Common possible signs of a haunting include, scratching, knocking, items being moved or knocked over, growling, hissing, whispering, and bad smells amongst other things. While all of the above would certainly pique the interest of a paranormal investigator, one thing that they will no doubt be looking at first hand will be, is it paranormal or is it nature?
Who hasn’t had to deal with a possum? They look quite cute from afar but can cause you to think there is a poltergeist in your house. You hear scratching coming from the roof, noises like someone is walking about. They also hiss and they also growl. During mating season, they make a clicking noise. Let me set a little bit of a scene for you. I was once investigating J Ward prison for the criminally insane. As we did back then, we always had a DVR system set up so that we had a live view of what was happening in each area and so that we could safely monitor each other during our vigils. In the shower block, I was doing a vigil and I could hear something moving around. It was pitch black so already your senses are on edge. I was asking questions and conducting an EVP session. I then heard with my own ears what sounded like a growl. To say I was a tad on edge would have been an understatement. When we finished up, we went back to the central hub where the monitors were. It was then that I looked at the camera that was recording the shower block to see the culprit of the noise and the growling. It sadly wasn’t an apparition of a past inmate. It was a possum darting around having a grand old time. On a separate occasion, I was in the bathroom in the Women's hospital at Aradale lunatic asylum. I heard a similar hiss. A fellow investigator suddenly claimed there was something sinister in the room with us and we had to get out. Upon review of the recorder, there was the offending hiss. Knowing what I knew from JWard I looked around with my flashlight (as there is no electricity in the building to turn on a light), and there I found possum droppings. When we left the hospital, in the trees a possum scurried away. While it is possible the hiss wasn't possible, it is more likely that it was.
Image Source Byron visitor center
Rats could also be a common animal that you may expect to be behind a haunting. While they will also make the scratching and hissing noises, they also squeak and grind their teeth. An interesting fact is that they communicate different noises at different frequencies depending on what emotion they are trying to convey. The squeak or hissing sounds represent that they are afraid or in pain.
Rats and Possums are two of the most common animals you would probably expect to see at a location. Some locations are now considered abandoned and unkept. They are usually rife with rats and possums. You will see that some locations go as far as to set up some bait stations for pest control. If you see these around, then you know that they are at risk of a possible haunting by these animals. This brings us to the uncomfortable part of the conversation. Sometimes animals get into a small cavity and cannot get out. Sometimes they eat the bait from a bait station and become ill. Ultimately they pass away. If they are in your roof or in your wall, they will start to decompose and they will start to smell …… really bad. If you are experiencing bad smells in a certain area and you have had the above activity happening before you get a paranormal team out to investigate, call a pest controller. You could sadly have something that has died in your roof or wall.
Speaking of dead animals, there was literally a time when I was at Aradale lunatic asylum in the old chapel where a dried up decomposed bat fell from the roof. This one was actually a very strange experience. Bill from Australian Paranormal Society was standing against the wall and heard a big thump next to his head as if something had been thrown at him. When we looked on the floor, a dead bat was there (we didn't notice it before as we had just been sitting in that exact spot). We don't know where it came from or why it made a thump against the wall. Did it hit the floor and the sound travel so we thought it hit the wall? Did it fall from the roof or was it thrown at Bill's head? We don't know the exact answer, it was a very strange set of events, but there is a hazard I never thought I would have to worry about!
