What else could it be?
When trying to decipher the clues of the paranormal, it's important to take into consideration all natural explanations for events. Below are many of the things we try to rule out prior to considering paranormal causes. While we do not discount nor distrust any feelings you might have about possible paranormal activity in your location, we recommend objectivity at all times. By stepping back and thoroughly considering all non-paranormal causes for the activity, we can better address your concerns, and help you feel comfortable in your location.
Age of home
Creaking and groaning of a home from foundation settling is common in both new and old homes. Old homes tend to “feel” spookier when they settle because, well, they’re old. The biggest thing to look for in old homes is the general structural integrity. Are you feeling a cold spot in a particular area? Check the windows and window frames for holes or cracks. How thick is the insulation? Are there any breaks in the bricks or mortar in the foundation or exterior walls?
The air quality in your home plays a huge part in your general well being. Aside from the dangers of radon and carbon monoxide, there are elements that can make you feel paranoid, sick and generally uneasy. Inadequately secured cleaning supplies and paint cans, poor ventilation of oil and gas heaters, and even mold behind your basement walls can cause that sick, headache-y feeling you get every time you go down there. Prolonged exposure to these environmental contaminants can lead to everything from physical illness (shortness of breath, chills or hot flashes, nausea) to distorted perceptions (general anxiety, feelings of being watched or touched, etc.). Check your foundation for cracks, the walls and ceilings for moisture leaks, the circuit box for exposed or damaged wiring (those EMF fields are everywhere), and your AC and heating systems for malfunctions.
Speaking of your AC system… Do you hear strange bangs in your ceiling or floors? Ruled out the plumbing? Where does your duct work run? When a central air system turns on and off, it creates a minor vacuum. Metal duct work is susceptible to changes in pressure which can cause the metal to buckle producing a loud pop. Window unit air conditioners have a way of not being very well insulated. If you leave your window unit in during the winter, you could notice cold spots due to drafts around the window.
An increase or decrease in humidity can affect how your structure, and the things in it, behave. Wooden floors, doors, support beams, stairs, etc. are constantly absorbing and releasing humidity in the air. The wood in a door can expand and contract with the amount of moisture it takes in and releases, meaning the size and weight of the door itself is changing. Even a couple of millimeters difference in the size and weight of a door can cause it to seemingly open and shut "on its own." The same phenomenon can be the cause of creaks, cracking, and other noises in your floorboards and building frame, all of which can be mistaken for disembodied footsteps or other paranormal events.
Plumbing is one of the easiest non-paranormal explanations to find and fix. If you hear knocking in a particular wall, or footsteps across a particular part of the floor, check to see where the pipes in your home run in relation to the noises. Loose plumbing, rusty pipes or dripping pipe fittings can cause any number of odd noises (not to mention a rise in your water bill). Water pressure through the pipes is an important factor. If the water pressure is set to high, you may see your faucets dripping or “coming on by themselves.” This is not a paranormal event, but a reason to call an accredited plumber.
Household EMF (wiring and electrical currents)
While the reasons are debatable (read the article here), high electromagnetic field levels can cause strange events, real or perceived. If you feel a presence in the kitchen, or you feel like you’re being watched in the dining room, it is a good idea to check where the circuit box is in relation to the area. Old wiring and sometimes standard appliances can emit high quantities of EMF. Having an electrician check your circuit box and wiring is a good first step in ruling out any paranormal activity.
Critters and Crawlers
In the fall and winter, rodents, crickets and other outdoor critters try to come in where it’s warm. In urban areas and older properties, nature has a way of refusing to leave anytime of the year, and can cause environmental and structural problems in your home that you may not even be able to see. It’s not uncommon to get mice in the duct work of a central air system. Hearing scratching in the attic? What about the scratching and bumping in the walls? Squirrels, mice and raccoons all like to make their nest some place quiet and warm. Crawl spaces, attics and interior walls are all perfect homes to the average critter. And, much like mold, waste materials from these and other pests can collect behind walls and in out-of-sight locations, releasing contaminants and allergens into the air. In more serious cases, these can cause shortness of breath, light-headedness, nausea and other physical symptoms -- all of which can be eliminated by calling a pest control specialist.
Area transportation patterns
Airplanes, trains and cars can cause all sorts of strange happenings in a home. Airplane flight patterns over or near a home can cause vibrations of unsecured items or the structure itself, particularly if the house is close enough to the airport for low flying aircraft. And you don't need to be located near a major airport -- activity from regional airports and personal aircraft can be just as disruptive. Do you notice that your favorite family photo has moved a few inches on your table everyday when you get home? That could be caused by the vibration from low flying aircraft or the home’s proximity to train tracks. Do you see weird shadows while watching TV in the evening? Take a few minutes to see how stray beams of light from any cars passing down your street reflect off mirrors, glass picture frames, and your china cabinet. These stray light beams will be even more distorted if they are shining through trees, patterned curtains or reflecting off street signs. Older homes often have older windows, and the bowing of glass as it ages can perform all kinds of bizarre light tricks with light sources outside. The physics of light is sometimes bizarre, but perfectly normal. This sort of behavior can easily be mistaken for paranormal activity -- especially at night!