There's something strange in the neighborhood...
June 18, 2008 11:14 AM   Subscribe

The apartment building I'm moving into might be haunted. I know it's not rational to believe in ghosts, but I'm kind of superstitious.

The other day I was Googling the address where I'm moving in a few weeks, and I found a couple mentions of the building being haunted. My reaction has ranged from "cool, ghosts!" to "oh no, ghosts!" to "psht, ghosts don't exist." My inner Scully tells me it's ridiculous to even entertain the notion of a haunted apartment, but my inner Mulder wants to believe. And I've got to admit I'm not a very good skeptic in practice, especially not when it's midnight and I'm all alone in a dark apartment.

So my question is twofold. The first part: how can I tell if my apartment is haunted, and what should I do if it is? I'm not sure how you know if a funny sound, a stray thought, or a sudden cold feeling is due to a paranormal presence rather than a more mundane source. On the rare occasions in the past when I've sensed something strange, I've been able to rationalize it as my senses playing tricks on me. What should I be looking for, and how do I know whether it's just my imagination? And if ghosts do exist, and if they exist in my apartment, how can I coexist peacefully with them? Real or not, the last thing I want to do is piss them off.

The second part: How do I keep a healthy sense of skepticism about this and avoid turning into Scooby-Doo when the lights go out? There is a part of me that strongly wants to believe in the supernatural, but I want to keep that in check. I don't want to get carried away, and I don't want to become paranoid or gullible. And I definitely want to be able to sleep at night.

For the record, I've visited the building twice, I like it, and it seems like a perfectly normal apartment building to me.

I feel a little silly asking this question, but I'm curious all the same. Thanks for your help!
posted by Metroid Baby to Grab Bag (51 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you see signs of haunting a good practical first step would be to check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector (or install one if you don't have one at all).
posted by phoenixy at 11:24 AM on June 18, 2008 [8 favorites]

Not to be sarcastic, but the apartment is not haunted.

How can you tell if the apartment is haunted? How can you coexist with ghosts? Um.

If part of you believes in ghosts and you "sense" strange things it's going to be hard for us nonbelievers to convince you otherwise. I'll say it anyways: there is no such thing as ghosts.

Again, the apartment is not haunted. Try to get it out of your head.

If you don't want to get it out of your head and want to have a little fun with it I think there is a show on TLC or Discovery about hauntings and ghost hunters. I took a ghost tour once in St. Augustine. They gave us these little hand held laser things that "detected ghosts". It was painful but some people were into it.
posted by LoriFLA at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2008

Do you know WHY it would be more haunted than any other place on earth? Indian graveyard? Underground Railroad? Some lady killed her kids there? Finding out more about the history of the building might help. Ignorance breeds fear.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:32 AM on June 18, 2008

You could always try getting a smudge stick and doing the ceremony
posted by nougat at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2008

I can tell you with 100% certainty that the only people who think the building is haunted are people who believe that buildings can be haunted. You don't need to be one of those people. Problem solved.
posted by found missing at 11:48 AM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

how can I tell if my apartment is haunted, and what should I do if it is?

I knew this guy whose family used to live in a haunted house. The family didn't have any major problems with it, just a lot of weird unexplained phenomena that kept cropping up. So as mundane as this answer is: you probably won't need to do anything. I've met a few people who have had experiences with hauntings, but never anything dangerous, just random weirdness like objects changing places for no real reason. If you find that such things happen, the biggest problem is probably going to be you deciding, "Should I talk about my haunted apartment to strangers, or will they think I'm a loon?"

Assuming the most paranormal scenario possible -- that ghosts do exist, and that they're living with you -- is there any reason to be skittish about them? They're dead, man, you're one up on them.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:50 AM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Uh, make sure you read Phoenixy's advice. I'm serious; pay attention to that one. Really.
...and now I'm going to quietly back away without further remark.
posted by aramaic at 11:52 AM on June 18, 2008

I think the best way to deal with this is to think about it rationally. If you were a ghost and could walk through walls, why the heck would you be hanging around the same apartment building for eternity? If you want to convince yourself about the non-existence of ghosts, I recommend reading some of the ghost sites that abound on the net.

