This week it was reported that the Harrison-Huhn house near the River Campus has finally been sold and is likely to be renovated for use as a coffee shop and apartment. Repairs on the 106-year-old Queen Anne house have already begun.
The Ghost Hunting 101 class of 2010 explored the house and experienced battery drains and other small signs there might be something paranormal going on there.
I wondered out loud (well, on Facebook) if the activity has picked up since the renovations began, and a friend of mine commented to ask if the two were related.
Sometimes they appear to be, and there are various hypotheses as to why. It's common for stories of activity to increase where buildings are being altered. Several sources I came across while reading for this blog cited a Society for Psychical Research study that found that in the first half of 2007, work on buildings occurred in 9 percent of the hauntings. This year's class encountered just this type of story about the River Campus when investigating the Shuck Recital Hall. Also, when I was little we lived in St. Louis, and my parents spent quite a bit of time pulling up carpet, tearing down wallpaper, and doing other work on the house, and there was no shortage of stories about hauntings there.
One explanation is that the stress of renovating a home can take its toll on homeowners, causing them to create psychokinetic activity, much like stressed teen can allegedly create a poltergeist.
Another explanation is the "new house effect." When people move into a new home, they often report feeling uneasy or hearing or seeing things until they get accustomed to their surroundings. If the work being done on a home is extensive, the same thing can occur during or right after a renovation.
A third idea is a bit more romantic. Many people will say they think that a spirit who was especially attached to a building might be upset with the changes being made. The idea is not without merit and certainly should be explored while investigating via EVP session.
A fourth, more complicated idea I found in an article also brings in another paranormal hypothesis regarding water memory. I'm planning to write about this in more depth a bit later, too, but I thought it at least needed to be brought up here because it's intriguing and relevant.
In a nutshell, the water memory hypothesis says that water has the ability to retain information. The article says water (even something as simple as water vapor released when a person exhales) trapped in the home's structure "may be 'locked in' and prevented from evaporation. Disturbing that security may cause the water that has been stored perhaps for decades to be released and permit its stored memories to be replayed." This would contribute to the classic residual haunting.
When it's all said and done, no one really knows why renovation seems to be a magnet for paranormal activity. Perhaps it's a combination of the elements listed here; perhaps it's something we can't even imagine yet. But that's what makes this field fun.