Saturday, November 21, 2009

Office Spooks: Haunted Work Places

Haunted work sites aren’t just for the docents of historic museums and the renovators of vaudeville theaters. High-rise office staff, shop owners, and warehouse workers all report haunting issues. We often think of ghosts as hiding out in old hospitals and antebellum mansions, but where there are people to perceive their presence, they make themselves known.

Our local team, MVD Ghostchasers led by Debe Branning, was actually begun by workers from a motor vehicle department who began to experience ghostly issues in the workplace following a coworker’s death. In search of answers, they formed a group. That was back in the 90s and they’ve been going strong since.

Some of the issues at hand in work places are the repetitive nature of work. This involves the same seating places, same halls walked, same doors opened, over and over and over again, day by day, month by month, decade by decade. This is often what we find in homes that have been around for 100 or more years; enough generations repeating the same trek, the same hallway, the same stairs over and over nonstop. An office building is more like an old home on crack. It has hundreds of times more people doing the same things. In a way, it’s a giant psychic electrostatic generator. I like to call it the “lighthouse syndrome.” When you have a place with a large source of electrical power and people whose job is to follow the same path every day over and over again to do the same tasks, you’ve generated future ghostly footsteps, door closing sounds, murmuring voices.

Another obvious contributing factor is the power used to put together a work place. I’ve done studies in offices that complained of hauntings to find EMF levels off the meter near powerful electronics. These high levels of electromagnetic fields can be very unsettling on people. The question still hasn’t been answered for ghost hunters whether EMF is a sign of ghostly activity, a condition that causes the sensation of being haunted, or if high EMF is something necessary for a ghost to manifest. After having some truly amazing encounters in offices with high EMF, I am more of a belief that EMF is an attractive device for ghostly activity. I am curious about experiments being made in the field regarding how humans feel around high EMF levels. They have found they definitely can feel it with unsettling sensations, but the question is, do they get EVPs and see apparitions with these conditions? I get excited by an office wanting a study done because I know that where there’s a business, there’s high EMF, and possibly a magnet of sorts, very similar to the attraction with certain geology and waterways.

This syndrome, however, doesn’t account for the array of more traditional haunting features, such as EVPs, apparitions, and sensations of being touched. I remember as a kid having a family friend, an elderly woman, who told stories of her husband’s business. When he passed on in his mid 50s, leaving her a widow, she took over his business. She cursed that the office in the back of the store where he worked 16-hour days was obviously haunted by his presence. She saw him several times near the file cabinets, back turned to her, bent over a drawer. A few times, she’d come into the room to find the roller chair butted up underneath the desk where he used to do his books instead of near the desk with the typewriter where she kept it. Other times, she could hear a single swear word with his thick Polish accent. She had shrugged and sighed. “It makes sense, I suppose,” she had sighed. “He loved his work more than me or our home.” In that single statement, she may have answered the question; “why do people haunt work places?

Park rangers and medical workers in hospitals are two groups of people most often to report ghostly encounters. We can certainly understand those working in hospitals having such experiences, but park rangers? Yes! Their territory covers isolated cabins, cemeteries, historic paths, caves, state parks, and battlefields. When asked, rangers often times say it’s just part of the job to see to everyone’s safety within the historic site and sometimes that might include a tag-along ghost.

Obviously, having the right attitude about haunted work places is essential. The only times most people complain are when they’re alone after hours or left to close up the place. The great sighing heave of relaxation that occurs when there are no more elevators rushing up and down, people slamming doors and wheeling carts, makes for a contrast of sorts that can make one’s hearing acutely sensitive and the feeling of contrasting open spaces disconcerting. For the same reason historic sites such as Alcatraz are less likely to reveal their spirit activity during crowded tours, so are work places less likely to reveal visitors until the nighttime becomes their playground and all the human energy has been removed from their space.

So, if you’re ever walking the halls after hours and hear another set of footsteps, consider it your unseen coworkers, taking over the night shift.


  1. Thank you for opening my eyes to a sensibility that I have never thought possible. I have come to believe that not everything that can be perceived with our five senses, measured or quantified, is the only thing that can exist. There are things we experience that we can't measure or touch, yet they are very real, like thoughts, feelings, free will.
    I haven't made up my mind about ghosts yet. I guess I need to read more of your blog.

  2. Christine;
    You'll see me bat around a lot of theories and the in's and out's of each. I tend more towards residual (events captured in an environment and replayed--without the presence of a human soul). I think conditions like geology, waterways, and power lines, electrical power all effect the mix. I've knocked around recent theories about the effects of neutrinos or radon on the environment. I'm searching for solid signs of interaction and intelligence and have recently found some exciting encounters--always occurring when there is electron flux/geomagnetic storms and in environments with high EMF...It's exciting stuff. Love to knock around ideas and when folks have things they'd like to bring up, I write posts about it. I'm open to just about everything, hoping to eventually find a continuity flowing through it all--what I call "ghost broth." I love making up terms!