On the other hand, if it turns out you are indeed the victim of a haunting, you should snap into action immediately and call the TLC network. They'll send over some guys with machines that go ping and you get to be on the tv. Everyone wins.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2008

I think most things have a mundane cause or reason. That being said, I always think it's a good idea to cleanse any new dwelling of negativity by smudging (using a lit sage stick and feather).
posted by at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2008

how can I tell if my apartment is haunted

This is an easy one! When you see the apartment, ask yourself: "Am I currently a fictional character?" If the answer is NO, your apartment is not haunted.

I'm not sure how you know if a funny sound, a stray thought, or a sudden cold feeling is due to a paranormal presence rather than a more mundane source.

See above: "Am I currently a character in a novel, movie, or television show?" If the answer is NO, the sound or cold feeling has a mundane source.

and how do I know whether it's just my imagination?

See above: If you are a human being, it is just your imagination.

And if ghosts do exist

They do not.

and if they exist in my apartment

They do not.

how can I coexist peacefully with them?

Find their bodies (probably walled up in the building somewhere) and provide a proper burial. That will make them your friends.
posted by Justinian at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2008 [20 favorites]

Anytime you find yourself being creeped out, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, when the room suddenly turns cold, just repeat the following:

"There are no such things as ghosts. What I'm experiencing is the output of my own imagination reacting to natural stimuli."


posted by wfrgms at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could try contacting a local paranormal investigation group. Is your ICBM/location information in your profile correct? If so, we may be able to suggest various outfits that would be interested in checking the place out.
posted by limeonaire at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2008

Just keep the balance you're currently maintaining amongst "cool, ghosts!" to "oh no, ghosts!" to "psht, ghosts don't exist." Even if ghosts and hauntings really do happen--and I don't know that anyone's ever documented one to an acceptable level of scientific certainty--no-one has ever actually been scared to death or harmed by one.

My vintage condo is not haunted, although sometimes it feels like it is; I'd like to believe in ghosts, but I can't because I've never really been given a reason to. So when something creepy or apparently inexplicable happens late at night in the deep creepy hours, I indulge my "oh no! ghosts!" like I would on a roller coaster ride or in a good horror flick and then I pass into my "cool! ghosts!" phase and say 'hey, ghost! do whatever you like, but this is my place now and I'm going to sleep now, so, uh give me some space.' which always makes me feel totally ridiculous and triggers the "psht! ghosts don't exist" phase and I go about my life as normal.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:01 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you have issues after you move in, call TAPS. Maybe you'll get on TV.
posted by o0dano0o at 12:05 PM on June 18, 2008

A close friend of mine became-- and remains-- notably more superstitious after a head injury suffered almost ten years ago. He knows it's not rational, and that probably limits the effects, but the superstition itself has been inextinguishable.

How about hiring a practitioner of some kind to come in, figure out what sort of ghost or ghosts might be present and how to banish or domesticate them? Try to find someone sincere and generally positive in outlook, or they may try to milk you with a dire reading. Invite a few not too skeptical friends (so as not to give offense to ghost or practitioner) and have a good time.

Oh, and don't let anyone sprinkle any mercury around.
posted by jamjam at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2008

I'm not sure how you know if a funny sound, a stray thought, or a sudden cold feeling is due to a paranormal presence rather than a more mundane source.

You can't unless you can actually find the source. However, there are a billion of mundane sources for these thing that you know actually exist. Attributing them to ghosts is really just confirmation bias, which is why that ghost hunters show on whichever channel that is pisses me off so much. "I think there are ghosts here" *bump* "Oh my god! something somewhere made a noise! It must be a ghost". Understanding this will make you a much better skeptic.
posted by DanielDManiel at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2008

You're never gonna know what's causing those weird bumps in the night. Is the building settling, or is there a guy carrying his own head out in the hallway? Reality is what you make it, so if you're inclined to believe in the supernatural, reason is your best defense. First of all realize that many feelings of paranormal activity are caused by everyday things like the aforementioned carbon monoxide or machinery in the building emitting infrasonic waves. The simplest explanation is usually...hell, you know. Pinpoint what it is that makes people think the building is haunted (strange noises, etc.) and do some investigating. My guess is you won't find anything to pinpoint, because rumors and urban legends are usually just that.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:07 PM on June 18, 2008

And if ghosts do exist, and if they exist in my apartment, how can I coexist peacefully with them? Real or not, the last thing I want to do is piss them off.

