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The Haunted House
Finding Out if it’s Haunted Before or After You Buy it
By Linda Cassada

Long before we began documenting our lives in this country, people were being born, growing, struggling to survive, experiencing both great joy and heartache, and dying upon the land your current home or potential new home now occupies. All of these experiences, both good and bad, have the potential to bind a spirit and its energy to the land.  And while some spirits are quiet and calm and offer a chance for cohabitation with the living, others can be downright troublesome. You may find yourself wondering how to avoid buying a haunted home, or wishing that a spirit in your current home would go haunt someone else (like that idiot neighbor of yours). 

So what can you do? Read this article, and find out how to minimize your chances of buying a haunted home, or to rid yourself of that unwanted spirit. (Sorry, we can't tell you how to send it to your neighbor's house, though). 

When you’re about to make a move

You move into a brand new house. It’s never been lived in before, so it can’t be haunted. Right? Wrong.  Any extreme emotion of any person who’s ever stepped foot on that land may have been imprinted upon the environment. Any occult activity or ritual performed on that land could open a doorway through which evil spirits can pass.

It’s no wonder, then, that teams like Virginia Paranormal Investigations are constantly receiving calls from people who’ve moved into a new home and are baffled when they begin experiencing paranormal activity. To further complicate matters, there are reports of spirits wandering as far as a mile to haunt the home of some unsuspecting individual.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 14% of the US population moves to a new home each year.  That’s over 40 million people who don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.

Death disclosure laws exist to protect homebuyers from buying a home in which there’s been a death. However, the laws vary greatly from state to state. According to, states such as California, South Dakota and Alaska require home sellers to reveal to a potential buyer that there’s been a death in the home. The Redfin article, When You Need to Disclose a Death in Your Home states that “In California, sellers must reveal if a death in the home has occurred anytime in the past three years, including death by natural causes (although certain types of deaths, like those from AIDS, cannot be disclosed). And if a buyer comes out and asks about a death that occurred at any time, even longer than three years ago, the seller is required to provide a truthful response.”

The article goes on to explain that only deaths such as murders and suicides are required to be disclosed if they happened within the past year. Other states have laws requiring death disclosure as well, so make sure to check with your state to find out what is required of the seller.

Of course, these laws will not provide information on deaths that occurred a long time ago, perhaps before the home was built. However, there are steps you can take to make sure you are informed prior to the purchase.

The first step is to visit the city or county registrar of deeds office. You will want to make a list of the names of everyone who has resided on the property for as far back as these records were kept. Some cities will have older records than others, since records could’ve been destroyed due to war or natural disaster.

Next, you’ll want to check with the local library for death records for those who have lived in that area. Tell the librarian that you’re seeking information on deaths that have occurred in a specific location, and he or she will be able to point you in the right direction. Another source of information is a local historian. Historians will be able to provide information about disasters in the area, as well as some information about the land as if existed prior to the establishment of the city or county.

Keep in mind that natural deaths may not seem like as much of a concern as those due to murder or sudden accidents, but when a person is emotionally tied to a home or a piece of land in life and dies from natural causes, that spirit may remain tied there for an eternity.

If You’ve Already Moved and You Think It’s Haunted

The first step is to eliminate the possibility that the perceived paranormal activity is, in fact, caused by something natural or logical.

Older homes have their own character, as well as their own list of reasons why they seem haunted when they aren’t. If you’ve moved into an older home, and think that you’re hearing footsteps in an area of your home, make sure to walk through this area and see if you hear the floor popping and creaking after you’ve walked over it. This can occur as much as a minute after you’ve walked there. The wood floors, whether covered by carpet or not, will be compressed under your weight, and will pop back into place when you’ve passed by.

Older homes also tend to be full of penetration points, where animals can enter the home and wreak havoc. If you hear scratching or thumping in the walls, floors, or ceiling, you should get an exterminator out to check for signs of rodents. You’d be surprised how a small mouse can sound like a large animal while moving around in your home’s attic or walls.

All homes, whether old or new, tend to make sounds. Heat expands and swells materials. So when the heat comes on, you may start to hear pops and creaks coming from the walls, floors, and ceiling. Then, when the heat goes off, the drop in temperature will cause those same sounds to occur again.

