I'm Scared

#1) I’m waking up every few mornings with scratches on my abdomen or legs. They resemble a cat’s scratches (I have a cat), but they are about 2 - 2 1/2 inches apart (father than a cat could spread his claws). I never feel anything scratching me, but they are there plain as day every few days. They don’t hurt too much-- more annoying than anything else.

#2) Twice in the last week I’ve been awakened at about 4:30 A.M. by unusual sounds. On Monday it was the smoke detector going off, even though there was no smoke anywhere near the house and the battery checked out OK. On Thursday it was the sound of something tapping against my bathroom window. An inspection yielded nothing unusual outside.

#3) My cat has taken to running madly back and forth throughout the house. I know, this is not unusual for cats, but mine didn’t do this until we moved here.

I’m beginning to think that there is some sort of evil going on in my house. My questions for the Dopers inclined to the paranormal:

  1. Do paranormal manifestations tend to start out small and get worse?

  2. I understand that to get an EVIL being, you have to invite one (incantations, etc.) I’ve done nothing of the sort, except maybe watching reruns of “South Park.” Would a non-evil paranormal manifestation scratch me?

  3. Most importantly, IS THERE A WAY TO PUT A STOP TO THIS? I’d rather not resort to séances, exorcisms, or other foolishness.

Dopers who are strict rationalists or who would not believe in the paranormal if it bit them in the ass are kindly asked not to flame me. Thanks.

Actually, I’m interested in learning about the whole “to get an EVIL being, you have to invite one” bit. It seems to me that an evil being would want to come and screw you up anyway, and wouldn’t wait to be invited. Also, what is it about the spirits of the evil (how would one nounize [nouniate?] the adjective ‘evil?’) that makes them different from the spirits of the good in that they can’t come without an invitation? I hope you don’t construe this as flame, I’m just interested in the terms.

No, I don’t consider it a flame at all. I’ll give you the facts as I see them.

Having studied various aspects of the paranormal throughout my life (but having never personally experienced it (and been aware of it) until now), I can tell you confidently that the consensus among paranormal experts is that ghosts and poltergeists may come and go from one’s life as it pleases. However, the worst (and dare I say, only truly evil) paranormal being is a demon, and the only way to get a demon is to invite one.

I’ve never been clear on what is meant by the term “demon.” It seems to suggest one of Satan’s henchmen, one of the angels that fell with Lucifer after the Rebellion, etc. At least, that’s the Christian interpretation (and the one that I’m inclined to). However, to some, it could also mean simply an evil spirit, not necessarily working for or otherwise connected to Lucifer, the Devil, etc. A New Age interpretation of “demon” might refer to a spiritual manifestation of negative energy. Following me so far?

Here’s where it gets interesting. The consensus seems to be that the only way to get a demon into your life is to invite one. This is done through various means: incantations and the like. Reagan, the little girl in “The Exorcist,” got demon-posessed after playing with a Ouija board by herself (strictly verboten, according to Ouija users). A demon can also be set loose by a hideous act of unspeakable evil, such as necrophilia.


There are three tell-tale signs of demonic infestation, and you have to have all three to be sure that what you’ve got is a demon:

  1. Isolated cold. The rest of the house is normal, but one particular room is always 20-30 degrees colder.

  2. Hideous smells. Imagine the most hideous smells you can and multiply them by 100.

  3. Desecration of religious symbols. A crucifix inexplicably turned upside-down, etc.


The noises I could learn to live with, but it’s the scratching that’s freaking me out. They don’t hurt, so whatever it is is not trying to torture me, but clearly it wants my attention.

I hope this answers your questions.


A very interesting post. I don’t have any solutions for you. Maybe a suggestion or two though. Is it possible that you could be scratching yourself with your own fingernails or the buttons on your pajamas? How about setting up a videocamera to tape what’s going on? How about asking someone to sit in your room during the night and observe?

I have a strange thing that happens from time to time in my house too. One of my televisons turns itself on in the middle of the night. It has happened dozens of times in these past months and at different times of the night. I’ve thought that maybe it’s explainable as some kind of electonic defect in the television, but I’m not sure. Keep us posted. I’m interested.

