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Want to be a ghost hunter this Halloween? Let Amy Bruni from the SyFy series Ghost Hunters show you how to detect paranormal activity in your home -- or whether those spooky chills and poltergeist-like malfunctions can be addressed through simple household maintenance.

Ghost hunters search for paranormal activity in homes like this one. What's haunting your home? Photo: MCT

Ghost hunting is hardly a newfangled pursuit. The macabre hobby has been around since the late-seventeenth century when sightings started popping up all over the British Isles. And it's been popularized here in the U.S. by the hit SyFy television show Ghost Hunters.

Back in the 17th century, the application of leeches was one "cure" for seeing apparitions. Sleuths wrote tons on exploits and revelations. A hundred years later, a center for paranormal studies was formed, and still exists to this day, laying the groundwork for a seemingly everlasting preoccupation with the occult.

Paranormal investigator Amy Bruni of the popular SyFy series Ghost Hunters. Photo: Getty Images

Modern-day ghost hunters have come a long way since leeches, and they now employ hoards of cool ghost-hunting tools to help decipher what the other side is trying to tell us -- and whether it's actually speaking at all. We spoke with paranormal investigator, Amy Bruni from SyFy's Ghost Hunters to help us determine whether that static in the attic requires the eagle eyes of a ghost hunting pro...or a local electrician. "In almost every case there's a logical explanation for what's happening in your home," says Bruni. Makes sense since only 20 percent of the Ghost Hunters' cases can't be attributed to real causes.

Here's how to be a real ghost hunter -- and how to self-diagnose a bunch of household headaches that are likely leaving you scratching your head while they go bump in the night.

UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENON #1
: Frequent and extreme temperature fluctuations concentrated in one area (a.k.a. hot and cold spots).

Working Theory: While cold spots are supposedly caused by a spirit's need for copious amounts of warm air in order to reveal itself, hot spots are tip-offs that one has just shown up (or, at least, is gearing up to) in said area. "It's a very old theory, albeit not a very scientific one," says Bruni.

What Would a Ghost Hunter Do?
Cold and hot spots are some of the most common household irregularities for which ghost hunters are summoned, and they also seem to be one of the real trademarks of paranormal activity. But just because you've got cold feet or an, er...unusually hot seat, don't expect Bruni and her team to declare your house The Amityville Horror; you can be too quick with those haunting conclusions. "We've found many hot and cold spots that couldn't be traced to specific causes. But while they're strange, they alone aren't what Ghost Hunters classify as paranormal," she says.

ghost huntersLeft: A digital infrared thermometer used by ghost hunters. Photo: The Ghost Hunter Store. Right: Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector. Photo: Amazon

The Arsenal: Bruni uses a digital infrared (IR) thermometer to measure surface temperatures of objects (visible or not) within a certain distance -- even if they're moving. So, if a chilly apparition were to hover between you and a solid wall (which is surprisingly already pretty warm), your IR thermometer would detect a significant drop in temperature, which probably couldn't be readily explained. "We also use this cool tool called a thermocoupler, which measures ambient air temperature. It isolates the hot and cold spots to determine where they begin and end," she says.

The Likely Culprit:
Just how can you be so sure The Sixth Sense isn't actually playing out in your living room? Drafts, open windows, faulty heating and cooling systems, poor ventilation and insufficient insulation are all the usual suspects. "If you live in an older non-winterized home with a window that's warped by even a fraction of an inch, frigid seasonal air can seem to hit you from out of nowhere. It's shocking, but you could unknowingly be standing in front of an open window," Bruni says. To ensure you're not losing your mind, or precious dollars due to energy leaks throughout your home, invest in a thermal leak detector. It could help you save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs every year -- and an embarrassing call to your local ghost hunter.

UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENON #2: Toilets flushing and taps running by themselves; mysterious drips and pools of water on the floor.

Working Theory: Water, especially large bodies of it, has long been thought to be a conduit between the supernatural and modern worlds. The element "seems to fuel paranormal activity somehow, similarly to how spirits are able to extract energy from electromagnetic waves."

What Would a Ghost Hunter Do? Call a plumber. Fortunately, Bruni doesn't have to look far. Her Ghost Hunters costars, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, are Rhode Island-based Roto-Rooter plumbers by day.

ghost huntersLeft: Digital infrared camera used by ghost hunters. Photo: The Ghost Hunter Store. Right: A replacement refrigerator gasket seal. Photo: Amazon.

