Is there someone or something in my house?
October 7, 2012 2:07 AM   Subscribe

Who do I contact in Houston to help with a spirit/presence/ghost in my house?

I'm posting from my phone at work so this is rushed. Sorry.
I got a text not long ago about my son. He woke up screaming and yelling and wouldn't calm down. My sister said he was completely freaked out. She sat on the bed with him and asked him what was wrong. He pointed to my bathroom door (closed) and then to the door leading down the hall. He's 19 months old and though he signs, this is as much a he said. He was sound asleep when I went into the restroom and left for work. Last night he woke up the same way. Was completely inconsolable and shaking. He's not this way in any other area of the house when he wakes at night. Just upstairs.
I can't say what it is but my mom has always commented about the upstairs. This isn't the first time he's freaked out when he was alone up there. I've prayed but I'm at a loss. We won't be sleeping up there again.

I don't watch ghost shows but my sister does. I figured I was a chicken for not beig able to be upstairs alone without distractions and noise. I'm wondering now.

I'd like to know what the steps are to figuring this out and if there are people in the Houston area that can help me and are reputable. I can answer questions later but I'm at work right now. The sooner I can make my son feel safe at night, the better. I'm open to all help. Thanks.
posted by grablife365 to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's no such thing as a reputable ghost hunter.

If you need to, ask your priest/pastor to come over and say a prayer. If your son knows him from church, that should settle him down.
posted by paperzach at 2:17 AM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't watch ghost shows but my sister does.
I would consider that if someone tends to watch horror movies, they're going to be a bit more twitchy and afraid of the dark.

And they're going to unconsciously wind up your kid.

Banish Bedtime Monsters. The fear of monsters under the bed is real for many children. And since monsters (in a child’s mind) only lurk in dark places, don’t disregard your youngster’s fears by forcing him to sleep in a pitch-black room. Instead, offer plenty of reassurances, keep a nightlight on, and leave the bedroom door cracked until your child falls asleep. “Don’t add to your child’s fear of the bogeyman by reading him spooky stories or letting him to watch scary things on television,” says retired pre-kindergarten teacher Tricia Young. In addition, let your child to sleep with one security item such as a favorite blanket, doll, or teddy bear to help him feel more secure.

I'd suggest a teddy bear, and co-sleeping?

There's no such thing as a reputable ghost hunter.
Yup. "hunting ghosts" = catnip for crackpots.

You could spend a lot of money paying a con artist or true-believing spiritualist to magically purge your house.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:22 AM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Bypass ghost hunters for ghost repellent: a night light.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:23 AM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Could it be an animal like a rat or racoon? or an ex-boyfriend?
posted by anon4now at 2:26 AM on October 7, 2012

I can't say what it is but my mom has always commented about the upstairs.

It could be the physical geometry of the house, picking up a low pitched hum off a neighbor's air conditioning and ringing really slowly.
Or some way the light and shadow makes our hindbrains twitchy.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:29 AM on October 7, 2012

It's two different sisters. One watches ghost shows, the other doesn't. Both have seen him freak out at different times.
We cosleeping when I'm home but I work nights (I leave home after 2am). He has all his comfort toys near him already.
I keep the closet light on and the door open.
I keep a fan on and that's the only thing you hear.
I also have no ex boyfriends, lol, and thank God not in my attic. I hope I get to sleep after that thought though!

I have no pastor right now. How do I find one for this? I'm not really looking for a ghost hunter just someone who is as serious as I am.
posted by grablife365 at 2:52 AM on October 7, 2012

This is a common sleep disorder in toddlers, called night terrors or pavor nocturnus. Please talk to your pediatrician before contacting ghost hunters.
posted by The Toad at 3:12 AM on October 7, 2012 [47 favorites]

We cosleeping when I'm home but I work nights (I leave home after 2am). He has all his comfort toys near him already.

A 19myo may have separation anxiety or bogeyman / fear of the dark issues even with his comfort toys around, and might be calmer if there's an adult around. (I know that's not much help if you have to go to work at 2 am.)

I keep a fan on and that's the only thing you hear.

It could be the physical geometry of the house, picking up a low pitched hum off a neighbor's air conditioning and ringing really slowly.

