Carbon Monoxide and Unexplained Phenomena

Carbon monoxide can cause unusual indoor experiences. It’s also dangerous.

Tenants and homeowners can check for it, themselves. In some American states, carbon monoxide detectors are required in all apartments.

However, residents might not replace those detectors as often as necessary. Generally, carbon monoxide detectors last five to seven years. After that, they’re unreliable.

DangerThe following are typical complaints when people think their homes might be haunted.

  • “In that part of the house, I get shaky, dizzy, and I feel weak all over.”
  • “I feel a tightness in my chest, and I can’t catch my breath. Do you suppose the ghost died of a heart attack?”
  • “I’m okay during the day, but at night — especially when it’s cold out — something floats into my room through the bedroom window, and I can’t breathe.”
  • “The baby gets fussy in that room. It’s like she’s looking at something invisible. Also, the dog won’t go in there, ever.”
  • “I’m fine all day, but when I go to bed, I get headaches. Sometimes I feel kind of sick. I have to get up and open the window, just to feel the breeze. About an hour or two later, around midnight, everything’s fine again.”

Every one of those phenomena can be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

In any house or building, carbon monoxide levels are among the first things to check.

This is especially true if reports started when the house was sealed up for the winter, or — in warm climates — for the summer.

The following is an edited excerpt from the book, Is Your House Haunted?, by Fiona Broome.

Before you do anything else…

Check the carbon monoxide levels at every site that might be haunted.

Carbon monoxide is nicknamed “the silent killer.” Pets and children often the first to react. Carbon monoxide (CO), also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. In large quantities, it is toxic to humans and animals. It can kill you.

Sources include gas appliances, wood stoves, car exhaust, blocked flues, and even cigarette smoke.

Don’t expect everyone to react to carbon monoxide at the same time. Some people may show symptoms before others do.

Any of the following symptoms may indicate high levels of carbon monoxide.

  • Headaches.
  • A tight sensation in the chest.
  • Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • A feeling of weakness.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Fainting and seizures.
  • Flu symptoms.
  • Infants may be irritable.
  • Pets can avoid certain areas.

Carbon monoxide can affect the heart and central nervous system. It can raise blood pressure. Carbon monoxide poisoning can damage the fetus of a pregnant woman.

In the UK, the US, and Canada laws recommend (or require) carbon monoxide detectors in homes. New and long-time homeowners may not realize that.

Even if the homeowner has no fireplace or woodstove, and no gas appliances, check the levels anyway.

A neighbor may use a wood stove or work on his car in a nearby garage. If you sleep with your window open, elevated carbon monoxide could cause your nightly problems.

If you investigate haunted sites, be sure your home has very low levels of carbon monoxide, too. Once you’ve been sensitized to carbon monoxide, even low levels might trigger your symptoms. Rule this out, immediately.

In every potentially haunted house, if any symptoms match the warning list, check carbon monoxide levels.

Monitors are important

Be sure the house has working carbon monoxide detectors installed. They should be in use for at least a week, before an investigation.

Also, many paranormal investigators carry a handheld monitor.

Note: Before buying a handheld carbon monoxide meter, be sure to read the reviews. If you’re investigating haunted homes and you can’t afford a good carbon monoxide detector, don’t bother with a cheap one.

Fiona's adviceI’ve had success with a monitor that’s designed to be placed on a wall. I just prop it on the floor or on a table, and leave it there for at least an hour. (Overnight is better, but a severe monoxide issue would probably trigger a sensitive alarm within 30 to 60 minutes.)

It was far less expensive than a handheld monitor, and the reviews were good, so I decided to try it.

So far, so good!

At the very least, ask the local fire department to test the air for the homeowner. (They may refer you to a community office that does this, free of charge.)

A working carbon monoxide detector is important. An old one isn’t good enough. Worse, if the homeowner is using a cheap, unreliable detector, that could put you and your client at risk.

In any indoor paranormal investigation, check for carbon monoxide. Use a good detector or have the homeowner or someone else handle that part of the investigation.

For more information about ghosts and haunted houses, visit Fiona’s ghost hunting website,