Smell, phantosmia, clairscent and the paranormal
First I am going to address the elephant in the room. There is always an occurrence on a paranormal investigation where someone breaks wind. It is inevitable during a 12 hour investigation as it is a normal bodily function. Some may admit to and people may laugh and move on. Other people may hide it. There of course can be things like body odour and cigarette smells on smokers etc, but this is not the smells I am talking about. I am talking about the out of place smells that suddenly enter a room. It may be one person who smells it or it could be several. Is it an indication spirit is present? Does it mean you have a gift of clairscent? Is it the power of suggestion or is it phantosmia? Lets look at all the different possibilities for those paranormal smells.
We have addressed the elephant in the room, now it is time to address the demon in the room. A common theory among investigators is that the smell of sulphur is an indication that a demon is present. It is a smell that is rotten, grotesque and almost like rotten eggs. I personally don't believe that this is an indication of a demon being in the room. More than likely it is probably the elephant and not the demon if you know what I mean. It could also be a dead animal. Abadoned buildings often have rodent problems and they can turn up in all sorts of places - especially places you cannot see.
A lot of old buildings that we investigate are ridden with mould. You may not see it, but it can be there. The smell of mould is sort of musty and to me it is an unmistakable smell. It is also important to understand that long exposure to mould can cause a person to suffer from brain fog and hallucinations. If you smell mould and you have a paranormal experience, you need to consider that you may be hallucinating.
Some people have special abilities in that they can use their senses to communicate with spirit. This is called clairsenses. Clairvoyance is the ability to receive mental images and people use this to read the past, present and future. Clairaudience is he ability to 'hear' spirit through their inner ear. Clairsentience is to feel physical sensations from spirit. There are a lot of ways in which spirit can affect a person. Another way is what is called Clairscent. This is the ability to smell something which is not something that a physical nose is smelling. It is a smell a person suddenly picks up on that is completely out of place and is considered to be from spirit. Quite often this happens in the form of perfume, cigar smoke, cooking - something that would be significant to the spirit and the message they are trying to communicate. I personally remember my Grandfather smelling of Old spice aftershave. After he passed, there were occasions where I would out of the blue suddenly smell his aftershave. To me, it gave me comfort that he was around and making himself known. While I do not have the ability of clairscent, most people will have had similar experiences where out of the blue they have smelt something out of place and interpreted it to be from spirit.
Power of suggestion
While spirit can certainly be trying to give us a message, the power of suggestion as we know it is very strong. I can be in a room and pick a smell that has no relation to the room. I could say either "when people come in this room they smell lavender because it was the lady of the house's favourite flower". I have planted that seed and surely enough, someone will smell lavender. Are they smelling lavender because the lady who loved the flower is connecting with them or are they smelling it because I planted the idea in their head? Sometimes it can be a case that someone will say "I smell petrol" and suddenly other people start experiencing the same smell. They are not purposely faking that they smell something. In a case like this, they either really are all picking up on this smell or their brain is making them believe they are because again that hint of suggestion has been planted. Smell also evokes memory. A certain smell can take you back to a certain memory in life. If this by chance relates to someone fond to you that has passed, while it could be them dropping in to say hi, it could also just be a co-incidence.
Phantosmia is basically a smelling version of hallucinations. It causes you to smell things that aren't really there. They are known as olfactory hallucinations. They can be caused by nasal infections, dental problems and nasal polyps. It can also be caused by migraines, head injuries and even some mental health conditions. The odour the victims are usually subjected to are not nice. They are described as foul, rotten, like a sewage, like sulphur (aka a demon). Some people also smell burning, chemical or metallic like smells. I always know when I am getting a cold. When I eat, nothing tastes good, it all tastes off. I imagine that Phantosmia caused by a nasal infection can work in a similar way. Remember a lot of us investigate in winter and we quite often have colds. Particularly here in Australia, the last couple of years has had most of us sick all winter with a form of a cold. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that on some occasions we could have had a case of Phantosmia caused by a nasal infection.
Debunking paranormal smells
It is extremely difficult to debunk a paranormal smell. Just because you can't find the source of a smell, it doesn't mean that the cause isn't right under your nose so to speak. Some important tips to remember outside of the points above can help you when you are out there trying to debunk a paranormal smell:
- Old abandoned buildings usually have rodent problems. You often find dead animals or bait stations lying around. The smell of a rotting corpse could quite possibly be a dead animal. Remember they can be in wall cavities and all sorts of places that you will not be able to access during your investigation.
- The source of a smell can stay in a room for sometimes hours. Think of if someone has a cigarette and smoke goes into your house. Sometimes that smell can stay for hours. What about someone wearing strong perfume. They have left the room, but the smell has not.
- Smell travels with air. Quite simply if there is a draft or a breeze, a smell can follow its path sometimes making it difficult to find it's source. I know I can smell if a house a few doors down from me is cooking a curry. If I am inside my house, I of course would not find the source as it is not even inside my house. It has entered through some sort of draft.
- Temperature can also play a part. Some items only emit a smell if they are heated.
- If a building has been shut up for a long period of time and hasn't been given a chance to 'breathe' it can smell. If you have a location you visit frequently and notice that one night the smell is more potent, it is probably likely that no one has been inside or opened a door or window in some time.
- Old buildings can have their own smell. A combination of must, mould, rodents, urine and god knows what else, each building can have it's own distinct smell. Add to this walking around in the dark looking for ghosts, it all contributes to that unknown spooky factor. You might be looking a little too hard and your brain decides to step in and join the party either misinterpreting these smells or completely making one up.
- Sometimes people can emit a certain odour if they are sick, on certain medications, stressed or scared. If it a stranger and you are not used to their 'smell' it can be confusing when you are all huddled together in a small dark room.
So what is it I am smelling? That is not for me to answer as it is a very personal thing and like everything that we do with the paranormal, it is how we interpret it. So long as we arm ourselves with the basic information above, we can look at a situation for what it was and where we were and what health we were in. If we cannot explain the phantom smell, it doesn't necessarily mean it is paranormal, but then again there is our intuition. Always trust your gut. We say that our bodies can be the best tool when investigating the paranormal. It is because our senses are heightened particularly in a dark quiet space. If you go in with a level head but you just feel like you know what it is, then go with your gut. At the end of it, someone smelling something is not evidence of the paranormal, but it might be a personal experience for someone. A personal experience is just that, it is personal and not up to us to judge. If someone believes they have had an experience with spirit through one of their senses, who am I to tell them they didn't?
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