Living With Ghosts
5 tips for living and thriving in a haunted house.
Matt Chambers never believed in ghosts until he recently encountered one in his house. While in the bathroom, Chambers heard his wife Jennifer in the nearby kitchen, egging on his cat Mukky to kill a spider it was swatting his paw at. "Get it, Mukky," Jennifer urged several times. Then, on the other side of the bathroom door, Chambers heard a man's voice say, "Mukk!"
Chambers stiffened, baffled because the voice almost sounded like his own, and of course, that was impossible. Then it came again:"Mukk!" Chambers quickly left the bathroom and asked Jennifer if she had heard anything while he was in the bathroom.
"Yeah, you mumbling," Jennifer replied. "But I couldn't tell what you were saying, so I didn't answer. I was just waiting for you to come out and repeat it."
Encountering a ghost sounds like the stuff of campfires and Hollywood movies – unless, of course, you've actually had an encounter with someone from the other side. Chambers admits that he would have once laughed at the idea of taking an article titled, "Living with Ghosts," seriously: "I've always been a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal," insists Chambers, a 34-year-old graphic designer who lives with Jennifer and their two young children in Germantown, Ohio. "I've had friends and family tell me story after story of their ghostly experiences and truly believed they were sincere in the fact that they believed these things actually happened. Most of the time, I'd just bite my tongue and act interested, just to avoid being rude."
And then he met John, the man who had taken an interest in their cat. He can't say for sure, but after talking to neighbors, he is pretty sure that the voice belonged to his house's former occupant, a man who died of cancer in hospice, just about a year before the Chambers moved into their new chambers. Yes, as unbelievable as it may sound, Chambers is pretty sure that the previous owner of his house never really left.
So what do you do when your living arrangements suddenly involve the dead? Watch the movie Ghostbusters for some insight? Call the police? Run out of the house, screaming? Well, you could do one or all of the above – or you could keep reading for our advice for living among the afterlife.
Some people don't mind living in a home with unexplained noises or sightings.
Tip #1: Don't be afraid
It's natural to be afraid of something you don't understand. But absolutely don't be afraid, says JoJo Wright, a DJ with KIIS-FM in Los Angeles. Wright has long had a fascination with ghosts ("I think it stems from my mom taking us on picnics to graveyards as kids") and believes his house has a ghost – or at least some sort of weird, unexplained activity has been going on in his home lately.
For instance: "My dog, that rarely barks, will stand in the corner, staring at nothing and go crazy," observes Wright. In any case, he advises anyone who comes into contact with a ghost to "take a deep breath and know that it's not going to hurt you."
Chambers echoes that advice. "Don't be frightened. Just pay attention, because somebody might be trying to tell you something. Don't talk extensively about it inside the house if you'd rather it not happen as I feel the more you speak of it the more the entity wants to make itself known. But perhaps you do want to experience it more. That's up to you."
But what if the ghost doesn't seem friendly and instead of footsteps in the dead of night, you're hearing a cackle and the sound of a chainsaw? Then, sure, get the heck out of your house. This advice isn't one-situation-fits-all.
If you think there's a harmful spirit inside your home, call the police or your friends, or perhaps a priest, suggests Wright, "or whoever you trust within your religious beliefs." You can even call Wright if you're in the Los Angeles area. Wright says, "If you have a case you'd like me to check out, hit me up, and I'll be happy to go check it out."
But, again, most ghosts just seem to want to make their presence known.
And if that happens, consider making your own presence known. Toni Cusumano, a casting director who lives in an old Victorian home in the Poconos, says that she has a ghost who likes to turn on the TV in her son's room. "One night, I was by myself, very comfortable on my couch watching TV, and the TV turned on upstairs. Like I said, I was very comfortable and didn't want to move, so I yelled, 'Knock it off.' The TV turned off, and we never had the problem again."
Tip #2: Stay in control
This is your house, and while the ghost can claim it's his house too, your name is on the mortgage and you're paying the utilities, mowing the lawn and cleaning the place. So if you and a ghost disagree on something, as intimidating as it might be, you shouldn't be afraid to try and get your way.
Consider the case of Cindy DeVore -- entrepreneur and owner of Valley Green Naturals in Broad Run, Va. "For awhile," she says, "we had a serious problem with the mudroom door located in the more recent 1800s section of the house. We've always avoided using that door because we are concerned about its security. We check it often, pulling it, to make sure it’s shut tight and locked. During our first winter in the house, I came home at least three or four times to find the mudroom door completely open, blowing in cold air from the outside. The first couple of times it happened, I was very afraid that someone had broken into the house, but that was never the case."
She called the previous owner to see if he had ever had a problem with the locked mudroom door opening on its own.
His response? "Yeah – it’s the damndest thing! I can’t explain it. And the door always seems to open during the worst possible snowstorm or bad weather. Don’t know what to tell you!”
DeVore could have given up, but she purchased a dead bolt, ending the mysterious door opening. Afterward, for a few months, she would find the kitchen lights turned on at night, knowing full well she or her husband had switched them off. DeVore theorizes the ghosts resorted to some shenanigans because they were frustrated. Still, the mudroom door remains locked.
Tip #3: Research your ghost
Chambers felt better when he had a name to go with his ghost. Wright pulls out his video camera whenever he can, to record any strange activity.
If you think there's a ghost in your house, there are going to be skeptics, quite possibly yourself, and so the more evidence you can pull together to convince either your family and friends or yourself that you haven't lost your mind, the better. Documenting instances of unexplained activity, through a journal or video, will also help if you plan on consulting paranormal professionals, also known as ghost hunters, for advice.
Wright says that he is the only person to live in his house, and he knew that, but he did do what he calls "minimal research" and found some compelling information about the neighborhood he lives in. "It's less than 10 years old and has no haunted history whatsoever," says Wright of his house, but "I've discovered that there was a flood in the area years ago and many people were killed."
Tip #4: Talk to the ghost
He or she is, after all, living among you and your family. You ought to try and get along. "Speak aloud to the ghosts and tell them your own personal boundaries," advises Alexandra Chuaran, a fortune teller in Seattle. "Don't be afraid to tell them 'no' and when to 'stop' and thank them when any annoying activities cease. Be polite and treat them like roommates that mean well, but may be a tad on the socially oblivious side."
But keep in mind, if you do talk to them, it will probably help keep things under control, but you may hear more from the ghost as well. The Chambers felt the presence of John shortly after they moved into their house, but only after Matt Chambers heard his voice and began discussing him with his wife did they begin hearing and feeling his presence everywhere. In other words, an open mind might be an open invitation to a ghost.
In recent months, Chambers has been tapped on the shoulder while in bed, had a child's wind-up toy that hadn't been touched for years go off, seen doors open and close, and over the summer, when they were having some renovations done, John may have even made his presence known to a contractor, who asked if there was a ghost in the house.
Tip #5: Be appreciative
This is, after all, a pretty unique situation, and you're getting a glimpse into a world few people get to experience. As Chambers puts it, "Yes, we've been startled or caught off guard at times, but there's never been a feeling of anger or anything that wants us out. In fact, I believe the person who resides in this house loves it here, wants to protect it and just plain wants to be known."
Chambers adds, "We're lucky that we have not experienced anything that has frightened us. I'm grateful for that, and I'm actually quite grateful for the extra company. It's his home, too."