I spent about 10 years doing paranormal investigations with a variety of teams, some that I joined, and some that I put together.
In that time I learned a lot about what are true paranormal occurences and what aren’t. So today I want to go over 10 things that people often think are paranormal, but they just aren’t.
Countless clients sent us photos of orbs. This is where you take a photo and when you look at it you can see a small orb of light, or a swipe of light, or if you’re taking a video sometimes glowing orbs that bounce around the scene.
The vast majority of orbs in photos are just refracted light from other light sources, or lens flare. Sometimes an orb that is bouncing around in a video is just light reflected on dust.
And your Ring doorbell will often pick up bugs flying across the camera and, if you have a porch light on, those bugs will also look like fairies and pixies out for a midnight flight.
One time I was in an empty home investigating activity for the couple who had just purchased the home who wanted to make sure it was not haunted. At one point I turned the camera on and it looked like hundreds of lights were bouncing around in the room. OH MY GOD, this house is infested with angels!! No. I came back the next day and filmed the same room and there were no fanciful lights, until I stomped my foot on the carpet, releasing tons of dust, and those magical angels just came right back. It was dust.
Many clients thought their house was haunted because a dead bird was on their property one morning. It’s not a sign that you’re living in the Amityville Horror house to find a dead bird on your back porch.
Now if you find 10 in 10 days you may have a problem and that’s worth investigating, but you have to look at the environmental factors. Perhaps at a certain time of day your kitchen window looks open and birds fly into it and die. But a single dead bird does not a haunting make.
We had a client once who was convinced he was haunted because his plastic water bottle made a popping noise. We explained that when you are drinking from a plastic water bottle and you squeeze it, that even fifteen minutes later it can pop due to air pressure regulating itself. It took a little while to convince him of this, but he eventually saw for himself that this was true.
We had countless clients who mistook regular house noises for paranormal activity. If you don’t know how your AC or water heater works, sometimes it can seem like these noises are paranormal in origin.
We had a client who was convinced she was haunted because every morning when she turned on her television it was on a different channel than she had left it. As it turns out, our cable company put everyone’s televisions on the same channel overnight while in maintenance mode. It took a while to convince her this happened citywide, but eventually she accepted that it wasn’t a poltergeist.
In another case we had a teenage male whose television would turn back on about 3-5 minutes after he turned it off. It took us a while to figure this one out because he was easily able to demonstrate this activity multiple times, but one of the clever fellows on my team plugged a light into the same socket and it too turned on by itself after the TV went off. Everything we plugged into that socket did the same thing. They fixed some faulty wiring and never had the problem again.
We got a call once from a guy who was convinced his wife was possessed. He told us he was trying to do an exorcism on her and was up all day and night praying for her to be released from the demon. This had been going on for three days. When we got to this poor woman she was writhing on the bed in agony, feverish, holding her midsection, and begging him to take her to a hospital. We saw immediately she needed help for a physical illness and not a possession.
It was a very tricky and potentially dangerous situation for all of us because this man truly believed she was possessed, and when we suggested she needed to go to a hospital he started to insinuate that we were in collusion with the demon.
We eventually told him that we wouldn’t help him with her “exorcism” unless she was seen by a doctor first, so he did take her to the hospital. She had a massive kidney infection, was treated, and released.
This is around the time we tightened up our security protocols as well. You want to help people, but you don’t want to be stabbed too often if you can help it.
We also had some clients with marks on their bodies or rashes they thought were paranormal in origin, and we often insisted they be seen by a medical professional before we would investigate their haunting.
There are real paranormal phenomenon that involve burn marks and claw marks though, so we can’t discount everything as a rash.
As you might imagine, we had many clients who had psychological disorders that caused them to see or hear things that were only in their minds. As part of our extensive interview process, we had to ask clients about medical issues, drug use, and psychological disorders. That doesn’t mean someone with these conditions can’t also be having a paranormal problem, but it was really important for us to take everything into consideration. And it also helped if they had a witness to the events who was also experiencing the same phenomenon.
Faces in Trees
We had a guy send us a bunch of photos of the trees above his trailer. He saw demon faces in them. We saw nothing but trees. There was also a photo of the trees taken through raindrops on his skylight, and those were “distorted faces of demons.” People often see “faces” in objects like clouds, trees, toast, or even an open closet door where that shirt looks like the boogie man. This is actually a known phenomenon called pareidolia. The brain wants to assign meaning to patterns it may have trouble processing. Demons rarely show up on photos by the way.
“My closet door opened all by itself!” I’m not saying doors can’t be affected by spirits, but unless it was latched and locked and THEN opened by itself, it probably isn’t paranormal. Air conditioning, non-level homes, a heavy robe on a hook on the door, and an errant pet are all things that can cause a door to slowly open or close. We would go to homes and see if we could replicate the phenomenon. Sometimes it was easy to see why the door moved on its own as we tested the ceiling fan, the air conditioning, and used a level to see what was going on. We were often able to debunk the disobedient door.
“My dog won’t go in a certain room, I’m sure it’s haunted.” People gave us reports of their animals growling at nothing, staring at nothing, or being afraid to go in a certain room. The truth is that animals will see and hear things outside our ability to register them. Sometimes it is paranormal in nature, but most of the time it isn’t.
We had one client insist her dog would not go in a certain room and when we arrived, he very happily walked in and out of the room many times. The owner insisted this was rare, so we asked her to take a video of it the next time it happened and send it to us. She eventually admitted she could not replicate the claim.
Kids Acting Strangely
I probably don’t even need to debunk this one. If you have kids you’ll know that sometimes they can turn from little angels into little demons if they don’t get their way. We had many clients complain that their kids were acting strangely. “He wants to keep his door closed at night all of a sudden.” “She started screaming at me because I wouldn’t let her bring her mud pie into the house.” “She just isn’t herself anymore, she’s tired all the time and seems depressed.” Welcome to parenthood, here’s your information packet.
Kids go through a lot of changes. They want privacy. They don’t want to be told “no.” They start taking drugs. Now if your kid comes up to you and says “Mommy, why is my head on backwards?” and it actually is, or they say “I ate five flies, they were yummy” then you might have yourself a bona fide case of demon possession. But if they’re spending a long time in the shower, don’t charge in there with holy water and a cross.
There are a lot of real paranormal phenomenon, and I don’t want to make light of this topic, because when you have a real haunting situation it’s one of the scariest things you and your family will go through. But as investigators we had to rule out the normal to get to the paranormal.
As you tool along in life, I hope your biggest “paranormal” problem is having a paper cup fly off the kitchen table after you turn on the ceiling fan. Don’t get paranoid when something happens. Investigate it for yourself.