This is sort of like saying "I don't know if aliens have visited Earth, but how to I protect myself from being abducted?" It's extremely unlikely that ghosts exist at all, so worrying about trying to live peacefully with them is not really a logical thing to do.

There aren't any rules of thumb or tips and tricks that go along with living with ghosts, because it's impossible to prove that anything has any effect on them. Also, in my opinion anyone who is a "ghost expert" or who offers to "help you out with your ghost problem" is probably a scam artist of some sort.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2008

Ghosts are immensely afraid of terriers. Cats too. So get a pet. Terriers and cats. Why? I can't explain. I think it's the hair but ghosts aren't known to be instilled with much logic. If a ghost *does* dare to turn off your TV (why ghosts LOVE to do this, I'll never figure out) know that you have a companion to keep you safe.
posted by yeti at 12:21 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have nothing but respect for all the well-meaning empiricists who are saying that ghosts don't exist. However, if you go with their advice, you'll be missing out on a great opportunity. I think that, if you have any kind of creative inclination, you should engage creatively with your ghosts. Frankly, it doesn't even matter if they exist. I mean, are movies real? Are fairy tales lies? Is the emotional reality of Beethoven's 5th firmly grounded in empirical reality? Who gives a damn?

Keep a notebook at your bedside. If you perceive a funny sound, a stray thought, or a sudden cold feeling that catches at you and won't let you go, then go ahead and treat it as a message. Listen to it respectfully. Try to understand it. Engage with it imaginatively. And channel your observations through whatever creative means you have at your disposal -- whether that be writing, music, film, sculpture, dance, or anything else you've got. That, I think, is the right way to deal with ghosts.
posted by ourobouros at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2008 [10 favorites]

The second part: How do I keep a healthy sense of skepticism about this and avoid turning into Scooby-Doo when the lights go out?

Simple. That noise you hear? It's not ghosts. It's rats.

Problem solved.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2008

I don't have much personal experience with ghosts, but I did some investigation when a friend asked for help with some strange goings-on in their house. I posted to various local pagan lists, asking for first-hand experiences with haunted houses and got a dozen or so responses.

The kinds of phenomena people talked about were things happening without apparent physical cause (objects getting moved, lights or electronics turning on or off, doors closing, footsteps, etc.) Also cold spots or strange smells in certain locations, as well as dreams, impressions or visuals of a human presence in the house.

I was surprised to hear that most people's experiences were neutral to benign, rather than the scary, destructive haunting you see in the movies. One person talked about a ghost that would do helpful things like close the windows before it started raining. Another would sit with their baby and sing to it at night. It might help to think of ghosts as like any other kind of neighbor: they can be nice, nondescript, nasty, or anywhere in between. You can learn a lot by asking your new human neighbors what their impressions and experiences have been.

And as with human neighbors, the best way to stay on good terms with ghosts seems to be treating them in a pleasant and direct way. When you move in, definitely consider a house clearing and blessing ceremony, using whatever actions and words you like (praying, chanting, smudge, sprinkling water, banging on pots and pans, etc.). Also try lighting a candle and ringing a bell, then speaking out loud, telling whatever spirits are there that you want to live there in peace and asking for their blessing and protection.

If scary unexplainable occurrences to happen and you're feeling freaked out, try asking them to stop. (My mom was having a rash of missing objects and had good results by saying out loud, "OK, this has all been very amusing, but we're starting to get annoyed and it's time for this to stop.)

If that doesn't work, or if you sense a presence that is actively malign or destructive, consider bringing in a specialist to clear the place out. But a little ordinary politeness will probably go a long way to helping you live in peace with your incorporeal neighbors. Good luck! Post a followup!
posted by ottereroticist at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

And if ghosts do exist, and if they exist in my apartment, how can I coexist peacefully with them?

Echoing the sentiments of others in this thread, there are no such thing as ghosts, so you have nothing to worry about.

But let's consider for a moment the possibility that the universe is a big place and maybe we don't know everything about everything.

So let's pretend for a moment that there is a possibility that the place you are looking into might be haunted. If this were true, it would put you into a perfect position to be the first person in history to actually prove the existence of something supernatural. This would naturally make you both rich and famous.

As to living with a spirit, I would suggest that you try a peaceful existence. It's not going to eat or take up too much space, and if it can manipulate things corporeally perhaps you can work out a deal where it gets you beers from the fridge when you are watching TV.