The infrasound stuff is so low you can't hear it, only feel it. (Sort of like how a dog whistle is so high you can't feel it.) So you'd get a "there's a presence in the room" vibe even though you don't hear 'hummmmmm'.

It could be a bass note off the fan, maybe? Leave it off for two or three days and see if the upstairs still feels uncomfortable.

I have no pastor right now. How do I find one for this? I'm not really looking for a ghost hunter just someone who is as serious as I am.
Any competent ethical pastor in your area is a good person to talk to.

A extremist pastor from some of the more off-beat, speaking in tongues, snake-handling corners of Christianity would probably just bring more drama into your life.

Someone from any faith who is 'really serious about ghosts' is probably just going to bring more drama into your life.

Especially if it is just some trick of the acoustics. Burn all the incense in the world and it's not going to make this guy's lab feel less creepy (until someone unplugs the fan or stops the other, distant low rumbling noise):
Research by Vic Tandy, a lecturer at Coventry University, suggested that an infrasonic signal of 19 Hz might be responsible for some ghost sightings. Tandy was working late one night alone in a supposedly haunted laboratory at Warwick, when he felt very anxious and could detect a grey blob out of the corner of his eye. When Tandy turned to face the grey blob, there was nothing.

The following day, Tandy was working on his fencing foil, with the handle held in a vise. Although there was nothing touching it, the blade started to vibrate wildly. Further investigation led Tandy to discover that the extractor fan in the lab was emitting a frequency of 18.98 Hz, very close to the resonant frequency of the eye given as 18 Hz by NASA.[32] This was why Tandy had seen a ghostly figure—it was an optical illusion caused by his eyeballs resonating.

posted by sebastienbailard at 3:12 AM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Are you sure he was actually awake? It could be 'night terrors'. My lad seemed to wake one night, a bit older than 19 months, but not much, absolutely inconsolable and terrified - pointing at non-existent things. It was very scary, and I could see how people might think he's seeing ghosts or apparitions.
posted by ComfySofa at 3:17 AM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

My son is about a year older than yours, and I remember him suddenly having lots of screaming, random wakeups at this time last year. Turns out it's a common age for kids to start having nightmares or night terrors. Nothing much you can do really, except whatever will comfort them in the moment. It's a phase that passed pretty quickly. I found, and still find, that his sleep disturbances correlated with developmental leaps, so maybe your little boy is on the verge of a language explosion or new physical skill?
posted by shrieking violet at 3:22 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My six-month-old daughter has night terrors too occasionally. They're incredibly disturbing. I imagine a priest would come over and say a prayer with you for free if that would make you feel better, but anyone who asks for money is a scam artist.
posted by gerryblog at 4:54 AM on October 7, 2012

So, I don't believe this is how things work, but to answer your question... You can contact Diane Gremmel. Here's her website, which has a contact form. Per this Houston Chronicle article (scroll almost to the bottom), it's $55 per 30-minute consultation. She has some specialization in ghosts and paranormal activities, and she also works with Lone Star Spirits.
posted by Houstonian at 5:27 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

This sounds a lot like night terrors. My son gets them. He'll seem to wake up, will seem terrified and say all kinds of disturbing stuff, and won't really respond when we speak to him. Describe what happened to your pediatrician.
posted by Area Man at 5:29 AM on October 7, 2012

Thirding night terrors. See a doctor, not a ghost hunter.
posted by chiababe at 5:44 AM on October 7, 2012

Long before they can talk, small kids are hard-wired to pick up signals from the grown-ups - all kinds of signals. What I believe your son is doing is to channel his night terrors along the path of (some of) the grown-ups' fears. Start there. Address, in whichever way you find fit, the terrors that your sisters or yourself might have regarding that area of the house.

That said, small kids' night terrors may prevail, it seems a natural thing. My son even refused to get to sleep because he predicted waking up in terror. Rationalizing* does help.

*My dad once came when I woke screaming from dreaming about nasty muddy crocodiles coming toward me (I was 2 1/2 years old). He told me how they were a product of my mind, and that it was actually fun to be able to watch them, knowing they couldn't really hurt me. So I tried that and was utterly frustrated: the crocodiles were gone!
posted by Namlit at 6:07 AM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

My brother had night terrors too, quite dramatic and freaky to witness. Very possible he is not awake (do not wake him up). Talk to your doctor.

