This is a subject that’s undeniably close to my own heart. I’m always happy to talk about the house I grew up in, which certainly had some ‘strangeness’ about it! But with a lot of these old, supposedly haunted buildings, the question is - is there any truth in it?
Let’s explore further.
Haunted Houses… a Worldwide Phenomenon?
In the UK, it seems like you can’t move for haunted houses. That makes sense really, as we have so many ancient buildings, and many of them have a real sense of atmosphere.
However, the ‘haunted house’ phenomenon isn’t limited to old properties. The US, for example, has plenty of modern homes that are plagued by supernatural entities. The ‘Enfield haunting’ case; one of the most famous supernatural cases in this country, took place in a council house in the 1970s – hardly a classic haunting backdrop!
A brief search online revealed loads of haunted properties in Asia, Africa, Australasia and more. Obviously, this is a common theme across the globe.
The Common Conventions of the Haunted House
These famous haunted properties all seem to share certain traits. These are:
- The legend. Usually, something terrible happened at the property. Someone was tortured, murdered or left to languish in misery. Either that, or a really nasty spirit came to play.
- The emptiness and desolation. Often (though not always), these buildings have stood empty for a long time, or have been left to fall to ruin. They’re regularly in a state of dereliction, which of course, adds to the whole ‘creep factor’.
- The experiences. There are usually reports of supernatural activity too. The unexplained cold patches. The sense that someone is watching. The noises, the whispers, the movement out of the corner of the eye. In some cases, this can be more violent. A shove from unseen hands. A sense of impending doom. But you get the general idea.
Sometimes, haunted properties are associated with famous people or police cases. For example, houses that have had high profile murders take place in them are often regarded as ‘haunted’. Perhaps, as humans, we simply can’t bear the thought that something so terrible should pass without leaving a stain.
Is There any Truth in It?
This is an interesting question and one that’s impossible to answer, as every place is different. It’s important to remember that we humans are incredibly susceptible; and if someone tells us a place is haunted, we’re far more likely to be alert to things that could be interpreted as ‘ghostly’.
For example, if entering a house, you had no preconceptions about it, then you heard a creak upstairs, you’d probably presume it was just the floorboards. Floorboards do that occasionally, don’t they? But if someone had told you that the house had a ghost in it, you’d probably start to feel nervous. Ah… the power of suggestion!
My Own Experiences
When I was younger, I never questioned the activities in the house I grew up in. I know it’s a weird thing to say, but they were just ‘normal’ to me, so they didn’t bother me too much. I thought all houses were like that!
It’s only now, as an adult fast approaching my 40s, that I’ve started to question the things we all experienced there. Not just me and my family, but friends, visitors, even people like electricians, coming to sort out a dodgy wire or two.
Still, I can’t claim to have any conclusive proof. Examining it as scientifically and dispassionately as possible, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence from many people – including those who had no idea the house might be ‘haunted’. That’s compelling stuff – but it doesn’t prove anything.
What Do You Think?
Haunted houses continue to captivate us. You only have to look at the movies we watch – there are literally hundreds of films that use the convention of the ghostly home as a setting.
It makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. After all, a home is where we feel safest. We can lock our doors, shut danger out, and be secure in our warm little space. Unless it’s not warm anymore. And something is locked in there with us…
An Ongoing Obsession
I’ve channelled a lot of my childhood experiences into my latest book, The Hanged Man and the Fortune Teller (out this June – woo hoo!). There are a few ‘haunted’ homes in it, though they’re actually haunted by the protagonist, not a shadowy, malevolent ghost.
I guess I wanted to normalise the supernatural (a common theme for me). Maybe to show that it’s not always something to be feared. Just because it’s outside our usual ‘normal’ lifestyle, doesn’t make it bad, necessarily; or that’s always been my experience, anyway.
So yes, this is a tale finally told by the ghost himself, not the living. And rather than being scary, it’s actually a little bit sad.