This is a story that will strike fear in the hearts of the producers of paranormal television shows. A research team hopes to prove that the mold in old houses may be filling the air with toxic and possibly hallucinogenic spores which could be responsible for some ghost sightings and the fear and paranoia felt by visitors in alleged haunted houses.
The researchers from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, are being led by Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Shane Rogers. As an environmental engineer, Rogers knows all about the toxic molds that invade old houses and are as difficult to remove as … well, as ghosts. He also knows that some common molds such as rye ergot fungus have been known to cause depression, anxiety and even psychosis in people who breath them.
Not to mention hallucinations. The ergot fungus was once considered to be a poison but in the 1930s was used in the initial development of lysergic acid diethylamide – LSD.
Rogers and his team of undergraduate students will work through the summer collecting mold specimens from old and reputedly haunted buildings and then compare them to control groups in hopes of finding a common trait in the mold’s genetic material that might be influencing those who breath it to believe they’re in a haunted house and seeing ghosts.
The connection between old mold and visions has been explored before. A British study in 1995 found that old books contained spores that could cause “fungal hallucinations,” which might explain how great literary figures were inspired or why prim and proper librarians sometimes have a hidden “wild” side.
Is a thorough cleaning and mold removal the best way to un-haunt a haunted house? We’ll have to wait until the Clarkson study concludes in the fall and the researchers report their findings. In the meantime, ghost hunters should practice catching their breath BEFORE seeing an apparition.