My mom would talk to him....validate what he was dreaming, but trick him into going to the bathroom. "Come in here, you'll be safer...oh look, a toilet...." Once he had peed, he'd calm down, the dream would evaporate, and he'd go back to sleep. Your guy sounds pretty
little...diaper change, hungry maybe?

My brother did this periodically into his early teens, and eventually grew out of it. Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 6:13 AM on October 7, 2012

Thanks for all the information. I've heard of night terrors but never researched so I'll do that.
I do think it helps when someone is there with him but I still notice (or hear) of a difference in where he sleeps (upstairs vs downstairs) so I have some searching to do. Thanks Sebastien for the information. I'll look into that as well. Shrieking violet, we went through a developmental/sleep issue before (learning to crawl) so I definitely see the relationship between the two. Add in separation anxiety which he does have and that could be it also.

I may have a priest/pastor come and pray to ease my mind (while the babe is away) and my last ditch effort may be Gremmel. Thanks for her information.

Thanks everyone.
posted by grablife365 at 6:14 AM on October 7, 2012

I thought of one more resource. Many years ago (about 20), a woman I worked with had a troubled teenage daughter. Somehow the daughter wound up at the Sacred Heart Catholic church in Galveston for an exorcism. The mother asked me for a ride to that church. So, all I know is that they didn't completely blow the family off. I drove her to Galveston, but never asked for details about what happened before or after that day.

Apparently exorcisms in the Catholic church are for people but also places.

That church is part of the Holy Family Parish of Galveston and Bolivar, which is why they don't have their own website. The adminstrative office is at St. Patrick, in Houston, inside the loop on the north side. A few years ago, the current Cardinal for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston spoke during an exorcism training session for priests and bishops, and he shares some of his thoughts about this in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, here.
posted by Houstonian at 6:18 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Having read about it in Oliver Sacks’s “Altered States: Self-experiments in chemistry” (New Yorker, 8.27.12) it sounds as though it may not be too uncommon for small children to have visual hallucinations that are without sound (being, you know, visual) but which frequently include people doing things. Like, credibly represented in one's mind as visual input, though it is restricted to the brain. As I recollect it is not unusual to have two or three hallucinations and then never again experience one, either.

Adults are also said to be affected by these sometimes, and having them is neither debilitating nor necessarily (if ever?) symptomatic of mental illness. They are sometimes experienced as an after-effect of hallucinogenic drug use, which is how Sacks believes that he himself came to experience them.

Mind, I’m not an expert in anything, just a layperson. Nor do I have a set opinion of whether or not hauntings occur, but I do think it is best for you to perform due diligence before spending too much money on anything "hoodoo voodoo" in nature. Those games can get dangerous, besides.
posted by mr. digits at 6:19 AM on October 7, 2012

Keep in mind that if you bring a ghost hunter in, more likely than not he or she will say there IS a ghost or some sort of spectral presence in the house, if only to justify the fact that you are going to have to pay them for whatever it is they do. Though they may do something to get rid of the presence, that justification might not help your or your son's peace of mind, especially if there is another episode (and it is probable that there will be, if this is a sleep disorder of some sort.)

If you want, I believe burning sage is a traditional method to "cleanse" a home of evil spirits. (When I was in university, the people who lived on the top floor of my residence swore it was haunted. When they went to a local spiritualist shop, this is what they were told to do. After that, nobody ever claimed to see the ghost again.)
posted by synecdoche at 6:34 AM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I still notice (or hear) of a difference in where he sleeps

There may be a recurring noise/smell/temperature change upstairs. For instance, squirrels running around the roof would be more audible upstairs than downstairs, or there may be something in a vent in his room that smells weird when the furnace kicks on, or there could be a draft.

