Photo: Unsound speculative schemes (tunneling, gas lighting and stock breeding), with W.H. Brown in attendance next to a statue of Hope. Aquatint by S. De Wilde, 1809. (Wikipedia Commons)
Recently, I heard from an 87 year old woman that claimed to have a Demon harassing her and driving her out of her home. After many conversations with her, a disturbing story began to unfold. At first, she told the story of her contractor, a person she had trusted in her home, who became irate when she discovered that he had charged her for repairs he had not made. She claimed he had returned to her house repeatedly, breaking in, and did damage to her home on his "visits." During these break-ins, symbols resembling voodoo or black magic were left behind in her home.
The more I spoke to this woman, the more I became concerned that there was more at work here than an angry spirit (or a bad contractor). Over time, I discovered that her son's girlfriend was caught stealing from her. In addition, her son's demeanor changed over time and he began to tell her she was crazy or had dementia, even after the thefts were discovered and validated. Some items were returned to her, but her family still maintained that she needed mental evaluation. She submitted to two tests for Alzheimer's and dementia, but was found to have neither.
A "psychic" told her she could remove the voodoo "curse" that had been placed on her home for $200, which, fortunately for her, she did not have the money and did not pay. According to this fraud, the "curse" was a sleeping spell that caused the elderly woman to sleep so soundly that the demon could do whatever he wanted and she would not wake up. Is this starting to sound familiar?
Sadly, this is not the first time I have encountered overly eager children or relatives gaslighting* their parents with the idea of angry ghosts or demons. Is it becoming common that family members that want their parents in a nursing home or to take over or sell their homes resort to paranormal gaslighting to get this done? Is this a trend? Are greedy or callous family members really doing this?
Yes. I've seen several cases of it already! Is it new? Gaslighting itself is not new, however, as paranormal investigators, we have to be careful when taking on new cases that we might be getting involved in something very different than it appears to be. Here are some telling items to look for when you suspect paranormal gaslighting is occurring.
1. The victim is typically elderly or disabled.
2. The victim is being told by family that they are crazy or must have dementia.
3. Items are being moved around the house, yet family members claim it's the victim's imagination.
4. The victim owns real estate that they are being urged to sell or move out of.
5. Items are going missing, especially jewelry and items passed down through the family. Sometimes, family will claim this is for "safe keeping," but usually the items simply disappear.
6. Family members that were once caring and helpful become angry or abusive.
7. The activities blamed on the ghost or demon may be explained by human action based on when or where they are occurring.
8. Even when paranormal activity occurs and others are present, all but the victim deny anything has occurred.
9. Paranormal investigators and/or clergy members shared mixed reports with the victim, some find no evidence or state the activity is not paranormal, but "something else."
10. Health problems, medication side-effects, psychological problems, etc., do not appear to be present. To the family, the activity seems to be "all in their [the victim's] mind."
This is not an exhaustive list and it's clear if you are a paranormal investigator, that there is always a possibility that age, infirmity, medical issues, etc., may still be the cause of this activity. But what if it isn't? My concern is that I'm seeing this phenomena with clearly healthy, mentally competent elderly clients and the common denominator is that they have real estate or financial assets within reach of family members.
What do you think? Is paranormal gaslighting a "thing"? Have you seen it in your clients? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts!
Carol A. Pollio, Ph.D.
*The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1938 stage play called Gaslight, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights in their home (which were natural gas-fueled fixtures), then denying that the lights had changed brightness when the wife asks him about it.