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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creature “Spirits”

Confession time: I’m a huge fan of all shows that chase after evidence of ghosts, cryptozoological creatures (like Bigfoot), and UFOs. I can’t get enough Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth, and surprisingly—or not—I find the debunking just as intriguing and fascinating as the “hunting.” Yes, I believe in the occurrence of things we cannot explain, or things considered paranormal or otherworldly, because it’s exciting to me and perfectly sensible. But, I also lean toward 98% of those reported “things” being explained by natural events, scientifically, as a coping strategy, or even as some cultural phenomena.

I once experienced a thunderous banging of the metal air ducts in the attic. It was the most terrifying, inexplicable sound at the time. I swore there was something huge up there, what else could make such a deafening sound! The week prior, my cousin had described the same thing when she experienced an extremely loud banging above our ceiling while she was alone in our house. She thought maybe someone was on the roof jumping around and even bravely checked it out for us. Seeing no one around, she left the house to sit in her car until we came home that night. She told us later that just before the crazy pounding, she kept hearing a light knocking or tapping noise on a particular wall in the living room that she couldn’t explain.

The crazy banging never happened again, but the tapping kept on for about another week. Was this an awakened spirit suddenly wreaking havoc on our little home? No. A rat was the culprit. The thundering clamour was likely the little beast navigating our metal air ducts in the attic. He was found, “removed” and our house was professionally rat-proofed by an extermination service.

In fact, much of the reported rustling sounds, groans, screams, human whispers, and even ghostly human giggling one might hear can be explained by critters very much alive and well, going about their business in the natural world. Have you ever heard a frog’s mating call? Or wind pushing, even “howling” through a boulder strewn canyon or between buildings, or pipes? How about a screech owl’s cry or a rabbit’s distressing squeal?

Nuisance Wildlife Relocation Specialist, D. Crawford offers very normal wildlife explanations for some of the most eerie paranormal sounds that may go “bump in the night.” Crawford discusses the rustling noises frequently reported in hauntings, reminding us that those strange noises in our basements, or in our walls and attics can simply be animals taking refuge in our home:

“Rustling noises coming from the walls or chimney can be caused by any number of creatures: bats, rats, raccoons, chimney swifts, etc. Bats or birds rustling their wings in the chimney or inside a wall can sound frighteningly similar to human whispering; the noises made by a colony of bats jostling for space may even sound like the rustle of silk skirts. A metal chimney shaft can sometimes produce a megaphone effect, making the noise seem louder or more intense than you might suspect.”

Even urban and suburban residents can be regularly visited by wildlife like owls, bats, raccoons, rodents, rabbits, and plenty of bird species. With increased habitat fragmentation it’s possible that adaptable critters like these will naturally seek and follow habitat corridors to get from one natural area to another; possibly wandering into your yard & home attracted by neighborhood trees, a nearby park, a cemetery, or wildland area as Crawford suggests.

Locally we have desert wood rats (packrats), famous for collecting shiny things like keys, jewelry, watches, and bottle caps from unsuspecting campers. If you live near a patch of desert, they just might enjoy moving into your home as well. Packrats, raccoons, and crows are mentioned in Crawford’s article as critters that may like to move around and collect items from your house—the possible culprits of poltergiest activity. The more we learn about the curious habits of our native animals, the more we can avoid jumping to paranormal conclusions, like things vanishing or being moved about or knocked over. It could simply be a curious creature—not a mischevious spirit. A little investigating yourself could solve the mystery, one way or the other.

For questions to help you determine if you are being “haunted” by wildlife, or to find out how Crawford debunked the ghostly screaming coming from a neighborhood graveyard, or to read about the poltergiest that was actually a sneaky raccoon, read his article found at the Paranormal Task Force website. Then listen to some of these eerily human-like calls and cries from common wildlife (creepy factor = high!):  

Fox call (often mistaken for human scream/yell):

Fox cry/call (often mistaken for a woman or child screaming or yelling):

Rabbit distress (sounds amazingly like a crying infant). Warning, some may find this one upsetting as this is a rabbit screaming in distress:

Arizona Woodhouse’s Toads (Bufo woodhousei) singing (sounds like human-ish screams):

Common Barn Owl call (sounds like a woman screaming):

See, not so scary after all! Or is it? Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

Raccoon Image: Dreamstime.com
Toad sound byte source: http://naturesongs.com/
Owl sound byte source: http://www.owlpages.com/sounds/

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