  3. I've worked in two different offices that were actively haunted.
    Part of our job was to take turns being on call for 24 hour shifts. I always just slept at the office.

    At the last place, the other folks used to ask me how I did it. They were impressed. It wasn't nothing to be impressed about, as you all with a little ghost knowledge know.

  4. @eloh;
    You just roll with the punches! Yeah, I would actually rather have someone with me during a long lonely shift--even if they were an unseen guest. When I little, when I sensed one of the Civil War soldiers nearby, I'd say "hi" and tell him what I was doing with my day and ask about his. Sure enough, the board would sigh and I got the very distinct feeling he decided to stay and watch. I always found it comfortable having soldiers around who missed their families--like having my own secret service. It's always like I say, "it's in your explanatory style whether your run or embrace things..."

  5. Thank you for sharing this one. I've really got to do some investigating on my office. I would just love to know what the tunnels underneath were for. Some say they were built during Prohibition for quick getaways, but the candle holders and other stuff found in those tunnels was much, much older.

  6. Mary;
    It shouldn't be too hard to find out about the tunnels. Manhattan is one of the most popular urban exploring areas. Just check out this site as an example:

  7. I too, am curious as to what EMF levels have to do with hauntings. I wonder if the EMF boosts a person's natural bio-magnetic energy field which makes them more aware of ghostly presences. Kind of like a boost to their 'vibrations' as they say, you know? So it could be that ghosts may be present in more areas than people realize, but without a little boost to their vibrations, they may not sense it. I suppose it could be a combination of factors too though. It may be a boost in vibrations as well as a an attractive energy source for the ghosts themselves.

    I'm still anxious to hear some of your civil war soldier ghost stories too... :)

  8. Hey Jeff;
    I'm actually working on that post now. I still recall many of the interpretations I made on items I discovered as as child. I really miss unearthing abandoned things and reading them. That's probably why I go to abandoned places. As for EMF and its role, I've watched people in haunted sites react (much like that experiment of the haunted room with EMF piped into different spots) reacting to something changing in the environment and it was gauged on the meters. Admittedly, basements and areas around copiers/microwave ovens/computer equipment can be quite unsettling. One office I studied had a small bedroom-sized room where four people on computers worked in a tight grouping around the perimeters of the room. The center of the room had a decidedly uncomfortable feel and high EMF readings. They said that all day they felt like someone was watching them. The problem is, they all had their backs to the center of the room, so it's hard to tell whether their seating had an effect or the EMF. I would guess it's a combo of both. Whether the EMF is related to ghostly activity, it's hard to tell. When we get those sensations and EMF is high, it might be EMF we're reacting to and not ghostly presence. However, transient EMF spikes that aren't related to any electrical (such as a building that has no electrical and is removed from civilization) really excites me. It's impressive. Someone needs to make an experiment that differentiates between EMF as causing strange sensations and EMF signaling activity by spirits. I think GH says it best when they explain that once you know where EMF is coming from, i.e. the TV in the room, you ignore that and you move on top places that have no reading and suddenly get a spike. Exciting stuff!

  9. The Fortean Times magazine used to have a section called "it happened to me..." -they might still-its just been a long time since i bought a copy and i think many booksellers stopped carrying it because of the price (around 12 USD for a magazine because of exchange rate for dollar to pound) I was amazed at the number of people who would write in with these amazing a literally hair raising accounts of ghostly encounters on the job!! there was one account from a woman -and she also paraphrased some fellow staff members experiences where i literally felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!!
    thanks for the excellent article and i bet it is a lot more common than thought about with these workplace hauntings-all the best to you!!

  10. Thanks Dev;
    Yeah, I admit that when I worked in two ERs (went back and forth depending on the day of the week), each hospital had issues with certain spots that no one wanted to go alone. They weren't common places either like a boiler room. They were certain patient rooms. Kind of weird too because these rooms weren't even in ICU but telemetry (where they just monitor you but you're not in critical condition) and one room was the little snack room with a microwave and small fridge. Apparently, they said it used to be a patient room and they claimed it for some needed space.

  11. My book, The Ghost of Laurie Floyd (currently under consideration but not yet published), deals with an at-work haunting. I based it on something that might interest you. You know the Arizona Center? Do you remember back in the 1990s when a lady jumped with her 6 year old daughter from the roof of one of those buildings? Well, I used to work in that building! I didn't work there when she jumped. I started a year later. But during my interview, the hiring manager brought that up. That was the kernel for the idea of my book. Then when I started writing it, I thought, "How crazy would that be to start your first day of work, see a body falling past the window, the police come to investigate, but no body is there --because it's really a ghost?!" So...that's how my book starts. And then of course there's ghost hunters that get called in to help solve the mystery of the Ghost of Laurie Floyd. It's fiction, but it was inspired by a true enough real life event!

  12. That is a wickedly great idea! Pursue that. It needs to be published! I can't wait to read it!