our office may be haunted — how do I keep it from distracting from our work?

A reader writes:

I work for a small, conservation-based nonprofit with four full-time people, five contract employees, and a summer program of up to 16 young people. We work out of a tiny office located inside 20 beautiful acres of land with which we are creating a public park. The office is a 110-year-old private home that was a rental for decades before being converted into an office. It’s cramped, loud, and far from ideal, but the location is perfect for our work. Unfortunately, it also has a reputation in our small town for being haunted.

The haunting tends to become the focus of conversations, including those that are meant to be interviews, donor meetings, and other business-related things. Former residents of the house often stop by to visit the park and inevitably tell their sometimes-harrowing stories. People have asked about it during interviews and indicated that it might make them uncomfortable. Admittedly, it’s kind of fun to talk about, but it should not take precedence over our mission, goals, and other important issues.

So, what do I say when people ask if it’s haunted? Truthfully, it probably is, but A) we have no real proof and B) it’s generally not scary. Yes, we hear the occasional noise (thumps, crashes, scraping, etc.) from unoccupied rooms, and sometimes — including during staff meetings where every employee is seated around a table — the lights/fans in the bathroom will go on and off by themselves. The copier has been known to turn itself on when no one was in the room and, once or twice, when I was alone in the office late in the evening, I distinctly heard what sounded like an elderly lady mumbling in Spanish.

The thing is, it doesn’t feel malevolent. The only thing that’s really scared me was when my unattended phone began blaring heavy metal music (not music stored on my phone or any streaming source I listen to) and would not stop until I turned it off. Another employee and I were alone in the office on a weekend evening at the time, and she was seriously freaked out.

And what do we say when people ask about having to be alone in the office? As a nonprofit, we often have evening and weekend events, and sometimes staying late/coming in early/coming in a weekend is an excellent opportunity to get things done in relative peace and quiet. Obviously, we don’t force people to be alone in the office, but with such a small staff, it’s rather inevitable at times. And I suspect that the fact that we’re far from the road/other buildings and surrounded by park land can make things even more creepy.

Is there a good way to re-direct such conversations? This is especially important as we have at least one employee who is super bothered by anything even vaguely supernatural-related. And this isn’t like Amityville Horror or The Shining. Yes, some former residents seem to have more frightening stories, but since we’ve moved in, it’s all been fairly benign.

I think you’ve got two different types of conversations to figure out — conversations with people who are interviewing to work with you, and then conversations with everyone else — and the approach to each of them needs to be different.

With people who are interviewing for jobs with you, I’d be transparent but also as matter-of-fact as possible — “Yes, we’ve had more than the usual unexplained occurrences, like lights going on and off by themselves, but it’s all felt pretty benign. We do have weird things happen here, though, and people who don’t work here ask us about it a lot. It’s something you’d want to be comfortable with if you took the job.” Because the thing is, you don’t want someone to start working there and be utterly freaked out by the situation. So if a job candidate is uncomfortable, it’s better for them to self-select out before that.

I think it’s trickier with other people. You’re right that you need to keep it from distracting from the work you’re there to do. Your best approach in those conversations might be to take a “who knows?” posture. Your stance could be slightly bored — yes, the stories are fun, and yes, some weird things have happened around the office, but we’re here to do XYZ and nothing has ever interfered with that. That doesn’t mean you have to shut down every interesting conversation on the topic, but when it feels like it’s taking up too much time or becoming the focus of a meeting that’s supposed to be about business, you could do a sort of verbal shrug — like, “Well, who knows! It’s fun to think about, but I know we need to talk about X.”

Most people will take their cues from you, and if you’re signaling that it’s just not a big conversation topic for you, they’ll likely respect that.

If visitors stop by with their own tales of eerie happenings and/or you get the sense they’re looking for you to make some definitive “yes, it’s definitely haunted!” statement or/and are hoping for a lengthy investigative discussion of the goings-on there, you can always lean on, “It’s interesting, but it’s not really our area of expertise. Our work here is focused on XYZ.” (My husband, who is interested in the paranormal, said this to me when I read him your letter: “Nothing dampens a paranormal conversation faster than basically saying you have no idea what the excited person is talking about. Anything else is just drawing out the conversation.”)

{ 538 comments… read them below }

  1. animaniactoo*

    Personal experience: Whatever you do, do not use an Ouija board to try and talk to your ghosts.

    Call Sam & Dean for that.

    Okay, the 2nd part is a joke. The first is not.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Further personal experience: You will likely get to a place that some of this stuff is so commonplace to you that you just shrug it off and then are startled when somebody acts gobsmacked about it.

      Name your ghosts. They might not be the right names, but naming your ghosts will probably help them feel even more benign to you. Hopefully they like their names (ours didn’t apparently protest).

      Let people freak out when they need to freak out and then go and calm down. They will likely come back around after being able to recognize that, okay, playing heavy metal music doesn’t actually *do* anything to you. It’s just weird. But it’s also normal to freak out again at the weird stuff when you trip over an aspect that you haven’t come up against, and need to take a moment to get your bearings again.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I imagine so. But then your phone is blaring Grandma Coco’s preferred heavy metal jam despite the disbelief.

          1. animaniactoo*

            This. We were so disbelieving that we had maintenance change the locks on our door because we were sure that it was the previous residents playing tricks on us. Changing the locks didn’t stop a damn thing.

            People disbelieve me about it now? I shrug and say we never found another explanation. And maybe there is one. But we damn sure never found it.

            1. C*

              This is the reason I agree with naming them. Since you don’t have an explanation, “Fred’s had too much coffee this morning” or “Norma really hates this copier” at least acknowledges the weirdness while maintaining a certain flippancy about the whole thing.

              1. Alexander Graham Yell*

                My college had a few haunted rooms, and one brilliant student figured out that her posters would stay on the wall if she played the Beatles while she was out of her room. That ghost just wanted to hear her favourite band! So word got passed along to the new girls each year, and nobody believed it at first so they’d always come home to their posters on the floor until they gave in and put on The White Album.

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I think it’s sweet that students are so kind to the resident ghost, especially one with such good taste.

                2. cheeseboard*

                  At university, my Amelie poster fell down at the EXACT second I thought to myself “France sucks”. (Not my actual belief, I was reading some political science book and France had done something crappy). I’ve always thought it was super weird.

            2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Nothing gets my goat faster than someone not believing something is happening because they don’t have an explanation. I’m a scientist, and I think that’s why I like the paranormal- so many rational people, many of which professing disbelief in the paranormal, all witnessing similar odd things? It’s just so fascinating. And a lot more juicy than experiments doing the opposite of what they’re supposed to.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                Well, you’re confusing the ‘what’ with the ‘why.’ You can believe that there is a weird noise or a funny bit of electronics without believing that ghosts are the cause of it.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  I’m not- there are commenters on here who are calling the OP crazy. I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts or other paranormal activity, but I believe OP when she said her phone started playing heavy metal music and she couldn’t think of a reason why. I can’t think of a reason either, but I don’t doubt that it happened. I absolutely don’t rule out other causes like faulty wiring that should be checked as other people have said, but an oddly common reaction to not being able to come up with an explanation to an observed phenomenon is to start doubting that it happened, and I don’t think that’s right.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Is it possible for a phone to play music that had never been stored or streamed on it?
                  Maybe it picked up something from wi-fi? I suppose that’s possible, though I suggested playing the music at night to please the ghost.
                  Once in a while my CD player at home stops in the middle of a CD and goes to “Read” as if it was just inserted. My only clue about this is, it once happened when my wi-fi blinked. I’ve never thought it’s paranormal, it’s too benign.

              2. Skeptic*

                No, you are not a scientist. No one who “lines the paranormal” can call themselves a scientist.

                The scientific method requires *falisfiable* hypotheses. Not “I don’t know what the heck is happening,” so we’ll say it’s gotta be ghosts.”

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  This seems like a pretty personal attack. I’m a scientist of sorts but I still find paranormal and conspiracy stories fascinating. Do I accept the latest claim that some random carved stone from Alabama proves that ancient Hebrews colonized the US thousands of years ago, or that aliens build Chaco Canyon? No, but that doesn’t mean I automatically dismiss anything unusual without investigating it first. Fish did not propose paranormal solutions for everything that does not have a known explanation, but is challenging the tendency to immediately dismiss other peoples’ accounts of weird events — which is equivalent to calling them liars without even investigating what might have happened. Being interested in paranomal ideas is not the same as believing them.

                2. LP A*

                  That has to be the least scientific thing I’ve ever heard. Science is the study of the unknown. You start with a hypothesis, such as ghosts, and you conduct tests to try to find the answer. That’s what scientists do. And yes, many, many scientists have studied various unexplained phenomenon. Why wouldn’t they? The whole point is to make discoveries and to prove what has never been proven before.

              3. SunnyD*

                People who are primed pretty much always find evidence for that thing they were primed with – it’s a universalhuman brain glitch.

                I don’t know why those things happened, but here are some possibilities:

                1) old wiring in an old house making two appliances pause (btw this is a fire hazard, maybe worry about that before ghosts!)

                2) a prankster* messed with your phone (in person, or your phone got bluesnarfed or bluebugged – hijacked through the Bluetooth connection) – eg they added a ringtone and then called you.

                3) an old house settled and creaked

                4) mice knocked something over (after chewing on the wires)

                Magic and ghosts are usually tricks or human brain glitches (ascribing patterns to coincidence, etc).


            3. jDC*

              One of our founding partners committed suicide before we opened the doors of our first shop. He was very loved and we later found out he had a very bad mental illness that got the best of him. The little bell at the front door would bing when the door was closed and locked, things would be moved. I always felt it was him even though I didn’t believe in that stuff. We’d jokingly say “Hi Casey”. Our main mechanic was terrified though and wouldn’t be alone there at night. We told him he was just visiting and saying hi. I truly didn’t believe until then. Luckily he was loved and we feel just visiting to see how we were doing with a project he worked so hard on. Really miss him. I hope he still stops by.

            4. TardyTardis*

              If you are in the Chicago area, I used to know a ghost hunter who would talk to the ghosts and persuade them to move on…

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            I don’t personally believe in ghosts, and yet I love, love, LOVE the idea that an old lady’s ghost is downloading metal on a handy unattended phone!! I’d like to think that if I were a ghost, I’d be cool enough to do this. For whatever the future equivalent of heavy metal is!

            Folder: GhostJamz

          3. Bee*

            I mean, even if you don’t believe in that stuff, you can still address it in a factual way. So if people ask if it’s haunted, you can talk about what actually happens without necessarily saying it’s because of ghosts.

          1. Czhorat*

            This is unkind.

            TBH, I don’t believe in hauntings either. But I even less believe in mocking the beliefs of others. This adds nothing to the discussion and does not help the OP one bit. All it does is make you feel smug and everyone else feel uncomfortable.

            Besides, it may be that there are things in heaven and earth not dreampt of in your philosophy; not only is there no proof that you’re right, but I’d argue that myth and folklore have value beyond measurable objective truth. In this case a belief in hauntings can inform ones connection to a place, to history, to posterity. That’s not an ill thing.

            1. Beckie*

              But if you assume that weird things are happening because a house is haunted, and you never check the wiring, then that really is a problem.

              1. JSPA*

                This. If you have (e.g.) bad wiring and squirrels or rats in the walls, it may not feel malevolent, but people–and the mission–really ARE at risk. Ditto a shifting foundation / sinkhole.

                I know of a case where a radiation source was very well shielded at the front, bottom, top and sides, but not (after some renovation in the room next door) at the back. It’s a darned good thing that the resulting fogged photographic plates and malfunctioning machinery were not written off as paranormal events.

                It is actually incumbent on you to check on the non-paranormal explanations for individual events. In an old house, it’s normal for there to be more than one source of such problems, so you don’t look for an explanation that covers all; you troubleshoot them individually.

                1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*


                  Faulty wiring seems the FAR more likely explanation for lights turning on and off!

                2. Clisby*

                  Yes. I’ve lived in a couple of 100+ year old houses, and unless the wiring has been recently brought up to code, there is absolutely nothing weird about lights/fans/printers/any electrical appliance randomly turning off and on. I don’t know what the OP means by “crashes”, but thumps and scrapings could easily be animals (rats, squirrels, raccoons, possums) in an attic or inside the walls. They can make a LOT of noise.

                3. SunnyD*

                  OMFG. How did they actually realize that?? I need to know more.

                  It’s like all those post-Soviet nuclear smugglers who were caught because they hid unshielded radioactive materials in their home chair or fridge, and died.

            2. Pippa*

              This is a very good comment, and now I feel slightly guilty for going straight for the (non-mocking) jokes. Not guilty enough to stop, mind you, but slightly.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Something like half of all American adults believe in the paranormal (and that’s not including mainstream religious beliefs that can have some overlap with this stuff), so no, it’s probably not sixth graders.

            1. Czhorat*

              It’s fascinating the sets of beliefs we mock and the ones on which we’re hands off.

              The God of Abraham, in whatever form? That’s cool.

              Astrology? Mocksville.

              Hinduism? That’s fine.

              Ghosts? Point and laugh.

              Lucky rabbits foot/belief that your lottery numbers are “due”? That’s cool.

              Numerology? Major eyeroll.

              Many of us have something we believe, some way we act which isn’t provable, objective, scientifically-measurable truth. So long as it does no harm, let’s all agree to be nice about it

                1. Tin Cormorant*

                  I could probably write a book listing the things I know about but don’t think are real.

                2. SunnyD*

                  I don’t know my astrology sign.

                  I’m really impressed by how well astrology exploits human thought glitches and gullibility tendencies. They are this gorgeously well designed mix of statements that are vague but seem specific.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Many of us have something we believe, some way we act which isn’t provable, objective, scientifically-measurable truth.

                I think of this as a reverse Turing test. If there is truly nothing about which you hold an irrational belief, no mole hill in a sea of mole hills on which you will dig in your heels and cry “Stop!”, then you’re a computer program pretending to be a person.

                1. Quake Johnson*

                  …I find that a strange take. Some people simply aren’t even remotely superstitious. To imply they’re inhuman when they’re the ones without the paranormal beliefs seems backwards to me.

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  I’m not limiting this to the paranormal. It can be the fervent belief in the superiority of one boy band. Buying a lottery ticket despite the odds. Believing that your old high school buddy means well when evidence kinda suggests he doesn’t.

                  A really sizable chunk of human beliefs are emotional responses for which we then construct logical back stories.

                3. Avasarala*

                  @Quake Johnson
                  I think it’s more pointing out that believing in something irrational just because it “feels right” is a near-universal aspect of the human condition. Maybe your thing isn’t ghosts, it’s wearing your lucky socks while you watch the game so your team wins. Maybe it’s knocking on the table when you mention bad omens as if that could keep them away. Maybe it’s thinking your baby squeezes your finger out of love instead of reflex. We’ve all got something irrational we choose to believe because it gives us comfort.

                4. Notasecurityguard*

                  Well a decent amount of superstition isn’t irrational. If posters keep falling when you don’t play the Beatles and you cant figure out why but they don’t fall when you do play the Beatles you can call it a ghost or you can call it “fuck if I know but this works so whatever” and it don’t make a lick of difference

              2. Beckie*

                “So long as it does no harm, let’s all agree to be nice about it”

                But there can be a great deal of harm in ignoring infrastructure issues with a building and waving it off as being haunted. As other commenters have pointed out, there could be wiring issues, HVAC issues, carbon monoxide, or animals living in the walls. And if people are asking about it, it makes me wonder about the state of the upkeep of the house. Is it clean? Freshly-painted?

                1. Glitsy Gus*

                  Barring any evidence to the contrary I think it’s safe to assume the company made sure all necessary inspections were completed and permits are in place on the property. This isn’t a shack the non-profit has been in for all 110 years and the OP hasn’t given any indication to think her employer and/or the landlord isn’t properly maintaining the building.

                  Of course it’s a given that you should check those things, but if you do and things still happen? Well, sometimes old buildings are just weird, and whether it’s a ghost or an old building doing it’s thing, it can still be creepy to experience. I don’t think my current office is haunted, but it is old and creaky and there are some weird echos that can give you a bit of a start when you’re there alone after hours even when you know what causes them, it’s the character of the building. Though I would love to hear your theory on how the HVAC system made music play on the OP’s phone.

                2. SunnyD*

                  Gus, I wouldn’t actually assume that. When people have a reason they stop looking. “Oh, it’s ghosts, everyone knows that, anyway…” means they don’t have to look at other options.

                  It would not shock me if this town ghost story ended with “and then the ghosts burned the house to the ground” or even “and now the workers who died in the fire have joined the ghost posse”.

                  I hope not, sincerely, but assuming rational problem solving on an irrational topic is just not how humans are wired. We’re all irrational to some level, and have to fight our wiring.

                3. yala*

                  “Gus, I wouldn’t actually assume that. When people have a reason they stop looking. “Oh, it’s ghosts, everyone knows that, anyway…” means they don’t have to look at other options. ”

                  Speaking of people who “stopped looking” it seems you stopped looking once you heard “ghost” as well. Because the OP has said in the comments that they HAVE had the wiring checked multiple times.

                  You seem to be making a lot of awful leaps about the kind of person OP is.

                  Just because folks entertain the thought that “maybe haunted” it doesn’t mean they stop looking into the reasons why, unless it’s a completely minor problem (like a poster falling down).

              3. Hiring Mgr*

                Is it ok to mock ALL of these things if we do it equally? Just kidding…I always wondered why it was considered ludicrous to believe in many gods like the Greeks/Romans, but believing in one god somehow made more sense..

                1. Busy*

                  Interesting weird side fact! If you read a lot of what Christians call the “Old Testiment”, you will find that the people of that time did not “mock” the other gods. As a matter of fact, they even acknowledge their existence! They were just considered false (but not in how you think) to the “One True God”. Now thinking of that it that way creates a million more questions though!

                  The formation of what we know as Mainstream Christian Beliefs is actually quite fascinating – and mostly not ever mentioned specifically in the bible at all!

                  (I don’t have a religion and was not raised with one, so religion and its practices fascinate me!)

              4. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                Exactly! People who would rip someone apart for mocking religion are cool with mocking people who believe in ghosts, aliens, etc.

                1. Sam*

                  If it’s a religion, then someone should ask them to stop evangelizing at work. If not, then it’s either being used as a dodge (or, at best, a metonym) for “something I don’t understand the cause of”, in which case more investigation is warranted, or there’s a gap in understanding, where everyone is reproducing the story of the ghost without anyone really knowing how much anyone believes – or how much they should. I can certainly see myself talking about a ghost as explanation for electrical problems, but I’d be horrified if anyone used that to talk about my house being haunted.

                2. Dahlia*

                  @Sam There are PLENTY of times when people talk about religion at work without evangelizing. “My daughter’s christening is this weekend”, “My son is studying for his bar mitzvah”, “My friend from church gave me this recipe”.