Dead bat in the chapel at Aradale. Photo courtesy of Australian Paranormal Society
I had an interesting experience that I wanted to add to this post because it caught me by surprise. Particularly in summer months when the sun sets a lot later, you tend to find there are a lot more bird noises to deal with. I am quite used to recognizing them by now, but just the other day, one caught me by surprise. I was at Black Rock House and we were doing an EVP session. I suddenly heard what I thought was a female voice yell out. My first instinct was to run outside and make sure that no one else was on the grounds. The place was empty and there was no one around. Another person heard the voice too. We played back the recording directly from the speaker of the recorder and we could faintly hear what sounded like the voice on the recording. Straight away we took the recorder to the laptop and downloaded the file so we could listen to the recording with proper sound (not the distorted sound you get from the recorder's speaker). Upon review, it was very obviously a noisy bird chirping and sounded identical to the chirps we had been hearing all night. That isn't of course how I and another person heard it at the time with our ears. To us, it did sound like a female voice. It was a great example of audio pareidolia and my head making me hear almost what I was looking for at the time. An important difference here as well was that it sounded completely different on the recorder's speaker than it did listening to it properly on the laptop with headphones. While listening back on the spot to your recorder is a good exercise to see if something is there, you need to take it further and listen to it properly. Some recorders have very poor sound output. They can sound distorted and crackly. While it adds to the atmosphere, it doesn't allow you to properly identify what you are really hearing and proper analysis is required. While it can be exciting when you hear something like that, it is important to cover all bases.
The wind is responsible for so many possible hauntings. Cold spots could simply be a draft coming through an unsealed window. This draft could cause a change of pressure in the room which could cause a door to latch open. At Black Rock House, when it is really windy, the wallpaper crackles. It makes an odd sound like someone is moving around. It took me a little while to figure out what it was because it did sound like something was moving around. Closer inspection found it was the wallpaper. The wind can also make odd noises when it interacts with different objects. It can sometimes sound like moaning.
Wallpaper at Black Rock House Photo by Sarah @ LLIFS
If you hear a moan on an investigation or when you are replaying an EVP, it is worth noting, was it windy? This is why it is always a great idea to write down the weather conditions on the night you investigate. It makes it easier to debunk and is essential for your investigation report. This leads me to the final point
To some, this is a given, but not everyone investigates this way. It is a great idea to write up a report of your investigation. Put the time, date, location, what are the weather conditions, is it windy, is it raining? Are you out in the countryside, are you in suburbia? Look for signs of animals such as droppings and bite marks. Are the birds chirping? Are bats flying overhead? Even owls can be around depending on where you are. Sit in your surroundings quietly for a while and get used to the sounds around you. Write them down. For example, at Black Rock House, there are two distinct sounds you will hear all night which are often misinterpreted by people to be paranormal, but they are completely natural. The first is figs falling from the tree onto the tin roof. They make a loud bang, they are completely random and they catch you off-guard. The second is the sound of a bat flying overhead. Yes, bats fly around and their wings make an odd flapping sound which again if you are not used to it or expecting it, you can misinterpret it. Take a recording of these sounds so you know what they will sound like when you are reviewing EVP. Make sure you tag your recordings if you hear one of these sounds so it can be discounted. It also shows us that a true investigation is not something that only happens for a couple of hours in one night. A true investigation takes months and maybe even years. It is then that you learn about the little quirks like the ones I have described at Black Rock House. That knowledge took years for me to discover and even still I am discovering more and more little quirks and the natural sounds of the house.
As investigators, we are always looking for the ‘normal’ to find the paranormal. You get better at recognizing these things with experience. I only know what it is like to hear a possum growl during an investigation AFTER it happened to me. I only knew what the wallpaper moving sounded like AFTER I experienced it. It is all a learning process. I am very much all for reading and doing your groundwork, but this is an example of the kind of experience you can only gain by being out in the field. We all investigate and debunk differently so always compare your findings with your peers. They may be more experienced in certain areas. Once we can eliminate all the trivial sounds that we know we can explain, sometimes you are still left with a handful of things that you can't explain. Those are the things to pay attention to.
If you enjoy this article, this is exactly the sort of content in my book Stuff Paranormal Investigators Need To Know Volume 1: What the eyes see and the ears hear the mind believes. It takes a rational look at paranormal investigating offering explanations for common paranormal phenomena while also exploring other possibilities.
Click the Stuff Paranormal Investigators Need To Know link below to learn more!
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