Haunted House Or Dead Rodents? 5 Tips From Consumer Reports

Do your appliances and lights randomly turn on and off? Are doors all over your home opening and closing by themselves? Do you hear ghostly footsteps in the attic? If so, your house may be haunted — or you could just have dead rodents, really bad appliances, and low relative humidity. Consumer Reports goes Ghostbusters to help you get Gozer out of your garage.

Consumer Reports’ Dan “Venkman” DiClerico strapped on his proton pack to hand out these tips on dealing with five of the top ghostly phenomena:

Cold Spots: While drafts could be the result of a restless apparition, they’re more likely caused by air leaks or inadequate insulation. Professional energy auditors often use infrared instruments to identify such cold spots, but Consumer Reports has found that a simple incense stick can do the trick. If smoke from the stick blows sideways when you hold it up to windows, doors and walls, air is seeping in and out from those locations.

Appliances Turning On and Off By Themselves: Here’s a case where the scientific explanation is scarier than the paranormal one. In the last year, Consumer Reports has noted many cases of appliances turning on by themselves, posing serious safety risks to homeowners. Just last week, Electrolux recalled 122,000 smoothtop ranges and cooktops after liquid pooling under the control knobs caused 70 units to turn on unexpectedly. Earlier, a Magic Chef range was reportedly being turned on and off by the wireless signal from a nearby cell phone. And we’ve heard cases of toaster ovens coming on without warning.

Things That Go Bump in the NIght: It could be a flying witch, but a flying squirrel is more likely. Besides making a racket in the attic, squirrels and other rodents can wreak havoc on insulation, driving up energy bills.

Doors and Cabinets Opening: There’s something in the air with this one–low relative humidity. Drier air causes wood to shrink, which in turn can make doors, drawers, and cabinets open on their own.

Mysterious Smells: The perfume of a former habitant who died on her wedding night? The muddy boots of a Civil War soldier who once quartered in the back room? Maybe. But before you call an exorcist, look for other sources of unexplained smells in your home. Wet fiberglass hidden behind walls can give off a musty odor. Dead rodents are also none too sweet-smelling.

More tips are available at the Consumer Reports site. And, remember, don’t cross the streams.

Is your house haunted–or is it just drafty? [Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. DarkPsion says:

    And then there is Infra-sound, low frequency sound that can cause you to feel like you are being haunted.


    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      F-ing cool.

    • Julia789 says:

      Also houses built on certain types of bedrock are prone to people feeling “haunted” I don’t recall exactly, but sometimes Radon or other problems in the ground beneath the house?

    • Dinhilion says:

      Dude I just read about that on Cracked (which often has surprisingly verifiable sources).

      • Conformist138 says:

        Amen! I

        On that topic, I am terrified that my more reliable sources for info are intended as jokes or satire. And the sources that are meant to be reliable are often nothing more than the set-up for the punchline to come.

      • Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

        My husband was just telling me all about the sound waves in haunted houses last night. I asked where he learned about all this. His response? “Cracked.”

  2. pop top says:

    I like articles like these. A lot of people seem to not know about Occam’s Razor. “Oh no, it’s cold right here, it must be ghosts and not a drafty window!” “That lady must be a time traveler with a cell phone and not someone with a hearing aid!”

  3. catskyfire says:

    Doors and Cabinets Opening – Check the cat.

    • A.Mercer says:

      We had a cat when we were growing up who was very good at opening cabinet doors. You would wake up in the morning and all of the cabinets would be open.

    • Robofish says:

      it’s ALWAYS the cat. Ugh

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      When my parents are over and this happens, I blame my mother.

    • travel_nut says:

      The cat is definitely the source of most of these issues, particularly the cabinets. The older cat can open the cabinets with no problem. The younger cat has to bat at it several times before she can get it open, so you hear the cabinet door thunking shut over and over before she gets it to stay open.

      The older cat can also open drawers. One time we couldn’t find him and heard him meowing in the kitchen. He had managed to open a drawer, get inside, and shut himself in, but was unable to get himself out.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yes, i have found my upper cabinets open with the cat sleeping inside and i caught her opening the bathroom drawer once, going through my razors and spare toothbrushes. but then again, my cat can open the front door if it’s not deadbolted and turn the faucet on to drink from

    • Conformist138 says:

      Don’t forget the dog- mine could open sliding glass doors if they weren’t securely locked and could easily take individual objects from a shelf without disturbing anything around them. Until you located the knick-knack in the backyard in a shallow hole, it would look like a thief wandered in with eyes only for grandma’s old Hummel figurine.

    • zzyzzx says:

      It’s always the cats here too. One of mine is fat enough to make the floorboards creak.

  4. Steve H. says:

    This is something I’ve been meaning to ask.

    I have friends that believe in things like haunted houses and I, of course, don’t. We’ve talked about going to some of these “haunted” houses to check them out. I’d like to outfit myself with a nice set of ghost debunking tools to show them how naive they are. This article has shown that incense is probably a good tool, and perhaps a humidity measuring device (the name escapes me right now). What else should I add to my tool bag?

