Is my house haunted? Paranormal investigator's 5 signs you have a ghost

Haunted houses may not just be Halloween attractions: Forty-three percent of people claim they have possibly lived in a home with ghosts, due to evidence such as hearing strange noises, spotting shadows and seeing objects move on their own, according to a new poll.

And while bunking with a spirit of the deceased would terrify most people, it’s precisely what makes a dream home for paranormal investigator Cory Heinzen. That’s why, in June, Heinzen and his wife moved from Maine to Harrisville, Rhode Island, where they purchased the actual farmhouse that inspired the scary 2013 film The Conjuring (its third installment will be released in September). The movie is based on the Perron family, who, in the 1970s, experienced horrifying paranormal activity during their nine-year residency: levitating furniture, ghostly apparitions and whispers of “dead soldiers buried in the wall.”

“Why wouldn’t you buy a home like this?” Heinzen, 40, asks Yahoo Lifestyle.

Here's how to know if you're about to have your own personal ghost story. (Photo: Getty Images, design by Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)
Here's how to know if you're about to have your own personal ghost story. (Photo: Getty Images, design by Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

Since moving in, the family says it has heard running footsteps, raspy voices and whistling. One night, a black mist floated into the master bedroom, then disappeared, says Heinzen, noting, “It’s not an evil presence. But there’s something here.”

Retired from the military, Heinzen offers his ghost-busting services free of charge, visiting homes to identify and document activity using digital recorders, video cameras and thermal detectors. If he detects energy, Heinzen recommends that shamans, psychic mediums or local clergy step in, depending on whether clients wish to communicate with or evacuate entities.

Curious as to whether you have any revenant roommates? Here are the signs you’re not alone at night.

Your belongings move or go missing

Keys and jewelry are easily overlooked when people are tired or in a rush, but if an item moves locations (behind your back or, hmmm...right in front of you) and you know for certain where you left it, you might have a ghost. “We call these spirits ‘tricksters,’” Heinzen tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They’re not malevolent —they’re just mischievous.”

The objects eventually resurface, says Heinzen, but entities get a kick out of watching people frantically search for them. Spirits are usually attached to their homes and — just like you— feel entitled to stay, he says. As long as no one is getting physically hurt, he advises tolerating the ghosts, who are expressing themselves as they might during life. If you had a playful personality while alive, you’ll be equally as impish after death.

Heinzen regards his own spirits as he would slightly irritating roommates – with a bit of acknowledgment, even a verbal hello, then some distance. On one occasion, a spirit threw a spatula into a corner of the kitchen and they have been known to frequently slam doors — but Heinzen is unfazed.

“At night, we stay on one side of the farmhouse,” he explains. “We’re not scared, but we give the ghosts their space.”

Cory Heinzen and his wife Jennifer, pictured with their son Kyler and daughter Madison, bought the haunted home that inspired "The Conjuring." (Photo: Katie Heinzen)
Cory Heinzen and his wife Jennifer, pictured with their son Kyler and daughter Madison, bought the haunted Rhode Island home that inspired the film "The Conjuring." (Photo: Katie Heinzen)

A child in the house seems to have identified a spirit

Kids are creative, but if a child in your home appears to be communicating with someone (and you’ve ruled out an imaginary friend), a ghost may be trying to connect. Heinzen says young children are susceptible to the spiritual because of their anything-is-possible mindset.

When children are involved in an investigation, Heinzen partners with a psychic-medium, which is a person with the ability to predict the past, present and future, plus tap into past lives and communicate with the deceased.

According to Los Angeles-based psychic-medium Chris Medina, the interaction between a ghost and a child looks a lot like one in life. “A ghost may communicate with a child by singing or sharing their name and any other information about their previous life,” Medina tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Signs that a child has formed an other-worldly friendship, according to Medina include if he or she is asking uncharacteristically-mature questions or holds specific knowledge about the home, such as about past occupants, that is otherwise impossible to obtain.

Medina acknowledges that witnessing a one-sided interaction can be frightening for parents, but that it’s important to be inquisitive, not judgmental, especially if the child is not being misled or physically harmed by the interaction. Because just as children can detect negative energy from a person, he says, they can sense whether a spirit is unkind.

“Children with this type of gift can really change the way the river flows in a family,” Medina tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

You hear unidentifiable noises

Ghosts that bang and clang about are usually known as poltergeists. These loud spirits who tap, knock or slam doors get their name from Germany — according to Merriam-Webster, the verb poltern is “to knock” and “geist” is German for spirit. The name translates to “a noisy usually mischievous ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises.”

Heinzen says ghosts of this nature usually have one goal: communication. “Usually the spirits want to pass on a specific message to the occupant of the home, maybe something they never had a chance to say in real life,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Once they get whatever is it off their chest, the activity usually stops.”

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s an unexplainable bad odor

According to Heinzen, “dark entities” — those that are negative or demonic in nature — emit a foul odor similar to rotting eggs or meat. Ruling out stinky trash or medical conditions such as phantosmia which causes a person to smell burning or chemical scents, a decaying scent could signify an evil presence.

To cast out dark energy, Heinzen calls for backup. “The minute we think we’re dealing with a demon (an entity that has never walked the earth), I enlist a demonologist,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “That scares me.”

He witnessed one haunting that required an exorcism, a religious ceremony to cast out alleged demons. “I was asked to provide security during an exorcism for a couple that played with an Ouija board,” he recalls. “It wasn’t like you see in movies — no one was crawling the walls — it was very quiet but the spirit manifested itself in physical ways: The woman became bloated and stiff as a board, and her feet turned purple. I had an overwhelming sense that I was going to die.”

While the exorcism was successful, says Heinzen, “I never want to do that again.”

A previous death occurred in the home

A home with history does not necessarily mean it’s haunted, but if the aforementioned activity is occurring, the spirit of a previous occupant could be responsible. According to Heinzen, souls can linger in a home due to confusion, whether or not a person died of natural causes or by murder. If the death occurred abruptly or a person didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones, the soul may be confused or not ready to move on.

Houses that are considered haunted, or were the scene of a suicide or a famous or brutal crime constitute “stigmatic” properties. “In real estate terms, a stigma refers to an intangible attribute of a property that may prompt a psychological or emotional response on the part of a potential buyer,” according to the real estate website Zillow.

However, unless there are clear signs, you may not realize you’re living in a haunted home. Depending on the state, sellers aren’t necessarily obligated to share whether someone died in a house unless directly asked.

In 1991, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan allowed a prospective homebuyer to recoup a $650,000 down payment after learning that the Nyack, N.Y. home he wanted to purchase was allegedly teeming with ghosts, according to the New York Times. The case dubbed “the Ghostbusters ruling” read in part, “....a very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: "Who you gonna' call?" as a title song to the movie "Ghostbusters" asks...”

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