That would be pretty cool.

But since there isn't any such thing, it's probably not worth spending any more time thinking about.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

My dear friend of almost 20 years had this amazing apartment for a couple of years before she was married. It was the top floor of a building that had formally been, for more than 70 years, a boarding house for single or displaced men (this is in small-town Kansas).

Her apartment was actually a series of tiny apartments--that is--numbered doors facing a common stairs landing. Behind each numbered door (the former boarding rooms) was a room of the apartment--living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, dining room. No room of the apartment, then, was connected to the other except by exiting the room into the landing, and then going to the desired room.

The landlord, when she rented it, cheerfully told my friend that the building was very haunted (by generations of sad-sack, near homeless, family-less men--many of whom grew old and died there) and did she have a problem? My friend most certainly did not, as she is the least Romantic person alive, and it is difficult to have a problem with something that does not exist (ghosts).

She moved in, and her and her guests (which included, semi-frequently, me) went on to regularly experience randomly slamming doors, strange electronic phenomena, cold spots, objects that moved around inexplicitly, faint (male) voices, wafts of cigar smoke, creaking stairs, and so on. Everyone in town and most of her friends thought she was nuts to keep living there.

"This place is old," she would say. "The wiring's been made-do with in one way or another through the years, the insulation is newspaper, there isn't a square angle in the place, and the acoustics are worse than a barn full of holes. That's what haunted is--haunted is being old, and tired, and used. The men that lived here were haunted, and now after all that use, this place is haunted. In another 40 years, I'll be haunted, you'll be haunted. "

My friend is so awesome. And I miss our movie marathons in that weird place! So sign the lease and have friends over regularly and add this to your 'places I've lived' history!
posted by rumposinc at 12:40 PM on June 18, 2008 [13 favorites]

okay, i've been there. lived in a haunted apartment building for about a year or so. i ultimately moved out due to the conditions of the apartment building, and not because of the ghost.

but there was a ghost. i could feel it when i moved in, and i heard him constantly. it was pretty noisy, and it would often walk down my interior hallway causing the floor to squeak. i'd lie in bed at night and listen to it walk from my front door to my bedroom door. freaked me out a bit.

but what did i do? nothing. i didn't need to. i know ghosts are not of this realm, and they really can't do anything. they're just lost souls hanging around for whatnot. they can't take over my body, move my stuff, or cause my apartment to catch fire. so the ghost tromped through my apartment and i ignored it.

what really did freak me out, though, was a conversation i had with my 8 year old son a few months after we moved out. i hadn't told him that the apartment was haunted; he told me, and then proceeded to describe the ghost that i only heard. he actually saw it, and described it as a middle aged man with long hair.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely go for it.
If ghosts do exist, if they are a part of our physical universe, think of the implications this has for every area of science. If you can capture physical proof (a convincing video will do it) fame and fortune are yours.
posted by greytape at 12:43 PM on June 18, 2008

If you're already worried about this, I guarantee that your mind will start playing tricks on you when you move in. Some night, when things are stormy and spooky, a little voice in the back of your mind will start to wonder, "What if...?" It's really easily for the imagination to wander; I know! Once I start giving into fear--say, watching scary movies or reading scary stories late at night--my mind kicks into overdrive and I get spooked.

The next morning, my worries seem silly. :)

If "ghostly activity" starts happening, you'll just have to ride the fear. Once you get through your first few "hauntings," you'll start feeling better. And if you go into the experience thinking, "There's no such things as ghosts," you probably won't have any hauntings at all! ;)

If you're really concerned, you could always call someone to exorcise the apartment. It sounds a bit silly, but the ritual itself might make you feel better. :) Or, with a bit of magical thinking, a night light in a "haunted area" of your apartment could act as a "talisman." Anything that helps you feel better is not stupid.

I'm thirding phoenixy's suggestion. The "Skeptical Analysis" section of this Wikipedia article might help you feel a bit calmer.