                3. Boobookitty*

                  It’s kind of ghosts like you to chime in with your thoughts, Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your House.

                4. Sam*

                  @Dahlia Those are personal, though – if someone started saying that we should have the workplace blessed because our computers were acting up, though, I’d have concerns.

                  Replace “Ghosts” with “Aliens” in any of the comments here. Totally cool to talk about how you spent the weekend searching for aliens, probably not cool to talk about how aliens are deleting your files. That’s better directed at IT.

                5. SunnyD*

                  Sam has it right. If you believe in ghosts/gods/aliens/any other invisible thing in the unverifiable faith area, cool. But if it impacts how you operate, like this OP who is writing in to an advice columnist because it’s so disruptive, that’s when it’s not cool. And can be dangerous! Especially when groupthink is happening.

              5. Courageous cat*

                Well, I mean, some of these are longstanding official religions and some of these are… considered fringe/pseudoscience/new. There’s a difference, especially when it comes to cultural reasons.

                1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  Many religions are fa older than Christianity, Islam, etc. and people mock them (Norse religion, Greek, etc. ANd many much older religions believed in spirits. No difference between believing in ghosts than believing in a god.

              6. Michaela Westen*

                IME people believe what they’re comfortable with, and are extremely resistant to believing what they’re uncomfortable with.

            2. Susana*

              I’m sorry – that was definitely unkind.
              But I stand by my assessment – I realize some people find it fun to talk about ghosts (which is why I mentioned sleepaway camp). But the LW is describing something far more involved – to the point of having haunted-not-haunted as part of the interviewing process. Yes, certain religions might have overlap with the paranormal – but you don’t discuss it at work at all, let alone in an interview. And there’s a difference between having a religious belief and believing that your office itself is a tool or extension of your religion.
              I can work with people who believe in the paranormal, though I do not. I cannot work with people whose answer to unusual or unexplained events is ghosts or magic. It suggest an inability to conduct serious problem-solving.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You are probably working with people who believe in ghosts but just don’t realize it. Again, half of American adults. I’m not sure why it’s that different from working with someone with religious beliefs that don’t line up well with science.

                But I’m not suggesting the OP bring this up in interviews on her own. I’m suggesting a way to respond when candidates ask about it.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  Personally, I keep an open mind on the subject of ghosts. Back in my undergraduate days, I worked security on campus. There was one particular building in which they had a terrible time keeping security people. Lots of people would get away from that assignment as soon as they could. And it wasn’t the hours, or even that the building housed the cadaver labs (well, that might have been the case for some).

                  That building had one particular corridor (NOT near the cadaver labs)…late at night, walking down that corridor, it felt like someone was right behind you. Someone who would do something very nasty if only they could. To me, it always felt like someone was back there, wanting to plunge a knife right between my shoulder blades. (Yes, oddly specific, I know, but that’s how it felt.)

                  I never felt that way in any other building, or any other area in that particular building. And several other people told me, unprompted that the same corridor creeped them out. The building is gone now, and a new building is on that site.

                  I don’t know what it was, and I never actually saw or heard anything. Nor did anyone else, so far as I know. Still…always the same corridor, not objectively different from any other floor in that building.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  That’s similar to a haunting described by a former colleague. The bathroom in her apartment was haunted between one and six am. If she went in there, she felt there were hostile entities who saw her as an intruder. She would apologize if she needed to use the facility and get out as quick as possible.

                3. SunnyD*

                  AnonEMoose, that’s so creepy!!! Aggghhhhh. Makes my neck hair stand up.

                  There is some fascinating psychology reading on chemical emotional trails that impact other people, well after. There are also plenty of accounts of people in prisons/mental health facility who got a creepy feeling and left, and later found that the prisoner/patient was hearing voices telling them to kill them.

                  Emotions are chemical and electrical, and we pick up on it. Human brains actively filter out a lot of overwhelming info, and instead send strong ‘gut feelings’ or 6th sense ‘hunches’ that wise people listen to.

                  I know that when I worked next to a very busy and very intense Holocaust memorial, I had a consistent pattern of uncharacteristic negative emotions and sadness, which consistently disappeared at midday when I went to another worksite. I believe our bodies pick up on things we don’t realize.

                  All to say, maybe not a bad idea to avoid a hallway that your brain shrieks at you to run from.

              2. Lissa*

                How do you know none of your coworkers believe in the paranormal? I know I don’t work with anyone who brings it up a lot but if one of them believes in astrology or that they saw a ghost when they were 10, I would have no way of knowing. It’s really common to not be 100% “ghosts aren’t real” and to have had at least one experience they think is paranormal/supernatural. (and I’m a ghost non-believer who often internally rolls her eyes at someone describing a ghost that is to me clearly mind playing tricks.)

                1. Busy*

                  You would never look at me and think “Man, she believes aliens are real”. Haha. Never in a million years!

                2. Kundor*

                  @Busy: I mean, I would expect anyone who’s actually thought about the issue to conclude that aliens are almost certainly real. Given what we know about the scale of the universe and our single data point of life arising, it would be bizarre beyond belief that it happened nowhere else. I suppose you really mean the belief that aliens have secretly visited Earth?

                3. SunnyD*

                  Busy, believing in ghosts is really different from believing in aliens.

                  It seems like hubris to think that evolution created all this life on earth, and microbes found in space and near deep sea vents, but somehow it couldn’t do that anywhere else in the universe. Aliens are scientifically sound. Ghosts are fun things to imagine.

              3. animaniactoo*

                What about if it wasn’t their first answer, but rather their eventual answer after all of the other usual suspects and a few more besides had been ruled out?

                I ask that in seriousness, because that’s exactly how I stopped scoffing at the idea of the ghosts that lived in my room up at my school. And occasionally escorted us home from center campus. I mean, it’s kind of hard to find another explanation for a second shadow walking beside yours when you’re alone on a dirt road and there’s only one light source; so that even if the feet were touching your shadow’s it wouldn’t be possible for you to be casting both. I was not the only person who had that experience. It’s really easy to believe that somebody else is exaggerating or misunderstanding their environment if not outright making it up. It’s much harder to believe that when it’s your own personal experience.

                1. Anonchivist*

                  Right? When I was a tour guide in historic houses from the 1690s-1720s I didn’t invent footsteps where there shouldn’t have been footsteps or shadows where shadows made no sense. Why would I? I deeply did not want to see or hear either of those things.

                2. yala*

                  Seriously tho. I went to school in Savannah. Marble Boy might have been the pipes in the dorm (might have. But there weren’t any pipes in that area, and I’ve never really hear pipes that sound like that, and it was really REALLY unsettling and only happened when I was the only one in my dorm room), but when something slams repeatedly on the bathroom stall door around midnight, and you can clearly see that no one else is in the bathroom, and the AC didn’t kick on and there’s no wind because the door is closed, and it’s just slamming like it’s trying to get in and you’re all like “um…occupied?”

                  … I mean, I dunno. Maybe there’s an Explanation for it. But I didn’t go into that particular bathroom anymore.

              4. Busy*

                You know you are being black and white and you know you are being unkind, yet you continue? And you call people who believe in ghosts irrational?

                Sometimes you CAN be too logical that it becomes illogical. Ask flat earthers.

                1. JSPA*

                  Irrational can simply be “other than rational,” rather than an insult.

                  Rational (def) “based on or in accordance with reason or logic.”

                  Belief is its own thing; not an operation of logic. So’s love, for that matter. Something can be other-than-rational, and still be worthy of respect and accommodation.

                2. LP A*

                  I wouldn’t worry about it. I used to question the IQ range of people who didn’t believe in ghosts, but I am kinder about it now. It has nothing to do with ghosts or the supernatural at all. This aggressive non-belief is all about self-image. She sees herself as a certain type of person, in her case very scientific, so she can’t allow herself that belief. I’ve seen people who witness a ghost and then turn around and say they still don’t believe in them. Why? Because it would be too scare for them to change the image they have of themselves.

                  There’s also a factor of self-esteem. It’s actually extremely common to look for groups that you can say are beneath you. This raises self-esteem, since you will never be a part of that group and are therefore superior to all of them. They likely get a dose of serotonin every time they insult someone who has any understanding of ghosts. The more groups these people can identify as beneath them, the smarter and more successful they feel.

              5. Lynn Whitehat*

                If you have co-workers who believe in the paranormal, they’re probably keeping it to themselves. I am pretty into tarot reading (not sure if that is included in “paranormal”). I would NEVER bring it up at work. It’s too unlikely to do anything good for me at work, and too likely to trigger a “LOL U R DUM” reaction from someone who just can’t stand that this kind of thing even exists.

                1. Shad*

                  I mean, that’s exactly how Susana is responding here! She’s certainly not the person coworkers would ever mention it to if she’s ever voiced even a fraction of this at work.

                2. AnonEMoose*

                  I’ve actually done tarot readings at work, as part of the annual charity thing. I enjoyed it, although one person I didn’t actually know was like “You’re freaking me out!” Although she did seem to be finding value in what I was telling her, so…maybe something good came out of it.

                3. Clisby*

                  I used to like tarot reading, although I never believed the tarot cards were predicting anything. I found it interesting as a form of … not meditation, but introspection, like looking at the cards and then thinking about what was going on with my life. Sort of a mind-prompt.

                4. AnonEMoose*

                  Reply to Clisby, but out of nesting. Someone I know says that the tarot won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. I like your description of it as a “mind prompt.”

                  When I’m doing a reading for someone else, I simply tell them the meanings of the cards (which can be influenced by the position in the reading and the other cards – I think of tarot as an art, not a science).

                  Relating it to whatever they’re wondering about is up to them…I give people the option of telling me what question they’re asking, or not. Sometimes I have a pretty good idea, based on the cards and the person’s reactions, sometimes I have no clue – but what matters is whether they’re getting perspective on their situation.

                  The situation gets more complicated when the person thinks they’re asking one thing…and the cards basically go “Nuh-uh, we’re going to talk about this other thing…”

                5. SunnyD*

                  Clisby, that sounds really reasonable. People can be incredibly intuitive and perceptive, and a prompted free-wheeling exercise sounds perfect for tapping into that.

              6. yala*

                “I cannot work with people whose answer to unusual or unexplained events is ghosts or magic. It suggest an inability to conduct serious problem-solving.”

                Well, that’s a leap. Also, basically saying the OP has an “inability to conduct serious problem-solving.” Which is probably not the case at all.

                1. Susana*

                  So.. the copy machine keeps going off without anyone pushing a button, or lights go on and off without anyone flipping a switch. I of curse can deal with people who believe in the paranormal. I would have a hard time in an office where those things weren’t fixed because it was assumed ghosts were making it happen.

                2. yala*

                  I mean, from the OP’s comments, it seems like they HAVE tried to fix those problems–they’ve had the wiring checked multiple times.

                  Nobody wants to work in an office where the equipment isn’t reliable, so even for folks who do believe in ghosts, it’s not likely that they’re just going to shrug it off and do nothing about it.

                  now that I think about it, I’d like to know if the lights just go out, or if the switch actually goes down. But either way, it seems really condescending to assume that folks just shrug off an actual repeated problem without trying to fix it just because they think it might be a ghost.

            3. Superstats*

              Wow. Well, that’s a terrifying statistic.

              Kinda explains a lot about America, though. :/

              1. Zillah*

                I don’t think believing in ghosts makes you more or less likely to be a bad person, and just because you believe in ghosts doesn’t mean that you refuse to consider it other explanations for things.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            I worked with a woman who was afraid enough of the paranormal that she was afraid to be alone in the hospital because there was a morgue on the premises and occasionally insisted that I accompany her to the lab when it started to get dark out at night. Let me reinforce that the morgue was not near the lab- just in one of the buildings within the same city block. So, while I’m extremely skeptical of the presence of an actual haunting- it’d be a good idea to tell someone like her about a seeming/widely believed haunting in a new place of work. She’d have been petrified in this workplace, and I’d have had to murder her and add to the paranormal clutter about the place.

            1. Sharrbe*

              And, I mean, not that you would ever tell her this, but the entire Earth is essentially one big graveyard full of trauma and death. Any place could theoretically be haunted if such a thing existed. For all we know the local Target could be built on a site where people met untimely demises. Ghosts can be roaming home goods.

              1. EH*

                Right? Any place that was colonized has 110% had horrifying shit happen there, and even places without that particular nastiness still had awful things happen. Plague, famine, war, et al.

                1. pentamom*

                  Which would be 100% of the occupied earth, because anywhere there are people, there used to be different people, and the transition generally wasn’t nice.

                2. Gaia*

                  Of all the things homo sapiens are known for, “peaceful transition of dominant population within a single geographic location” will never be one.

              2. Alienor*

                I think about that a lot actually. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for about 10 years, and there are multiple locations where I know people have died from car crashes, heart attacks, etc., but someone who was new to the area would just see a random piece of sidewalk. I imagine that’s true for every place, and the longer it’s been continuously inhabited the more likely it is–my city’s only been here for 80 or so years, but imagine how many people have died in a place like New York or London or Rome.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  She was afraid of living in NYC because the buildings were so old. But yeah. I didn’t bring up the fact that we all live in the city of the dead, and that if I were a ghost I wouldn’t haunt a hospital?

                2. londonedit*

                  Yup, in London we have plague pits for a start, and half the city was bombed in the Blitz. Plenty of death there. And that’s not even counting all the ordinary deaths we’ve had since pre-Roman times!

                3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  One of the sites my company worked on a few years ago was a large cemetery in London. It was on a few news sites because it was associated with a famous mental hospital, sort of — it was in the same area but IIRC not directly related. Anyway there was a woman who claimed to be able to hear the ghosts of the people who were buried there screaming because their graves were being walked on and disturbed.

                  Lady, if you can hear ghosts screaming because their graves are being walked on then I don’t know how you can stand to live in London. There are cemeteries all over the place and not all of them are obvious. Many of them are under modern roads, buildings, and parks. And that doesn’t even count the Roman or prehistoric ones.

              3. Kt*

                I’m not sure what kind of argument you’re making, exactly, since I know folks who seem very spiritually sensitive, have felt that way in weird places (physics lab, strip mall) and upon investigation have found the physics lab was the site previously of some pretty horrific medical stuff and the strip mall was the site of a civil war massacre.

              4. LJay*

                In one of the cities I’ve lived in, people believed that the Walmart was haunted because it was apparently previously the site of an orphanage where a bunch of kids died in a hurricane 100 years ago. They claimed you could hear kids running up and down the toy section and playing at night even when the store was empty.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I’m glad they’re having fun! That wouldn’t bother me at all. I think I’d only be bothered if a ghost tried to get hostile or intrusive with me.

              5. Tin Cormorant*

                I had my stepsister convinced our house was haunted in high school, because sometimes the doors would slam on their own. The house that my dad built only a few years before, on a barren bit of dirt on top of a hill. She couldn’t prove someone wasn’t murdered there in the last few thousand years, but I’m pretty sure those doors were just installed a bit off.

                1. Anon for this one*

                  My great aunt died in my living room and my uncle was born in the second bedroom. The house has been in my family since 1950.

                2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  For real. Old and sick people died at home all the time until quite recently. I can see being bothered by a violent or tragic death but people dying in houses is a pretty normal thing.

            2. Tiny Soprano*

              Absolutely! Enough people are frightened of the paranormal that I think it goes in the same category as spiders. I love spiders myself and don’t think they’re scary. But if I was in charge of a workplace where there was a spider problem, and someone mentioned arachnophobia in their interview, I would feel obligated to disclose that we got spiders. If you have a creaky building/a few inexplicable goings on/town rumours and an applicant is scared of ghosts, it’s in their interest to know in a matter-of-fact way.

            3. SunnyD*

              “She’d have been petrified in this workplace, and I’d have had to murder her and add to the paranormal clutter about the place.”


          4. I Speak for the Trees*


            Yes, that felt a little unkind, but I assure you that we are all adults with advanced degrees and some in cases Ivy League educations. Honestly, most of us are pretty matter-of-fact about it all, but we can’t help what we hear and experience.

          5. pleaset*

            I don’t believe in this stuff. BUT about 20 years ago there was such a bizarre occurrence where I work – a strange wind inside the space and windows rattling. A few people commented “What was that” and one person said something bad might have happened.

            Then 20 minutes later we got a phone call that the fiance of a consultant who was often in our office had killed themself (the call was from overseas, trying urgently to reach this person). So I try to keep an open mind.

            Perhaps it was a coincidence, but it was odd.

            1. VictorianCowgirl*

              I never explain why I chose moonstone vs garnet vs agate or whatever but always pick my jewelry for the day by what stones’ qualities may help me most.

              And other various activities :)

        2. Anon for this one*

          Our “uninvited guest” used to talk to us and it wasn’t mumbling, either. It was full on things like “surprise!” in the middle of my hallway (live in a home that doesn’t have close neighbors and no way was it anywhere else) and “I love you!”

            1. Anon for this one*

              Even my BIL, a non-believe, got freaked out one day after the hall door slammed by itself when he was there on his own. He was replacing locks and doorknobs on my doors, and my sister and I left to go get us lunch. He said the hall door slammed so hard it bounced in the frame. He said the wind wasn’t blowing so he ruled that out and then spent the rest of the time jumping up and down at various points in the hall trying to make the door do that again but had no luck.

          1. mcr-red*

            So did you get to a point where you were like, “Stop it, Dennis!” or “I love you too, Dennis.”

            1. Anon for this one*

              I would tell it to knock it off, and it would stop for a while and then start up again. Once, I was trying to open my bedroom door (was in the bedroom), and the door wouldn’t open. It was like someone was holding it shut, and I could see it wasn’t locked and wasn’t sticking anywhere (I looked). It just would not budge. I finally said “stop it!” and the door opened immediately. Never did it again, either. Stuff would get moved to weird places but never had anything like lights flickering or anything that could be an animal. Unless animals have somehow mastered talking. :)

              I finally had someone cleanse the house (tried smudging but that only helped for a little while before it would crank up again), and I haven’t had an issue since. No talking, no stuff being moved, nothing. It’s been rather peaceful and feels like a weight was lifted off my home. I don’t know how else to describe it. It just had a heavy energy that disappeared. It wasn’t malevolent or anything but extremely mischievous.

              To be honest, I don’t know that I would believe it, either, if I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              For the same reason Jesus and other god figures are,

              1. Stat*

                So, because far too many people are irrational, superstitious and poor at logic. Makes sense, unfortunately.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Stat is uncomfortable with the paranormal and trying to reason it away. This is common.

                2. yala*

                  No, they’re just calling religious folks ” irrational, superstitious and poor at logic.” Which seems really inappropriate.

