On an investigation in search of activity associated with a haunting, of course, we want evidence, but we will also try to debunk any findings before stating it’s paranormal.
To do this we need to consider whether the activity falls within the normal types of activity associated with a haunting.
We need to remain open-minded, but the following are a good guide to use when deciding if our findings are proof of paranormal activity.
Stepping back and thinking about what’s happened with a common sense approach, may well allow you to quickly find a non-paranormal explanation.
Those familiar with a Haunted Heritage investigation will know that we talk you through the equipment we use on the night, you will also know that we ourselves are often one of the best pieces of equipment in our search for the paranormal.
What activity assosiated with a haunting you might experience
We’ve all probably felt a sense of uneasiness in our life at one time or another for no apparent reason. It could be a feeling of being watched, or simply picking up on a negative vibe or strange atmosphere.
Investigators/guests may experience emotion, depression or anxiety in a property, or sometimes in a particular room at a venue.
Before assuming this is paranormal, take a practical look at the property. Is it actually overlooked by a neighbouring property which could cause the sensation of being watched? Does it get very little light? Darkness in general can cause low mood in an individual, and our investigations take place at night.
You also need to take into account the general health of the person reporting the haunting. We wouldn’t ask these questions in an investigation, but if someone is reporting a haunting at their home, and you were investigating you would need to know if they have a history of depression? Is there something going on in their life that could make them feel this way? Has someone close recently passed away?
Strange Noises or Unexplained Voices
The most commonly reported noises are bangs, footsteps, creaks, scratching, and the sound of objects being moved. Reports of breaths, sighs, whispers, screams, crying and even laughing are also common.
Before we take on a venue to offer to the public for an investigation, we always visit the property during the course of a normal day. We will walk around, observing the day to day activities that are taking place if it is a public building.
By doing this, as experts, we get a sense of what’s going on, we also notice basic things, such as how it is when the heating is on and is there noise pollution from outside? is there an area of the property in use which could account for activity assocated with a haunting?
Observing the property in this way allows us to note any noises that we can explain in our investigations, such as creaky floorboards, knocking pipes and how sound travels. Before each session on an investigation, we would encourage guests to get a feel for a room first. Let their eyes adjust to the darkness and listen to any noises around them.
The presence of spirits can sometimes be signified by an unexplained odour. It can be perfume or flowers, cigarettes, medicinal smells – anything that you might associate with a person in life. There can also sometimes be unpleasant odours such as ammonia, vomit, or rotting flesh.
To debunk a smell you should remember that smells can drift in through open windows or vents, also plumbing and potentially the foundations if the property is old. Before declaring it unexplainable you should ensure that windows are closed, vents are covered, and air conditioning units are switched off.
What other buildings are nearby? Pubs? Factories? Could it be coming from them? Also, eliminate any perfumes from others who might be on the investigation.
It is believed that unexplained cold spots are a sign that a spirit is present or close to manifesting. One of the reasons we’ll often use an EDI on our investigations is to monitor the room temperature. You can also check the temperature by using a laser thermometer for fast, targeted readings.
Your whole body might go cold, you might feel a draft, or a part of your body such as your arm or leg might feel cold for example. You should check the location/venue for cold spots as well as warm areas which can also mean a spirit is present.
To debunk you should note any potential sources of draughts, such as open or broken windows, fans, ventilation or air conditioning, as well as warmth from radiators, pipes, boilers and water tanks.
Remember rooms will have natural temperature fluctuations according to the time of day, as well as how many people are in the room. Aim to take a baseline temperature when first exploring the rooms to compare at different stages. Remember that even different rooms in the same property can vary in temperature.
Another common sign of a haunting is when objects appear to have moved by themself. This could include putting something down and then it not being there later, small movements of objects such as photos, ornaments, even items in a doll’s house, personal items from a deceased person, or things which you observe moving such as a chair, a door slamming shut on its own or lights switching on and off.
Sometimes objects can disappear completely, only to show up weeks later in the same spot, or sometimes in an unusual location. We might use trigger objects in an investigation. An easy way to check for movement is simply to draw around them, or use could sprinkle flour or talc around and look for movement.
Take along a mobile phone with you on an investigation. Ensure it is switched off or switched to airplane mode during the investigations so as not to interfere with any of the equipment, but take photographs of each room before you start. That way you can compare photos if you feel anything may have moved.
To debunk – ensure you think about the weight of the item. Could it be moved by a draft, vibrations from machinery or simply by someone walking close by? Open windows can cause doors to slam. External sources such as heavy vehicles, traffic, trains or trams can cause vibrations in a building too.
Some people experience being physically touched, this can include on the skin, brushing past, pulling hair or the feeling of a breath. In more extreme cases pushing or scratches. We had a case of pushing quite recently on the stairs at an investigation at Newstead Abbey.
We couldn’t debunk it, but if this happens to you – make sure that the group is aware of their surroundings and the proximity of any other group members. Involuntary swaying in the dark can account for some cases.
When a spirit manifests it appears as a physical being or entity. It is rarer than tv and films would have you believe, but the result can be ghostly figures, unexplained shadows or shapes. Occasionally they have been caught on camera or witnessed by more than one person.
Now you know the activity associated with a haunting to look out for on your next investigation.