Noises That Are Not Ghosts

As I write this, it is December (2005), a time of year when many people start hearing “ghostly noises” in their homes.

In many cases, these will be ghosts.

However, there may be logical explanations, and those should be considered, first:

Temperature changes cause houses to moan, shift, and creak. Desert climates have the widest temperature swings between day and night, but even temperate climates have seasonal changes that can cause your house to shift slightly. And when a couple of floorboards rub against each other and echo in an attic, the noise can sound like someone in agony.

  • Settling houses make snaps, thuds, creaks, and groans. If your house is new, it may be settling. A hastily-poured foundation, or one poured at the wrong time of year, can produce outrageous noises for years after the house has been built.There are other reasons why a house can “settle.” If you’ve had an earthquake in your region, your house may now be settling back into place. If you’ve had unusually high rainfall, or a drought, the ground around your house will shift. A piano or waterbed moved in or out of a room can cause the whole house to readjust itself.
  • Critters in the walls or attic can sound bizarre. The scurrying noises alone can sound like little ghostly footsteps. A bushy tail of a squirrel or raccoon, rubbing on all sides of a narrow passageway inside a wall or alongside a chimney… Well, you’ll be convinced that a ghostly woman in a full Victorian skirt just passed you.If two animals decide to argue or chat within your walls, in your basement, or overhead in your attic, sometimes they sound like ghostly whispers, or a full-fledged argument in a strange dialect!
  • Check for even smaller critters, such as wood ants or termites. If they’re weakening the house’s structure, the house will moan and groan as it shifts its weight.
  • Is there construction going on near you? Perhaps rocks tumble from their recently-blasted niches, at a certain hour of the night when the temperature dips low enough to cause contractions and shifts. The roof of a new house can make astonishing noises, especially at night. Ask anyone who’s put a roof on a house, or repaired one, about the nails that pop out overnight.
  • If it happens at the same time every night, it’s not necessarily a ghostly hour. Temperatures and humidity change at night. When these natural effects reach a “critical mass” level, the house may shift. A loose shingle may pop up again. The mortar in your chimney may contract just enough to cause dust to echo as it tumbles to the ground or hearth. These kinds of things happen night after night. It’s part of the natural cycle of a house.This “critical mass” effect is usually at approximately the same time, each night. Seasonal changes and unseasonable variations can shift the hour back or forward, but it’s still within the same approximate time period.
  • Do you live near a commercial area? You may live far enough from a shopping center that you don’t hear the garbage collectors’ trucks. However, when they lift one of those huge containers of trash and empty it into the truck… wow! If that noise echoes off a neighbor’s siding or cement wall, it can seem as if something is crashing on your patio, or in an another room, particularly if the windows are open.

Not all ghostly noises are this easily explained. However, consider the logical answers first. Perhaps your noise is a ghost, but you won’t know unless you use your critical thinking skills to explore the alternatives.

And, just because the noise could be faked, or caused by something logical… well, that doesn’t mean that it is.

Webmaster’s note: When I was a kid, I used to hear noises in the attic overhead, many nights. My parents dismissed my insistence that it was a ghost. “Squirrels in the attic,” they replied, and nodded sagely.

Well, we did have a lot of very friendly squirrels in our neighborhood, and a nest in our backyard. I tried to accept my parents’ logical explanation of the noises.

However, when we were selling our house and had it inspected, I mentioned the squirrels in the attic.

“No evidence of that,” the house inspector replied. “I’ll check again.”

And so he did. And he found no place where a squirrel could get into the attic, and no evidence that animals of any kind had been up there.

So, even when the answer seems logical, it might still be ghosts. I may never know if our house’s nightly noises had been a ghost, or something else.

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