          1. NothingIsLittle*

            Probably because, while it is relatively easy to disprove a number of paranormal occurrences, the feelings they instill in people result in haunted places being treated differently than regular businesses, which in turn changes the way that business must be conducted in those places. Given that this is a website answering questions about work-related issues, perhaps Alison wanted to answer the relevant and work-related question, “How do you do business in a building people think is haunted?”

            Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts or not, the phenomena that certain people have experienced in that building is causing a disturbance in their business life. And, frankly, flickering lights like OP mentioned would be a disturbance in any business setting, because it can be an indicator of other issues in the building (like failing electrical wires or pests chewing on vital portions of the building’s structure). Issues that are somewhat urgent, but may not be considered until it’s too late because people have written off their cause as “ghost.”

            Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, there’s a whole thread below including useful and constructive comments about what could help the OP, and choosing to make snarky comments instead reflects poorly on your judgment. What valentine said solicited more information that could help solve the OP’s problem instead of dismissing their concerns out of hand.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I like this, animaniactoo, because ghosts or no ghosts, it’s just good psychology! It normalizes the weird unexplained stuff in a benign way that allows you to work there.

      2. MoopySwarpet*

        I worked at a place that was haunted. Predominantly benign mischief . . . swinging chandeliers, sightings out of the corner of your eye, things falling off shelves, things tipping out of your hand, etc. The biggest “incident” was when an employee fell off the roof. However, it was after hours and drinking alone was involved . . . 95% sure that was good old fashioned idiocy, but maybe Edgar didn’t like the drunken disrespect of “his” building.

        We did a lot of research and are pretty sure we figured out who our ghost was. Funny enough, the weird things happened significantly less after we did so. Sometimes a ghost just wants to be heard.

      3. Anonon doo doo doo doo doo*

        My high school students named the ghost that lives in my classroom back in 2015, and the legend has replicated itself years later! Sure. lots of the weird stuff that happens (sink turns on by itself, etc) probably has a scientific explanation, but this is more fun!

      4. Camilla*

        Really? It’s hard to believe that so many gullible people exist, let alone that they are gutsy enough to actually ask about the “haunting”. I would just shut that conversation down with the aggressive eye-rolling it deserves!

    2. Michelle*

      I work in a science museum and have staff that swear we have a ghost. Before we expanded, we had a small gift shop and sold the usual souvenirs. We had a stand that had miner helmets on it. You could bump into it, kids run past it and those helmets never moved. About once a month, an alarm would trip in the middle of the night and the manager who lived closest would always go meet the police and wait for them to clear the building. Every single time one of those miner helmets had magically fallen off the stand in the middle of the night and tripped the alarm. We tried moving them and once even took them off the stand and put them on a shelf. Alarm would got tripped, police cleared the building and one the helmets “fell” off a shelf and tripped the alarm.

      Once we expanded and got a theater in our building, more than one staff member claims to have been touched/brushed by a ghost and/or “felt” something. We had a security staff member, Neil. Neil was a tall, muscled, Army-type (as in nerves of steel and not easily scared). He claims that the ghost tried to push him off a second-story balcony in the theater and he steadfastly refused to go back in there. He ended finding a new job and resigning a few months later.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I remember you posting another time about the guy almost getting pushed off the balcony in the theater! I’m glad he wasn’t hurt.

      2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        “He claims that the ghost tried to push him off a second-story balcony in the theater and he steadfastly refused to go back in there.”

        Consider: it might not have been an actual spirit, but a misunderstood genius living under the theater and using his extensive knowledge of secret passages to frighten the cast, extort money from the theater owners, and secretly tutor one of the chorus girls in vocal training.

          1. Julia*

            I thought it was the Phantom of the Opera. Which Terry Pratchett book do you mean? I wanna go read it.

        1. Anne Elliot*

          And years later, someone may have the opportunity to attend an auction at the old theater, and bid on a papier-mache musical box in the shape of a barrel organ or a chandelier in pieces.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          And he would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

    3. LawfulNeutral*

      If your phone is playing Kansas, definitely call Sam & Dean. (Or invest in rock salt and holy water.)

      Now for my personal experience. I worked in a haunted courthouse. Over 100 years old, and it used to be the city jail, plus in ye olde western times they would hang the condemned in the space that was now our parking lot. When I first started there a lot of the other staff made comments about the ghosts and the noises and the weird stuff. I think they were trying to freak me out (I was younger and female, traits not shared by most of the staff).

      Naming the ghosts really did help ease my anxiety. When I had to be there alone, I would talk to the most famous ghost, and make “deals” with her. “I’m going to work in this office Rita. You can party in the Judge’s chambers.” I would also remind her that if she could just wait until Monday, she could bother my male coworkers, who undoubtedly irked her more than I did. Illogical? Sure. But, I liken it to my long-held belief as a child that my blanket could protect me from monsters. Really, feeling psychologically comfortable in the space makes it feel 80% less haunted.

    4. mcr-red*

      I met a woman who is very into the paranormal through work, and she told me the same thing – Don’t go to haunted places and use a Ouija board to talk to the ghosts. I don’t know where I fall in the belief spectrum, but yeah, NEVER doing that!

      1. Clisby*

        Why? I mean, I think Ouija boards and ghosts are just nonsense, but if I actually believed in them, seems like a Ouija board could be a good way to talk to ghosts. (I do believe in Ouija boards in the sense that they exist – I have one. I just think they’re decorative boards.)

        1. Kelsi*

          Some people feel REALLY strongly that Ouija boards invite negative/harmful spirits or energies to pay more attention to the person using the board.

          Other people (yo!) have used them many times with no particular ill effects (unless you count the time as teenagers the board told us all–a bunch of atheists–to go to church lol).

          Yet other people believe that Ouija boards work entirely by the people holding the planchette subconsciously pushing it to spell out something meaningful.

          Regardless of where you fall in the debate, any time you mention Ouija boards, someone will turn up to tell you in a Very Serious Tone that YOU SHOULD NEVER USE THEM OR DIRE THINGS WILL HAPPEN.

        2. mcr-red*

          She said because then you can invite nasty things back home with you (if you’re elsewhere) or you’re basically egging it on at home. And if you have a haunting at home and it’s bothering you, the best thing to do is ignore it and not feed into it.

  2. AGirlHasNoScreenName*

    Old houses often have electric, plumbing, and HVAC issues which can cause issues with the lights and various knocking noises. Additionally, the settling of the building over a century in addition to any moisture issues might have made some surfaces unlevel, which can cause objects to move and doors to shut seemingly randomly. It’s also worth looking into checking carbon monoxide and radon levels, just in case.

    You may find checking/fixing these things will lead to a reduction in paranormal activity.

    1. Logical Larry*

      This is EXACTLY what I was thinking, especially based on the descriptions mentioned by the letter writer. There could also be animals in the attic or ducts. Exterminators might be worth looking into.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Exterminator, yes.

        I used to work at a university. As it expanded over the years, it absorbed some old neighborhood houses and used them for admin offices. One of them was generally considered to be haunted. Lights flickered, staff swore they heard weird noises, and things would get moved around. And then one day a raccoon fell through the supposedly “sealed” fireplace during a staff meeting. Unsurprisingly, the “paranormal” activity ended after several visits from the exterminators.

          1. SunnyD*

            I just laughed, loudly, at this and then remembered I’m waiting for people to join my webex call. Fortunately nobody else was on yet.

            That poor raccoon! And the faces of the people, just imagining it makes me laugh.

          1. Manon*

            I’ve read stories about “hauntings” that turned out to be people secretly living in walls, attics, or basements, which is arguably scarier than a ghost.

            1. Beth Jacobs*

              Can you point me in the direction of a few. It’s scary as hell, but also morbidly fascinating…

              1. GoryDetails*

                Re hauntings that turned out to be people living in attics, etc: one famous case involved Theodore Edward Coneys, who commited a murder in Denver in the 1940s and then hid out in the attic of the victim’s now-empty house for months, with rumors of ghosts arising when someone heard noises.

                And then there’s Dolly Oesterreich, who hid her lover in her attic for years in the early 1900s, under the nose (er, over the head?) of her husband, who certainly wondered about some strange noises and mysteriously missing items – though I don’t know if he considered it an actual haunting. (He probably should have; things did not end well for him.)

                So if you have a crawlspace in your attic, maybe check it out now and then! {wry grin}

                1. TootsNYC*

                  add to that the fact that it could be really, really dark pre-electricity, and the possibility of pranks goes up.

              2. Damn it, Hardison!*

                There is an episode of the podcast Criminal that focused on this: episode 71, A Bump in the Night. Also, episode 81, Unexpected Guests.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                Decades ago a friend’s mother would bake large amounts of cookies and put them in the basement to cool.
                She laid them out on trays in an orderly fashion before putting them downstairs.

                Well, she could not figure out why some of the cookies were missing later on. Since the cookies were in an orderly pattern it was easy to see how many cookies were missing.

                She was the only person at home during the day.
                Eventually, it was discovered there was an escaped convict living in her basement.
                He must have been hungry and totally overwhelmed by the smell of the cookies.
                Yes, the police got him and he never hurt her in any way, except for eating the cookies.

                1. Iconic Bloomingdale*

                  This is infinitely more terrifying than a supposed ghost in the basement. Glad she wasn’t hurt.

                2. SpaceySteph*

                  As someone born and raised in basement-less swamplands, this just confirms for me that I am right to be terrified of basements and find them all creepy.

            2. Lady Jay*

              Whooo, boy, yes to this.

              Personally, I’m not one to worry about the paranormal, but I DO worry about flesh and blood evil. The creepiest stories are always the ones when the clown statue turns out to be a real person, not the ones about a ghost.

              1. Dankar*

                There are a few “paranormal investigators” on YouTube that I swear have disturbed someone squatting or doing drugs in an abandoned site. Those are always the creepiest to me, because while they’re muttering about trying to figure out what the “ghost” is saying, I’m positive someone living is watching them from not too far away.

                (Not that the homeless are inherently dangerous, but it seems to me that a drugged-out or scared someone is a lot more dangerous than a ghost!)

              2. Tiny Soprano*

                My current house has had issues with rats in the walls. For me I find it much more upsetting than the idea of a ghost making those scratching sounds. Fortunately though you can bait rats, and get plug-in devices that make a sound they find offputting. If it was a ghost… maybe a priest? Salt?

          2. JSPA*

            A wall full of carpenter ants can make a surprising amount of noise, as well as leading to weird water stains, smells, and shifting walls. Bats in the eaves, rats in the pipes (recurrently in my sump pump, trying to figure a lasting fix for that one). Unshielded transmitting old electronic devices act upon modern electronics in strange ways.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep, my husband was really good at scrambling radio and tv signals if someone played their radio or tv too loud.
              His tactic was if it went to loud it either got garbled or it shut off. The person learned if they kept the volume down their tv/radio would continue working correctly.

        1. staceyizme*

          Oh, dear! Critters and varmints in an office are no joke! A friend of mine spent days cleaning up after a momma opossum and her babies that fell through into her office. She called for extermination and carpet cleaning services but had to sanitize her own computer and desk. As the bookkeeper, it wasn’t her role, really. But it was that or late payroll, so…

        2. Bunny Girl*

          I work with wildlife and I do just want to say please try to check with local wildlife rehabilitators instead of calling an exterminator. Most of them have ways and resources to get rid of nuisance issues instead of killing the animal.

          1. VictorianCowgirl*

            Thank you for this.
            Seeing the word exterminator used instead of animal control or wild animal relocators was really jarring.

            1. JSPA*

              Many animals can’t legally be relocated due to being potential disease vectors. So whatever the service calls itself…the end result is often the same. (They relocate to where they kill them off-site.) Commonly the case in the large section of the country where raccoons are a rabies vector, but also true where the animal’s fleas or ticks are vectors.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Yes, there needs to be a balance between taking care of animals and protecting ourselves (and other animals) from disease or overpopulation.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          Here’s my funny story: I had a dollhouse, full of toy dinosaurs, where the dinosaurs kept moving around and being knocked over, and sometimes the dollhouse would open and close itself, but only in winter (and late fall/early spring). We finally discovered the non-paranormal culprit after moving the dollhouse off of the heating vent.

          ‘Twas a snake.

          1. Thany*

            I was not expecting that ending to the story! Was it a pet snake? Or wild snake that took up residence? What kind of snake?

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Wild black rat snake! Only a four-footer, not one of the really long boys, but he was still sneakier than you’d expect a snake that big to be.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I didn’t mind, beyond the part where it’s not super healthy for snakes to not overwinter when they’re supposed to (and the pooping in the bathtub). Unlike a ghost, he was tidy, unobtrusive, placid, and took care of house pests. No venom, didn’t bite anyone (I mean, he wasn’t happy to be evicted, but manhandling a wild snake 100% guarantees a bite, so that doesn’t count), and even if he’d been a full 6+ feet the most he could’ve done via constriction would’ve been to imitate a particularly bratty garden hose. There’s definitely worse snakes to be loose in the house.

              Also, snakes can’t download heavy metal to your phone!

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          We had this same problem. We had lights flickering and our AC started acting up. A few weeks later, we found a dead rat in the ceiling. His posse had been gnawing at all our electrical and telecom wires.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Our air conditioner met its untimely end due to a rat chewing on the wires. I sometimes hope that creature got a good shock since it cost me about $800.

      1. Radio Girl*

        Yes! All old buildings have noises. I worked for two non-profits that were in old buildings – one in the hearse garage of a former funeral home and the other an old depot. Worked alone and heard lots of weird noises. Didn’t care if the buildings were haunted, as I had work to do!

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I would also encourage the Letter Writer to check these things. Partly as a safety issue. However, as someone who also worked in a place once that had a reputation for being haunted, I can say that people did bring it up a lot and asked about it. So, while the staff was evenly split on the issue, we did need to mention it to prospective hires, because the stories were very much part of the local landscape.

      Personally, I worked late often enough that I had a few moments where, while I never was afraid, I certainly did have the feeling that I was not alone. And occasionally things went missing or ended up in very odd places with no explanation. So, while I probably will never know if house was haunted or not, it was something we needed a response too.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        You would have to be very careful if you were the one bringing it up. Like a “haha, some people think it’s haunted and that bothers people we interview sometimes.” I would not act like it was a super serious warning, because that could really put some people off. I wouldn’t mind working someplace people thought was haunted, but I really wouldn’t want to work someplace that all my coworkers were certain was haunted.

        1. Lucy*

          I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that many of my co-workers thought was haunted, because regardless of the truth or otherwise of the belief, I wouldn’t want to be distracted by noises/disturbances or even discussions thereof. Like the happy hour workplace of the earlier letter, it simply wouldn’t be a good fit for me.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I think this is the main thing. At the end of the day whether the haunting is real or not, or whether ghosts are real or not, if the story has grown strong enough legs that people are going to ask bout it, you are going to need to address it.

        It is also fair to let folks who are interviewing and ask about it know the reality behind the stories they’ve heard, so yeah, sometimes the lights flicker, or the tap turns on, but no one has been hurt or felt in danger. Even if you think they are stupid for thinking it’s a ghost turning on the tap, rather than old pipes, if they are going to have a mini heart attack every time it happens they may want to find a job elsewhere.

    3. CC*

      I’m glad you said this. The rumors about the place being haunted leads people to attribute what would usually might be thought of as faulty wiring/etc. to ghosts.

    4. Oh So Very Anon*

      This. I once had an office in an old mansion, circa 1800’s. Noises, unintelligible voices, stuff moving around. We discovered there was at least one family of raccoons living in the walls, and the hugest bee hive in the ceiling. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of pounds of honey dripping up there.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I first read this as you having a job circa 1800s, not that the office was built then and wondered if maybe you we’re the one haunting the place.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Re: my earlier comment of if I were a ghost I hope I download heavy metal or future equivalent, I also sincerely hope I post on internet forums!

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Spoiler: Someone exorcises me because they don’t like my opinion on the latest Marvel movie!!

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Captain Awkward has a running thing where she will describe a toxic situation as a house full of bees – and you actually worked in one!

    5. AGirlHasNoScreenName*

      After some thought, I realize this comment may come across as flippant or dismissive of those who believe in ghosts. That is not my intention. Although I personally do not believe in ghosts, I am very concerned about the safety hazards that may be present given the LW’s account.

      Faulty wiring may be a fire hazard. Faulty plumbing and HVAC could mean leaks and subsequent mold which is a health hazard. Surfaces not being level may pose trip hazards (not to mention a hazard for anyone standing under an item which may crash to the floor). And the “more harrowing accounts” from previous residents and hearing things with no visible source may or may not be a result of high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deleterious to one’s health to the point of permanent disability or lethality. And radon should be checked regardless.

      Whether or not these issues are actually caused by ghosts is less important than ensuring there are no safety issues for you, your co-workers, or your guests. If the house gets a clean bill of health on all points and the activity still persists, at least you can be assured that you’re safe.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I didn’t think it was, although I’m not a believer, either. But even if ghosts are real and this place has them, the earthly safety stuff needs to be addressed. Our neighbor’s house burned to the ground because of animals chewing the wiring. She had been having issues with flickering lights and weird stuff for months but . . . I have no idea why she didn’t address it, but she didn’t, and they lost the house and five cars.

      2. bunniferous*

        Although I do believe there are things out there with no logical explanation (some call em ghosts, I have other names for them) I agree with AGirlHasNoScreenName. I would at the very least have the electrical checked out.

        Once you have checked for safety hazards (and raccoons)…if stuff still goes on, that is what exorcists are for.

      3. Anonny*

        TBF, even if you do believe in ghosts, carbon monoxide kills quickly and quietly. Murderous ghosts have a flair for the dramatic, which means it’ll take longer and be less certain. Checking for carbon monoxide is the priority here.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah I am very concerned this building has old knob and tube in the walls, possibly despite modern-looking electrical in the places where things are visible. I’m not saying they ought to tear out all the drywall, but knob and tube connected to modern stuff is super dangerous. Even if there isn’t knob and tube, if critters have been chewing through wiring in the walls, this is a disaster waiting to happen. They need to rule that out. I saw someone above suggested they likely did proper inspections before buying the place, but that doesn’t really cover this at all. Every home inspector worth anything will have disclaimers up and down that the inspection does not cover what is inside walls and they can’t comment on the condition of what they can’t see. And this situation definitely sounds like a “should be concerned about what’s inside the walls” scenario.

    6. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes, this. Lights turning on and off on their own is only a few steps away from wires shorting out in the walls and burning the place down. Get a thorough inspection.

    7. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      There’s a Canadian TV show called “Paranormal Home Inspectors” where a licensed home inspector is paired with a psychic and a paranormal investigator to determine if a house is haunted or not. While the show ignores the home inspector every time (because it’s bad reality TV), it does show you his process and reasoning, and “did you realize this door had a lock on it and that might be why you keep being locked in?” is useful info for potential hauntees.

