A haunted house is defined by Wikipedia as “a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased”. In other words, a house thought to have ghosts.
Not everyone believe in ghosts of course, but according to a 2005 Gallup Poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/19558/Paranormal-Beliefs-Come-SuperNaturally-Some.aspx), 37% of Americans, 28% of Canadians, and 40% of Britons expressed the belief that houses could be “haunted”. Interestingly the percentages shoot up if one only counts women who believe in haunted houses. There is no research into why that is but one can’t help but wonder if a woman’s perception of the home is more accurate than a man’s perception as she typically spends more time there and/or is more attached to the home.
Stories of hauntings go way back. Deuteronomy 7:26 says this, “Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.” An implication from the passage is that do something to cause their house to be haunted, but either way, it’s pretty clear on that a home can be.
Classic literature contains stories of hauntings as well. In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, Hamlet’s father appears to Hamlet as a ghost to point Hamlet in the direction of his mother and uncle as his murderer. Here there’s another element of hauntings, the idea that a ghost is “born” when someone dies badly in a home and that their goal is to let the living know what happened so they can be avenged.
A house’s history is a significant factor in whether or not it might be haunted. Homes where people have died untimely deaths either from illness or foul play are often thought of as being haunted. Thus the preponderance of child ghosts in ghost lore comes from a time when illness often took children before they reached adulthood, and someone who dies young has of course the ultimate unfinished business, that is the rest of their lives. Likewise houses where a terrible tragedy is thought to have occurred often considered haunted. Franklin Castle in Ohio, The United States (http://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/Real_Haunted_Houses) has all those elements. This mansion owned by Hans Tiedemann in the mid 1800s was the site of several tragedies. Mr. Tiedemann’s daughter died of childhood Diabetes, his young wife of liver disease and a female servant is though to have killed herself after Tiedemann ended the affair they were having behind his ill wife’s back. In other versions of the story Tiedemann is accused of murdering these women but no matter what the home was the site of much tragedy.
How do these hauntings manifest? What besides a history of tragedy would leave someone to believe a house is haunted? In the case of Franklin Castle, now a country club, in addition to the mansion’s history there are stories of a young girl appearing to guests, doors opening seemingly on their own and a woman’s crying. These unexplained sights and sounds are called “manifestations”. They are essentially sensory evidence of the presence of a ghost or ghosts. What are common manifestations? What physical occurrences that a living being experiences in a house might lead them to believe a house is haunted?
A common sign is sudden cold. A cool breeze where there was none or cold spots in the room, that is areas about the size of a person that are much colder than anywhere else in that room. It’s almost like the odd hot and cold patches in a sea or ocean. In water those patches are caused by currents. Still water will heat up but when as a result of wind or other activity new water comes into that area it will suddenly be cold. The same explanation may apply to hot and cold areas in a room. When the warm air of the room is displaced by another presence that area may become suddenly cold.
Another phenomenon associated with ghosts is sighting, actual visual appearance of a person not previously visible in the home. They may be seen clearly or faintly as if only halfway present but the accounts of unknown people in a home are many. A particularly well known seemingly haunted house is the White House, the actual house where the president of the Unites States and his family reside during his or her term. Residents of the White House, visitors and tourists have all reported seeing people who could not possibly be there, such as Abraham Lincoln assassinated during the Civil War who is said to haunt his own bedroom, the Lincoln Bedroom, where honored guests are housed. And of course, where would he be besides his own bedroom? Winston Churchill (see http://www.history.com/topics/ghosts-in-the-white-house) British Prime Minister in WW II reported seeing Lincoln in the Lincoln bedroom and Winston Churchill was not a man known for flights of fancy. Likewise guests have reported hearing unexplained noises in the White House as if of footsteps but in unoccupied rooms or doors opening or closing where no one was seen entering or leaving.
This falls into the category of objects moved as if by an unseen hand (or foot). Though no one is present who could have taken steps or moved something such as a chair or door, clearly some one has. This is one of the most common phenomena reported in houses that are thought to be haunted.
To review, a tragic history, cold spots in a room, apparitions and objects moving as if on their own are all possible indicators of a ghostly presence. If you are aware of only 1 or 2 of these conditions be a left for others. Research your house’s history and the history of its previous owners. Speak with other people who have lived in or visited your home, did they ever experience any of this phenomena? Take seriously the accounts of neighbors regarding your home. A neighborhood may contain more oral history than you will find written about your home and other people’s experience in it. Basically, remain open to the possibility.