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When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, don’t bother calling the Ghostbusters. New York has its own real-life specter-seekers who can help people who believe they're plagued with otherworldly roommates.
If you feel uneasy in your apartment, it could be thanks to a spirit who refused to spirit away, at least according to Phillip Creighton, the senior lead analyst and founder of the ShadowChasers, a paranormal research organization. In a city with as much history as New York, it's easy enough to believe you could encounter some spirits of the past.
“We are going through a vibrational shift right now and the veil between this dimension and the spiritual one is getting thinner,” says Pam Jenkins, a psychic medium in the Upper West Side who claims to communicate with people who have crossed over. “More and more people are experiencing paranormal-type beings in their residences.”
Whether or not these disturbances are supernatural, these ghostly gurus have insight on what's (probably) happening in your apartment. Whether or not you believe them is up to you.
So do you really have a ghost, or is your creaky prewar building playing tricks on you?
There are several tell-tale signs, says Brian Oaster, the co-owner of Catland Books, a metaphysical shop in Bushwick. They include irrational cold spots, objects falling or flying off the shelves, inexplicable footsteps or bumps in the night, voices (especially whispers), eerie feelings, night terrors, or simply a persistent feeling of bad vibes.
Sometimes, a space can be haunted without someone having died, Creighton says, citing case studies that have looked at habitual behaviors (like doing the dishes, for instance) echoing in the present. “The person doing the dishes could be perfectly fine and living 10 blocks away,” Creighton admits.
But because it was a routine they did for a number of months or years, the echoes of that action play out over and over.
“Each case is unique,” he says. Not so spooky when you think of ghosts as an event stuck on repeat.
GHOST OF A CHANCE
One of the easiest things you can do, Oaster says, is to try to talk to the spirits. “They're not that different from people, and sometimes they will leave you alone if you ask them to,” he says.
But not all ghosts are at Casper levels of friendly, and evil spirits will get some pleasure from continuing to haunt and harass you, at least according to supernatural experts. After all, the afterlife can be quite boring, so picking on mere mortals is a good use of these spirits' time. If that’s the case, “invoking the help of a deity, archangel, or other spirit that you're familiar with is a good idea," Oaster says.
And the top thing to remember when dealing with ghosts? Conceal your fear.
“It’s important not be fearful—that’s the wrong avenue to go,” Jenkins adds. “If you’re that afraid, you need to call someone in to help.”
Smudging, otherwise known as sage-ing, has roots as a Native American practice that was meant to purify the room from negative energy through the burning of aromatic herbs.
But it’s also been appropriated by those wishing to get rid of evil spirits.
“The most popular technique is to burn a sage bundle, allowing the smoke to permeate all the nooks and crannies of your room, until it feels clean and fresh,” Oaster tells us.
Smudging sticks are available at natural health foods or metaphysical stores. Some come with other herbs like lavender, so use what you like and what's most pleasing to you.
Light the stick at one end and blow out the flames so you get a white smoke, and move the smoke around the ceiling, windows, doors, and any corners. Make sure that you have a fireproof bowl or shell to catch any lit embers from the sage.
When you’ve saged every room in your apartment, make sure the stick is fully out and bury it if you can (this is also part of the ritual). If not, you can always put it out in the trash, making sure that the stick is fully extinguished.
Now that you’ve de-spirited, it’s onto keeping the bad juju out, which Oaster says is totally doable (if only the Torrances knew about sage-ing!)
“You can easily maintain it by bringing in plants, gemstones, fresh air and sunlight, and by practicing some common sense feng shui so that it feels good to move about in your room," he says. "You can also invite positive spirits or energies through ritual work, prayer, incantation, and so forth."
And there’s more than one way to get a ghost to ghost. Oaster also recommends Tibetan singing bowls, as the sound waves coming from it can help rid unwelcome spirits.
Placing crystals like black tourmaline, kyanite, and hematite around the house can work wonders as they absorb negative energy, Jenkins says.
At the end of the day, Jenkins says we’re forced to co-exist in the same space (not unlike being forced to exist with 8 million other people on a few small islands), and so the best thing to do is to be courageous and brave.
“The only power these ghosts have is what you willingly give over,” Jenkins says. “If you give them your fear, they’re going to have a field day with you.”