Good luck with the move!
posted by ElectricBlue at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2008

Are you sure they are friendly? Can you find a paranormal expert at the local university to figure out if you have ghosts?
posted by onepapertiger at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2008

I had a friend who was convinced that her apartment was haunted. But instead of letting it scare her, she decided to embrace the idea. She named her ghost, greeted him when she came home and introduced her guests to him. Sure, it was a little nutty, but by convincing herself that she could establish a friendly relationship with this ghost, she kept herself from freaking out about the idea.
posted by zerbinetta at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2008

Some attribute ghost encounter stories to hypnagogic hallucinations which can frequently occur during sleep paralysis. I can certainly say that I've visited with some truly creepy beings while in such a state, but ultimately it's just a hallucination.
posted by baphomet at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2008

Ghosts don't exist. Now, having said that:

how can I coexist peacefully with them?

If they did exist, I would think they would be, in general, much less malevolent than is generally assumed. A few years ago I saw the documentary Kathryn: Story of a Teller, about a woman known for her storytelling, particularly ghost stories. One line in particular has stuck with me. She said, "I've collected hundreds of ghost stories from all over the South. And I've only found two where the ghost was evil. That's a better percentage than you get with the living."

If I believed in ghosts and thought there was one in my home, I'd try talking to him/her in a friendly manner. If you lived with someone who never spoke to you, that would probably piss you off.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2008

I agree with the pet suggestion. While I love dogs, cats are guardians of dead or something. I forgot what they said in The Mummy. Anyway, Mummies hate cats. Therefore, ghosts hate cats. Adopt a cat, too. WIN WIN!
posted by spec80 at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - please quit fucking around and write a postcard to MAD Magazine with your amusing nose-pickery if that's all you have to offer here. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Please do not take the advice of people advising you to hire "paranormal experts" or whatever to investigate your potential apartment. Those folks are mostly scams bilking the credulous, the spiritual descendants of the late 19th and early 20th century parlor mediums. You know, the people who claimed to believe in spirits and would help you and your friends contact them in your living room? And would be scamming you and taking your money while knocking knees into the underside of the table or having confederates make moaning sounds and such? Same kind of thing.

The ones who aren't scams are like the UFO abduction folks; poor, deluded souls looking to explain their own mundanity or find explanations for repressed trauma.

Hiring them is either furthering a scam or taking advantage of and encouraging people with an already tenuous grasp on the world and causing them to slip that much further from reality. Don't feed into their delusions or con-artistry, please.

The solution is for you to accept that there are no ghosts. The apartment is not haunted. That's it; the rest is ridiculousness.
posted by Justinian at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2008

Many religions have cleansing ceremonies that are supposed to move unwanted spirits on and prevent new ones from visiting.

If you are religious, I'd talk to your clergy to see what they can do. The psychological benefits from having the ceremony conducted can't be underestimated irrespective of whether ghosts exist or not.
posted by dantodd at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2008

You might console yourself with the idea that most people who have experienced a haunting come to believe that the cause is either ignorant of their existence (or entirely unintelligent) or benevolent.

That said, you might also get a EMF reader. Some people believe that particularly strong electro-magnetic field, such as those from malfunctioning electronics in a home, can give people strange, even paranoid feelings. Sensations have been described as a sense of being watched and "something very wrong."

All that said, if you do experience something, report back. It's interesting even if I am a skeptic.
posted by driley at 2:01 PM on June 18, 2008

Avoid hanging up a lot of mirrors. Avoid hanging dangly things from the ceiling. Keep your closets shut completely and make sure the latches are secure. Keep your bedroom slightly cold to discourage nightmares.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:02 PM on June 18, 2008

I fall in the same camp as most everyone here. It would be so awesome if ghosts existed, but I have to face up to the fact that they don't.

Oddly, the most ghost stories I read and more TV shows I watch the more skeptical I become. Have you ever seen Ghost Hunters? Two plumbers and their Rhode Island accents go stumbling around buildings trying to prove or disprove ghosts. There are something like four or five seasons of that show, with more than 100 episodes, and they have yet to encounter a ghost.

Most of the more famous ghost stories can be disproved with easy research, as well. I once read a book claiming that Highway 666 in Arizona was the most haunted place in America, with the highest death toll in our entire interstate system. Ten minutes of Googling brought me to an article from the region about streetlights being installed on the highway to combat the high frequency of deaths caused by people walking home drunk on the pitch black road. At that point it was obvious that the author of the 666 book was just passing on stories that he had heard and adding in his own spiritual beliefs without looking into the origin of those stories.

