Have you ever noticed how often the story of a haunting victim starts with something like, “I walked into that place and I just knew there was something not right about it . . . “?
Police officers and security personnel hear much the same thing when they interview crime victims. Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift of Fear makes a strong case that many violent crimes could be averted if people simply listened to that still small voice within that tells them something is wrong. De Becker maintains that this gift of fear is the result of the brain subconsciously processing a mass of sensory stimuli, noting that something is not as it should be and sending a signal (fear or apprehension) to alert the person.
In magical thought, each of us is connected to the Universal Energy Field. This connection is often personified and invoked (called upon) as the Holy Guardian Angel, the Agathodaimon, the Inner Guide, the Personal Genius, the Spiritual Assistant, etc. Regardless of what you call it, magic teaches that there is some part of you that is a part of “God” (for want of a better word) and that you have access to a whole lot more information than you know. Personally, I think that the Inner Guide works in cahoots with your subconscious to try to get things through your thick, rationalizing skull.
Here’s how I think it works. Let’s say that you are walking down a city street late at night. Maybe you have had a couple of beers. You are feeling pretty mellow and making your way home, thinking about the great band you were listening to at the bar, your nice warm bed, the attractive person of the opposite sex that gave you their phone number and all the other minutiae that runs through our monkey minds all the time. While your conscious mind is taken up with all this musing, your subconscious is sifting through the mass of sensory data with which you are bombarded at almost every moment. Although you do not really notice, the street is alive with sights and smells and sounds. The wind is blowing down the street toward you and you could feel it on your face if you stopped to notice.
Two things trigger the subconscious in this case. The wind blowing in your face is carrying the noxious tang of anxiety laced sweat and the very faint sound of a metallic click. Your Inner Guide kicks you – it knows that the smell is the scent of a junkie in need of a fix and that the click is likely the sound of a weapon being readied – and suddenly you slow your pace, look around and wonder why the hair is standing up at the back of your neck. If you are smart and have been listening to your self defense teacher, you go on the alert and perhaps even change your route but, if you are like most people, you rationalize your apprehension as “nothing” and walk right into the mugger.
The same thing happens in the case of a haunted house, particularly one that is home to a hostile entity of one sort or the other. You walk into the house and your conscious mind sees the beautiful oak cabinets in the kitchen and the berber carpet in the living area and begins placing your furniture, hanging new window furnishings and wondering how to keep the dog from digging up the back yard. Your subconscious, though, is registering the difference in temperature from one room to another that can not be accounted for by the HVAC system, the shadow moving in the basement though your conscious mind missed it and the smell of decay in the attic that you put down to a dead mouse that needs to be removed. Your Inner Guide, of course, knows that there is something nasty in this home and again kicks you with the fear response, about the only way that it can get you to listen. Again, if you are like most people, you ignore that inner disquiet and buy the wonderful house that is available at a bargain basement price, putting it all down to soft housing market.
Now please don’t think that I wander around in a perpetual state of alertness, looking for danger, both physical and spiritual, under every rock. What I am trying to get across is something that I learned from my martial arts teachers a long time ago: you ignore that little voice in your head that tells you there is something wrong at your own peril.
In daily life, responding to that inner voice is pretty easy. We can alter a route, avoid a person, divert into a public area, stop and talk to a police officer on the beat or any of a dozen other responses to keep ourselves safe. With a paranormal threat though, we are on shakier ground. We might know that there is something wrong with a house but then we have to decide what to do about it. It is one thing to buy a house knowing that it has some residual energies or even a mischievous intelligent spirit or two and quite another thing to purchase a place with a spirit in it that has staked a claim and wants to run you off or that just plain hates humans. Often, it is hard to tell the difference until you have been in the situation for a while since even Negatives often start out with fairly low key activity and then escalate.
My main thrust in this article is please do not disregard the gift of fear. If you are house hunting and something seems “off” to you, even if the place itself is perfect and you can not put a rational reason to the feeling, start asking questions. Most states do not require a seller to disclose any deaths in a house, even homicides, or any alleged paranormal activity. If you are really committed to a particular property, find out all you can about it. Go to the local courthouse or hall of records and do a title search. Enlist a local historian to help you research the location and its surrounds. Talk to any local paranormal investigation teams and see if they have any information on your property. If you are comfortable doing so, you might go to a couple of reputable psychics in the area and have them do a remote reading. If they both “ping” on something, especially if they feel it is hostile, extreme caution is advised.
This might seem like an awful lot of bother to buy a house but consider what happens to people who ignore that inner voice. Sometimes, the haunting is something they can learn to live with or can even be resolved with outside help. Many times, the occupants of the home can negotiate with intelligent spirits and set limits on what activity is alright and what is not. Then there are the other type of hauntings, the ones that scare the crap out of the house’s occupants and leave emotional and even physical scars or worse. As with the mugging scenario above, I would encourage you to listen to your Inner Guide and go elsewhere. For most people, it is simply not worth the pain to do battle with a really nasty haunting.