Pat Muir is on vacation this week, but don’t let that stick in your craw. Here’s some classic complaining from 2016 about haunted houses and ghosts.
My husband says our house isn’t haunted, because we’ve never seen an actual ghost in it.
But I think it is haunted. Weird things happen all the time. Light switches turn off when there’s nobody near them; we hear the sound of heavy things falling in the other room but when we go look, everything’s where it belongs; we hear the front door slam when it’s already closed and locked. That sort of thing.
But we’ve never seen a ghost.
So what do you think? Is our house haunted or not?
I Want to Believe
Dear Want to Believe,
The thing about ghosts is that they’re very tricky beings. If they don’t want to be seen, they won’t be seen. So just because you haven’t actually seen one doesn’t mean there aren’t ghosts there.
One other thing about ghosts, though, is that they don’t exist at all. So, no, your stupid house isn’t haunted. Stupid.
I say this knowing that I’m probably going to get angry comments and letters for it. Plenty of people — many of whom otherwise seem reasonable and smart — firmly believe in the existence of ghosts. There’s an active ghost-
research group right here in Yakima, and recent studies have shown that nearly half of Americans believe in ghosts. So I probably should be more tactful and not call you stupid like that.
But, then again, come on. Your house makes unexplained noises, and your prevailing theory is: “Guh-guh-guh-ghoooosts!” Are you Shaggy from “Scooby-Doo”? That’s at least a little bit stupid. (Though, I will admit those precariously tall sandwiches he makes always look really good.)
There are many reasons you might hear noises in your house: the wind, the house settling and creaking, your pets if you have any. I myself heard a loud thump the other morning that turned out to have been a bird crashing into a window in the other room. (Or maybe it was a ghost bird. You probably figure it was a ghost bird, right?)
As for the lights turning off, that could be as simple as slightly loose bulbs, or old wiring, or any number of other things. I don’t have a solid explanation for it, honestly. But my first guess is definitely not, “Ungh, it was the ghosts what did it.”
And that brings me to your choice of pseudonym, Ms. Wants to Believe. In 2002, in an attempt to discover how much people’s pre-existing proclivity for belief correlated with their frequency of reporting paranormal activity (and in an attempt to set the record for most British-sounding series of proper nouns since “Benedict Cumberbatch”), researchers at England’s University of Hertfordshire conducted a study of visitors to Hampton Court Palace. That study, unsurprisingly, found that people who believe in ghosts were much more likely to report paranormal activity during their visit. In other words, you don’t believe in ghosts because you’ve encountered them; you’ve encountered them because you believe in them.
But I’ll tell you what, you don’t have to listen to my skepticism. You can always get the local ghost-hunters involved. Their website is www.pastispresent.net, and they work for free. Just don’t be surprised if, like in the “Scooby” cartoons, your ghost turns out to be a greedy old carnival operator wearing a mask.
Hope that helps.
• Please send your questions, complaints and irritations to email@example.com with the subject “Dear Crabby.”