      1. Wordnerd*

        Yes! I came here to look for someone mentioning this show. There’s a youtuber named Jenny Nicholson who does a loving and hilarious takedown of this show.

      1. Morticia*

        The tv show Paranormal State did an investigation where the haunting turned out to be a CO leak. I was kind of impressed, and it possibly saved those people’s lives.

    8. NothingIsLittle*

      Please, please check the safety of your office, OP! I personally believe in ghosts (and am fairly certain I saw one in a Dutch castle), but most bumps in the night have common sense explanations. In the house I grew up in, one of the jousts in my bedroom had warped, and stepping in just the right place would open the door. I spent a few weeks terrified! We also figured out that the weird scraping sounds in our ceiling were flying squirrels.

      Given the age of the house, it’s probably best to have professionals take a look at the property to make sure that it’s safe. As other commenters have mentioned, the lights flickering could be an electrical issue and could result in a fire. I’m not discounting it being haunted, but it’s easier to diagnose and eliminate electrical problems or rodents than a haunting.

    9. RabbitRabbit*

      Agreed on carbon monoxide – there’s a TED talk by Carrie Poppy where she talks about living in an old house and having paranormal encounters. She felt spooky feelings, feeling like she was being watched, felt pressure in her chest, heard odd whooshes and whispers. She asked a skeptical ghost hunter forum, and someone there said carbon monoxide poisoning. Bingo.

      1. whingedrinking*

        I love Ross and Carrie! They have a great episode of their podcast where they go through a supposedly haunted house and find all the reasons why the creepy stuff was happening. What I liked best about it was that they pointed out that far from considering them killjoy-spoilsport-fuddy-duddies, the homeowner was extremely grateful to find out he didn’t have a vengeful ghost living in his house and he just needed to invest in some doorstops.

    10. Classic Rando*

      Nth-ing this. My house was built in the 1850’s, is next to a cemetery, and was owned by a coffin maker. A previous owner claimed to have seen some ghosts, but the flickering lights that we had recently were just from a loose neutral wire. We also had a mouse problem our first winter, and had some extensive exclusion work done to keep them from getting inside going forward. Definitely have an electrician and pest control come in and make sure everything is tight/sealed/etc.

    11. Blushingflower*

      I think that could also be a way to answer the questions in the future.
      “Yes, there were rumors that this place was haunted; we had some inspectors in and discovered a colony of squirrels in the attic that explained a lot of the weird noises! Don’t worry, we relocated them.”
      “Yes, sometimes the light flickers, don’t worry, we’ve had an electrician in and the wiring is fine!”
      Like, maybe it is ghosts, I don’t know, but it’s worth checking on tall the other infrastructure stuff just in case! Maybe it is ghosts and they’re trying to warn you that the wiring’s faulty!

      1. Cathie Fonz*

        “Maybe it is ghosts and they’re trying to warn you that the wiring’s faulty!”

      2. Pommette!*

        This idea delights me. Mostly because this is 100% what the ghost version of some of my favorite people would do.
        Floating scales! Eerie lights circling the bedroom ceiling! Ominous sounds coming from overhead!
        Oh that’s Grandpa’s ghost telling you to empty the eavestroughs and to inspect your roof for damage, already! Don’t you now that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

        1. starsaphire*

          Now I am totally inspired to write a story about a young, hip couple being haunted by the ghost of a Grandpa who keeps moaning things like “A stitch in tiiiime saaaves niiiine!” and digging their receipts out of the trash so they don’t screw up their taxes.

    12. Sara without an H*

      +1. I belong to a religious tradition that has professional exorcists — BUT, before you can get permission to have an exorcism done, you need to show that you’ve tried to eliminate any possible natural causes. So please, have the building thoroughly inspected and correct any issues with wiring, plumbing, HVAC, or wildlife. This may eliminate a lot of the “paranormal” activity.

      But as to what made the OP’s phone start playing heavy metal music — there I’m stumped.

      1. curly sue*

        Anything that connects to wifi can be accessed remotely. I got my better half that way once while I was at an overseas conference. Our printer was networked and accessible through google print, and his favourite thing to do when I’m out of town is stay up late and watch all the really scary horror movies that I find too intense.

        So about 11:30 pm, I sent a file to the living room printer. It just said BOO, in large type.

        I got the best phone call *ever* about a minute after that, and he still snickers about it occasionally years later. No ghosts, just an easy remote prank.

        1. Classic Rando*

          Ha! My husband once accidentally opened the receiver management app on his phone at work, which caused the receiver in our living room to turn on “by itself” and start streaming music. I don’t believe in ghosts, but that freaked me out for a couple minutes until he texted me explaining it lol

          1. The New Wanderer*

            We have an Alexa and one of the known problems is that it will sometimes start speaking as if in response to something no one asked.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              One of our Alexae spent a couple months in unplugged time out after she randomly informed us that no, she doesn’t work for the CIA.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Wow, that is creepy. I don’t think I want to use Alexae – even though I have nothing to hide from the CIA.
                Do you remember when TVs were switching over to digital? There was talk among the less tech-savvy that the government would use digital access to record and spy on what we watched. I never believed this.
                I had an old TV with a digital converter box on top. One day when I was eating lunch and the TV was *off*, the power light on the converter box came on. It was being accessed.
                After that I unplugged it when I wasn’t using it. I still do that to save money, I turn off the power strip with my TV and stereo when I’m not home.

                1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  Someone certainly is keeping track of what you watch, but it is not the government. It is the company collecting data so they can decide what programs to keep and what advertising to sell.

              2. Chinookwind*

                Our haunting has the best irony. Neighbors ended up getting the same type of blue tooth speaker we have for our tv. I guess I chose the wrong speaker set up and accidentally streamed the voices of Sam and Dean to them a few times before they figured out what the issue was.

                1. yala*

                  HA! That reminds me of these computer speakers I had back in college. Sometimes when they were off or all the way down (I can’t remember which, but I think it was off, and to avoid it, I’d just keep them on and turned all the way down), I would pick up a Spanish channel.

                  I always figured it was some local thing, maybe someone in our dorm (we all could see each other’s iTunes, which was a cool way to hear new music), but they still did that when I moved back to my home state, 12 hours away.

                  Never did figure out what the deal was.

          2. Sara without an H*

            This is fascinating. I’ve deliberately avoided the “internet of things,” so this is all new to me.

          3. Environmental Compliance*

            I got my husband like that one time. He had *insisted* on a smart TV, but he doesn’t have a smart phone. So he only considered the internet streaming capabilities of the TV….didn’t realize that me, with my smartphone, could stream direct to the TV.

            I don’t remember what he was doing, but he did get really, really confused on why the TV was suddenly playing Mah-nah-meh-nah at random. (Until he finally was looking when it showed the message that it was streaming from a Samsung device.)

        2. LJay*

          Yeah, I can activate my Roomba via my phone and I’ve considered starting it remotely outside of its scheduled time a few times when I’m away on business just to sort of irritate my boyfriend.

        3. Not A Morning Person*

          Long ago when I had roommates, I was alone in the house one evening watching a scary movie. I started hearing scratching noises in the room and it sounded like something was trying to get in and I was terrified and afraid to get up and check it out.
          When one of the roommates finally came home and found me cowering on the couch, I told him what I was hearing and he started laughing. I had a brass cricket box on a corner table and he had caught a cricket and put it in the box earlier that day as a prank. It was jumping around and trying to get out. We let it go outside after he told me about it. I didn’t think we were haunted, but I did not want to get up and check out the sound all by myself!

    13. Zeez*

      Yes, PLEASE get this checked out… I don’t necessarily disbelieve paranormal activity, but the combination of scratching, electrical issues and old house scream potential animal infestation induced wiring problem. If there is damage to the wiring that can lead to very dangerous electrical fires very quickly, and is something the LW at least needs to rule out.

    14. Pippa*

      Yep. Check the wiring and structure, and if nothing turns up, then consider whether you may be in a lost Parks and Rec episode. If so, this is all definitely some plot of April’s.

    15. Adminx2*

      Our place is almost 300 years old and ZERO straight lines exist anymore. Add that to weak magnets and every cupboard and regular door acts haunted all the time.
      Which has nothing to do with the fire alarm randomly turning off on and off JUST in our area and none of the others it’s actually connected to with zero other electrical quirks and the actual regular footsteps you can hear.
      It’s great to check all the bases, but sometimes there’s no bases left. *shrug*

  3. Earthwalker*

    Slightly off topic, but as someone who’s lived in an old-ish house with similar weird goings-on, I suggest you recommend that your boss get an exorcism done by a qualified electrician. When things turn themselves off and on and no one is there, you have more rational concerns than ghosts.

    1. Celeste*

      Agree strongly; even if old age doesn’t bother wiring, vermin can and do. Electrical fires are the stuff of nightmares.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          That’s what our house has – the former owner was a mechanic, who fancied himself an electrician. I’ve been able to deal with the constant lightbulbs blowing out by switching over to LED bulbs. Thankfully, ALL the LEDs in my kitchen have less wattage / power draw than a single one of the old bulbs, AND they don’t heat up. So, no more burning smell in the stairwells.

          Amazing what a little electrical exorcism will do.

          Similarly – I now have an exterminator on speed dial – that took care of the mice problem. (I offered to get a free range snake, but nobody wanted to take me up on that deal).

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I must say, free-range black rat snakes are a miracle in keeping a place clear of rodents overwinter. Never had a problem until we evicted ours… except in the warmer months when he went outside to hang out.

            1. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

              How long did your snake squat in your dollhouse? Very curious about this.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                Two, three years, maybe? Although it was when we first moved in, so there’s no telling how long he’d been sneaking in before we lived there. He spend the next five years after that banging around in the gutter trying to find another way in, poor guy.

        2. Busy*

          I have lived in haunted houses (omg, if this place were full of believers, the stories I could tell you!!!!!), and I currently live in a place that is old, was remodeled and probably poorly lol. You know the difference. I don’t bat an eye at the cracks and noises in my house. Or that the video games or cable boxes turn on by themselves. Its when they turn on while it is unplugged when I get worried.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I had a tv at one point that turned itself on over and over again one night. We had just finished watching The Exorcist. (The ridiculous that night kept ratcheting up and I ended up a freaked out sobbing mess on the floor by the end of it, but it’s a long and absurd story.) When relating the story the next day, the friend who had given me the tv was like “oh, it just does that sometimes, didn’t I tell you?” No, no you did not. However, I had that tv for a total of about four years, it had never done that before, and it never did it again after. Just that one night.

          2. Ermintrude*

            Please do! Or promise to come back for the Hallowe’en thread (my country will be suiciding itself on that night so it will be nice to have something else to read).

          3. yala*

            Yeah, after college my friends and I lived in my Maw-Maw’s old house for a while. We freaked ourselves out a few times early on, but mostly just for fun. There were flickering lights from the attic–the sun coming in at the right angle to hit the fan. The bathroom sink in my Maw-Maw’s old bedroom (unused) turned itself on once, but that was because of issues with the pipes. We joked about “ghost squirrels” stealing the silverware or knocking things down, but it was just an old house that had some slightly freaky bits to it.

            Compared to the dorms I lived in in Savannah that were *not* really that old (one of them had only been built a few years before I moved there) and didn’t look particularly freaky…but when stuff happened…there really wasn’t an explanation to be found for it.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Amen! Old building, old wiring, that’s the stuff of an impromptu bonfire when you least expect it.

    3. WellRed*

      Intermittment wifi at my house until the tech came and said there were “signs of chewing.”

    4. Not All*

      Soooooooo much this!
      Aside from the fire risk (real and high), you’re also likely cause unnecessary wear on anything electronic you have plugged in from the power fluxes, including your personal cell phones & electronics that you charge there.

      You listed exactly zero things that aren’t part of an old building with electrical and structural issues…but some of them have the potential to be really dangerous. I hope you guys get over the whole excusing real safety issues by pretending it’s a ghost thing soon!

    5. Lora*

      Yup. Paranormal activity in my house decreased markedly when I had a structural timber replaced, insulated the ductwork with that mylar stuff and had a loose junction box in the attic fixed.

      If you’ve never heard a water hammer (basically plumbing not configured correctly causes the water pressure to oscillate and SLAM against valves and bends) it definitely sounds like the whole building is about to crash down around you, it can be unbelievably loud, like go change your underwear loud. They are common in houses where the plumbing was installed prior to building codes being invented.

      1. curly sue*

        We had water hammer that sounded like footsteps in the basement — it turned out to be a problem with the valve in the shower (the one that switches the water from tub-faucet to showerhead). Half an hour with a plumber and a new valve, and that was the end of the banging pipes.

  4. Czhorat*

    I’ll note that you need to have an answer for those materialists who don’t believe in haunting; I’d be cautious about bringing this up as a definite issue to strangers because they might take your belief in hauntings as a negative.

    I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but try to be open-minded about belief systems which don’t align with mine. Depending on your industry, this may be far enough out of the mainstream to, at best, raise some eyebrows.

    1. animaniactoo*

      As a NYC cynical teenager, I never would have believed some of the stuff that happened if I hadn’t lived with it and seen no other explanation for it.

      Outside of the environment I was in, it is still never my first instinct to believe that it’s a ghost rather than something more practical. But I’m no longer completely cynical and doubting about it either.

      And that’s more or less what I’d go with for explaining it to those who don’t believe. “Haven’t found another explanation for it. There may be one. We just haven’t found it.” and shrug it off as not a big deal.

    2. Murphy*

      I think OP should just be matter of fact about it. These odd things have happened even if there are multiple possible explanations for them.

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      This is very true. I strongly do not believe in anything paranormal or spiritual and if it was mentioned to me anywhere in the hiring process, I’d be very turned off. I don’t ever discriminate against the beliefs of others, so long as their beliefs don’t marginalize other people, but this would come off similar to bringing up religion in an interview at a non-religious org to me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To make sure I was clear, I’m not suggesting bringing it up proactively with candidates! I’m talking about how to respond to candidates who ask about it.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          I think it needs to be brought up proactively too. Matter of fact at the end: btw the locals believe this house is haunted so it’s a frequent topic of conversation with visiters and some staff. We have had some odd goings on that are as of yet unexplained, but I wanted to flag this for you as a quirk of the culture around this office.

          1. Shamy*

            I completely agree with this. It will allow people to self select out (or in). This sort of thing really freaks me out and I would have no interest in working there.

          2. tangerineRose*

            Yeah, that makes sense, especially if the person being interviewed is from out of town and might not have heard the rumors.

          3. Yorick*

            Yes, bringing it up in this sense is a good idea. Bringing it up like “the place may be haunted, is that ok?” is not.

          4. Carrotstick21*

            This is maybe a good point. Where I go to school (as an adult,) people are REALLY into the haunted thing and “see” ghosts constantly and declare themselves mediums, etc. It’s a challenge, honestly, to sit there on a daily basis with a pleasant expression, while a normal conversation about literature suddenly pivots into someone thinking they were possessed. It is the same feeling as if someone was blithely going on and on about god – which I also do not believe in – with the comfortable assumption that everyone must believe and indulge and encourage what they believe. Yes, yes, a majority of people believe in god, and half, if you say so, ghosts. But that still means many people don’t and it really doesn’t have a place at work. I’d want to know if I was walking into a work culture where I’m going to have to deal with that stuff every day.

        2. Case of the Mondays*

          As someone who also work in an old building I (and many others) believe to be haunted, it should be brought up proactively. I’m chill with our ghosts but other staff were terrified and refused to be in the building alone. I often wondered what advice AAM would give to those employees where the boss does not believe in the ghosts. He was quite annoyed with the assistant that insisted she never be alone in the building.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, I can see that I suppose, but if the place is a local landmark and is well documented as part of the local lore (I worked in a place once that was), it probably is something that needs to be addressed. You don’t want prospective hires offending donors who do believe and you don’t want people who be spending all their time debating if the noise is footsteps, old plumbing or the ghost.

    4. Washi*

      Yeah if it were me as a nonbeliever, I think I’d emphasize the house part more, like “it’s an old house and there are random noises or flickering lights sometimes, but nothing too scary!”

      But it does seem like the OP believes in the ghosts, so might as well be upfront about that if someone asks? Might as well kmow if you’re going to work at a remote old house with a reputation for being haunted AND the staff believes in ghosts. That’s definitely not for everyone!

    5. Working Mom Having It All*

      I don’t think they need an answer for people who don’t believe in haunting, because those people are unlikely to bring it up in the first place.

      In fact I find it odd how pervasive this seems to be among people working in and visiting this office, and how reluctant the LW seems to be to admit that haunted houses aren’t real. It’s not even a particularly old or particularly creepy building. It should be very, very easy to shut this down by being like “ha, old building, what are you gonna do, eh?”

      1. aa*

        “I find it odd how pervasive this seems to be among people working in and visiting this office, and how reluctant the LW seems to be to admit that haunted houses aren’t real.”

        Replace “haunted houses” by “God” or similar. As other people have pointed out, once you move into the area of beliefs, things get very tricky very fast. You shouldn’t be so dismissive of other people’s beliefs.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          If believing in ghosts is a religion, then the talk needs to stop. Religion talk at work is inappropriate.

          If it’s all in fun, then it’s not a religion, and nobody in the office (or in an internet comment thread) is bound to respect it.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            yep. If looking at it on same level as all belief systems, then it is hugely inappropriate to bring up at an interview.

            Interviewee: “I heard this place was full of christians… is that true?”

            1. Yet Another Analyst*

              Alternatively, acknowledging that some members of a religion place special significance on the place and asking how that impacts a workday seems like a perfectly reasonable interview question, not that different from asking how they avoid disruption in an open office.

            2. animaniactoo*

              Depends on how you ask the question – the interviewer can’t ask, but there is absolutely nothing that prevents the interviewee from asking something along the lines of “I’ve heard that the majority of people who work here are Christians. Do you know if that’s true, and if so, how do you handle things like holidays that have a history of not being inclusive to people who aren’t Christian?”

              In a giving information sense however, the interviewer *can* give information and ask questions about that information. Something along the lines of “We do close for the majority of the Jewish holidays because the owners are Jewish and observant, and we do close for Christmas, but outside of that we aren’t closed for any other religious holidays. Personal days are usually approved for anyone who is of another faith and wishes to observe a holiday, but I want to be upfront that on very rare occasions that may not happen due to the nature of our work. Is that something that would be an issue for you?”

  5. Who Knows?*

    Any possible haunting aside, I’d get an electrician to check out the building’s power. It sounds like some of the occurrences could be caused by electrical issues.

  6. NoBetterWay*

    I think it’s important to note that many people do not believe in the paranormal and may see this kind of conversation as a red flag. I’m thinking in particular of external donors — they want to know their money is in good hands. Maybe I’m just too cynical but if I was thinking of making a donation but then heard the organization’s staff talking about a haunted house, I might rethink my donation…am I in the minority here?