Ever heard of Dudleytown? Same thing. Someone just up and said it was a haunted forest and that story grew (because it's a GREAT story). In actuality, the supposedly "cursed" line of the Dudley family didn't even live there. And the reason the town failed wasn't because of a "curse" in the first place. It was because the town was situated in the middle of friggin' nowhere on a rocky hill where nothing could be farmed.

Think about these things the next time you get scared. It's cynical, sure, but skepticism can be empowering when it leads you to a greater knowledge of your surroundings.

On the other hand, if you can prove that your apartment is haunted then you've basically opened up an entirely new field of physics. That Nobel is yours.
posted by greenland at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2008

Maybe your apartment has ghosts. Maybe it doesn't. There is no sure way to tell, but there is a sure way to get rid of them:

- fix any squeaky floor boards
- install central air to keep the place a constant temperature
- oil any squeaky door hinges
- while you're at it replace door knobs and latches so they can't open on their own
- re-wire the place so any faulty lights or switches can't misbehave
- remove any dangly items that may sway or move on their own - including musty curtains
- have the building re-insulated to get rid of any air pockets in the walls
- seal any exterior holes where the wind can cause noise

Ghosts hate rehabs.
posted by wfrgms at 3:08 PM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd probably feel exactly the same way if I were about to move into an older building. I can't help being suggestible, even if I know on a logical level that ghosts don't exist.

Saying "there's no such thing as ghosts" to yourself over and over probably won't be too helpful, because you have to THINK about ghosts to think about them not existing.

If you like cats at all, you should get a kitten. First of all, they're great fun, and they'll take your mind off of paranormal possibilities in your new apartment. It's also very easy to blame unexpected phenomena on a cat (like, if you hear a suspicious noise, you can dismiss it with "oh, the cat probably knocked something over again"). If you're still not convinced there's not a ghost, at least you'll have a fuzzy little companion to cuddle with.
posted by arianell at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I kind of like to think of ghosts (presuming they exist) as just dead people. And you can't go around being afraid of everyone, right?

A few people I know have had experiences with ghosts. My next-door neighbor was sure her house was haunted, and was also sure my (170-year-old, built by a graveyard gatekeeper) house was haunted. Maybe it was so; she swore up and down she'd see the attic light go one while we were away. But my stepmom, who says she had less-than-good experiences with ghosts, never felt a bad presence in the house. Neither did I, and neither did our pets. My guess is, like people, most ghost presences are neutral and non-threatening, just going about their business.

But you could check out the Warrens' site, the New England Society for Psychic Research, if you're worried about it. They'll let you know if your house is haunted.
posted by landedjentry at 4:57 PM on June 18, 2008

When I was a kid and something scared me at night, I used to imagine an invisible shield that arched over my bed and protected me. Once you've moved in, if you have trouble sleeping, combat your fanciful mind with itself. However engrossed you get in thinking about ghosts, get equally engrossed in conjuring up a comforting and infallible protection for yourself. Sleep tight!
posted by daisyace at 5:19 PM on June 18, 2008

Get a pet and fill your home with plants. My mom (who could never sleep alone in our family room until we got a dog) said she read that you should fill your home with living things to help the ghosts realize they're dead.

My uncle, whose wife died in January, says he's seen a white mist outside their bedroom. He said to her, "well, honey, you can stay as long as you want but I'm sure you've got better places to be." I don't know if he still sees the white mist.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:29 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I definitely want to be able to sleep at night.

I once spent a night in our flat after all my flatmates had moved out, and suddenly for the first time - because the house was pretty much never empty prior to this - there was no explanation for the footsteps I could hear walking around the house.
I don't believe in ghosts, but this did not sound anything like the house cooling or all the usual explanations, it was very clearly someone walking around. I do believe in intruders, but every time I went around the house looking, it was still empty and locked up.
For a non-believer, coming up empty for any explanation - even straws to grasp at - other than ghosts was starting to really creep me out.

So I put on my favourite music, pumped up the volume, and never heard another footstep.

You'd be surprised at how well this works. Not only can you no-longer sense any potential ghosts, you Just Don't Care anymore because this music is bitchin', YEAH!
posted by -harlequin- at 6:30 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since you live in the haunted house, you can unhaunt the place. You have the chance to dispel a foolish myth that has persisted for so many years. Do decidedly unhaunted things— participating in the community (only recluses live in haunted houses) or remodeling the place (haunted houses are always rickety old things).
BILLY: Oh, that's the Old Man Gardner's mansion. Everyone says it's haunted.