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I would add a tone tracer. When someone’s going all nutty over all the EM activity, whip it out and wave it over your cell phone and bonus if you have a tone generator you can put someplace else in the house and prove it’s just the wiring.

      Then tap the tip against your head and fake a seizure. I love that one.

    • John says:

      A live trap (or a rat trap) baited with suet cakes that you buy for bird feeders. Flying squirrels love them. See, here’s the deal with flying squirrels: they are the only nocturnal squirrel in America. That’s why most people have never seen them, but believe you me, they exist and they can get in your attic and run around all night. The trap will catch them and then you discover that they’re cute, calm little critters. What you do after that is up to you , but if you catch and release, go at least ten miles from your home to let them go.

    • John says:

      A live trap (or a rat trap) baited with suet cakes that you buy for bird feeders. Flying squirrels love them. See, here’s the deal with flying squirrels: they are the only nocturnal squirrel in America. That’s why most people have never seen them, but believe you me, they exist and they can get in your attic and run around all night. The trap will catch them and then you discover that they’re cute, calm little critters. What you do after that is up to you , but if you catch and release, go at least ten miles from your home to let them go.

    • massageon says:

      New Friends

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Night vision binoculars or goggles. Because they’re fun, and it’s hard to convince gullible people there aren’t any ghosts when it’s really bright and people insist that ghosts only come out in the dark, spooky night.

  5. Newto-Rah says:

    Yeah, I always get people talking about the cabinet doors thing. I’ve seen it happen at my parent’s house, coincidently just after the AC came on (causing the door to shrink, or lower the air pressure in the room and the warmer air inside push the door open, or both, or some other effect).

    The bathroom door in my apartment doesn’t close except between late october and april because of humidity and/or temperature.


  6. CBenji says:

    Yes I have a very amazing cat who can open doors. He is very proud of himself and beautiful too!

  7. Lethe says:

    Just yesterday I was forced to listen to a few of my coworkers discuss all the reasons they believe there houses are or have been haunted. Most of the examples of ‘proof’ they gave were on this list.

    I just sent it to all of them. I just hope it doesn’t start a new conversation. Listening to them and trying not to argue every point hurts my brain.

  8. momtimestwo says:

    I don’t believe in ghosts, but watching “The Haunted” on Animal Planet makes me wonder sometimes..

  9. Scribblenerd says:

    Memo to self: investigate haunted house, charge $500 to remove ghost. Cash in hand, pull out can of spray insulation. . .

  10. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I DO believe in ghosts, in fact grew up around one, but I concur that a lot of these things on the list are more likely in most cases. And yes, squirrels in the attic make a hell of a lot of noise.

  11. quijote says:

    Apparitions of a mysterious man going in and out of your daughter’s bedroom at night: Not to worry. That’s just uncle Leonard.

  12. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    As far as Gozer, if you only remember one important lesson from Ghostbusters, it is this:

    If a woman asks you if you are a god…say yes!

    • Xin says:

      and that when you are told to empty your mind – for the love of all that is holy do NOT think of the stay puff marshmallow man

      he is NOT as nice as he appears

  13. yessongs says:

    When you are lying in bed and someone sits down next to you who is not there and you feel someone sitting there and see an impression in the mattress, that is not a dead rodent. This happened to me as a child along with hearing voices calling to me every night of my life until I was 13.

  14. gman863 says:

    Sadly I have experience with the mysterious smells issue.

    Abiut a year after moving into my current home I noticed an odor in the bathroom that reminded me of an Exxon mens room. Even after scrubbing, the scent would come back as soon as the smell of the Pine Sol dissipated.

    A wall sink had been installed improperly resulting in the plastic drain pipe in the wall cracking. The water leaked in the wall for a few months (odor) until it finally stained the outside of the drywall, exposing the problem. The home warranty contract had expired, so I used it as an excuse to install a decent vanity after cutting out and replacing the drain and drywall.

    See, there ARE times the cat has nothing to do with it. :-)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yep, i moved into a house that had been unoccupied for a year and has a septic system. when the water evaporated out of the trap it let sewer gases seep back into the house. fortunately the tank had been emptied shortly before the previous owners moved out and the tank hadn’t been getting any new influx of waste so it wasn’t bad but it took a couple of days to clear

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Once in a while I smell warm blood. I used to work in a hospital, and that I’ve never forgotten that smell. I don’t attribute it to a ghost whenever I’m nowhere near a hospital and I smell it, though – I think it’s my subconscious remembering some aspect of my experiences at the hospital, and something that was in my field of vision triggered that smell.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        That’s very possible. Smell is the most potent sense we have in terms of memory. Phantom smells can happen. That’s kind of creepy about it being blood, though.

      • gman863 says:

        Yes, but do you whisper “I smell dead people”. (g)

  15. Rain says:

    My last house was haunted by a rodent.

    Seriously, my sister’s pet mouse disappeared from the covered aquarium it lived it. My mouse was still there and we had no other pets that could have eaten it. It didn’t “disappear” either, we were too old for that.

  16. dg says:

    Gozer was in the refrigerator if I recall correctly…