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Fischer: House haunted? More likely, it’s a pest or other cause

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 15, 2021

Photo supplied

Jen Fischer

“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious,” from character Michael Scott in the popular TV show “The Office.” Frankly, I’m not either one. Knock on wood. There is no sound so sinister nor apparition so otherworldly that I couldn’t justify away with a perfectly logical and rational explanation. In celebration of Halloween month (my second favorite holiday next to my birthday), in this two-part series, we will be addressing literal skeletons that could be hiding in the closet.

Squeaky floors, screeching sounds, scraping and banging noises, cold burst of damp air, dripping water and spirit sightings within a home can lead some people to believe their home is genuinely haunted. Before scheduling an exorcism or calling Ghostbusters, there are some common household maintenance items that should be checked off the list first.

Early one morning, 2 a.m. to be exact, I heard a scream in my basement. I ran downstairs and my 19-year-old daughter was standing on top of her bed with a look of terror on her face. She informed me that she was hearing consistent scratching noises coming from her closet. The closet door was open, and no one was in there. Convinced she was hearing things, I told her to go back to sleep. She insisted the noise was real. I fumbled around the closet and picked up some clothes that were on the floor. It was then that I saw it. I screamed as well and jumped on the bed with her. The sight was more horrifying than I could have imagined. If it were only a ghost or a skeleton I could have gone back to bed and slept soundly, but what I saw frightened me more than anything I could have imagined. It was a mouse.

Uninvited critters in the house can not only make creepy sounds and scratchy noises, but they can also wreak havoc behind the walls of a home. Not only do these creatures reproduce at alarming rates, but they also love to chew through wiring, gnaw on wood and destroy insulation. They can also completely contaminate all the food stored in the home as well.

Not only can creatures be the cause of sinister sounds, but they can also be the explanation for flickering lights. Let’s face it. A light flickering on and off by itself is disturbing. However, knowing a varmint is the cause can quickly shift the macabre into more of a feeling of fury. I don’t know which is worse. Yet even if a furry little rodent isn’t to blame for the flickering, faulty wiring could easily be. Homes that were built before 1970 commonly have aluminum wiring. This can cause power surges, loose connections and bad circuits. Also, using a higher watt bulb on a fixture that was designed for a minimal watt bulb could heat the socket and melt the wires, leading to a somewhat electrifying experience.

While toasted wires can cause unpleasant odors, deathly smells can also come from clogged drains. Before checking for lifeless victims, check the p-trap in the sink. If that’s unimpeded, check for slime build up in the pipes. Calling Ghostbusters may only add to the problem, so save that option as a last resort.

Pipes are also a common culprit for loud, banging noises in the walls, especially in older buildings. The cause could be hydraulic shocks. It is a simple fix with the installation of a water hammer arrester. I have even heard stories of toilets flushing themselves. As I am pretty sure the common ghoul, as well as the run-of-the-mill zombie, doesn’t ever need to use the facilities, the more obvious explanation could simply be the flapper valve in the toilet needs replacing.

These common issues are just the tip of the cadaverous iceberg. Stay tuned for part two next week, where I continue to rain on everyone’s proverbial Halloween party.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.

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