    1. LinesInTheSand*

      I’m with you. I don’t believe in the paranormal, and I’d probably be far more aggressive about shutting down these sorts of conversations at the office if I thought they were impacting work.

      I agree with all the commenters suggesting electricians and contractors. Houses are mechanical, and a lot of this stuff can be fixed. And if it’s impacting work, it probably should be fixed sooner rather than later.

      1. valentine*

        I’d like to see the counter letter: “My colleagues won’t shut up about ‘ghosts.’ At least TV shows get canceled.”

    2. AndrewForNow*

      No you are not! (Unless I was donating to the Winchester House Preservation Fund.) If I was interviewing somewhere and they were like, “oh the building is haunted but it’s no biggie,” I would (1) either assume I was being pranked, or that the organization is suffering some kind of group delusion. I don’t think this has any more reason to be discussed than any other supernatural belief system.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Wouldn’t you rather hear about this *before* deciding whether or not to take the job? If you don’t want to deal with lots of ghost jokes at work, you can select out.

    3. Lance*

      I don’t disagree with this. It’s too much of a… shall I say, out there (no offense meant, by any means; I do have some belief in the paranormal myself) topic, that ultimately has no relevance to the conversations at hand, nor any general benefit to going along with. I agree with others that a passive attitude about it would probably be good; just that these are things that sometimes happen around the place, but it’s nothing worrisome (and then only if they ask first).

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, even those who are on the fence may not like this. I’m one of those who is sensitive to paranormal talk because I don’t ef with ghosts and therefore they don’t ef with me. So making them a conversation makes my senses start ping and pull away from a place drawing so much attention to it.

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      I don’t think you’re in the minority and I don’t think Allison is suggesting bringing it up proactively, simply trying to find something to say if it comes up organically. I worked in a “haunted” place in a small town and everyone knew the stories and it came up all the time. So, while I never brought it up with Donors, about 2/3 of them already knew and would ask if I had any “ghostly encounters.”

    6. Eeyore's missing tail*

      I think Allison was giving the OP a script in case it comes up. Reading the letter, I don’t think the OP would talk about this with a donor (or anyone else) unless the other person asked about it first.

    7. curly sue*

      It may depend on where you live. I live in an old seaside town that is full of haunting legends, fog, and story-tellers. Every other building’s got a supposed ghost story, there are competing ‘haunted walks’ in the summers, and someone saying “so I hear you’re haunted” would be more likely to get a shrug and a “is there a place in this town that isn’t?” answer than anything else.

      My workplace apparently turfed our resident ghost when we moved to a new building about fifteen years ago and we haven’t acquired a new story yet, but it’s really only a matter of time.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        I think this is why I’m rolling my eyes so hard about this. Like, either it’s a town that’s full of old buildings and creepy stories, in which case surely locals would start getting over it eventually, or it’s a town that isn’t that old and doesn’t have legitimate claim to this kind of lore. I grew up in New Orleans. I’ve heard plenty of ghost stories. And it seems patently ridiculous to me that some random building constructed basically in living memory, which has no clear connection with morbid goings on, would be so notoriously haunted. Like… who cares?

        If this was about people visiting or working in the city morgue, or on the site of a notorious tragedy (for example one of the houses involved in the Manson murders is currently on the market), sure. But… this house predates the internet by 50 years? Wooooooooooooooooooo, scarrrryyyyyyyyyy…

        1. curly sue*

          I mean, if one believes in ghosts as the lingering souls of the departed, then any construction old enough to have had a resident could be haunted. The empty land next to our first apartment here was supposedly haunted, so I imagine the new condos built on that space could have inherited a spirit. If one was more into the “old energies linger in the stone walls” sort of explanation, then newer construction has definitely had less time to accumulate that kind of residual emotional resonance.

          But overall, yeah — I’m from a town where an historic walk I was on literally had to stop and wait at the gates of one of our local cemeteries for two different ghost tours to clear out before we could proceed. At this stage anything less than actively bleeding walls and a poltergeist isn’t going to impress me much.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            Sure. But why is it always that creepy old house that is a couple decades older than the other houses in town that is the “haunted” one?

            Why aren’t there people in this town like “my 1972 split level with a gambrell roof and finished rec room in the basement is HAUNTED”?

            1. curly sue*

              “For some reason, all the stereo wants to play is Tom Jones…”

              That’s when you’re getting into the folklore of it all – ways of mitigating discomfort with differences in our surroundings, that kind of thing. I haven’t done a lot of reading on that subject, but I’m sure there are anthropology / sociology experts who’ve looked into the various cultural subtexts beneath regional styles of ghost stories. (actually, if anyone has any recommendations, that does sound like fun reading.)

              1. Working Mom Having It All*

                Yeah, I 100% believe that lore about haunted houses is sociological and probably explained by unspoken issues around class, space (as in, like, it’s always “local” lore and is always very tied into things like architecture and property), and the alienation of modern society. Something something people are much less tied to one place than we used to be. I definitely think it’s telling that this is always about that one “creepy” old house in the neighborhood. It also seems to be more of a thing in more newly established suburban areas that have mostly new housing stock, so a house from 1900 is considered strange and vaguely unsavory compared to the mcmansions everyone else is living in. Meanwhile, in most of New England a house from 1900 wouldn’t even be considered old.

              2. I Write the Things*

                “Ghostland” by Colin Dickey is a pretty good read, though I felt he often stopped just short of reaching a conclusion (but definitely close enough to see what he was getting at).

            2. Anon for this*

              There was an episode of A Haunting (the TV show) where there was this guy in a suburban development who turned out to be possessed. Does that count?

    8. blink14*

      Leaning into paranormal activity is actually really common among historical property societies and non-profits. You’ll often find paranormal tours and ghost hunting tours offered as a way to bring in money. I fully believe in ghosts, and I’d actually be more turned off by a place that offers such things (these events can stir up the spirits and old vibes in a place and can be considered offensive), than I would by a place that approaches it in more lighthearted, proactive, but respectful manner that respects the history of the property and the current mission of the property, by addressing the haunting rumors in some way.

      Lights go off? “Oh that’s just Mrs. So and so, saving electricity.” Strange noises? “That’s Mr. So and so checking on the property”. Sometimes truly addressing the weirdness of a situation straight on takes the fear and obsession out of it.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Yeah. I don’t believe in the paranormal, but I do love a good ghost tour! I could see it as being a potential source of fundraising.

      2. CM*

        Yeah, I think the OP just needs to decide which way they want to go. If people are excited about the ghost house, then that could be an organic form of advertising or promotion if they really leaned into being the haunted conservation society or whatever, but that would also potentially drive away people who are put off by the paranormal stuff. On the flip side, you can downplay the haunted aspects but then you lose the interest of people who are more into ghosts than conservation.

        I don’t think either strategy is bad, it’s just that you have to really double-down on one or the other. (And I would 100% choose the one where we’re haunted, and try to get some YouTubers to come film a video where they promote my organization and look for ghosts).

    9. Susana*

      I agree with you. Same as if they said something happens periodically “by magic.” Yes, magic shows are fun to go to – but I don’t want to sink money or time into an institution led by people who think it’s real.

    10. Seacalliope*

      I’d treat it much the same as a secular organization consistently talking about magic or miracles. No thanks and I’ll give to another group.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Honestly, my very religious father feels the same way about religious organizations who claim miracles. He’s like “let’s rule out the placebo effect and misdiagnosis first”.

    11. Elaine*

      I agree, NoBetterWay. My first thought was they need a good electrician. And my second thought was that if they instead dismissed it as a simple haunting, they’d never see a penny of my money.

    12. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

      I agree with you. I can’t believe this is being discussed as though it’s a rational thing.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        HOw is it any different from discussing any religious belief? Not one of those is rational yet people believe.

        1. Susana*

          I think it’s different in how you incorporate your beliefs at the office. I had a (now deceased, sadly) family member who was very devout in his faith and went to church every single day. But he didn’t bring it to the office, and certainly would not have said, for example, we don’t need to worry about budgeting/fundraising, because Jesus will provide.
          That’s what crossed the line for me with the “haunted” building. I can see where it’s fun to talk about, if there are odd noises or whatever. But if someone came for an interview worried about it, or ready to write off actual issues that can and need to be fixed as a function of ghosts (and therefore not fixable) – well, that would give me pause.

    13. Short Time Lurker Komo*

      Someone else already mentioned it, but I wanted to add my voice to the thinking that the OP isn’t looking to upsell the ghosts or make them part of the donation talk. The OP wants a good way to redirect someone when they bring it up. So you as a donor would never hear about the haunting from them, but only from others.

    14. Akcipitrokulo*

      No. I’m not going to go around making fun of them when I visit… that’s rude… but I’d think twice about anything further. which isn’t a definite no to donations because there are many other factors involved, but would be a data point. (Although I would have to be pretty desperate to accept a job if the interviewer brought up ghosts at the interview.)

  7. Celeste*

    Too bad you need the home for office space; you could turn it into a haunted rental. There are so many people who love to travel to haunted places.

    1. Cinna214*

      Seriously! Build an eco-friendly tiny office and make so much money for your cause doing event rentals in the “spirit” of conservation. :)

    2. Grumpy*

      I will seriously trade your poltergeists for one of my “challenging” co-workers. I would much prefer to deal with the mischievous undead.

  8. CaliCali*

    I used to work at a popular tourist attraction that has a reputation for being haunted* — it’s not the reason most people come to see it, but for a handful, it’s the main draw. I got lots of questions about it, and I took a similar approach to what Alison suggested; my go-to was “Yeah, there’s definitely stories about this place, but who knows?” which is vague as hell, but also, I never knew whether the person asking was going to be creeped out or enticed by the prospect, so I wanted to keep it neutral. And then I’d change the subject to asking about what tickets they wanted or about the tour they just went on.

    * I never experienced any paranormal occurrences there, though there WAS a room of the place used as storage for a collection of wax heads, which you could see if you looked around the corner during one particular part of the tour.

    1. Cheryl Blossom*

      Yeah, I also used to work at minor tourist attraction that had a reputation for being haunted. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but a lot of people would ask me about any ghosts. I would usually say something like, “Well, a lot of people say they’ve seen it, but I never have!” and then pivot into something about the history of the place.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I worked at a place that was not a tourist attraction, but had a local reputation for being haunted. We didn’t give tours (thank goodness), but it did come up pretty often. I mostly would just shrug and give a non-committal answer. Something like, “Well, there are a lot of stories, but I’ve never seen anything.”

      Of course, that was sort of not true. I had a few strange experiences working there I still can’t totally explain, but I didn’t want to feed the rumors and, as far as I was concerned, the ghost (if it was real) never seemed malicious or angry, just kinda there.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I really like the idea of the “yea but who can say for sure” type of answer. If only to help the organization weed out which donors/volunteers/prospective employees are there to genuinely help the org and which are just there to be looky-loos or amateur ghost busters.

    3. fposte*

      I think that’s a really good non-answer answer! I also think you could respond to further probers by noting that if there are ghosts, they don’t do much. (Because really, this may be ambitious for a disembodied spirit but it’s ultimately not that big a life deal if a fan goes on.)

      1. UKDancer*

        I worked in a stately home at one point which was allegedly haunted. The approach we took when visitors asked was to say “some people claim to have seen and felt things at various points” but without giving a particular point of view on it. This was the approach the owner preferred staff to take so as not to put off people who believe in the supernatural. If people were very interested we could enlarge on what the common tales were. I think I’d recommend that for donors and visitors in general if they ask (but not proactively raise it).

        If it’s an interview situation I’d tend to say something similar if someone asks. When I was interviewed for the job at the stately home it wasn’t mentioned and I didn’t ask.

        I never saw anything myself and tend more to the sceptical. Sometimes there were noises that sounded like footsteps in the upstairs room even when it was locked and empty but I tended to attribute that to the floorboards just being old and creaking. A couple of the other staff claimed to have seen a ghost and some of the visitors had experiences.

        The closest I ever came to it is that there was one spot in the grounds where some civil war prisoners were shot and I never much liked standing there as it always felt cold regardless of the weather. I don’t know much of that was my mind reminding me about the executions when I passed it but it wasn’t ever comfortable to stand where the prisoners stood.

        I would definitely also recommend getting the electrics checked and a pest control company in to make sure there’s no other cause.

  9. CmdrShepard4ever*

    I have always regretted not working at a haunted house when I was younger. I can’t explain why but I really enjoy getting scared and scaring people.

    I once willingly participated in a haunted house where you were blind folded, and the actors were allowed to touch you. I was not really scared but I was “tortured” I am extremely ticklish and one of the performers found out accidentally by poking me in the ribs and I giggled, after that they tickled me for what felt like hours, but was probably only a few seconds.

    I WOULD NEVER DO IT, but if I worked at this location, I would want to set things to turn off/on by themselves to add to the mystique of it being haunted.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      So as a haunted attraction actor of 10 years, let me tell you that it’s not just young people who work there. So if you have a cool one in your area, go for it!

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Oh I know people of all ages work at haunted “houses,” I meant more that in my current stage of life I don’t think I have the time to work at one, and it would have been easier to work for one when I was younger with less responsibilities.

        How time intensive is it to work at your place, do you have people who do it as a part time gig with regular 9 to 5 jobs? What kind of experience is necessary, the entirety of my acting resume consists of Tiny Tim in my 6th grade production of A xmas carol?

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I’ve worked in several and the answer is that it sort of depends! A pretty vast majority of places are happy to work with your schedule. There are on-boarding days where you pick what weekends/dates you want to work and that’s set for the holiday season (which lasts 6-8 weeks normally) and a lot of them are only open Friday – Sunday until the last couple weeks of October, when a lot opened their doors during the week.

          There were some that I worked every night and it was basically an additional 30 hours a week, but there were a couple that I only worked on the weekends because that’s what I had time for. There are drawbacks to only working certain weekends/days – such as you probably won’t be assigned a permanent position but who cares – you don’t know what you like until you try it!

          As far as acting experience, you don’t need any! Just a good attitude and work ethic. Some you have to audition for – but it’s pretty standard. Some just say hey if you’re interested come on out.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          You could save some vacation time and use it for this. I wish my boss would do that and work at or create a haunted house instead of making our office the dungeon of the damned every year.

  10. Anon for this*

    With every ghost/haunting story I hear, I always think of the This American Life episode with a haunted house. Just google This American Life And the Call Was Coming from the Basement. It’s the prologue.

    And I second getting an electrician in there.

    Not knocking the ghost theory, but sometimes you have to rule out/deal with the obvious first.

    1. MarsJenkar*

      It’s like the old medical school saying: “When you think hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” Basically, examine the more mundane potential explanations (e.g. faulty wiring, critter infestation) before moving on to the more exotic ones (i.e. haunting).

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Which is what you should do whether or not there’s such a thing as ghosts. Ghosts are a fun story, but like- sometimes old houses have a number of different problems going on (like, a combination of carbon monoxide buildup making people feel “off”, uneven foundation, and wiring problems all caused by being a really old house).

  11. Pfft*

    Your second interview will be seance-y.

    Bring questions to ask to have answered . Then we will worry about the job.

    1. Cinna214*

      Lol it would be hilarious to say “now for the next part of the interview- the palm reading” just to gauge the reaction

    2. Pommette!*

      This will be a panel interview, with myself, Theresa, Ali, and ghost.
      Ghost brings a lot of hiring experience and institutional knowledge.

  12. Adalind*

    I used to work at a nonprofit that was rumored to be haunted. It probably was, but anything that happened wasn’t major – hearing voices, technical devices going on or off, etc. I think just being there at night in an old huge house made it spooky enough. Luckily it seemed to be only people who worked there who would mention it here and there. If someone else did ask if about it, we’d just be nonchalant – “yeah, there are stories, but nothing crazy, back to what we were doing…”

  13. Tessa Ryan*

    Agreed on calling an electrician or exterminator. If weird stuff happens or the conversation gets derailed by those stories, maybe you could add, “Huh, that is odd! Let’s continue talking about work related task. If you want to talk about ghost stories or other personal spooky experiences, feel free to do that on your lunch or after work.”

  14. LilyMaid*

    I used to work at an old estate that had a reputation of being haunted. We all had stories about weird things we heard/saw/experienced. My personal favorite though, was when one of the administrative staff freaked out because she heard someone singing old hymns and slave songs and footsteps when she was alone at night. Turns out, she wasn’t alone because I was working late that night and had my dog with me (totally allowed by my boss). I apologized for being the ghost and she complimented me on my voice. That was a fun office to work in.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I work in a warehouse complex. Somebody in the warehouse next to mine can really, enviably, belt the old-time spirituals. It’s pretty obvious that they’re coming from the other side of a shared wall, though, so it’s not creepy.

  15. ResuMAYDAY*

    About 25 years ago I worked for a well-known restaurant that was a stop on the underground railroad. It was rumored that the building had ghosts and we experienced a lot of what the OP described. All benign, but impossible to ignore. The management wrote up a really nice flyer that gave information about the ghosts (in a way that wouldn’t offend people who didn’t believe in ghosts) and included beautiful historical pictures of the property. When any customer asked about the ghosts, we would offer them a flyer. It prevented us from spending too much time chatting with one table (angering our other tables), and also kept servers with different beliefs from giving a one-sided perspective.
    It sounds like something similar would work really well for the OP.

    1. Cinna214*

      Could be a fun hook for marketing materials- “yeah, ghosts are scary… but you know what’s worse? Destruction of the rainforest!”

  16. A Person*

    Honestly I’d be more worried about the remote part than ghosts. You never know what kind of horror movie villain wanna-be might be lurking around such a place looking for their next victim.
    “As a nonprofit, we often have evening and weekend events, and sometimes staying late/coming in early/coming in a weekend is an excellent opportunity to get things done in relative peace and quiet. Obviously, we don’t force people to be alone in the office, but with such a small staff, it’s rather inevitable at times. And I suspect that the fact that we’re far from the road/other buildings and surrounded by park land can make things even more creepy.”

    1. valentine*

      I can only hope you’re not serious. The biggest threat is everyone feeding into each other’s anxiety.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’d agree. A lot of people work in locations as or more remote than this, and I don’t think it would be obvious that people wouldn’t ever need to work alone in the office.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      You never know what kind of horror movie villain wanna-be might be lurking around such a place looking for their next victim.

      This is probably how they got the ghosts in the first place… /s

    3. hbc*

      …I may have to go digging in the statistics, but I think you’re far more likely to be murdered by a coworker in a standard office job than by a stranger who is skulking around in the woods waiting for a couple of weeks until someone’s working alone. We’re talking vanishingly small probabilities in both cases, but still.

    4. Amethystmoon*

      Reminds me of Scooby Doo and 99.9% of the ghosts turned out to be people wearing masks.