The Arsenal: While there's no specific ghost-hunter litmus test for water-borne peculiarities, some good, old-fashioned surveillance could help put homeowners' minds at ease. Ghost hunters like Bruni typically use digital infrared cameras and video monitoring systems to capture seen and unseen (invisible) activity so if someone, or something, has been taking its daily predawn soak in the family tub, you'll now be in the know.

The Likely Culprit: Bad or faulty plumbing. A "phantom-flushing" toilet (when the flapper's worn out, the toilet constantly refills and flushes because it allows water to leak from the cistern into the bowl.) Older faucet handles eventually stop being able to properly prevent water from coming out of the faucet. Something called the valve seat gets worn out over time and needs to be replaced (you'll know yours needs TLC if a handle turns nearly 360 degrees without stopping). "When this happens," says Bruni, "city water pressure is often enough to start water running by itself." A clogged central AC drain line. (The evaporator coil's pan could be overflowing due to the block; water then pools on the floor or leaks down into the floor below the unit, and then, into the ceiling above another floor of the home.) A refrigerator that's improperly sealing. (Refrigerators are forced to work overtime when they can't close all the way, so condensation builds on the coils and pools on the floor. For a proper seal: wash the rubber gasket with warm, soapy water. Rinse. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly.)

UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENON 3: Strange odors, both good and bad.

Working Theory: Ghost hunters have gotten reports of rogue wafts of everything from pipe smoke, rotten eggs and hemp to sweet hints of oranges, bubble gum and perfume. Many theorize that ghosts express themselves via these scents, but what a cloud of Old Spice says (besides "I'm a man, and a provider") is really anyone's guess.

What Would a Ghost Hunter Do? Of course, she'd investigate. Bruni told us that there are instances in which people do smell real scents. A 2007 Ghost Hunters investigation of San Francisco's legendary Presidio social club revealed that whiffs of cigar and cigarette smoke from the years-defunct smoking lounge actually came from its original woodwork. "Changes in humidity caused wood to expand, contract and release decades-old smoke," says Bruni.

Left: Ghost hunters use their olfactory senses (a.k.a. their noses) to detect unexplained smells. Photo: Getty Images. Right: An ultraviolet disinfection system can remove smelly deposits from pipe. Photo: Amazon.

The Arsenal: There's no tried-and-true tool the Ghost Hunters can employ to determine sources of unexplained smells (save for the make-believe "Smell-O-Meter" Grant has said he wishes existed).

The Likely Culprit: Okay, bear with us, but a fetid odor that's concentrated in one area of a room could likely be a dead (and very unlucky) rodent that got trapped behind the wall. Oil heat systems, particularly after they've been serviced or haven't run for awhile, could smell a bit (but it shouldn't last for more than 20 minutes) and -- if they're really unpleasant -- you could have an oil leak or combustion problem on your hands; best to call a pro. Your water can give off a rotten-egg smell if it's passing through pipes or plumbing with sulfur buildup; it makes perfect sense that only one part of your house might be smelly; an ultraviolet disinfection system can remove the deposits. Maybe your garbage disposal's in need of a good cleaning? Trapped food and bacteria have been known to kick up a good stink. Flush out the disposal with a cup of white vinegar followed by two cups of boiling water, and then run it for good measure. Is something other than a poltergeist trying to get your attention? A dried-up plumbing-drain trap down in the basement can smell an awful lot like the undead. Buy some plumbing antifreeze, plug your nose and fill up the trap. Repeat as necessary. Still smelling that smell? "Many times there just is no explanation," says Bruni.

UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENON #4: Electrical appliances turning on and off willy nilly; rapid battery and light bulb burnout.

Working Theory: Like with water, spirits are apparently able to suck energy from electrical sources. But Bruni feels this theorem "probably boils down to the 80's movie, Poltergeist, Hollywood and TV" and has no real scientific basis. Still though, she has experienced it first-hand: "I once watched a light switch turn on by itself. But how it happened, I can't explain."

What Would a Ghost Hunter Do? Because there could be a household safety issue that requires immediate attention, "we don't want people to immediately assume an electrical irregularity is a ghost. Always call an electrician," cautions Bruni.

