Footsteps: Often associated with a residual haunting if they repeat a pattern over a few days to years, footsteps may also indicate you have a wandering spirit on your hands or a toddler looking for a midnight snack. Keep track of where the footsteps begin and end, do they lead to the newest object in the house?
Doors opening and shutting on their own: A ghost may like to wander its new surroundings, so don’t be surprised if they get a little curious and see what’s behind closed doors. Hearing a door swing shut is more common than seeing any paranormal action so keep your ears open on those quiet nights for spectral peepers.
Whispers or crying: An object may be a remembrance of a special day for a spirit. It’s not uncommon to hear of items becoming more active on anniversary or significant dates of the former owner so if you have knowledge of its history, spend a little extra time watching for signs of activity. Try capturing the sounds using a digital recorder; their playback is called Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs) and you may be able to discover more about the ghost’s past.
Unidentified noises: It may be the house settling or the classic tree branch scraping against your window but if you’re experiencing noises such as thumping, knocking or rapping on the walls that can’t be attributed to bad water pipes, you may have a haunting. Don’t jump to paranormal conclusions just yet though; make sure you’ve crossed off all of the possible mundane causes first. In older houses especially, rodents in the walls or poorly hung windows can be a source for phantom scratches or whistles.
Food: Since food play a huge role in many cultures including family meals, wedding feasts, and wakes, kitchen implements brought into the home from another owner may stir up memories while you’re stirring something on the stove.
Cigars, cigarettes or pipes: The heavy scent of tobacco can stain the air with its haunting properties. Items such as a pipe are intimately connected with its owner; when passed down through generations as an heirloom, memories may get fired up once more. The unmistakable aroma of a cigar can indicate a phantom visitor. Once, while visiting the Whaley House in San Diego, California I smelled the distinct odor of a cigar and remarked to a friend that it was odd to have someone blatantly smoke in a museum with no-smoking signs prominently displayed. The smell followed us as we moved from room to room until we ascended the staircase to tour the upstairs and join a room full of visitors listening to the ghost stories stemming from the activity in the house. I sat down as the guide mentioned that the staff believed that cigar smoke was an indicator of the presence of the former owner, Thomas Whaley. As I passed the rooms on my way out, I searched for some trace of the strong tobacco smell I had previously experienced but left with nothing.
Gunpowder: Antique firearms may have the residue old battles clinging to the barrels. Death may not part soldiers or hunters from their weapons just because they no longer have an itchy trigger finger. When bringing a gun into your home, its history may not be holstered so easily. Battlefield relics may also contain memories of the conflict: bullets, belt buckles, or personal belongings of the soldiers may have the deep emotional mark of what occurred during the fighting such as pain, fear, or courage. The remnants of such may imprint the ghost and its final feelings upon the object.
First you see them – then you don’t: Many times we’ll catch what we may believe is a ghost out the corner of our eye only to shrug it off and blame the cat. Paranormal investigators believe that the act of materializing takes a lot of energy so these short bursts of light or shadow may be the only way we can identify when a ghost is trying to get our attention. If you see a pattern emerging of when and where this phenomena occurs, jot it down and try to see if there’s an association with an object you may have brought into your home. It may be linked to a special date or time of death of the owner.
Apparitions: If you are lucky enough to see a floating head or a full-length ghostly figure, note what it’s wearing so you can follow up later with research. You may be able to determine what time period the spirit identifies with and match it with your object. Apparitions come in varied states of matter with some being no more than a wisp of smoke and others being so lifelike it could be difficult to tell that they don’t have a pulse.
Missing items: Items vanishing only to appear days or weeks later at another location in the house is a common sign of a haunting. Different than a possessed possession, these objects may have just caught the fancy of a ghost who borrowed it for a bit. Toys, television remotes and my children’s homework have all been subjected to being caught in the loop though I have my suspicions about the math worksheets. Other items such as coins and jewelry have appeared seemingly from nowhere to be found tucked away in a new location. Now if we could only find out where the socks go to after escaping the dryer.
Electrical appliances: The blender may be trying to tell you something. It is thought that ghosts feed off of electromagnetic fields, making it easy for them to manipulate and interrupt the flow from the source to the appliance. Much less complicated than gathering their energy to become an apparition, there are many reports of electronics reacting to what we believe are power-hungry ghosts. Faulty wiring may also be a factor so please check with an electrician or change a bulb before deciding it’s a sign from the beyond.