    5. Name Required*

      Not to say that horror movie villians don’t lurk around in remote areas, but a remote area is an awful place for a murderer just looking for their next victim. Having grown up in a rural area, this idea makes me chuckle — it can be miles until you hit the next inhabited area, and many areas don’t have streetlights. You’d have to be a dedicated murderer to wander around for hours, possibly in forest with no trails and underbrush, in the pitch dark, just for the possibility of hitting a house where only one person is home, so that you can murder them.

      1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        Plus rural areas tend to have people with shotgun collections and large outdoor dogs, neither of which lead to a nice peaceful murder.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        That’s good! The suburbs make me nervous. Any place that’s too quiet and dark at night makes me nervous. I love the streetlights and people of the inner city!
        OP’s area would make me very nervous (and isolated and lonely), but I’m not going there, let alone try to work there.

  17. YoungTen*

    You could also say that old buildings tend to have wiring issues and the foundations tend to settle too. Making this point can get the convo off the intriguing aspect and more matter of fact.

  18. Autumnheart*

    As someone who has had haunt-esque activity everywhere I’ve lived since a stint in a haunted college dorm….eventually, you get used to it. Weird stuff is weird, and it can be crazy-feeling in the moment, but after several instances you’ll find yourself shouting, “Knock it off, ghosts!” and going right back to your typing.

    I would definitely save the haunted stories for its own conversation, but don’t underestimate the subject’s use as an ice-breaker. It wouldn’t be a good topic for interviews, but for happy hour or the company party? You bet.

    1. bunniferous*

      By any chance was that Ringling School of Art…yeah, old classmates have stories of THAT place.

      1. Autumnheart*

        It was not! It was a well-established Catholic university that’s been around since the late 19th century. Weird things happened so frequently that on Halloween, we just gathered around and told OUR ghost stories instead of the classic ones.

        My most recent (and most striking, but totally harmless) incident happened while I was abroad. To sum up, I lost an item in Europe that showed up a month later when I was back in the US. Weird stuff happens in this world.

      2. yala*

        I was about to ask if it was SCAD… apparently art schools have ghosts. I’m shocked.

        (iirc, the animation students at SCAD also basically established a religion in the computer building during finals one year that may or may not still be a thing.)

    2. Rainy*

      I lived in a house that had a Ghost Dog. We thought for about three years that Ghost Dog was our Real Dog, and then one day I was in the basement with Real Dog when Ghost Dog jumped off the bed upstairs and ran to the kitchen.

      Probably just a series of boards easing pressure in a predictable pattern, of course. But it was nice to think that a Very Good Boy had stuck around to keep future inhabitants of his house company. :)

      1. Asenath*

        I was once the only person sleeping on a cot in a little basement room in a relative’s house – everyone else being older and/or more fragile than me, and so assigned beds or cots on the main or second floor. Most of the main floor – kitchen, living room and dining room – was entirely free of sleeping relatives. I used to hear what sounded exactly like heavy footsteps crossing the living room late at night. I finally got up enough nerve to creep up from the basement and investigate – nothing! I decided there must have been some kind of creaking in the floorboards, maybe caused by expansion in the heating system or something (not that I knew a thing about the heating system). So, no ghosts – but it was a very convincing noise! If OP’s workplace is reputed to be haunted (like a former hotel in my old hometown; us kids really believed that one), the topic is going to come up, so of course new hires are going to need to know about the stories and how to respond. But honestly, I’m with all the people who suggested a thorough checkout by an electrician and an animal control person, just in case.

    3. shartheheretic*

      Yep. I used to manage an antique mall that was rumored to be haunted. I’m a skeptical believer (I have to experience things myself to believe, but I’m open to it). Before I started working there, I always thought they were just cute stories. however, things happened there so often that were not really easily explainable that I just kind of got used to it. I had names for all of the different ghosts, and I would talk to them if I was there by myself. We did have ghost tours twice a year with a local paranormal investigation team – they were always well-attended and a lot of fun.

      The really interesting thing was when a new owner bought the property and had security cameras installed. I jokingly said that we would now have proof but I wasn’t really confident that that would be the case. And then I came in one morning, and the owner’s daughter asked me to review the security camera because she thought she saw something the night before when she was working In an area that we used for storage (she and her mom were huge skeptics before this). Sure enough, there were what can only be described as ghostly lights moving through the room and they appeared to be looking at the clothes that she had on racks that she had been working on. As in, the lights were going back and forth in between the rows of racks, the clothes were moving, empty hangers wer moving, and there was no air circulating in there other than basic air conditioning which wouldn’t cause things to move like that. The interesting thing was that that particular room had always been one that we had a lot of unexplained activity in during regular hours as well as during the ghost tours.

      After that, I started looking at the video from the different rooms just to see if something else would happen. I decided to check the video from a room that I used to have my items in because strange things would happen in there between the time I closed up and the time I would come in in the morning. Like items seemingly moving around by themselves, or items being taken out of display cases/boxes. Anyway, one morning when I came in and reviewed the videotape there was a light in that room that turned itself on and off multiple times. Of course I assumed that this was evidence that we had an electrical issue, so I wanted to check on the light So I could see where it was plugged in and have our electrician check it out. It turned out that the light was actually battery- operated and was made to look like a candle in a holder like you would see people use in movies set in the age prior to electricity. I thought maybe that it had been bumped by a lizard or some other critter to turn it on, but in order to turn the light on you had to twist the bottom of it. So I’m guessing a little lizard wasn’t able to do that since they don’t have thumbs. LOL

      I kept copies of the videos of both of the situations. One of these days I need to go and transfer them into a file that makes it easier for me to show it to people.

    4. Michaela Westen*

      I wonder if one or more of the ghosts in your dorm took a shine to you and stayed with you?

    5. The Kerosene Kid*

      I love this. I too lived in a haunted college dorm. The friendly ghost, who was well-known to everyone on campus because her college career and subsequent death there was a matter of public record, LOVED my roommate and would often turn our TV on to their favorite show. At 2 am. While we were sleeping. Roommate would chuckle, mutter “Thanks, [ghostname]!” and then go back to sleep. Meanwhile, I’m laying quietly in the dark, eyes as wide as saucers.

  19. Matilda Jefferies*

    Maybe you could lean into it a little bit, and put a page on the website about your haunted house. That will allow you to control the tone, and I like animaniactoo’s idea of naming the ghosts.

    So your page is something like

    “Some people say our house is haunted…who knows? Here are some of our favourite ghosts:
    *Casper is very concerned about safety, so he helps by turning lights on before we enter the room
    *Wilhelmina is our photocopier expert, always wanting to make sure we have enough toner
    *Axl really likes to play heavy metal sometimes when things are getting too quiet!

    Keep it light – you’re not trying to scare people! You’re giving just enough information to say “yes, there are stories” and “no, none of them are harmful.” This will allow potential applicants to self-screen out if this is really not their thing, and it gives you a way to redirect the conversation for donors and visitors and people who just want to chat. Suggest they check your website for more info about the ghosts, then change the subject to whatever you are supposed to be talking about.

    1. Arctic*

      I think this is the right approach. Acknowledge it. It may offend/scare people who are very afraid of ghosts and offend people who are adamant about ghosts not existing and also kind of humorless about it (I don’t believe in ghosts but this all seems pretty harmless to me.)

      My only concern is this is a non-profit so it may alienate some donors on either side of the divide.

  20. Jamie*

    This might be one of the few places where asking if the applicant is a Shaniac or Boogara is relevant in the interview.

    I do think it applicants should know about the reputation because regardless of their beliefs it’s going to come up, not just with co-workers but with the community.

    Personally I’d call an electrician, and keep a sage stick in my drawer. :)

  21. Slackr*

    Uff. I would very much hesitate in accepting a job offer from a company whose management gave any credence at all to this silliness..

    1. Susana*

      You and me both. It would make me thin k they weren’t terribly serious or skilled at finding the actual root of a problem and fixing it, if needed.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Not necessarily, though. There are actually two problems here – the “haunting” (the noises etc), and people’s perceptions of the haunting. It may or may not be easy to deal with the noises, but it’s definitely not going to be easy to deal with the stories. People are going to believe them, or not, regardless of how much you modernize the HVAC.

        And in some cases, you’re going to have to take the perception seriously. What if you had a major donor who was super interested in the paranormal, and was specifically interested in your organization because of the reputation of the building? Or an applicant who had heard the stories and was nervous to start working there? You can’t just say “nope, no such thing as ghosts” in either case – they both require a bit more nuance than that.

        Definitely address the mechanical issues to the extent that you can, but I wouldn’t be so quick to write off the management for taking the “ghosts” seriously. They’re probably trying to strike a pretty fine balance here, which includes acknowledging the issue to a certain extent.

        1. Slackr*

          Lucky I don’t work in an industry where we have to deal with idiosyncratic donors or clients, and if an employee started making any bigger deal than a small distraction over the building being haunted, I’m pretty sure management would put a stop to it right away. I don’t think believing in ghosts is a Protected Class, unless an employee wants to claim it’s a religious issue

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            They probably could. There are many religions that believe in ghosts and spirits.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think this response highlights the importance of making sure people are aware of the rumors or, if they bring them up, at least having an answer to them. I worked in a place that was locally known for being haunted, was in several Ghost Guidebooks, and had the same reputation for many years. We were all asked about it regularly, so we needed to know what to say to both potential employees and to donors. While nothing ever happened that seemed malicious or dangerous (and yes, the place was inspected by facilities folks and pest control regularly), it was something that would have come up.

      Among our coworkers, it was a joke. We knew the name of the Ghost, so we would occasionally mutter about him when files went missing or other annoyances happened. I don’t know if that would be more than you would want to deal with as an employee, but it would be useful to know before being hired, I think.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Same. I would be much more put off by having an interview in a moderately old-ish building and having people there actually bring up that it’s haunted in a dang job interview, than I would be put off by taking a job where the worksite is a moderately old-ish building.

      I would also wonder if management was skimping on building maintenance.

  22. Veryanon*

    I once worked for a company that had its headquarters in an old house that had been owned by the family who founded the company. The headquarters had been expanded several times over the years, but everyone who worked in the original house had ghost stories. Apparently there was a maid who fell in love with the son of the family and they were not permitted to marry, so in despair she hanged herself in a closet. People often reported seeing what appeared to be a young woman dressed in maid’s clothes, and we actually had video of what appeared to be the ghost.
    I pooh-poohed these stories until I had some weird things happen to me – my cell phone would often be inexplicably moved to places where I was not expecting it to be, and on one occasion, my computer’s keyboard started typing by itself “NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO” across my screen, which freaked me out. It could have been someone playing a prank on me, but I prefer to think that the ghost was messing with me because I didn’t believe in her.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Solidarity: We stopped disbelieving the day the radio – old-fashioned, dial the knob to change stations – changed stations while we were in the room. And it wasn’t just a “nudged up to the next station” kind of thing, it had jumped about halfway up the range. We were in an area where you could only pick up 6 to 7 stations at the time, and it landed on a station that played stuff that was more likely to be acceptable to who our ghosts were likely to be. What we’d been listening to definitely would not have been. We freaked hard. Then we got used to it.

    2. Sharrbe*

      When I was in college our printer at some point spit out a paper with just the word “live” on it. Each of us insisted that we didn’t do it (I certainly didn’t, and since my roommate was very superstitious about that kind of stuff, I believed that she didn’t do it either). We decided we weren’t going to worry too much because at least it didn’t say “die” on it. If it said “die” I would have moved into my car.

      1. xxx9*

        Can you imagine some ghost watching you all like, “Geezy Petes, I can’t believe they are spending another Friday night at home. Do something with your lives! LIVE!”

        1. mcr-red*

          Love it! “You’re young, there’s so much you could be doing! Don’t waste your life like I did! Go outside girls! Meet people!”

      2. Semprini!*

        Was it a networkable printer?

        My friend discovered that he could connect his computer to his apartment neighbour’s printer (some kind of wifi or bluetooth security hole), so on April Fool’s Day he made their printer print a page saying “Help! They’ve turned me into a printer!”

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      It’s interesting to me that almost all ghost stories of this ilk are similar. Forbidden love, or betrayal of a lover. Music that contemporary people would find creepy, like heavy metal or Phantom of the Opera (I mean, “phantom” is right there in the title!). Ominous words across mirrors, computer screens, etc.

      Just once, I wanna see a house haunted by a guy who died of heart disease scrawling EAT YOUR VEGETABLES in blood across the bathroom mirror. Or setting someone’s phone to play his favorite band, Steely Dan.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Does this do it for you? – the radio-station switching that I wrote about above? It changed from our usual rock/hits station playing 2 Live Crew to the Christian Music station that it would often be on when we came back from class. Previous occupants of the site were a religious community.

      2. Dankar*

        I find that people who don’t believe in ghosts don’t spend a lot of time reading other people’s accounts of hauntings, and thus miss a lot of the sorts of things you’re talking about. The ones that stick out in my mind are the family whose butter dish would move from the fridge to cabinets, or the person who lived alone, but routinely found her mother’s favorite book pulled off the shelf and open on the table.

        There are plenty of people on here talking about how this stuff is usually just annoying, rather than horrifying. I’m not saying you have to believe in it, but it’s a little silly to pretend that there aren’t plenty of stories in that exact, benign vein.

        (And I don’t know a single person who finds PoTO creepy! It’s a “rock opera,” which is I think the exact opposite vibe. lol)

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          Phantom Of The Opera was a reference to someone else’s ghost story mentioned here in comments. It feels pretty on the nose since it’s about a haunted opera house. Also, unless that ghost was very fresh, they sure have remarkable awareness of Broadway musicals…

          Also re all the open books, changed radio stations, and moved butter… sounds like these people have a human being issue, not a ghost issue. All of that stuff is something a human being might do. Like… surely I’m not the only person who’s had a roommate or coworker who left clutter random places, had weird quirks like “stop putting the butter in the fridge” (in fact butter in the fridge vs. cupboard is a frequent household disagreement), or who liked a different genre of music than you.

      3. Lissa*

        Haha, I have definitely seen stories like this, but honestly .. nobody who doesn’t believe in ghosts is going to change their mind because someone on the Internet is super defensive about their ghost, or tells just the right story. I get people feel very strongly about their experiences, but especially online it’s not gonna convince the skeptics!

        (I would LOVE to believe in ghosts, not gonna lie, but no story has ever got me to overcome my brain’s resistance to the idea and ability to keep coming up with logical explanations.)

      4. Argye*

        If I end up haunting anyone, I hereby state that evidence of life after death will be me causing Katy Lied and/or Kamakiriad to be played on people’s phones.

  23. blink14*

    I have no advice for the work related issues with this, but the best thing you can do, if it is haunted, is give as much respect as much as possible to the property and the potential spirits. And do NOT bring in a Ouija board or paranormal investigators.

    My elementary/middle school was (and still is) housed in an old early 20th century estate mansion, with a couple of additions from the 70s and the early 2000s. In the main house, our classrooms were old bedrooms and parlors, some of the bathrooms had been converted to teacher offices (but with original tile!), and the original kitchen and dining room are still used as the school kitchen and dining room today. We were all terrified of the 3rd floor (mostly storage and a teacher’s apartment, we went up a few times a year for theater props). However, the greatest thing I ever personally experienced in terms of hearing or seeing something was in one of the original bedrooms, which had “Maid” and “Butler” push buttons. Push one, and often you’d hear someone walk down the hall, and stop right at the doorway. It happened enough that it was believable (and this room was set off from the other bedrooms, so it was easy to see anyone approaching). I loved going to school there!

    1. Auntie Social*

      My mom was a designer who purchased a life-sized wooden santo from a church half-destroyed by an earthquake. Matilda sat in the niche in our entry, where she comforted Mom and scared the life out of me as a kid. Fifty years later the house burns down, and everything is destroyed except . . . . (she even scared a firefighter so badly he wouldn’t go back for his axe–we had to take it to him). She seems to be mine forever, I just don’t know why.

  24. Mari M*

    Am I the only one who would legit try to get “exorcism” written off as a work expense?

    I mean, if the ghosts don’t bother you, that’s cool, but if it’s something you’re worried about with regard to new hires, maybe it’s time to find someone qualified to help those ghosts move on to the next phase of the afterlife.

    (Brought to you by “that’s NOT my parents typing in the next room at 3am” during my childhood…)

    1. Kendra*

      If you decide to go this route, just be aware that you might be opening a can of worms. A few years back, a new school building was being dedicated in a town near me; most of the students (around 80%, I think?) who’d be attending it are Native American, so they had an elder of their tribe come to the dedication to bless it. Some of the town’s other residents objected, and insisted on getting a priest from their religion in to “cleanse” the building afterwards, which, naturally, deeply offended the elder and his entire tribe, and it turned into A Thing.

      Since this is a workplace, I don’t think you want to open that door if you can possibly avoid it; it just gets too messy. (Would a jury consider your boss asking a priest of a faith you don’t practice to exorcise your office as creating a hostile work environment? I don’t know, but I definitely don’t want to be the one who got sued to find out, either!)

      1. Michaela Westen*

        “Some of the town’s other residents objected, and insisted on getting a priest from their religion in to “cleanse” the building afterwards, ”
        Wow. No words for how offensive that is. And elitist, racist, selfish…

  25. nnn*

    Apart from the interviewees, I think a sort of shrug “People keep asking that, but I haven’t noticed anything” might be the best way to disarm the conversation. They don’t have any opening to tell you all about the haunted rumours, and they don’t have any opening to discuss the things you’ve noticed.

    If you’re a stickler for honesty, you could say “…but I haven’t noticed anything scary” (since you have noticed things, and you characterize them as benign).

    Although I’m delighted by the idea of being haunted by benign ghosts who go about their business, occasionally using the washroom, and just want to listen to a bit of heavy metal from time to time!

  26. A. Renton*

    I used to work in a new-ish office building (less than 20 years old). My department was on the second floor. Several of us worked regularly at night and sometimes on weekends. We all had stories. One of my co-workers always heard the elevator going up and down, beeping or the doors opening, even when he was the only (visible) person in the building. I often heard what can best be described as large bags being dragged across the floor in the same area, back and forth, over and over again. Nobody was ever there. Other co-workers had similar stories, mainly centered around mystery noises. It was fun to talk about. You people are too uptight.

  27. hbc*

    In an interview, I’d say you should probably address it even if they don’t bring it up. Something like, “FYI, there’s a sizable number of people who think this place is haunted. There are some weird noises and lights flickering kinds of things that people either ascribe to ghosts or normal old-house issues. If that freaks you out or you’d get tired of hearing questions about the subject, this might not be a good fit.”

    But I’d stay noncommittal as to your personal views, assuming you all will click equally well with a believer or disbeliever.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I would almost certainly turn down a job where the office ghost was mentioned in my interview. No… just… no.

