatural stuff, so a bunch of people telling you to see a shrink about it isn't what you are looking for and isn't going to help you; or (2) you believe the supernatural stuff but it is making you unhappy, in which case you should listen to the priest and see a shrink.
posted by Mid at 7:29 PM on March 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

For sleepwalking: Tie a piece of string to the door so that you can't leave your room without untying it or breaking it. Mark across the knot with marker, so it will be obvious if it has been untied and retied. Note that sleepwalking usually (for me) happens in bursts, and then not again for months, so I would only rule out sleepwalking as a cause if (several) more things are moved while your door remains undisturbed.

If sleepwalking is causing you to move things, you have my sympathy, it can be pretty disturbing, especially when it happens out of the blue (no sleep aids or anything).
posted by anaelith at 7:49 PM on March 26, 2010

yohko > Sounds to me like you are surrounded by people setting you up for an April fool's prank.
This is a distinct possibility for at least some of what's happening. The timing is too perfect to ignore.
posted by Decimask at 7:55 PM on March 26, 2010

When I was growing up we were certain the apartment was haunted. Way weird things seemed to happen, I'd wake up and hear someone typing at my computer keyboard when no one was there, and people who came over would see weird figures walking around in broad daylight.

Now I'm pretty sure it was carbon monoxide.
posted by Nattie at 9:18 PM on March 27, 2010

10 warning signs of Alzheimer's:
#7 A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places.
posted by nickyskye at 10:53 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just noticed some people are referring to Carbon Monoxide as CO2. This is not correct.
Carbon Monoxide is CO. Carbon Dioxide is CO2. I mention this because OP is being advised to check the Carbon Monoxide (CO) levels and it won't help to give him the wrong info. (Carbon Monoxide is the poisonous one. Carbon Dioxide is what makes drinks fizz.)
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sleepwalking definitely could be a culprit. Also, Carbon Monoxide.

Also, do you suffer from anxiety? You might be really wound up without even knowing it. I've had acute anxiety for years and have done all sorts of silly things like breaking glasses by gripping them too tight while doing the dishes.

Rule out any explainable options first.
posted by New England Cultist at 2:05 PM on April 4, 2010

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