Ghost Hunting with All Five Senses

Ghost hunters often rely on sight and hearing, and sometimes a “sixth sense” to detect ghosts.

Most experienced ghost investigators are familiar with ghost photos, apparitions and EVP (ghostly recorded voices), at least in theory.

That covers the senses of sight and hearing.

Many people have had a chilling physical encounter — being touched, slapped or scratched — at haunted sites, too.

That’s the sense of touch.

However, what about those other two senses?

Taste – ghostly flavors?

Some investigators describe different tastes at certain hauntings.  For no apparent reason, they’ll notice a bitter taste or as if blood is present.  Others talk about a sweet taste like marmalade or honey.

I’m not sure how we could use that in our investigations.  (If you have ideas, share them in comments, below.)

In a setting where taste had been among the phenomena, I’d try deliberately creating that same sense of taste.  (Well, it’s probably not wise to replicate the taste of blood.)

By using foods to trigger or mimic the ghostly taste, it might put investigators “in tune” with the spirits, and encourage more vivid manifestations.

Or… it might not.  At the moment, this is purely theoretical; it’s just a guess.

Smell – attracting ghosts with fragrance

Recently, a member of the Paranormal Investigators of North Kitsap asked me about using fragrance to attract ghosts.  That’s a great idea!  Will it work?  I have no idea.  It’s definitely worth some experiments.

Many male ghosts seem to be accompanied by the aroma of pipe or cigar smoke.  Some female spirits — most notably, the one at California’s Hollywoodland sign — seem to leave a perfume.

Could we use fragrance to attract them, as well?

There are several ways to approach this.

  • Use an aroma that is universally attractive, particularly from their time period.  Apple pie comes to mind, and it’s been popular for centuries.  Chocolate is another time-honored food that attracts by sense of smell. I’m sure there are other appealing aromas, too.
  • Try an odor that isn’t necessarily pleasant, but it fits the time period.  After all, we’re constantly hearing reports of apparitions and hauntings at historical sites and reenactments.  Cleaning products, cooking ingredients, the smell of black powder (guns and rifles), etc., might produce a result.
  • Similarly, consider fragrances that were popular in particular time periods.  In the early 19th century, women of lesser morals supposedly favored cheap violet perfumes.  Would it help if a female researcher wore violet perfume where there are ghosts of soldiers, pirates or smugglers?  It’s worth a try.

To research perfumes to match the ghosts’ time period, here are some recommendations.  Most of these books are expensive; see if your public library has them, or can find them for inter-library loan.

The best book is probably Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin – A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present.  Though this heavily illustrated book written for perfume collectors, the text explores perfume’s impact on history, culture, society, art, and attitudes.  Read it with a focus on those historical and cultural connections, and you may find some useful tips & insights.

Another (expensive) book that may be useful — if you’re a total geek about this — is Perfume: A Global History.  Like the previous book, it’s best to see if your public library has this book or can order it on inter-library loan.

Once you’ve narrowed your focus to an era and a type of fragrance, the earliest perfumes and colognes may be easy to replicate, such a orange oil + cinnamon, or something like that.

Antique recipe (receipt) books may help, or you can improvise on your own with online recipes.  Click here to read one 19th century perfume recipe book, or download it.

For actual antique and vintage perfumes, you can check antiques dealers’ websites.

If your paranormal experiments seem successful, you could take this a step further: People who collect and sell vintage perfume bottles may not have washed the bottles.  Each fragrance can be copied by modern-day perfumers and fragrance alchemists.


As ghost hunters, we often rely on three senses:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Touch or feeling

However, what about taste and smell? They’re usually overlooked in our research. Exploring (or exploiting) them might produce interesting results… or it might not.  We won’t know until we try.

Though I’ve offered some in-depth suggestions, always experiment on a small scale before committing resources (time & money) to any approach.

Look at sensory experiments from both angles:

  • What will put you, as an investigator, more in-tune with the spirits?
  • What will attract the spirits because they recognize something, or feel more comfortable when that element is present?

If you experiment in these areas, I hope you’ll share your findings — positive or negative — in comments below.