What Makes a Place Feel Haunted?


Let’s try to explain why some places feel haunted. However, you might still feel afraid despite the clear explanation and rationalisation. It’s true that we fear what we don’t understand but haunted places might prove to be an exception.

What makes a place feel haunted

Abandoned houses and buildings feel haunted especially at night. Darkness can instantly make us feel afraid because we can’t see what’s there. From that dark corner someone (or something) might appear and harm us.

This is by design and evolution. We are wired to consistently scan and prepare for threats. Whenever we’re in a threatening environment (e.g. a dark room in an old house) instinctively we feel the fear so we stay on our toes. A faster heartbeat actually prepares us for the threat because more oxygen and energy will be pumped to the different parts of our body (especially to our legs and feet so that we can run really fast).

In addition, whenever we’re in a frightening and threatening environment we stay alert and that makes the fear feel worse. We scan the environment or even focus on a particular corner or dark area and anticipate that something will appear. One second feels like forever because of the fear and anticipation. Whether or not we’re actually alone, we feel that there’s someone or something else around the corner. And yes, our friends and companions don’t help us feel safe at all because you’ll all be running together (and pray that you don’t get left behind).

The whole thing gets worse because of the design, age and layout of the place itself. That’s because aside from the potential threats, the place feels unsafe because it’s hard to escape from. The crumbling stairways and the old materials in the haunted house seem they would all fall off when you take the wrong step and fall into an abyss or somewhere darker and more sinister. Furthermore, you feel that the haunted house is full of secret rooms, closets and passages. Each square metre of the wall, floor and ceiling seems occupied by creatures not yet categorised by science. There’s nowhere safe you can run into and it doesn’t matter how fast you are. Hiding is not an option because every surface just feels frightening and unsafe.

Have you ever felt like there’s someone watching you but can’t figure out where it’s coming from? This feeling makes the fear worse because you know you’re helpless and defenceless. In your home you gain peace of mind if you can see the outside in full view because you can easily spot an intruder. But what if it’s the other way around where the intruder sees you but you can’t see him? It’s a similar case with ghosts because they see us but we can’t see them unless they reveal themselves. We’re defenceless and we can’t prepare much if they approach us. And if they indeed choose to reveal themselves, what can you do but stand there frozen and unable to run?

Let’s assume that you can still run right after seeing something or someone. How would you run and where to? As mentioned earlier each square metre of the place feels unsafe. You also have to consider the confusing layout of the house where you can’t wander without getting lost (it’s similar to a hotel in movie The Shining wherein there are many inconsistencies to confuse the viewer). Your friends might not find you at all if you all go on separate ways once that moment comes (and yes you can’t rely on your friends at the most crucial and terrifying times). Even if you managed to go run outside, overgrown vegetation and unusual fences (old designs just feel creepy) make the escape a lot harder for everyone.

History has a dark side

For many of us Victorian and Federation architecture feel creepy especially if the structure is dilapidated and abandoned. Old designs, structures and their history have their unique way of making us feel uneasy. It could be the result of watching movies wherein we now associate old structures with something sinister and creepy.

But that association may have some basis after all. That’s because in old structures we know that a lot more things could have happened there (in contrast to newly built homes and buildings where nothing much has happened yet). Through those long decades, tragic events might have occurred whether it’s an old residence or an abandoned prison or orphanage.

It’s especially the case with The Rocks where there are gruesome bizarre stories you can’t find in Wikipedia or elsewhere. The old streets and structures have seen a lot through the century. Unsolved murders and other mysteries continue to haunt The Rocks despite how far Sydney has changed through the decades.

The gruesome stories are pieced together by historians and locals (stories passed through the generations). It’s true that history is about progress and triumphs. But let’s not forget about Sydney’s dark history. Tragedies happened and the memories of them won’t get erased anytime soon. They complete the past and identity of The Rocks despite the mystery and fear.

Now we have a better understanding of what makes a place feel haunted. Despite the explanation and rationalisation, you would still feel the fear when visiting some of the structures in The Rocks. You would also get a better appreciation of the area’s history as you discover the gruesome stories that made the ghosts still roam around.