Left: An EMF meter is used by ghost hunters. Photo: Sears. Right: A multimeter can check for overvoltage of a circuit. Photo: Amazon.

The Arsenal: Because an electromagnetic field (EMF) is produced by nearly every structure (some weaker and stronger than others), it's thought that strong, recurring and erratic EMFs throughout someone's house-- and those that seem to move up and down staircases or through walls -- are good signs that there might be some bats in the belfry. Why the two are connected is still somewhat of a mystery, though. Because a slew of things radiate EMFs (the human body included), Bruni and the Ghost Hunters team use an EMF meter to rule out appliances (stovetops, washers and dryers, cordless telephones, fluorescent lights and computers) that may be generating ultra-high EMFs.

The Likely Culprit: Many times, electrical problems can be chalked up to plain old bad wiring. And as far as appliances turning on and off by themselves? Bruni says that it's often just a case of a forgetful homeowner. "Say you take something out of the microwave before the cooking time elapses. Then you shut the door and it's ancient history," says Bruni. Speedy battery drain, too, can be explained. Hot and cold temperatures and fluctuations in temperature both detrimentally affect battery performance -- and batteries can even lose 8 to 20 percent of their life by just sitting around in a drawer! Light-bulb burnout and flickering could be due to several things. Overvoltage of the circuit can cut a bulb's life in half. Check to see if yours is correct with a multimeter. Having a bulb that is a wattage that's too high for the fixture causes the bulb to burn too hot, thereby causing it to burn out faster; always use the suggested wattage. And last -- although this may seem obvious -- check to see if your bulb is screwed in tightly. Flickering is often due to excessive vibration. Buy a shock-resistant bulb if you figure out the light that's been giving you the creeps is in a high-traffic area.

UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENON #5: Vapor, mist and/or fog.

Working Theory: Some think these energies are portals between the physical and spirit realms, but Bruni and her team aren't fully convinced. "Some people report far-off mists outside, some are over water, some are tinged with blue or other colors and most are seen strictly in photos. But there's still no rock-solid science behind it," she adds.

What Would a Ghost Hunter Do? Although the Ghost Hunters mainly encounter these anomalies in photographs (they're usually whitish, opaque, long, and/or funnel-shaped streaks and hazy forms) Bruni did check out reports of a misty presence in the Cuban Club in Ybor City, Florida. "I actually saw it, too. It had no real shape. It just appeared from behind a stage curtain in the ballroom, illuminated a bit and went back from wherever it came from," says Bruni.

ghost huntersLeft: An infrared motion sensor might be used by ghost hunters. Photo: TC Life Safety. Right: If your environment is humid or misty, your HVAC system might just be acting up. Photo: Getty Images

The Arsenal: If you're don't live in the Deep South, and you're convinced there's nothing scary about your home's heating and cooling systems, you could try investing in an infrared and/or ultrasonic motion sensor and hooking it up to your infrared digital camera. The former will prompt the camera to snap a shot of the spook once it flies across the camera's path.

The Likely Culprit: If the atmosphere in your den is looking as thick as the broth in a witch's cauldron, although unsettling, try to relax, your HVAC unit could be acting spooky. If you live in a particularly humid climate (we're talking 90 plus percent) and rely on an air conditioning system, a clogged drain pan may be the culprit. Although this is rare, your entire home could potentially fill with fog (harmless water vapor) and even trip your smoke alarms. It is common to see it in the freezer. Fog and mist seen outside can be caused by any number of natural weather conditions, during all four seasons of the year, in all areas of the world -- the possibilities are nearly endless. And on film, chances are the camera's lens unwittingly came into contact with moisture or condensation, someone's errant cigarette-smoke swirls, a wisp of human hair or a bit of airborne pollen -- each can look an awful lot like a scary specter that's angling in on your turf.

Ever experience spooky symptoms in the home? Tell us about it!


  • BewareSpammers

    Spammers scare me more than things that go bump in the night. The last ghost I ran into didn't swindle me out of money.

    Reply
  • skipper2947

    These spaces are for comments about the article, not commercials. It is bad enough to put up with commercials on TV.