      Bring it up in a facetious and razzing kind of way to the new guy on his first day, sure, but, like… this is not something that is going to have an impact on someone going to work there. It’s not an appropriate job interview topic.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Since it’s clearly going to be discussed while people work there, isn’t it better to know about this ahead of time

  28. LizbethAnne*

    I recommend watching “Paranormal Home Inspectors”, and then calling in a contractor. It’s fascinating to find out how many “hauntings” are actually cracks in the foundation, plumbing problems, or electrical issues. For safety reasons, you owe it to staff to at least get a qualified person to look into it.

  29. staceyizme*

    I think that you should leverage this narrative for your park’s brand. You could use it in multiple ways (like spooky stories on Halloween and scientific explanations such as old wiring and electricity or old plumbing and water cycles or pressure during kid’s activities or camps etc… ). Maybe record the stories and promote snippets of them (as appropriate) on your social media. You can shape the basic narrative in so many possibly useful ways that will enable you to connect with people and get your mission out in front of more eyes. It might be worth a little conversational energy in exchange for potential returns that increase your footprint in the community’s awareness.

  30. Duck Rover*

    I used to work for a Girl Scout camp that used to be a TB sanitarium way back in the day. LOTS of people reported seeing or hearing children and nurses in Victorian dress around the grounds (including the kids who couldn’t have known the stories when they first got to camp). The dorms and bathrooms hadn’t been modernized much at all so the whole place had a creepy vibe. I got back from dinner late one night to find that all my colleagues had pushed their beds together and were practically clinging to each other. They said they heard the nurse wheeling her cart back and forth upstairs. I rolled my eyes and got into my own bed.

    Ten minutes later, there was a loud rumbling and squeaking sound moving back and forth across the corridor directly above us. There was no one staying above us, it definitely didn’t sound like plumbing, and I honestly couldn’t account for it.

    1. Cinna214*

      I thought this story was going to end with you jumping out of bed and pushing yours over to the “pile”

  31. fogharty*

    I went to a university that had a haunted building. When the building was torn down (before my time) several faculty members and students had a type of exorcism where they asked the ghost to please move to the next oldest building on campus, which she supposedly did.

    So perhaps some kind of exorcism ritual can be help to clear the spirits away, then you could respond to all the people asking about it “We had a ceremony to move them on.”

  32. Arctic*

    What kind of person dies and then comes back to use the copy machine?

    I grew up in an old home, which we were too poor to really maintain well, and weird noises and electrical issues was pretty much the norm. Once squirrels got in the wall, which had a lot of ghost like attributes until we figured it out.

    Spoiler alert: the house wasn’t haunted.

    1. Susana*

      “What kind of person dies and then comes back to use the copy machine?”

      Brilliant. Really.

      It reminds me of those signs in post offices abut stuff you;re not allowed to mail. And I keep thinking, who would mail bleach?

      Yeah, if I come back from the dead, against all my beliefs to the contrary, I am soooooo just going to eat all the cookies set out for meetings.

      1. Kendra*

        Or maybe there really is a Hell: trying to fix a jammed copier for the rest of your afterlife.

        1. Arctic*

          In that case this ghost was a very very bad dude/dudette and they should use caution.

      2. Arctic*

        Right! If you see random searches of puppy videos on YouTube that’s ghost me using your laptop. Making copies? No way.

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        He is trying to photocopy a picture of his butt, something he always wanted to do in life but never got the chance to. He will roam the halls unsatisfied for eternity that his ghost butt is too transparent to show up in a photocopy.

        1. L.S. Cooper*

          So, if we assume that ghosts are formed by people with unfinished business, then all we need to do is modify the copy machine with, I dunno, one of those ghost detector things, so the ghost can make a photocopy of his buttocks, and then he will be content and can move on, right?
          Problem solved!

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      A ghost that saw that one scene in the original Ghostbusters movie, clearly.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Someone who worked on or around copiers.
      Nope, not explaining that just putting it out there.

      1. Lalaith*

        Like the history teacher ghost in Harry Potter who died in his sleep, but just got up the next day and continued right on teaching anyway.

  33. My Alter-Ego is Taller*

    I’m open-minded about these things, and if your office is haunted then it does sound fairly harmless, and Alison outlined a good approach. And I’ve always been under the impression that all copy machines turn themselves on and off at will – some are just more brazen about it than others. As long as they oblige me with copies I let them live their lives.
    But the thing I’d worry about more is whether some of the as-yet-unexplained happenings have a not-supernatural explanation that might be more creepy. Every now and then there’s a thing in the news about someone discovering a stranger living in their attic – or basement, or kitchen cabinet (that one was in Japan of course, where people are mostly small and used to living in small-ish spaces). Your isolated location, with pre-existing legends of unexplained doings, seems like the perfect habitat for an attic-dwelling-squatter-hermit. If you hear any more muttering in Spanish, or any language, I’d suggest waiting for daylight and safety in numbers, but you and your coworkers should thoroughly investigate all nooks and crannies, look for revolving bookcases and tunnels in fireplaces, pull down on any wall bracket and see if a doorway reveals itself… then look for evidence of recent habitation (food wrappers from products made in this decade, for example). Maybe even involve the local authorities in that search (ever seen the Andy Griffith episode with the moonshine operation between the walls of the supposedly-haunted house?)
    One other thought: maybe you’ve got a prankster coworker. Or are there imminent threats to the house ? Like it’s going to be sold, razed, end up at the bottom of a lake? If so, maybe somebody feels compelled to stage a haunting for Scooby-Doo- or Brady-Bunch-inspired plot reasons.

    1. I Speak for the Trees*

      That’s really good advice, and, yeah, I’ve heard those stories, too.

      We actually don’t have an attic, basement, crawlspace (or even foundation). It’s an adobe home with super thick walls, too.

      That said, I would freakin’ LOVE to find a revolving bookcase or secret passageway.

      1. animaniactoo*

        We actually don’t have an attic, basement, crawlspace (or even foundation)


        That you know of! Bwhahaahahahahahaa!

    2. Phoenix from the ashes*

      I worked in an old building where one of the rooms on the top floor had a musty smell in the morning… turns out a tramp was sleeping in there. He was getting in over the roof through a window that had only the original latch to keep it shut. Don’t remember how he got found out, but it seems this had been going on for months at least. Check your windows!

    1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      If you haven’t seen it, there’s an update in the most recent Friday open thread.

  34. Museum Curator*

    I’ve worked in multiple historic homes and with collections that are/were haunted. In my experience, the ghosts have only helped garner community interest. Conversations about the hauntings often led to the establishment of relationships with local residents that led to donations and volunteerism. Embrace it, have fun with it, and find connections.
    Did any of the house’s former occupants have an interest in or support conservation? Did they will the house and grounds to become the park? “The ghosts will only rest until we have raised $16 million!” (Haha)

  35. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    My first day at this job, another coworker informed me the building is haunted. I asked around and it’s a pretty common belief. I’ve had a handful of experiences that I don’t have an explanation for. I do believe that at least 95% of the haunting could be remedied by better building maintenance and more thorough extermination service. I can’t explain the voices I heard when I was the last one out one day though. Like the OP, I don’t feel like it’s anything malevolent. Just a little startling the first time you hear someone talking and then you remember that you are the last one in the building.

    OP – Definitely get an electrician to check on your fans. That sounds a lot like faulty wiring.

  36. I Speak for the Trees*

    Hi, I’m the letter writer and, for the record, we’ve had the wiring checked numerous times, and they can find nothing amiss. That’s good advice, though.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I worked in a building rumored to be haunted. We were told it was all just the AC system once by a visitor, except… we didn’t have AC. We also had annual inspections of wiring and such that never found anything. But, like you, our Ghost was never malicious or a problem.

    2. Pilcrow*

      The weirdest things can affect the body in the oddest of ways. Certain resonance frequencies (google “19 hertz standing wave”) and high electro-magnetic fields can both cause the feeling of being watched and seeing shadow figures. Mold spores can make people paranoid and anxious.

      One somewhat famous example of the 19 hertz wave was caused by a new exhaust fan. Turned off the fan and the “ghosts” disappeared.

      1. yala*

        Carbon monoxide’s the one I’d check for first, tbh. If it’s an adobe house, I’m guessing it’s not in a very mold-spore friendly climate. And CO poisoning is way scarier than ghosts.

    3. Sarah*

      I own a house lots of people were convinced was haunted. Flickering lights, scraping sounds, thumps. Called an electrician who said there wasn’t anything wrong with the house wiring.
      Then the connector between the electric company service and my house fell off the side of the house. It was still attached to the wires, and every time the wind blew, it make the lights flicker. So don’t just check the house wiring.

      When the electric company came out to fix the connection (free – it was their connection) I asked them to make sure mice and squirrels couldn’t use that as a way to get into the house.

      Also called a plumber to put in a backflow valve between the sewer line and my pipes. No more toilets flushing themselves, and no more strange sounds in bathrooms.

      Then I hired somebody to clean out and fix the gutters, and he recommended I get the trees trimmed back so they didn’t rub on the roof and siding.

      I had a pest control company put in one-way doors for rodents, which let the critters out, but they couldn’t get back in and and also put steel wool and baffles in so mice couldn’t get in around the pipes.

      And that ended the ghostly visitations.

  37. Auntie Social*

    You could say “I’d heard that, and was kinda looking forward to something cool, but the only thing we’ve had is a family of squirrels. (smile) Cute squirrels, though!” (continue tour) “This is the supply room. . . .”

  38. Mr M*

    Removed because rude (just as I’d remove it if you said it about religion). – Alison

  39. Wing Leader*

    Since there’s all kinds of ghostly talk in this one, I’m going to recommend the writings of Kathryn Tucker Windham and her stories about Jeffrey to anyone who’s interested. If you don’t mind, Kathryn Tucker Windham was an Alabamian woman who realized that her house was haunted by a benevolent spirit (this was in the 60s). She had a lot of the signs that the OP mentions here–things moving, doors opening and closing, lights going on and off. But nothing bad. Anyway, she named her ghost Jeffrey and wrote several stories and books about him. His presence also piqued her interest in the supernatural in general, and she ended up writing about several other ghosts as well.

    1. Anon for this one*

      There are some videos of her on Youtube which makes her stories even better.

  40. DaniCalifornia*

    We get this all the time because our office is a prison built in the late 1800s. It even still has jail cells and doors and stuff around. Everyone asks if its haunted. Nope. A “paranormal” team came in and supposedly there was stuff they heard on the cameras they left overnight. Sure it gets a bit creepy late at night. But mostly it’s our imagination. We just tell everyone no and then it usually stops the conversation right there.

    1. Lily B*

      Omg. You have old-timey jail cells in your office?! How does that even work? Are they broom closets now, or cubicles?

      1. yala*

        Makes me think of my stepfather’s office. He was a pediatrician, and he turned his father’s old Sears home into a cowboy-themed office, complete with an old-timey jail cell–it was the quarantine area (never saw anyone sitting there that I recall, but if a kid came in with something contagious, that was where they were supposed to wait. It was a fun office for kids, and made it a lot less stressful to get little ones to the doctor.)

      2. DaniCalifornia*

        They were turned into booths when it was a restaurant. And now they have red diner booth cushions and someone installed huge shelves on top of some of them. Looks weird for sure. But they are on a floor with storage so we only take people up for tours occasionally.
        The floor where I work there is a bar in the back (again from when it was a restaurant) and doors that led to solitary confinement. Including a ball and chain. The doors are just kind of a divider between the large space where our desks sit and the “kitchen” area which is more hidden from clients.

  41. tesserae*

    >>not really our area of expertise.

    I get tremendous mileage out of this phrase: I used to work in the jewelry field & taught gemology for a long time, and people always want to ask me about vibrations, energy fields, all manner of stuff I don’t believe exists. “Not really my area” is my standard go to, and if they press me, I tell them I try to think about those things as metaphors, but that in my opinion they don’t exist. Which either shuts it down or we have a fascinating discussion about the role of metaphor in belief systems.

  42. AnyNon*

    Please be assured that there’s no such thing as a ‘haunted’ building and there will be rational explanations for all the things you are experiencing!… even if professionals haven’t found anything wrong with the air-con etc as of yet.

    It may be just the power of suggestion or something like that. You seem pretty open-minded and accepting to it, but it seems like a typical small-town (I know as I live in one myself!) echo chamber where gossip and rumors become de facto “facts”… without much critical thinking.

    I am interested in “paranormal” phenomena myself, but mostly with the viewpoint that supernatural things are just things that science hasn’t been able to explain as of yet (e.g. things like the weather, static electricity etc etc would probably have been perceived as ‘paranormal’ to our ancestors!).

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      You know, I often want to say this to religious people (There’s no such thing as a god.)–but I don’t. Because it’s rude.

  43. Wondercootie*

    If (big IF) it doesn’t interfere with the mission of the park you’re creating, make it part of your marketing. You could embrace it as a point of interest/folklore like some of the old cities do (ie-Williamsburg, Saint Augustine, etc.). Maybe see if you can find out some history about the house and its previous occupants. Make it so matter-of-fact that it just becomes common knowledge (AKA-old news is boring). People that believe in ghosts can continue to believe that it’s really haunted, and people that don’t can believe it’s just a quirky marketing ploy.

    Aside from that, definitely have an electrician inspection. Homes from that era can have some dangerous wiring situations.

  44. PB*

    I actually have some experience with this kind of thing. My first professional job was in a building famously rumored to be haunted, and my work space was actually in a room which also housed the cremated remains of three people (in urns, walled in). People would occasionally ask me if it was haunted or if it bothered me. I’d answer truthfully that it didn’t bother me, and while some people reported paranormal activity, I’d never experienced any. That never yielded any follow-up.

    Of course, it’s slightly different for you, since you have seen weird activity. Your heavy metal story reminds of something that happened in my childhood home (1840s farm house, also probably haunted). My mother and brother were home alone, and heard the theme from “The Phantom of the Opera” blare from the opposite end of the house, then stop. They were like, “Huh, creepy,” and just went on with their day.

    Like animaniactoo said upthread, if you suspect spiritual activity, it can be better not to engage. I’ve known other people who have had good success with saying “Go away” to ghosts.

    Writing this out, I’m starting to notice that people in my life and I have had maybe more than our fair share of paranormal activity…

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I love the idea that your household ghost was keeping up on the latest Broadway musicals of that era.

      1. Radio Girl*

        I’ve heard old-time radio, static and everything, plus a radio ID jingle that sounded like the Andrews Sisters, five years apart and in two different places in my house.

  45. xxx9*

    I love a good haunting & anything occult but this sounds more like you work in a 110-year old house rather than a ghost. Everyone else has said it but I would get the house checked out by an inspector to make sure everything is running ok & esp get someone to check if there are rats in the walls (thumping and scratching in the walls is the number one sign that there are animals in there – and it can go on for years before you even see them or see droppings – they could be going in and out of the building). As for the older woman muttering in Spanish – and I don’t mean this offensively – but could there actually be an elderly woman in the building? Is anyone hired to maintain/clean the office at night? For the metal music…I got nothing but I am sure there is something (coworker playing a trick?)

    Since your Q was about how to deal with it – just let them know, ‘yeah such & such has happened’ but in your experience, it’s all harmless & honestly, most likely bc you are in an old building rather than any spirit that has yet to move on. I’d make it a little in-joke about working there – “ah sorry, Jane, the lights are flickering – Casper must not like your new spring layout.”

    1. Hmmm*

      Google “malware makes phone play music” and you can see there’s at least one explanation that’s consistent with the laws of nature as we understand them. One side effect of believing a space is haunted is that ghosts are the first conclusion you jump to when something weird but perfectly explainable happens.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      I’ve seen a TV episode where a ghost turned out to be a homeless person living in the building secretly. Maybe have a security person check that out as well.

  46. Rachel*

    I had a similar experience. I worked at a non-profit in an isolated area. There was a ton of chatter from locals and staff, ranging from lights flickering to apparitions of recently deceased children who came to the center. The elderly onsite caretaker had an unconventional, but helpful approach, after dealing with decades of panicked staff members and volunteers. He’d say: “Tell them what you’re doing, why you’re here and then keep going.” It worked because it made the staff feel more in control and help recenter the conversation on the organization’s mission. Ghosts could do their haunting thing, squirrels in the attic could do their thing, and we could still our work (99.5% of the time :)).

  47. Working Mom Having It All*

    One easy way to shut down the haunted house talk is to say that there’s no such thing as a haunted house. Because there isn’t. And agreeing that the house is probably haunted is just giving people who want to talk about the topic more ammo. If someone comes in and is like “OMG I heard this place is haunted!” the best response is “Oh, I don’t believe in that; let me go see if Karen is available for that 10:30 meeting…”

    Frankly, a 110 year old house isn’t even that old, and wouldn’t be considered unusual — let alone “probably haunted” — in most parts of the world.

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      SO do you tell people there is no such thing as gods? Because there is no evidence as that as well.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        I think in most workplaces that aren’t specifically religious organizations, it’s not considered appropriate to talk about religion.

        I think that if we’re going to classify the paranormal as a belief on the same level as religion, then the haunting talk needs to stop. Period. It’s not appropriate to talk about god at work. If you believe in ghosts and consider that as fundamental to your worldview as a religion, then you need to keep it out of the workplace.

        If you want to reserve the right to talk about ghosts at work as if they are real, then you also must contend with the fact that most people don’t believe in ghosts and have the right to be open about that. Especially in service to changing the subject.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          People can talk about religion at work–and do–as long as it’s not all the time and people aren’t discriminating or mocking. If X and Y co workers wish to discuss Catholicism and Hindu beliefs–they can. And you are giving permission for atheists to clearly state they don’t believe in any god and they have the right to be open about that. (As well as Satanists, etc.) And if your co workers are discussing their beliefs in ghosts, gods, the IPU, etc., you needn’t be in that conversation unless they ask. You certainly can politely ask they not talk about it around you–just as I can ask my religious co workers to please not discuss their beliefs.

        2. Dahlia*

          So when someone brings up their grandchild’s baptism at work, you’d be all, “Stop talking about religion at work!”?

          1. Allonge*

            I know you are not askng me, but – if the conversation trended towards them expecting me to believe in God/ghosts, I would definitely say there is no such thing.

            We don’t need [whatever legal] rights because God can make everything good – that may be ok for you, but there is no God for me and both of these are valid. Life needs to be organised in a way where both of these things can be in different people’s heads and it’s still livable.
            We have ghosts in this office and they are responsible for the flickering lights – no such thing as ghosts. Get the electrician.
            Talking about somebody’s christening or whatever event is talking about a life event, which is fine. You went to a haunting in the weekend – good for you. In these cases I am not expected to be a part of your beliefs, you (general you) are just telling me about your life. As soon as I need to believe the same things as you, the “there is no such thing” comes up.

