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What to do when things go bump in the night

Have you ever walked into a room in your home and felt that something just wasn't right? Or thought you saw someone, or something, out of the corner of your eye, but when you turned to look, nothing was there? Maybe it's footsteps, funny smells, cold spots or missing objects that have you hiding under the covers. If so, you're not alone.

According to a 2006 Ipsos Reid poll, 1 in 5 Canadians say they've been in the presence of a ghost, and 9 percent have lived in a haunted house. What's more, almost half of Canadians polled say they believe in these spooky spirits.

If you've ever thought there might be more to the things that go bump in the night, read on to find out what you can do to rid your home of unwanted houseguests.

Signs of a haunting
Funny sensations, smells or sights don't necessarily mean your house is haunted -- sometimes there's a perfectly logical explanation for these phenomena. If ominous-looking shadows send shivers up your spine, look for the sources of light casting those shadows. Ghostly knocks and groans could simply be an undiagnosed plumping or furnace problem. Objects falling could be caused by your house settling, or perhaps heavy truck traffic is causing vibrations.

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"There are several indicators to a possible haunting," says Sue Darroch, a paranormal investigator and founder of ParaResearchers of Ontario, such as seeing apparitions, animals acting strangely or a general sense that something isn't right. "The important thing is to try to rule out all natural causes before jumping to a supernatural one."

Once the natural causes have been eliminated, you can start thinking about the paranormal ones. Rest assured, blood dripping from the walls or televisions that communicate with children are the stuff of Hollywood fiction. The first step to busting ghosts is frighteningly mundane: Write down everything that's been happening.

"Documentation is the best thing you can do," says investigator Steven Dietrich of Golden Horseshoe Ghost Haunts in Hamilton, Ont. "Try and keep a record. Where did (the activity) happen? Who was there at the time? What time was it? Is it affecting certain people?"

Gathering this information will help you figure out any patterns and maybe even a rational explanation. If you're still stumped, don't panic. Some experts, such as ParaResearchers, suggest taking ownership of the situation. In a firm, but polite voice, say out loud that this is your home and certain scary behaviour is unacceptable. The ghost may choose to behave itself or find another home to haunt.

If that fails, you can ask a local priest to bless the house. Or a psychic can assist with a cleansing, in which the house is rubbed clean of the spirit, or a clearing, in which the psychic communicates with the spirit to let him or her know it's time to move on.

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-- Posted: Oct. 31, 2007
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