Volume 92, Issue 32
Friday, October 30, 1998
Ghostbusters: seeking out the haunted
Graphic by Brahm Wiseman
By Ciara "Casper" Rickard
If you've noticed footsteps in the house when no one's home, dishes flying out of your cupboard or translucent people you don't know standing in your living room, you might have a ghost for a roommate.
Though most people scoff at the idea, haunted houses are much more common than one might think, according to Caleb Storms, a clairvoyant and "ghostbuster" for One Star in Sight. It is a company in New Orleans which rids homes and businesses of spirits and ghosts who refuse to go away.
"My skepticism is far gone," says Storms, who says he has seen and communicated with numerous ghosts and demons. "As far as their actual existence, I'm not skeptical at all any more."
There are a number of signs which may indicate an unearthly presence in a home or building, Storms says. Cold spots may point out where a spirit actually is, since their presence changes the atmosphere. Things moving without anyone appearing to move them indicates some kind of presence. Also, people often find that their moods change from happy to sad or depressed when they walk into a haunted place.
"Haunted houses are always colder than other houses, even when the heat is blasting," Storms says.
The folks at One Star in Sight are quick to come to the rescue when distressed people want their ethereal house guests to disappear.
"The first thing we do is try to figure out what we're dealing with, whether it's Uncle Tom coming back to visit, a demonic presence or a poltergeist," Storms says. "A poltergeist is a manifestation of out of control telekinetic activity and usually occurs with a child or young teen, because of the huge amount of endorphins that they produce at puberty."
"Uncle Tom" would be considered a "wayward spirit," in which case there is no cause for alarm. If it's an unwanted spirit or demon, they try to contact them and ask them to leave.
"A lot of times they'll hide when we get there. People complain of strange happenings and we walk in to investigate and everything stops [the ghosts] can sense that I can sense them," Storms says. "But a lot of times, they want to communicate. Usually they're victims of violent death and they need closure of some kind or they're ghosts who don't even know they're dead."
There are various reasons for why spirits linger in their former homes. Often it's a father or brother who feels he should stay around to watch over the family. Sometimes they are spirits who were very attached to their homes and are reluctant to leave or sometimes they are spirits who just want to make trouble.
"I'll put it this way if I wasn't a nice guy in life, I wouldn't be a nice guy in death," Storms says. "There was a house with a mother and daughter living in it and there was so much activity that they were psychologically damaged."
A ghost can choose to show itself to a person and when they do so it's called a "materialization." According to Storms, the ghost appears as one might expect a kind of transparent person a little twinkle or the appearance of smoke.
"Getting rid of ghosts is called a 'banishing.' It has its roots in ritual magic creating sacred space and getting rid of anything you don't want there," Storms says. "If it's something more like a demonic power, you have to find the boss they have a hierarchy and tell it that you want to get rid of the demon."
Storms described one documented story in which a girl was communicating with a demon and she had bite marks showing up on her legs several people claim to have seen the bite marks appearing while she was walking.
"When I was about 10, I started to realize I wasn't like everybody else," says Storms, of his ability to see and communicate with ghosts. "I had a sister die when I was young and she used to come back and play with me. We still talk sometimes, but not very often she's busy, she's got her own things going on."
Storms says everyone has this ability, there are just some who have a heightened sensitivity to this sort of communication. He refers to "thumb prints," which is like an echo of a past happening many people experience this as an uncomfortable feeling when they walk into an area where something bad happened.
"When I see activity, I don't see it as I see you and me. I see it in my mind's eye, but it's external to myself," Storms explains. "I know that it's not my own thoughts."
Joe Nickell, columnist and investigator for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in Amhearst, New York, also investigates haunted houses, but says he has yet to find a house which is actually haunted. He has been able to explain all the strange occurrences in people's homes through logic and science.
"There is no credible, scientific evidence that ghosts exist," Nickell says. "I've been to more haunted houses than Casper and I've never found a house that I thought was haunted. We sceptics have a saying 'There are no haunted houses, only haunted minds'."
One of the things Nickell attributes strange phenomena to is "fantasy-prone personalities" people who have vivid imaginations to the extent they imagine all kinds of ghostly happenings. He also said it is sometimes merely people looking for attention or wanting to believe their dead loved ones have come back.
"We want to believe in ghosts, certainly I do and we want them to be real. That would give proof that we live after we die and we want to believe that we can contact our dead loved ones," Nickell explains.
One of Nickell's fellow sceptics, Henry Gordon, agrees. Although he doesn't investigate paranormal activity like Nickell, Gordon, a Toronto resident, is an expert on the subject and has written several books on it.
"There is no such thing as haunted houses and no such thing as ghosts," he says. "I only believe in what I can see or hear. People claim to see ghosts for attention, to get on talk shows, for notoriety the same reasons they believe in UFO's, psychics and all kinds of strange things."
Nickell cites one example of a so-called haunting which took place in a well-known home in Toronto. The residents had made claims of hearing strange sounds in the night and a woman even claimed to have woken up to see the ghost of a man standing over her bed. Nickell was able to find explanations for all the noises and they had nothing to do with paranormal activity.
"It's quite common seeing a person by your bed at night is called a 'waking dream,'" Nickell explains. "These things often occur when people just wake up. It's the twilight zone between waking and sleeping."
Nickell also says once a house has a reputation for being haunted, people tend to attribute things they can't explain to a ghost. Every time keys go missing or there's a strange sound in the night or poor wiring causes lights to flicker, it's blamed on the ghost.
"Our minds have a way of superimposing something on a mere shadow," Nickell says. "You may register something insignificant as a very vivid sighting. People are often very insistent that they've seen a ghost. Some enjoy it, like having a guardian angel."
Many ghost stories are mere hoaxes concocted for money or attention. One of the most famous ghost stories ever, the Amittyville Horror, was a hoax. Also, the clairvoyants who claim to be able to communicate with people's dead loved ones are scammers, according to Nickell.
"You're invited to supply the data yourself. It's very clever fishing for information. They deal with generalities, asking questions to get people to supply the information," he says.
The controversy surrounding the existence of ghosts may never be solved. But if you hear strange noises or feel a presence, you might want to investigate.
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