WTF Fun Fact 13495 – Haunted House Carbon Monoxide Theory

The haunted house carbon monoxide theory takes a little bit of the ghoulishness out of Halloween. But it its place is something much scarier. Those ghosts might be a sign that you’re being poisoned!

Now, we’re not talking about the haunted houses that you go to for Halloween fun. We’re talking about people who actually feel and hear and see ghosts that they think are coming from beyond the grave.

What’s the Haunted House Carbon Monoxide Theory?

There’s a saying: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” Yet, when it comes to stories of haunted houses, the supernatural often takes precedence over the logical.

Such tales have captivated our imagination for centuries, with eerie apparitions, whispered voices, and otherworldly sensations. But could there be a more down-to-earth explanation for these ghostly experiences?

Enter carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause a wide range of health problems and even death when inhaled in large amounts. It affects the body by preventing oxygen from entering cells and tissues, leading to a condition called hypoxia.

The Unusual Cases of “Hauntings”

There’s been a growing awareness of how carbon monoxide poisoning can cause symptoms eerily similar to those described in paranormal encounters.

Take the example from an American Journal of Ophthalmology report from 1921. A family started seeing apparitions and experiencing a constant sensation of being watched. The children lost interest in play, became ill, and the father even witnessed a mysterious woman in black. The mother, too, had her own harrowing encounters. (This example is cited in IFL Science, cited below).

It wasn’t until the father’s brother suggested a more rational cause that the mystery was solved: carbon monoxide poisoning, originating from a broken furnace.

Writer Carrie Poppy described an unnerving presence in her house, complete with auditory hallucinations and a peculiar pressure on her chest to to NPR (via IFL Science). She felt watched and perceived an ominous “whoosh” sound. To her, this was no mere haunting; she believed a demon occupied her home.

The distress became so overwhelming that she found herself in tears nightly. However, a group of skeptical ghost hunters steered her towards a more plausible explanation: carbon monoxide. And sure enough, a gas leak was identified as the root cause.

Haunted Houses and Carbon Monoxide: A Tale Of Ghosts and Gas Lamps?

There’s an intriguing theory that the Victorian era, known for its plethora of ghost stories and an intense fascination with the supernatural, might have had a carbon monoxide connection.

Toxicologist Albert Donnay suggests that carbon monoxide and other toxins could be responsible for a large number of these hauntings.

The Victorians, with their gas lamps and toxic wallpaper, could have inadvertently been subjecting themselves to low doses of poison, leading to hallucinations and the perception of hauntings.

A Logical Explanation in a Paranormal World

While it’s true that not every ghostly encounter can be chalked up to carbon monoxide — some might be hoaxes, products of sleep paralysis, or even crafty hotel managers attempting to boost business — it’s essential to consider the possibility. Often, the answers we seek lie not in the realm of the otherworldly, but in the tangible world around us.

In essence, if you believe you’ve encountered a spectral presence or feel like something’s not quite right in your home, it might not be a ghostly visitor. Instead, it could be a silent and deadly gas.

So, before calling in the paranormal investigators, IFL Science writer Andrew Felton suggests you ring up a technician to inspect your home’s heating system. Your “haunting” might just be a malfunctioning boiler or furnace.

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Source: “An Awful Lot Of Hauntings Can Be Attributed To Carbon Monoxide Poisoning” — IFL Science