    Reply
  • Opihi

    Of course there's a spirit world. If you respect them and remember that they are souls just homesick for their physical bodies and like to "participate" once in a while, they'll be incredibly grateful ... and helpful. I love my spirits. My parents communicate with me regularly and give me guidance when I sit still and listen. And when I have a particularly good idea or am making a good decision, they give me "chicken-skin" which is what Pacific Islanders call goosebumps. Then I know I'm on the right track.

    Some spirits aren't deceased relatives ... but they like to be acknowledged too. When I moved into my first apartment in Waikiki, there were all sorts of noises coming from the back of my fridge. I thought it was the motor. But it was very loud and particularly bad in the evenings. One day, just half joking and not at that time aware of the spirit world, I laughingly said to the fridge noises ... " Okay guys .... I'll leave the stove light on for you tonight .... then would you PLEASE stop the racket ..."


    I left the light on ..... and there wasn't a single sound. I laughed a bit and forgot about it. And just left the light on at night. Several years later I went back to the Mainland for a vacation and left a friend to "house sit" for me. When I got back the first thing he said to me was ..." How could you live with all that noise coming from your fridge at night ... I couldn't sleep. You should get it serviced"

    I'd fogotten about the 'spirits' and the light which I'd automatically kept on for years. So I asked him if he'd turned off the kitchen stove light and he said "Of course...."

    That night I switched on the light as usual and there wasn't a whisper from the spirits behind the fridge. When I moved out, I told the new tenents to be sure to keep the kitchen light on or the fridge would make a lot of noise. I didn't dare to mention the "spirits" ...

    In many so called "primitive" societies .... called that disparaging name by smug people who are so divorced from their souls and roots, they no longer can speak to the spirits and gods ... there is an automatic acceptance and awareness of the spirit world. It co-exists with the world of the living and is immensely comforting to both sides .... the living and the dead. I feel uniquely lucky to be in that culture and to have seen and felt and "KNOWN" there is only a thin barrier between the worlds and we can access is easily and naturally ... without silly hype and fanfare ..... if wwe do it sincerely and respectfully ..... and gratefully ....


  • Taterbug

    Well I guess if you're a ghost,you're bound to shed a few pounds without going to www.bullshit . com.

    Reply
  • john Waugen

    I guess I got lost in the shuffle. The above article is about ghost hunters and all the letters are about weight loss. All the written word about ghosts indicates they are due to all sorts of normal situations. If that is true why do ghost hunters bother?

    Reply
  • Lia

    @ john waugen- If you actually watch the show Ghost Hunters, you will know that they never jump to conclusions. The first thing they do is try to "debunk" a situation by investigating and proving that something isn't paranormal. If they can't prove that something ISN'T paranormal, then they try to capture evidence of things that can't be explained. Even if they experience somthing unexplained, they don't often say that someone's house or building is haunted- a lot of crazy things need to happen in order for them to come up with that conclusion. So, the article is merely explaining exactly what they do- make sense of things. That is why Ghost Hunters bother with investigations.


  • mary

    i THOUGHT I WAS GONNA READ SOME INTERESTING COMMENTS, BUT LIKE ,MOST OF THE TIME, NOTHING BUT SPAM

    Reply
  • grace2stand

    There are both good spirits (angels) and evil spirits (demons.) But there are no ghosts. The Bible says that the souls of the deceased are either in Heaven or Hell. (Luke 16:23... "The rich man in Hell, lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Lazarus being comforted in Abraham's bosom...") Your "visitors" are not your deceased loved ones. They are demons.

    The Bible says that Satan (who was an angel) and 1/3 of the other angels rebelled against God and were cast out of Heaven. When the Bible tells of God's angels visiting humans, they are described as looking like human men, not spirits. But it says that Satan appears "as an angel of light." I have seen two photos of demons. They both appeared to be made out of light. One was in the shape of a woman in a long dress. The other was a face.

    My brother lives in Vietnam. He once told me that during a Christmas dinner with native friends, a black moth flew in the window, lit on the Christmas tree and other objects, then on the face of his hostess, who had recently been widowed. (The Vietnamese believe that their deceased loved ones visit them in such form.) My brother said "I know you will say this was an evil spirit, by how can it be evil, when it so comforted the family?' I replied "Because it deceived them, and distracted them from the Truth which is able to save their souls."