Or, it could be that when he's sleeping downstairs and wakes up, he hears familiar voices or feels more secure somehow (the size of the space, the temperature, something)--whereas the room upstairs is somehow less comfortable/secure-feeling.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:45 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have no experience with small children, but I did exorcise a friend's apartment when her girlfriend moved out, leaving the place a physical and emotional mess. We cleaned, moved furniture, opened all the windows (in winter), and then held a little ceremony involving a bit of theatrical ritual and chanting (that nearly burned down the house, but you don't mess with the spiritual world without danger, I suppose). Anyway, it settled her in her space again, so it worked.

I suspect it would be harder to do with a small child (who presumably wouldn't necessarily get that it wasn't "real") but could you have some friends come over to clean and rearrange the room and do some sort of ceremony to keep "bad things out and invite good things in?" If nothing else, it might make the space seem different and more pleasant and generally more reassuring.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:54 AM on October 7, 2012

My sister has a five year old, and when they moved to a new house, she burned sage to "cleanse the house". It made her feel more peaceful there and I think my nephew was helped by the ritual. Just another avenue to explore.
posted by natasha_k at 7:39 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

While you wait for other assistance you could try what my dear friends says finally consoled his five-year old, after she developed a persistent fear of turkeys under the bed (they think they traced it to a Thanksgiving activity at school). He bought a refillable plastic bottle and made a label for it on the computer. You might use artwork your son associates with monsters. Even if you're not sleeping up there you could spray the affected areas with your son. Remember that he takes his emotional cues from you, so if you're relaxed and show him that there are always things to do when life gets scary, he'll learn an important skill.
posted by Mertonian at 9:24 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Source of ghosts. It's no scientific source, but seeing things from a more lighthearted angle might help to combat your fear of a "presence", brush it off as "fix the fan" or "blame upstairs architecture" and take your son to a doctor about a sleeping disorder. Science does a much better job at banishing ghosts than a con artist with a bowl of herbs.
posted by MinusCelsius at 9:46 AM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like a night terror. My kids had them, and what seemed to be the culprit was the temperature of the room. When we turned on the ceiling fan at bed time, the problem went away.

Also, for what it's worth, I actually am a pastor.
posted by 4ster at 10:39 AM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does your son have a sign that he uses to talk about you? My son couldn't do the ASL "mom" and "dad" signs until much older. But he would point to the door to refer to his dad (because dad goes out the door). I ended up teaching him a clear and easy sign for referring to dad, and then another one for me. It made such a difference. So many times during the day he would randomly do our "dad" sign and I'd tell him that dad's at work and we'll see him in the morning.

Anyway, if he was pointing to the bathroom and the hallway, maybe he was looking for you! Does he know where you go at night, ie, do you tell him in the day that you are gone at night and will be back?

I'd have the sister(s) pursue that angle when he wakes up at night, talking about you and when you'll be back. If they can reference a photo of you, better still.
posted by xo at 1:58 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

While I DO believe in ghosts and whatnot, I'm in agreement with this being a case of night terrors. At 19 months, your son is very spatially aware. And this may seem strange, but I personally believe that a child that age can sense if anyone is near or not. If he is waking from a nap or at night and there is nobody near by (within 10 or 20 ft.) that he can sense, that's much more of a terror than any ghost. I know that's strange, but I've seen it in action.

Now if you just want to do a quick walk-through and "cleanse" your property in the way of the American South West, just burn some sage the same way you would incense. You don't have to buy anything special, just the same stuff they have in a bottle in the spices section of your grocery store. You don't need any special incantations or magic. The idea is that spirits, thoughts, prayers and ideas cling to the smoke and rise up and out.

Good luck and I think you'll all be fine if you just bring your son a little closer to hearth/action.
posted by snsranch at 5:12 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone stating that you should avoid ghost hunters. There's more charlatans in that sort of work than you can possibly imagine. And it really does sound like your son is having night terrors, mostly about people leaving him. It's normal even though it's distressing.

But you've also asked for spiritual help with this. Since you're religious, that's your avenue for support here. Talk to a good pastor about it. Get some bible verses that have a protective meaning for you up on the walls. Psalm 23, for example. Pray with your mother and sisters in that space. Cast whatever is there out in the name of Jesus. As a christian you are as empowered as the apostles to protect yourself like that. You don't need anyone else to do it for you.
posted by Jilder at 3:39 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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