I’ve heard those interpretations of evil spirits (though the Ouija board thing is new to me and cautions me to treat it with new-found respect).

I think we can dismiss the cat. Cat’s are just funny. My brother’s cat can be weird. It’s really fat and mostly just waddles around and wants food and attention. Ocassionally though it’ll spend half an hour tearing around the house (high speeds, quick cornering, pouncing on papers). They’re just odd felines. Probably, you’re cat just reacted to the move (they’re sensitive to their surroundings) and might be going a bit stir crazy.

As for the scratches, I really don’t know. If that sort of thing started happening to me, I’d freak out. I’ve never been comfortable with the dark. I suggest you watch 6th Sense, if only because it’s a good movie :).

I suppose it’s possible that you’re doing it yourself. I’ve read accounts of the Salem witchcraft trials where the victims began writhing and were covered with scratches that quickly faded. This was also noted by psychologist dealing with a certain mental disorder. Apparantly, the mind can seriously affect the body (to the effect that Aborigines can die just by coming ot the conclusion that they will). Also, you could be scratching yourself during nightmares, or there’s something in your bed.

As to the window tapping, maybe a pervert?

These are pretty wild explanations, as “rational explanations” tend to be. Maybe you could describe the scratches? Are they like light red marks that fade away, or are they almost like welts (light versus hard scratching, ya dig?)?

I’ve also woken up to noises, completely irrational, causeless noises that no one else heard. It was a really loud bang (I thought) that caused me to stiffen out straight in my bed. I think it was the product of a dream, as I’d done nothing evil, done no incantationals, and the house was too new for evil stuffs, and there wasn’t an Indian graveyard under it.

Basically what I’m saying is that the psyche can be a powerful tool.

Of course, I’m enough of a cynic that I’ll argue even with myself (Kant has nothing on me). So I’m not going to discount spirits. You might just try asking the spirit (if there is one) if it wants help. After all, why would any spirit stay? Either it’s truly malicious and you’ll have to drive it away (which this sounds like it isn’t) or it wants something done and you can hear it.

I’d better stop before I freak myself out.

How old is your tv? Bad wiring and power surges often lead to tvs turning on and off.

Same goes for the smoke detector.

The TV is about 6 years old. I realize that its turning on by itself probably has a normal explanation like a short in the wiring or a power surge. Still it’s pretty creepy when I’m sitting in the other room typing on my computer and it comes on by itself!

Try having your stereo inexplicably turn on and off when you’re alone, in a big house, in a nearly empty area, far from people…

Ok, first the bad news: 90% chance it’s poltergeists. Those are the classic signs - especially the cat running around madly. Not every “typical” sign has to be present in all cases, of course, but you have enough that we can make a good guess.

The good news: First, they are not likely to kill you - they’re just an annoyance. And second, I can rid your house of them. You’ll have to pay my travel expenses, $100/hr, and any materials I might need in the process. But the process works; you’ll have peace of mind and be able to sleep soundly afterwords. I will require access to the house, and need to install some equipment on a temporary basis to verify that poltergeists are indeed your problem; usually 2 or 3 days is sufficient for the entire process. No seances or witchcraft - those people are frauds. I use only modern scientific methods.

After a house is rid of poltergeists, they can return at a later date. The first time, they often return within a few months. But once you get rid of them once, it’s easier the second time (they’re weaker), and it keeps on getting easier each time around as the negative spiritual energy infesting your house becomes weaker and weaker. Eventually they won’t return at all.

peas on earth

#1) I’m waking up every few mornings with scratches on my abdomen or legs.

#3) My cat has taken to running madly back and forth throughout the house.

Correlation or causation? I don’t mean to diminish sincerity of your post, but as a rule, If you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.

The video-cam suggestion would at least eliminate this as a possibility.

I have eczema, and even though I resist scratching it as much as I can, when I’m asleep I’me vulnerable to attack - my mind takes over and rationalizes my scratching my itches by involving it in a dream. I get this sense of purpose in the dream that if I don’t scratch, I’ll suffer some hideous consequences. Or something.