TIM: Nuh uh, Metroid Baby's been living there for like, ten years. Don't even spread such absurd gossip in this day and age. Billy, you should be ashamed of yourself. Your rumors could be causing the owner a lot of unnecessary stress.
Because in the end, it's just gossip. And you can smash it to pieces. How delicious!
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2008

I would more or less ignore the snotty comments that "ghosts don't exist-DUH!", but it's useful to know that a likely majority of people don't believe they exist. Personally, I don't believe they exist only because I've never seen one, but a lot of people do. People who are otherwise intelligent and trustworthy as anyone you know. I've known people who claimed to experience something, and the definition of a ghost is the most likely explanation for them, as absurd as it sounds to anyone else, and even to them. It comes down to how much you trust someone's account of a haunting. My friend's mother experienced a ghost, which he didn't believe at all. So I said, "Then you think your mother is lying?" He said, "No." So I said, "The only other possibility is you think she's crazy." To which he said, "Yeah, I guess she is." Nevermind that she was his greatest rolemodel, the fact that she experienced something he couldn't explain or wrap his head around meant Mom was nuts.

I would be stoked to move into a place that was reportedly haunted. You can conduct scientific experiments--tape recorders, video, etc.--but anything you record as evidence can and will (perhaps rightly so) not be believed by anyone of a skeptical nature. After all, if ghosts exist, and we can record the sounds, they're just the sounds of a human being. If we photograph them, it can just as easily be Photoshopped. So no matter how good the evidence, it will always fall into the realm of "potential fake", and therefore, fake. Don't let that discourage you, though. Call one of those ghosthunter groups, let them stay at your place a couple of nights.
posted by zardoz at 8:20 PM on June 18, 2008

I think you can set the tone of your relationship with any resident ghosts by talking to them.

I talk to my laser printer ("What's wrong, darling? . . . Hold on, I'll get you more paper. . . . There, feel better now?") and I don't think talking to ghosts is any less rational.
posted by Orinda at 8:40 PM on June 18, 2008

Get a cat.

For the paranoid, every bump, thump and rumble in the wee small hours then has an attributable source. Or, for the superstitious, said cat will also warn you of the presence of any malicious spirits, at least according to the same literature that would have you believe in ghosts.
posted by Jakey at 7:38 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing: most people cannot sense ghosts, and most ghosts are not malevolent (or, assuming you believe ghosts are not sentient, mindlessly destructive). So even assuming you were sensitive enough to be aware of otherworldly entities around you, it would be another leap before you found yourself psychologically challenged by the impressions it was making.

I speak from experience. Footsteps, cold spots, odd scents, feelings of being watched... kind of neat, and you can enjoy them in a "trip to the spook house" kind of way. If your ghost starts touching you, or if important objects vanish and cannot be found, or if you begin to hear a voice in your head or to feel like someone else's thoughts are projecting themselves onto the scrim of your thoughts, you should leave.

No Ouija Boards, no professional ghost busters, no late night sleepovers with friends who giggle at it. Some places are simply unhealthy for people who vibrate at a certain frequency, and it's nobody's job as a living person to hang around being a tormented tuning fork for the dead. See the film "The Haunting" for a dramatization of how getting emotionally involved with a possibly imagined entity can damage someone. Or buy me a beer sometime and I will tell you about the demented 19th century suicide who molested me at my old professor's house in England, then shoved me down the stairs next morning.
posted by Scram at 8:50 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a very logical person and never used to believe in ghosts, but my old place was haunted. It was seen by a bunch of us, including my PhD nanotechnologist roomie who had a *very* hard time with what he had experienced. I've never really assimilated what went on. Chances are your place isn't haunted, but its so nothing to freak out over. It's not like a person, it's not like you can interact with it, and it can't hurt you.
posted by poissonrouge at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2008

get-a-cat comments favorited. It's true. We've got 3 cats, and any phenomena up to and including tapdancing clown dolls can be attributed to them. Rationality is all very well but doesn't count for much in the dark when you hear a slithery thump under your bed. It's much easier to roll over and go back to sleep when you can assume it's a frisky kitty tugging at your bedclothes in the night.

Enjoy your new home!
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:49 PM on June 19, 2008

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