A new year, another opportunity to make new resolutions. Most people do the usual, boring ones, like losing weight, quitting smoking or cutting down on Internet porn.
Not you, though: You're an Alibi reader; you're different, bold. For you, I suggest a resolution to haunt your own house or apartment. Why would you want a haunted house? Why wouldn't you want one?
Think of the benefits …
1) In the current housing market slump, you need every gimmick in the book to sell your place. Location, shmocation! What you really need is a ghost. What better way to lure a potential buyer than promising a poltergeist who will do minor household chores, or an old cowboy ghost who will re-enact his death for your entertainment when there's nothing on TV except that " Ghost Hunters" crap?
2) You don't have to "spook up" the place for Halloween. Just put a fake ghost here and a severed head there, and you're done! Your crib is suddenly the Addams Family mansion, but with less dust!
3) You can make money from ghost tours of your house ("Here's my haunted bathroom--sorry about the dirty clothes on the toilet and the toothpaste on the sink--and, um … on the sofa is my haunted videotape, it was the basis for The Ring, that Japanese horror movie. I haven't seen it, but I did lend it to my friend Natalee …").
4) You can be on TV, sell your story and get rich. In the mid-'70s, George and Kathy Lutz, who lived at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, N.Y., haunted their own home, making up stories about ghosts and demons. They worked with a novelist named Jay Anson and made a pile of money from the hoax with The Amityville Horror books and films.
There are several ways to haunt your home, but the most common is to simply follow the suggested guidelines below, developed from my decade of investigating haunted houses and ghosts. I have met dozens of people who have successfully haunted their own homes, and you can too!
Step One: Check your home for cold spots. Many ghost hunters claim cold areas of a house are evidence of a ghostly presence. Skeptics and heating professionals may be right that cold areas are common and often caused by winter drafts, poor insulation and bad heat circulation. But it's more fun to assume that the cold is actually the mystical Negative Energy from the Netherworld, don't you think?
Step Two: Animals are said to be especially sensitive to ghosts, so if your family pet acts strangely, it’s probably reacting to an unseen spirit. Dogs may bark when no one is there, or cats may stare off into the room, apparently looking at nothing. Sometimes the signs are subtle, so you must watch carefully. Your cat's behavior patterns may change from eat/sleep/crap to sleep/crap/eat, or even sleep/eat/sleep. If your goldfish normally swims counterclockwise but decides to swim the other way, it may be sensing a spirit's presence, trying to warn you. Don't worry about reading too much into these things--if you look hard enough for evidence of the ghosts, you will find it.
Step Three: Take a bunch of random photographs in and around your house. Use a flash; if the place is dusty, so much the better. When you scroll through the photos, examine each one closely, looking for mysterious white spots called "orbs." If you take enough photos and look hard enough, you’re sure to find at least a few. These are usually caused by flash reflections, but if you show them to people and claim they’re ghosts, you'll be surprised at how many believe you!
Step Four: Blame ordinary incidents on ghosts or mischievous spirits. Lost your keys or cell phone? Don't fault your poor memory or daily distractions, instead blame the ghost! You found a joint in your teen's backpack but she doesn't know anything about it? Must be that prankish poltergeist! With a little creativity, just about any ordinary annoyance can be attributed to a spirit.
Step Five: Seek a supernatural cause for the ghostly goings-on by researching the history of your house. Was anyone killed in or near your house, hopefully by a jealous lover or some tragic mistake or miscarriage of justice? Any instances of murder most foul? If you happen to live in an old building that used to be an insane asylum or a prison, you have a great head start. If not, ask about the previous occupants of the house and the ones before them. If you keep going, eventually you’ll find some old person who died at home, or a spooky little girl in a blue dress who was hit by a car down the block, or whatever.
So your house was built a year ago and there's no record of any tragic deaths in the area? Relax! You probably just haven’t found it yet. It's always possible that something bad happened nearby. The old standby is the Indian Burial Ground story; after all, most of North America has been an Indian burial ground for millennia! Surely some Indian dropped dead of something, somewhere nearby, at some point in history.
Step Six: Most importantly, if you experience any of the above phenomena, do not seek a responsible, science-based investigator, as this will likely only result in your "ghost" being explained by some natural, rational cause. Instead, consult one of the hundreds of "ghost hunter" groups across the country. While a few may question your ghost, most will likely do a few "investigations" and conclude that you do have a ghost. They may offer to remove it, or give you tips on how to deal with it, but at least they will confirm your expectations.
In sum, do not let a minor problem like a complete lack of evidence deter you from your conviction that you have a ghost! Good luck with the haunting, and if they make a movie out of your ghost story, I want a cut.
Benjamin Radford is a scientific paranormal investigator and has done firsthand research into the mysterious and unexplained for more than a decade. His article "How to 'Haunt' a House" is in the current (January/February 2008) issue of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine, and his website is www.RadfordBooks.com.