Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Premonition or ghost?

What's making noises in your house?I was on the first floor of an otherwise empty building recently, waiting for someone to arrive. I didn't know exactly when they'd appear but it was certainly 'soon'. So when I suddenly heard someone moving around downstairs, it came as no surprise. But when, a few minutes later, I heard an external door open and the person came in (for the first time), it came as a shock! Just who or what had I heard before? Could it be a ghost?

The building concerned has no history of any haunting, before or since, so I doubt it was a ghost. However, the incident is the latest in a series of similar events I've experienced over the years. It is always the same scenario. I am expecting someone and I start hearing sounds that indicate they are present. Except they are not. In no case is there any evidence that any ghost is involved. So I'm left to conclude that it is my expectation that is probably responsible.

All buildings produce sounds pretty much all the time. There are creaks in joists and floor boards as the temperature changes (see haunting sounds). Automated machinery, like fridges, heating, plumbing or air conditioning, produces sounds as it operates. The wind or heat of the sun may cause forces that produce slight movements in the structure of a building that also produce noises . There are also noises from outside that leak inside and can sometimes sound like they originate within the building.

When we spend a lot of time in a building we start to unconsciously filter these noises out so that we don't notice them after a while. But we might start to consciously notice the noises again if we are expecting some sounds to indicate an event we are waiting for. I think expectation can 'turn up the volume' so we start to notice noises previously filtered out by our brains (see also new house effect).

In this incident the expectation was simply someone arriving. But it could be a witness who thinks their house is haunted. Or an investigator on a ghost vigil! Interestingly, another interpretation of my experience is as a premonition. However, since I knew the person was about to arrive, it is not exactly evidence of anything paranormal.

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