Most people don’t take issue of a home having a shady past. Despite stories being passed around of how a house whose former tenant committed suicide now has the tenant’s spirit lurking in the halls or how one home’s morbid history comes to life in the forms of moving furniture and slamming doors. “I think the history of the property can help in understanding a haunting, but there aren’t any guarantees,” advised Amanda Smith, Historian and Investigator for Night Whispers Paranormal Investigators. Residents might be picking up activity that is better related to a house nearby, rather than their own house.
With this in mind, Amanda commented on how exactly to go about researching property history. “This can be a somewhat frustrating process for residents,” she said. “As a Student Majoring in History at Sampson Community College, I’m not even 100% sure, and people have been referred to local libraries looking for property information. I always suggest to people- keeping in mind that the process could vary from location to location- that they go to their municipal building and speak to the ‘Registrar of Deeds.’ I think that is their best source, and if not, that person would be able to refer them to who they need to speak to.”
Trying to uncover the history of a home can be a horrendous task; one which Amanda understands can frustrate residents about their home. “Hopefully their town or municipality is cooperative- if a resident is looking for property history due to a haunting, they are more than likely anxious for answers, and the run-around will frustrate them greatly.”
“The easiest, and usually best, way to learn if a home is haunted is from the current owner (if you’re not the original owner).”
She offers some further tips on how to research a property’s home:
“Talking to the neighbors is an age-old way to discover what an area is like, the history of the street, and so on. So if there’s a concern about a haunting, “Some basic questions are: ‘did anyone die at the property?’ And ‘were there any violent or criminal happenings at the property?’
She added, “Reviewing old newspaper articles may also turn up some interesting information. This may be found on the Internet, or if it’s a small town paper, by going to the local library. What would be helpful is knowing if there was a death on the property and if so, what kind (natural death in old age will be viewed differently than either a suicide or a murder). One other aspect to keep in mind is good old common sense. Ask yourself, how does the home make you feel?
Should there be any difference between old property and new property? “New property can still hold some answers- residents can find out what was on the land before their home was built,” Amanda explained. “I’d still caution them to take their findings with at least a grain of salt- the activity and impressions that they are picking up could be from another location. Spirits sense who is able to communicate with them in the area, and will gravitate towards those people or that person. A home could have gone for decades without any activity, and when a new family who is sensitive moves into a home, spirits in the area tend to gravitate toward them- spirits will have to use less energy to communicate with sensitives.”
In the event residents uncover information relating to a haunting, what’s the next step? “If there IS a ghost disclosed (or more than one), do ask what kind of activity occurs, and if possible, when (like on the anniversary of something?) and how frequently. Many, many ghosts are rather quiet most of the time but may act up if there’s remodeling. Some just occasionally appear on a staircase or gently play hide-and-seek to remind you they’re there. If they aren’t throwing knives or locking you in the basement, it really may not be an issue at all!”
This echoes a sentiment which Amanda feels about haunted houses. “If a place is found to be haunted, the question has to be asked if it’s actually a problem at all. Most ghosts are not nasty (remember, they’re just people without a body), but either may be simply attached to the place or confused. Plenty of stories abound regarding friendly, and sometimes even helpful, ghosts. Not that we want to keep them like pets, but it should not be presumed that just because there’s a ghost, it’ll be out to make your life miserable. So that, too, needs to be checked out. If the ghost IS a problem, contact a paranormal team to investigate. Remodeling a home (ghosts often stay because a home is familiar - when it ceases to feel like home, many move along).”
The reality, though, is that even if you ask questions, most people who don’t believe in the paranormal won’t attribute things they know and see to anything consisting of a haunting. “About half of all Americans don’t even believe in ghosts, though, so it’s possible for a seller to hear noises and experience things but attribute them not to ghosts but to who knows what - rats in the attic, a draft, or something else,” Amanda said. “So even asking directly is no guarantee of full disclosure.” Bottom line, Amanda explained, doing the research isn’t exactly a lost cause.