Life in a Home with a Dark Past

By Sarah Czarnecki

You dream of living in an historic home. Imagine walls lined with bookshelves, heavy velvet drapes, crystal wall sconces, intricately carved teak banisters, soaring ceilings, and plush Persian rugs. The morning light shining through stained glass windows casts dancing rainbows on the dark wood floors. Climb an iron spiral staircase to the widow's walk, then look down at the sprawling gated property.

Now imagine footsteps in the dark. Lamps knocked to the ground, glass shattered and scattered on the handwoven rug. A scream. Shadows blacker than night fill the empty corridors. The doorknob rattles from the inside of a locked room. A creeping mist along the floor reminds you that you're never truly alone in your home.

Homes that have been the sites of tragic or traumatic events are open invitations to ghostly occupants. While most hauntings of these types of sites are the imprinted energy from a major event, the living inhabitants of homes with dark pasts may encounter the previous homeowners, even if they are long gone.

Your dream home could be a reality if you're willing to live with its history.

Skeletons in the Closet

All homes have a history. Whether you’re the first one to turn the key in your brand new house or your stately home has been a local icon for centuries, things have happened on your property. Good or neutral things, mostly, but major events have a way of persisting in the location where they happened. The potential for paranormal activity is significantly increased in homes with a violent or traumatic past. Buying a so-called stigmatized property will often net new homeowners a great bargain, but the true price may be steep.

Most US states do not require a seller or realtor to disclose a house’s sordid past up front. Researching your home’s history can dig up startling information. Natural deaths in a home are rarely reported in a way that would stigmatize your property, but murders, suicides, or assaults are entirely different. Local interest is high for properties with this type of history, and for this reason, the price of the home will be lower than the true value of a similar property without a negative past.

Investigating the history of your home will take some work. Of course, the realtor and previous homeowner are required to answer honestly when directly asked about major events or paranormal activity that were documented on the property, but they may not be able to give you as much information as you’ll require. A cursory internet search may pop up some startling results, but more likely, deeper research will be necessary. Check in with neighbors in the area who will have witnessed any events or activity on your property. Contact your local records office to get information on property records, census information, and a list of previous occupants. Finally, there are several websites that maintain an online database of stigmatized properties, and a quick search may prove revealing.

The rules of caveat emptor apply to all homes, but especially those which have been the sites of violent murders. The events leave a mark on the home as well as the neighboring area. Important or historical figures also leave their marks. Negative energies, or just very strong energies from the beyond, can occupy your home and you may find that your home is not yours alone. It is very important to conduct thorough research into your home’s history. You may find the explanation for the banging in the attic or the reason why flowers refuse to grow in that corner of the lot.

Creaking on the Stairs

You know you didn’t leave those cupboard doors open. You’re sure that you turned off the lights when you went to bed, so why are all the lamps burning downstairs? The music you’re hearing may not be from your next door neighbors, but those who live much, much closer. 

Spiritual entities exist in many forms, and the most common types of household spirits are intelligent, residual, or manifested. All three types make their presence known in a home with a significant history, both positive and negative. Even if you don’t discover the cause of your haunting while researching your home, the spirits within may be eager to inform you of their presence. 

Among intelligent hauntings, the most disturbing is the poltergeist. Poltergeist activity in your home starts out subtly. A moved or missing object here, a strange sound there. Before long, its activity will escalate to breaking objects, slamming doors, and even touching the living. Poltergeists are more likely to be attracted to certain people, especially the young and emotionally turbulent. They tend not to occupy the home itself, but the activity and emotional state of the home’s occupants. Should poltergeists appear in your stigmatized home, it is likely that they were summoned by the emotional energy of previous events.

Even people who died of natural causes, but were important or strong figures, may leave their spiritual mark on your home in several ways. In some instances, ectoplasmic mist trails their spirits, and fluid accumulates on surfaces. An orb will appear and disappear, seemingly without cause. You may feel cold spots in your home and the sensation of being watched. The scent of the decedent’s signature perfume may waft from room to room. Strong personalities are part of an historic home, whether they are visible or not. This type of haunting is not harmful at all and may, in fact, be useful in providing emotional support or providing information from the beyond. It is not the wind that blows the pages of your book open. 

A certain portion of residual hauntings are indeed manifested by the home’s current occupants and people living nearby. Obsession is a powerful thing. Constant attention to the events that happened on your property can feed the image of the deceased, the perpetrators of the event, and make your home receptive to the paranormal. These residual hauntings are not intelligent and are difficult to confront. Instead, they are replaying the events and energy that caused a death.

You may notice that on certain dates or at exactly the same moment every day, the same things happen. Things that may have been knocked to the floor in a struggle may regularly fall. Stains reappear, screams pierce the night. Victims of arson may leave a residual haunting in which living occupants smell smoke or feel the heat of flames where no fire exists. These residual hauntings are the distillation of strong energies, feelings, and auras replaying themselves on loop. They are tricky to remove or cleanse from your home because they are not spirits at all, but the manifestation of energy. You’ll be unable to interact with residual hauntings, but you may hear what the deceased heard, see what they saw, or feel what they felt. 

Underneath the Floorboards

The best management in the case of all hauntings is knowledge. Too often, homeowners are ignorant to the events on their property, and they are distrubed by the presence of spiritual energy. Deep research into the events of your home will provide valuable insight into the hauntings and help prevent the living from getting caught up in infectious negativity. 

A constant barrage of spiritual activity will wear on a person. The replaying of frightening images disturb peace, of course, and the general sense of being observed is unnerving. It is easy to absorb the feelings and personalities of the spirits, especially in such an intimate setting as a home. It’s very important to maintain the health of all living occupants in the home. Take frequent opportunities to leave the home, especially when residual hauntings are active.

Living with the local interest may prove to be the largest obstacle when living in a stigmatized property. Media will frequently attempt to interview current occupants and local lookie-loos can be a nuisance. Report all instances of trespassing to maintain the privacy of yourself and that of the spirits. In cases of extremely violent history, a home may be demolished for the safety of the occupants and for the emotional health of the public. 

Should the energetic presence prove to be too much for living residents to handle, an effective way to reduce presences in your home is to conduct extensive renovation. Removing the scene of a crime can help dispel the negative energy accumulated and will allow you to take control of your own property. Before you renovate, however, it is wise to inform the spirits and allow intelligent hauntings the opportunity to leave on their own. Claiming your territory is best done with the assistance of a psychic or a medium who is skilled in communicating with the dead. Again, in the case of a residual haunting, the spirits are not spirits at all but an energy, and in this case, renovating the home can prove highly effective. 

Life After Deaths

Life in a haunted home can indeed be a peaceful one. With the assistance of a medium, you can inform the spirits of your nonthreatening intent to coexist in the home and establish reasonable boundaries and expectations. Like a roommate, intelligent hauntings must be respectful of your privacy, while living occupants must also remain tolerant of the spirits. If your home is residually haunted, leave your home during heightened activity and secure objects that are frequently toppled. Use your knowledge of the events on your property to squash the local rumor mill. The ultimate goal - for both the home’s occupants as well as the spirits - is to move on from a home’s distressing past.

Build your new life on the strong foundation of knowledge, preparedness, and tolerance. A home with a long and storied history is shared with the dead. Traumatic events open the door to paranormal activity and your dream home may become haunted. The memories, impressions, and local knowledge of newsworthy events of the past will never truly leave. The footsteps in the attic and the shadow in the corner of your eye belong to the house. You can sometimes dispel the spirits and make your own mark, but the energies will linger on; a blank slate exists nowhere. 

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