Now it happens so often that I know what causes it when I look at myself in the morning. But Ive not always been consciously aware of my actions during or after, only sometimes.

So not remembering you scratching yourself certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that you’re doing it.

To rationalise things, because you’re now on the alert you will probably attribute any noise, event, or bad luck to this so called evil presence you suspect is hanging around - when in any normal day such events wouldn’t even be thought of twice.

So try to be realistic instead of jumping to the conclusion it’s the paranormal. Frankly, reading up on the subject so much has probably made you a bit paranoid.

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Thanks to everybody who has offered their help.

I probably WAS a little hasty in concluding that it’s paranormal. Now the scratches, smoke detector, and cat have logical explanations (although it’s unclear why they all took place within a few days). But the tapping on the window still has no good explanation. No footprints in the mud, too late in the year for birds to be flying into it…

Do you have trees or bushes near your window? Even if they’re not close enough for the braches to touch the window when windblown, sometimes a branch can get blown off a tree and get hooked on the window for a while, smacking against the glass, and then fall off after a bit.

“Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.”

  • Bertrand Russell

Does that make him or her a paranormaloid?

I hope you don’t take this as too much of a flame, but you haven’t described anything that even comes close to raising my eyebrows (while I’ve always been a skeptic, I keep an open mind on the subject).

  1. I’ve often woken up (after sleeping alone, and I don’t have cats or dogs) with scratches. You have a dream about scratching, so you do, or you simply do it as a reflex with no dream activity going on. If there happens to be a tiny bit of jagged fingernail involved, you get a scratch that looks like a claw did it.

2a. Smoke detectors can easily malfunction, going off and then indicating the battery is good. Depending on the type, it could be because the inside is dirty, a tiny bug flew into it and lit, or it’s just bad. Buy a new one, they’re cheap.

2b. Branches, people, animals, lots of things could have tapped on the window. It might have been a strong wind that rattled the window. It might have been the house settling, making the window frame “tick.”

  1. My mother-in-law just moved, and not only are her cats running around a lot, they’re pooping and pissing everywhere. Be glad yours is only running.

Having said that, I don’t blame you for being a bit spooked, I probably would be too. Whenever you get several things at once, the sum is greater than the parts. Just step back and think rationally, I’m sure you’ll see there’s nothing going on.


I’ve had the scratches, TV coming on all hours of the day, and strange noises sometimes with visuals happen to me. My rationalizations of the events …

Scratches - Self inflicted, though it’s only happened once. Idea, wear gloves to bed and see if they go away.

Strange noises/shadows - Hypnogogic hallucinations, these are SCARY.

TV possesed - Cats sleeping on the remote.

Hope this helps


Dang nubbit! Y’all are ruining my budding poltergeist-busting business.

Don’t listen to 'em. It’s poltergeists.

peas on earth

So you’ve just moved into a new home? How far from your last home? Any chance that your water supply has a different mineral content than you’re used to? Are you still buying the same brands of laundry-care products? (skin irritation) Is your carpeting new? Or the paint on your walls? (fumes that cats may notice at weaker concentrations than do humans; to say nothing of the stress that adapting to a new environment tends to place on cats and humans) What kind of insects fly around your neighborhood at night? What about bats? (things that go bump in the night)
I’d suggest you investigate these questions before signing anything bantmof hands you. And check his contractor’s license.

About cats noticing a weaker concentration of fumes than a human would notice:
Please don’t flame me for spreading info that I got from my biology class, but we just learned yesterday that while most animals can detect a much wider variety of scents than humans can, the ones that we can detect “turn our noses”, so to speak, by a much smaller concentration. Ie, we may not be able to smell everything, but what we can smell, we detect quite well.


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Try it the scientific way: Wear gloves to bed for a few nights. If the scratches appear, it’s not you, or you have a serious sleepwalking problem.

If the scratches do appear, try locking up the cat for a few nights.

Oh, I was going to add that people can have auditory hallucinations when first waking up or falling asleep. The tapping on the windows could be that.

It’s probably something like this: The cat starts climbing around you, which causes you to wake up. When you stir, the cat bolts, digging in claws along the way, and your first waking recollection is a cat running from the room and scratches on your body.