12 Scientific Explanations Behind Paranormal Phenomenon

We've all felt the uneasy, spine-tingling feeling that someone or something is watching us - be it an intruder, a ghost, or something far more sinister. And the truth is, scientific explanations for ghosts really don't mean much when you're overcome with that creepy-as-heck feeling in the middle of the night. All the logic in the world couldn't disprove what you already know: your house is probably haunted and some sage or holy water isn't going to cut it.

On the other hand, most of the time there really is a normal, logical explanation behind seemingly paranormal experiences. Even an apparent demonic possession can be explained pretty soundly with science (sorry, Lucifer). There's a real science behind haunted houses, and the reason our bodies sometimes feel on edge is usually kind of anticlimactic. Listen, no one is trying to tell you to buy property on top of an Indian burial ground anytime soon, but before you pack up all your belongings and move out of your haunted mansion in the middle of the night, you should really consider a couple of facts.

These scientific explanations for haunted houses may ease your mind, but you should probably still burn your Ouija board just in case.

Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License

  • Infrasound Makes You Feel Like You're Being Watched
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    Infrasound Makes You Feel Like You're Being Watched

    If you suddenly feel a sense of panic for no particular reason, it could be the result of infrasound - sounds that are too deep for humans to hear, but that we can still pick up on. Think of it like a dog whistle: we can't hear it, but dogs can. Does that make the sound any less real? Humans can only hear sound waves between 20 and 20,000 Hertz, but we can still feel the vibrations of everything else. This often manifests in the pits of our stomachs as strange, indescribable feelings. Ever feel awe-struck and happy for no reason? You can blame it on infrasound. The feeling depends entirely on the circumstances. If you're in a creepy house alone at night, you may feel panic rather than excitement.

    Infrasound happens for a few reasons - storms, wind, weather, and the like. Even your kitchen refrigerator can emit them. This happened to be the case for Vic Tandy, a scientist who was convinced that his laboratory was haunted after seeing what he thought was a ghost. Tandy, a scientist and fencing enthusiast, eventually noticed that his fencing sword had been vibrating on its own, and then understood what had happened: A new fan he had installed in his lab was emitting vibrations of about 19 Hz. Since eyeballs have a resonant frequency of 20 Hz, when the fan vibrated his eye, it caused him to see shadows because his brain couldn't interpret what was happening. When he turned off the fan, all the ghosts went away.

  • Ghostly Orbs In Pictures Are Purely Camera Problems
    Photo: FilmDistrict

    Ghostly Orbs In Pictures Are Purely Camera Problems

    Many of us want so badly to believe that those floating, glowing orbs in photos are real-life proof of ghosts. The problem is that while ghosts may be haunting every inch of your house, they're probably never going to let themselves be caught on film. Even real ghost believers are skeptical about orbs because they're usually just the result of a faulty camera.

    Ever notice how orbs are mostly in flash photography? That’s because when a small bug or piece of dust gets caught in the flash, it reflects the light back - and since the camera doesn't have enough time to re-focus before the shutter clicks, it comes out like a blurry circle. There's also a high possibility that whatever paranormal photographer took the picture accidentally smudged the lens with his finger. Oops.

  • Automatism Makes Mediums Think They've Channeled Ghosts
    Photo: Universal Studios

    Automatism Makes Mediums Think They've Channeled Ghosts

    How sad would it be to live in a world where a medium couldn't actually contact the dead? While some mediums are able to expose details so specific that they can't possibly come from anyone but your dead relative, a whole bunch of mediums are shams. The worst part, though, is that many of them really, actually believe they have a gift.

    Mediums are often misguided by their spirit-channeling talents because of automatism, an altered state of conscious where people aren't aware of what they're saying or thinking. When mediums effectively clear their minds, readying themselves to be filled with other-worldly messages, they become filled with random ideas and images instead. Mediums often attribute this to channeling a spirit, but the reality is that it's all just random. It's the same science behind why your dreams are super strange, nonsensical, and sometimes super creepy.

  • A Mold Infestation Can Make Your Home Feel Haunted
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    A Mold Infestation Can Make Your Home Feel Haunted

    Mold is a pretty boring answer to a really exciting - and terrifying - problem, but it's an answer nonetheless. Rather than burning some sage, you may want to invest in some quality bleach-based cleaners.

    The reason you may feel terrified for no explicable reason, or suddenly see things that aren't there, could be because of toxic mold growing in your home. Research shows that certain molds have somewhat ghostly effects, causing irrational fear and even dementia. Whatever you do, don't spray the area with holy water, as dampness just helps mold thrive.

  • The Ideomotor Effect Causes Unexplained Things To Happen
    Photo: Universal Studios

    The Ideomotor Effect Causes Unexplained Things To Happen

    Every little girl who has ever been to a sleepover probably used a Ouija board at some point. Some of our parents may have (reasonably) banned them from our homes, but for the rest of us, we enjoyed scaring ourselves by waiting for ghosts to communicate with us through a series of letters even more inconvenient than T9 texting. While it's definitely possible that a few odd-ball spirits have attached themselves to Hasbro's bestselling occult-themed toy, most of the time those messages can be attributed to the ideomotor effect. In fact, most scary sleepover games (hello, "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board") have no paranormal ties whatsoever.

    Ideomotor action occurs when our muscles unconsciously move thanks to the power of suggestion. Basically, merely thinking about something wills it to happen. This was tested by physicist Michael Faraday who discovered that the tables used during a séance moved or appeared to levitate only because people expected them to do so. Once people expected a table to move, they unintentionally moved it. In 1853, this was tested in an experimental séance (where no ghosts were present). Half the people involved were told the table would move to the left, and half were told it would move to the right. As a result, the table didn't move at all.

  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Causes Ghostly Hallucinations
    Photo: Paramount Pictures

    Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Causes Ghostly Hallucinations

    Strange voices, hearing things in your house rustle around, and even seeing ghostly shadowy figures can all be attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning - the notoriously slow, silent killer. According to a 1921 study in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, a family began experiencing strange, paranormal things when they moved into an old house. They heard strange noises and truly felt like they were being held down in bed by ghosts. The feeling of weakness was undeniable and so was their fear. The ghost turned out to be a faulty furnace that was seeping carbon monoxide throughout the entire home. As soon as the furnace was fixed, they never heard or saw anything weird again.

    So, if you're feeling a ghostly presence, you may want to check your carbon monoxide detector. If that hasn't buzzed, you should probably move before you end up in The Conjuring.