  48. Hmmm*

    I really want to be sensitive to all the folks who say they’ve experienced hauntings — and I am, because being a dick never helps anyone! — but there is such a discrepancy between the apparently substantial number of people who say they’ve definitely been around ghosts and the verified documentation of any paranormal activity whatsoever.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      People can believe in it privately, if they want. It should not be this much of a factor in everyday life at this workplace. It’s honestly shocking to me that the answer of “change the subject” isn’t so obvious as to preclude writing in about it.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        None. But people have some odd disconnection. Jesus cool. Ghosts not. Just like psychics are frauds but priests aren’t–although there’s more evidence for psychic gifts than gods.

      2. Hmmm*

        Well, yeah, there is broad agreement among scholars who study the history of Christianity that he existed, but that’s really neither here nor there. If video cameras and live webcam feeds and so forth back had been commonplace in like 30 CE, it would be weird to believe in the miracles described in the Gospels and never at least wonder why nobody had thought to capture some footage thereof for posterity. And since we do have those technologies today, I feel comfortable noting the discrepancy I mentioned. I just know that if I sincerely believed my workplace were haunted, I would spend a heck of a lot of time and energy trying to prove it. From a purely practical standpoint, if you get properly accredited researchers to agree that your conservation-based nonprofit is playing host to supernatural forces, you are not going to have to worry about fundraising for the foreseeable future.

      3. Ico*

        The difference is that people who believe ghosts are doing things are their house are making falsible claims. If you say that a ghost is moving your butter from the fridge to the cabinet and I set up a camera and find it’s your roommate, that’s a problem for your belief.

        Members of mainstream religious typically aren’t – if they aren’t doing things like faith healing there is really nothing concrete to disprove. It’s totally fair to say it’s a nice convenient racket that those religions only deal in such things, but it is a real difference. There’s really no way to construct an experiment that would confirm the existence of the Abrahamic God in most conceptions.

  49. Jake*

    I vote on proactively bringing it up. If I was hired without being told ahead of time I’d spend an inordinate amount of time trying to debunk the haunting.

  50. Ramanon*

    Obviously, get an electrician (or even better, start with an office inspector to hit everything at once) in there to fix what needs fixing. Secondly, whether the place is haunted or not, people tend to look oddly at folks who believe in ghosts, and if there’s still odd stuff happening after the place gets fixed up, you’re gonna need some plausible deniability to keep people from gossiping and to prevent unwarranted anxiety. Now, there’s plenty of ways to lean away and lean into it, and all the smart people above me have gone through those, so here’s the most direct (if least hypoallergenic) way to keep people from thinking it’s ghosts. Bring in the cat.

    Hit up the local shelter, and find the most crotchety and unsociable adult cat they have. It can be hard to tell in shelter environments, but you don’t want a cuddler or one that’s going to interrupt work, you want one that’ll bop around and entertain itself. No kittens, older adults are better than younger adults, and you preferably want a cat that looks conventionally ugly or unusual, especially if it also looks like it’s picked more than a few fights. This cat now lives in your base of operations, or at least in the most haunted areas, and you’re going to want to spoil it rotten. Trees, toys, multiple water dishes, the works. Magically, the banging noises will stop being “ghost” and start being “cat,” and you can rest easy.

    1. Lily B*

      I lived in a haunted apartment for awhile in Chicago. It was a former hotel where some shady things went down: many of Al Capone’s associates and their girlfriends lived there, and I found several old newspaper articles about at least two people committing suicide by jumping out of the windows of the hotel. There were small unexplained disturbances when I lived there — mainly hearing people outside in the hallway but not seeing anyone if you looked through the peephole — but overall it was fine. A little weird, but if ghosts are real, it seems like the only power they have is to mildly inconvenience people. I slept fine in that apartment because I DGAF about ghosts. People’s attitudes toward the noises and disturbances are what makes the difference.

    2. yala*

      “Magically, the banging noises will stop being “ghost” and start being “cat,” and you can rest easy.”

      Honestly, yes. I’m a really nervous person, and used to freak out over night noises (in our apartment, less because of “ghosts” and more because of “bugs/intruders? Probably bugs but eew!”), and getting a cat basically stopped my night anxiety completely.

      Except for that time I heard loud rustling next to my bed, and shrugged it off thinking it was my cat…and then realized she was sleeping on my feet. Sleep paralysis is a heckuva thing.

  51. Hiring Mgr*

    What should the OP do if the ghosts are constantly saying good morning or asking about their weekend, even as OP is on the way to the bathroom? Talk about annoying…

    1. chillininmyofficeyo*

      OP should firmly and directly say “Look, Ghost, you say hello a lot and it’s distracting me from the work I’m thinking about en route to the bathroom. Can you tell me if there’s some kind of issue going on here that we can work through together? From now on, I’ll only be returning your greetings on the Wednesdays that I wear my pink shirt with the blue slacks. So please stop harrassing me. Thanks for understanding!”

  52. De Minimis*

    I worked in a medical clinic that was supposedly haunted. I never had anything happen, but noticed something that could be a potential downside for the LW–meetings often turned into discussions of the latest “sighting” or the re-telling of stories past. I enjoyed it, but it did tend to kind of make meetings longer than they needed to be, and I think it tended to distract people from work sometimes.

  53. Katherine*

    I used to work in a restaurant that all us employees agreed was haunted. I worked the opening shift so I was routinely in the building alone from 5:30am to whenever the second person came on shift (they were supposed to be in at 8:00am but they were frequently late). The ghost that haunted the restaurant we named Wilbur and he liked to scare you by turning on the automatic hand dryers in the bathroom while you were sitting on the toilet across the room. He also liked to knock over paper bags that you had set out to bag up your to go orders, which then had to be thrown away because they hit the floor. Wilbur was mostly just a pest once you got to know him.

  54. Lost in the Woods*

    People can believe in whatever they want, but this would be a dealbreaker for me at work. Horror/supernatural stuff is a major trigger of intrusive thoughts for me, so working in a place like this would be very bad for my mental health. I think it needs to be brought up proactively, so that people can self-select out. “Just so you’re aware, there are a lot of paranormal stories about the building we’re housed in, and it comes up frequently with visitors and at work.” Keep your tone neutral and focused on how it might affect the work environment, and it should be fine.

    1. WS*

      +1, a significant number of people with intrusive thoughts or OCD-caused ritual behaviours are affected by discussion of the supernatural (including religion!) and I think mentioning it in a neutral way is important, since it’s going to be part of their workplace.

    2. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

      Yeah, this is the only disagreement I have with Alison’s advice. I would matter-of-factly disclose the rumors for lots of reasons:
      -Believe in ghosts, gonna be freaked out? Now you know.
      -Strongly disbelieve in ghosts, might risk a workplace injury from rolling your eyes too hard all the time? Select out.
      -Have intrusive thoughts, would create difficult work circumstances for you? Good to know ahead of time.
      -Maybe so intrigued that you’ll be trying to do a seance with a ouija board instead of finishing the filing? Watched for signs, interviewer.
      -And so on.

      There’s been good phrasing proposed several times already, and I think some version of “these stories are connected to this place, FYI” saves trouble in the long run.

      1. Sam*

        You’ve brought this up in response to pretty much every comment disputing the existence of ghosts.

        The OP doesn’t work in a haunted house or a church, and there’s no need to make this part of the workplace. If it’s your religious belief that there can’t possibly be a secular explanation for this kind of thing, I really don’t know what to say – because obviously the standard, non-paranormal thing to do would be to… fix the actual problems? And not attribute them to the supernatural? And anyone who pursues anything else is undermining business effectiveness?

        If I could get away with blaming problems on hauntings, I would! “A ghost did it” is not an excuse that flies in most environments.

        1. Sam*

          I guess where I’m coming from is:

          It’s totally reasonable to accommodate religion, and is indeed commendable up until you close your pork sausage factory in order to accommodate the dietary restrictions of an employee. It makes sense not to ask that employee to do that work, sure, but it can’t be the basis of what your goals are.

          If your goal is to run a business, I would posit that it – absence an overwhelming environment of belief, cf a haunted house or church – it behooves you to run it in a secular way, at least as far as your interpretation of cause and effect goes. Even Christian businesses have accountants and electricians, as opposed to leaving it to the (holy) ghost.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            My point is clear–believing n ghosts or aliens or what have you is no different than believing in god, angels, the devil, etc. If you wouldn’t mock someone’s religious beliefs, don’t mock those who believe in ghosts. Plenty of people here are stating ghosts aren’t real but dollars to doughnuts, if someone wrote about a conflict with their religious beliefs and someone stated, you know god isn’t real, people would have a fit. I absolutely agree business should be run in a secular fashion–unfortunately in the US, we don’t do this–we give credence to acceptable religious beliefs even when they do great harm but not other beliefs which are just as (ir)rational.

            1. Sam*

              Multiple people have written in about their employer/coworker saying something is just “God’s will”. That wouldn’t fly for me, and it’s not out of lack of respect for religious beliefs – I just can recognize the difference between *possessing* beliefs and assuming everyone else has the same understanding of cause and effect that you do.

              (Spoiler. It’s rarely god’s will; normally it’s that you forgot to save your file/the internet went down/your wiring is faulty/whatever.)

    1. Marvel*

      Hey so, this is pretty rude to those of us whose religions include belief in the continued existence of the dead and the possibility of interaction between their world and ours, however we might conceive of that.

      And divorcing it from religion for a sec, because I think that gets us bogged down in conversations about religion and the workplace when that really doesn’t apply here–belief in ghosts and spirits is… pretty common, in many, many, many cultures, including mainstream American culture. I confess, I’m terribly confused as to why people are acting like this is shocking.

      …Then again, I also work in theatre. Saying “you know ghosts aren’t real right” to a group of theatre people would probably get you laughed out of the room, whether or not they have a “serious” belief in ghosts, because there’s a cultural belief in them. And it’s rude and unnecessary to bash communal beliefs and superstitions for no reason, just because you think they’re silly. It’s different if there is actual harm–of course, yes, your first reaction to flickering lights should be “ugh what is going on with our wiring” and not “A GHOST!” But I see no reason to assume that the OP is an unreasonable loon here, and it would take an unreasonable loon to immediately jump to that and not address the potential safety concerns.

    2. Oilpress*

      I had the same reaction. I can just imagine how much my eyes would roll if my organization’s leader sent out emails about our headquarters being haunted and how they wanted us to acknowledge it in interviews. I would lose all my confidence in them.

  55. Not So NewReader*

    I applied for a job at a place that was haunted, very, very haunted.
    They spent most of the interview telling me just how haunted they were.
    Seances were part of the job.

    While I do believe there are spirits close to us sometimes, I also believe in telling the spirit to “drag it”.
    I did not get that job.

    In the course of reading over the years, I see that some places use their ghosts as part of their marketing campaign.
    These folks in my story were very content with their ghosts and their ghosts were not the best behaved. It felt like it was more about the ghosts than it was about the actual work they were doing. I lost interest in the job when no one seemed to be interested in controlling the story line (the stories got worse as I went along). They all thought it was intriguing, scary, and they seemed loaded up with fear. It was a HUGE distraction from the work at hand. Then the mandatory seances where they interacted with the spirits. sigh. It just felt like they were deliberately keeping everything stirred up.

  56. Bowserkitty*

    I think I would personally treat them like the ghosts in the British TV show Ghosts. They’re harmless and perhaps even almost friendly (when they aren’t trying to kick you out of the building).

  57. CoffeeOnMyMind*

    I worked 5 years for a nonprofit located in an 1850s Victorian mansion. It was haunted; most of the staff had experiences, and so did several of the volunteers. With the exception of one volunteer, everyone considered the ghosts just part of the job.

    Some of the things I experienced: a dead spot in my office where nothing electronic would work; footsteps walking up and down the stairs when no one else was in the house; banging on the back door, which would stop as soon as I touched the doorknob and then would immediately start one floor below (I even opened the door to look downstairs and outside but no one was there). Once, after disarming the house alarm in the morning, I heard heavy footsteps walking across the upper floor. I called out, “hello?” and the footsteps immediately stopped. No one else was in the house.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      The bank I used to work in supposedly had a ghost. The cleaning people would hear footsteps on the floor above while they were locked in during evening hours.

  58. College Grad*

    I worked at a haunted historical building and management’s advice for dealing with guests was to ignore/deny things. Just matter of factly respond that “no, it’s not haunted.” Our mission wasn’t about the haunting and management felt that that detracted from the vistitor’s experience and so were against leaning into it, like some other sites do. Most people simply dropped it after you said that.

  59. Snowy*

    “All old houses have their quirks, this one’s no difference. I won’t worry about it until the ghosts learn to collate! Now, about that project…”

    “It used to be haunted, but then these two guys in an old Impala wrecked the place, and it’s been fine since.”

    “We called Ghostbusters. So, the Bean Dip Forest Plan…”

  60. Daisy Avalin*

    When I agreed to start working the night shift at the petrol station, the retiring night shift lady and her cashier friend told me there was a ghost. The only information they had was that his name is George.
    I’m not fussed either way and don’t really think about it much, and the few ‘occurrences’ of George’s presence (bread/choc bars falling off sloping shelves, promo signs falling off the front of shelves) have rational logical explanations. I still blame George for them, or ask him to quiet down sometimes, although the noises/bangs he makes when I’m in the stockroom to alert me to customers on the forecourt are helpful!.

    The bit I can’t rationalise away, which does make me think there’s a ghost is that I almost walked into somebody who wasn’t there one night about 8 months after I started working the nights.
    So, it’s 1am, doors have been locked since 11pm and nobody else inside per the company insurance/H & S policy, I’m going about my work stocking shelves, and round the corner of one of the shelf units to find myself with my nose half an inch away from the chest of a man in a check shirt. As is natural when you almost walk into somebody, I startle backwards and start apologising, only to realise there’s nobody there! Vague impression of an older man (mid 50s) with dark hair, and the check shirt. Not scary at all, and I’ve never felt in danger at any point there before or since this encounter.

    I do use ‘stories’ about George’s antics to spook a co-worker I don’t particularly like, though!

  61. mcr-red*

    Ghost LW: I have a friend who says that her house is haunted – she has had several really weird things happen at her house kind of like your stories, minus the metal music. It was really starting to freak her out. I met a woman through work who is heavily into the paranormal (she says she’s a psychic medium) and I told her about my friend’s story. She said it sounded like something was there, but as long as its not malevolent, the best thing you can do is to ignore the weird stuff as much as possible, the more attention you give it and the more you freak out, the more they will feed on that energy. So, seriously tell people that – “Oh, we don’t talk about that, we were told it would feed on the attention.” And then do your best to ignore it. My friend said it did seem to help.

    And I second whoever said it above, she also told me DON’T USE A OUIJA BOARD THERE. I’m not sure where I fall on the believe/not spectrum, but someone who does believe tells me emphatically not to do that, yeah, I’m not doing that.

  62. Rockin Takin*

    I worked in a large industrial building making biopharmaceuticals. When the building was built 30-40 years ago, they had to relocate part of a very old cemetary. The rest of the cemetary was right next to our building complex. People were pretty sure that some of the graves were never moved because it was old and a lot of the markers were gone.
    A few times we had odd things happen that we couldn’t explain. Like a mixer plate having the RPMs changed when no one was in the room.
    This is a whole group of scientists who did a full investigation and we’re unable to figure out how the RPMs were changed.
    Some of us just chuckled and chalked to up to ghosts, including some of the scientists.
    I don’t see why believing in ghosts or at least being open minded to it is a problem for OP’s organization. They aren’t talking about it unless someone brings it up.

    OP’s building also sounds like it is a part of local history, so people are probably going to continue to be interested in it.

  63. Michaela Westen*

    I feel a little concerned about the phone blaring heavy metal because that seems aggressive. On the assumption it’s music the ghost likes, and if you can remember what it was, maybe play some of that music when you leave at night? And then (hopefully) the ghost won’t escalate its attempts to scare you.
    A little side note – don’t know if the ghost would like this, but PostModern Jukebox has done covers of some Metallica songs and they are amazing. Brilliant songwriters! There’s also a swing version of Enter Sandman which I love, by The New Morty Show.

  64. Sam*

    There are multiple letters about how, in a secular workplace, saying “This is God’s will” is not a reasonable response to business matter. To me, this is the same.

  65. SplendidSparkle*

    I really want to send this to the woman in my firm who goes ghost-hunting as a very very serious hobby.

    (I emphasize the serious because she is serious about it, not to make fun.)

  66. Elizabeth West*

    I’m sorry I missed this conversation yesterday (was busting my arse for seven hours straight to clean and stage my house). I grew up in a haunted house; nothing dangerous ever happened. This house may have been haunted—I smudged it with guidance from a Native American friend, and the weird stuff seems to have stopped. There’s a company downtown in this city whose building is known to be haunted. I applied for a job there once. Didn’t get an interview, but thanks to all this experience, I wouldn’t have been scared to work there. Most hauntings aren’t like the Paranormal Activity horror films.

    I like Alison’s advice to address your workplace’s notoriety with job candidates. Some people are really spooked by paranormal occurrences, and if they are, it might affect them enough that they won’t stick around.

  67. LittleLove*

    If someone told me not to worry about the office ghost and they were serious, I’d run, not walk, to the nearest exit.

      1. Delphine*

        I don’t think there’s any reason to conflate “sanity” and “believing in ghosts”–but it does seem reasonable to avoid working in places where ghosts might be a topic of conversation regularly. You’d need to be able to be polite and professional, even if you didn’t believe.

  68. Kriss*

    The last company I worked for that was supposedly haunted turned out to be a story started by employees who were stealing from the company after hours

  69. Audrey Puffins*

    A little late to the party, but you definitely need to bring it up at the interview stage. If you get someone like several of the above commenters, who so 100% DO NOT BELIEVE in ghosts that they would slam their hands down on the desk and leave the building never to return the first time they so much as heard the G-word in a work environment, then it’s better that they slam and leave an interview than go through the entire hiring process and waste everybody’s time.

  70. Ella Vader*

    Consider adopting a working-alone protocol. It can be as simple as texting a co-worker on your way in and out if you’re going to be working in the office on a weekend, or having the second-last departer check in with the last person staying late on a weekday and vice versa. Not so much because of horror movie villains or supernatural threats, but also things like, if you fell in the parking lot and couldn’t call for help. Also, consider including keeping the doors locked when there’s only one person there as a general practice.

    Working Alone Policies are readily available from many work safety resources. If you aren’t doing particularly hazardous things and don’t have cash or other stealable temptations on hand, they don’t need to be onerous, and they are good practice.

  71. Yanus*

    I strongly suggest you review your electrical cabling and general power line quality, as ghost may or may not be real, but bad power grid can cause big problems.

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