Another occurrence which causes people to think their houses are haunted is when a strange smell wafts through the home. Strange or foul smells can be caused by dirty filters in your heating and cooling system, or by animals that have died somewhere within the home. A dead mouse can stink up an entire section of a home, but you may never be able to find it. Another common source of a foul smell is a sink or tub drain. Check your drains, and if you suspect that a foul smell may be emanating from one, pour a little bleach into it and don’t rinse with water right away. Give it a few minutes to kill the bacteria growing down there.

Some people claim to see shadows moving through the home, as well. If you do see a shadow, make sure that it isn’t caused by the headlights of a vehicle, shining in through the window as it’s moving down the street. Remember, if a shadow is moving and the cause isn’t something paranormal, then somewhere—whether inside the house or out—a light source is probably moving, casting a shadow from an unmoving object.

And last but not least, we must mention children. If your children are talking to something you can’t see and you wonder if it’s a spirit, then be sure to read our article, Why Children See Ghosts. It might not be a spirit that the child is talking to, but an imaginary friend.

So play detective. If you experience something that seems paranormal, analyze it. Get friends and family members to help, if necessary. Perhaps you can find a natural reason for the occurrence.

After you’ve analyzed the activity, if you still believe that it’s something paranormal that’s occurring, then the next step is to call out a paranormal investigation team. Don’t just call the first one you find, though. Do a little research. These people will be walking around your house in the dark while you don’t have them in sight. You have to feel that they’re trustworthy, credible and knowledgeable. There are a lot of teams that form because they want to experience something scary, not because they take the profession seriously and want to find solutions for those who, like you, need help.

Stay away from psychics--at least at the beginning. There are a lot of people claiming to be psychics. Some of them are extremely adept at reading people and figuring things out about you by simply watching and observing. “Oh, you’re father has passed,” one might say. If you’re an older person, then it’s easy to infer that your father has probably died. And your home, full of personal items, photos of family, etc., is a treasure trove of information about you and your family.

Keep in mind that a paranormal team may have to make multiple visits before they discover the source and reason for the haunting. You live in the house. A paranormal team is going to visit for a matter of a few hours. The chances of a bunch of strangers finding paranormal activity the first time they visit are low. But don’t get discouraged. Give them a chance, or a few chances. And you may be surprised by what they can find.

Also, don't attempt to communicate with spirits on your own unless you're asking it to leave. Using the methods of a paranormal investigator or psychic medium (like using a spirit box, dowsing rods, pendulums, or an Ouija board) may cause the activity to greatly increase. Leave this to the experts--the ones that don't live in the home. This will show the spirit that its best chance at communicating is through the paranormal investigation team.  (NEVER use a spirit board or Ouija board, whether in or outside of the home).

A Note on Apartments, Townhomes and Condos

If you’re living in an building that contains multiple housing units and you are experiencing paranormal activity, then there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to rid it of a spirit.

If someone in an adjoining apartment is playing with an Ouija board and opens a doorway for an evil spirit to enter, then that evil spirit can and will roam through the entire building or further. Likewise, if someone kills him- or herself in an adjoining apartment, that spirit may cause problems in your apartment, as well.

That being said, some people have found success in calming activity by blessing the living space and sprinkling blessed salt around the inside perimeter of the apartment or condo. In other words, salt should be sprinkled where the floor meets any wall that has another living space or the outdoors on the other side of it. This salt will help to form a barrier against intrusive spirits.

Don’t Bail

The space you occupy is yours, whether you rent it or own it. It doesn’t belong to the spirit. So if a spirit is causing problems that you cannot deal with, try waiting until the activity usually occurs, and speaking out loud to the spirit. Tell it that it will have to stop scaring people, moving objects, making noise, visiting the family while they’re sleeping, or whatever the bothersome activity is. This is a way to attempt to cohabitate with the spirits.

Of course, if the spirit seems to have bad intentions or is hurting people in the home, then trying to make a deal may not be the best approach. In this instance, in a very firm, loud voice, tell it that it is no longer allowed to stay in the home and that it must leave. Tell it that you will no longer tolerate its behavior. Try to never show fear or to get angry at it. This may only give it what it wants, like the bully on the school yard that gets a rise out of hurting others. Stay cool and calm, but stand up for yourself. If you abandon the home, you’re sending it a message that its behavior is effective in driving people out. It will cause more trouble for the next family that occupies the home. Or, in the case of a demon, it may simply follow you to your new home and cause problems there.

Giving up is never the best option. Fight. Get a paranormal investigation team. Get a priest. If that doesn’t work, get another one. And if that doesn’t work, get another. Don’t give up until you’ve driven this unwelcome guest from your home once and for all.