    Once my daughter stopped by, tossed a library bag on my table and stepped out to get some cigarettes at a nearby store. Suddenly I got a creepy feeling. I realized it had something to do with whatever was in the bag. I opened it and -- sure enough -- there were some Steven King books. I tossed the bag out the door... When my daughter came back, she asked what her bag was doing in the yard. I told her that I was not afraid, but that garbage was not welcome in my home.

    When she began reading these books, watching occult and horror movies, and calling psychics, she began hearing whistling, footsteps and doors opening and closing, etc. These activities had invited evil spirits into her home.

    When I was a child, we moved into a home where we heard footsteps at night. We had some pastors come over and pray, and it stopped. Another time, I awoke to find something on my face that looked like a large bubble, but it had weight and density. I couldn't breathe. I tried to call "Mom!" but no sound came out.. So I began mouthing "Jesus! Jesus!" (This wasn't a chant or a magic word. It was a prayer, a redeemed soul crying out to her Redeemer!) Soon I could hear my voice...
    I watched the "bubble" disappear through the ceiling.

    If you are having "visitors," please stop watching / reading occult materials. Pray, repent and ask God to deliver you. He will.

    Don't bother trying to draw me into a debate. I'm gone. Believe the Bible or don't. It's your choice.

    Reply
  • cp

    Make sure you take your bible with you to hell, demon!


  • Paul

    I'm not interested in debating with you. I just think you're stark raving mad.


  • Jim

    Ah, yes.........the religious zealot who only believes that paranormal things happen to those of us whom she would deem as "evil", perhaps because we don't attend some church full of self-righteous hypocrites and busybodies. I am far more afraid of these types than I am of the strange balls of light and full-body apparitions and footsteps that have plagued my house since the day I moved into it. Yes, they startle me at times, but otherwise, we coexist quite nicely. I suppose that makes me a demon or practicioner of all things occult in your view, but far more bizarre claims have come out of the same annals of ignorance for years by many of these self-avowed "Christians", who are usually just a bunch of selfish, fundamentalist, judgemental snobs who preach one thing but do the opposite, screwing everyone else over in the name of the Lord so they can get ahead in this world. My daddy was right after all: when someone has to go on and on about how much of a Christian they are or what church they go to and how often, RUN, don't walk, the OPPOSITE DIRECTION, for they usually have MUCH to hide, and you have much to fear via their hypocrisy, greed, and self-righteousness. I guess you could just sign me--one who's gotten the screw put to him from a "Christian" one too many times. I'll keep my haunted house AND the spirits who live here; they're not bothering anyone.


  • Josie

    I'm so glad that people like you can't burn, torture or force people like me into believing your crap.


  • Chris

    Then if you are using this I would assume that the Holy Spirit which God sent down to the followers of Jesus would be a demon as well? Hmm thats kind of odd that Jesus sent the HOLY Spirit down to his followers so they could go out and teach, but according to your ideas that would be nothing but a demon. Kind of odd. Thankfully I believe in Jesus and read my Bible frequently. May God Bless you and your family.


  • Jeny

    You need help if you believe that stuff you are saying... What??? Books??? Are you sure you didn't hit your head on a book... Give me a break.... And all this God stuff... Please.... There is a reason for everything you hear , see, whatever... Fallen angle's Please.....


  • Karyn

    Way to go, girl. You are right about the demons of the unseen world. I can not believe how people responded to you, and how they mis-contrued your comments, painting a picture of you as a stuck-up know-it-all. You were right to share what you know from the Scriptures. God Bless.


  • Buford Toney

    While serving in the US Army, I was set up in nightly ambush sites that were cemeteries. I have slept in cemeteries, and been in so called haunted or ghost infested places. Never saw or heard anything strange. There are no ghosts, period.

    Reply
  • Lisa

    I never really believed in ghosts (although I do believe in an afterlife) until I had one sit on the side of my bed one night. We had a little tug of war with the blankets. I was 35. I slept with the light on for 3 years after that. You don't have to convince me they exist.


  • Mike

    What really scares me is that people who believe in ghost, can vote.

    Reply
  • Casper

    what scares me is that idiots also have the right to vote


  • glenn

    Ghosts ..... What a bunch of BS ! ! ! ! ! !

    Reply

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