Do you believe in ghosts? We won’t judge! Strange things happen all the time, and sometimes there’s no good explanation for them. But sometimes the reason for those paranormal sightings is potentially deadly: You may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Sound far-fetched? Settle in for a spooky story!
The evidence comes from a haunting tale published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, way back in 1921. Author and ophthalmologist William Wilmer wrote this after listening to a firsthand account from his patient, whom he called “Mrs. H.”
The Spooky Tale
“One morning, I heard footsteps in the room over my head. I hurried up the stairs. To my surprise, the room was empty. I passed into the next and then into all the rooms on that floor, and then to the floor above to find that I was the only person in that part of the house. Sometimes after I’ve gone to bed, the noises from the store room are tremendous, as if furniture was being piled against the door, as if china was being moved about, and occasionally a long and fearful sigh or wail.
“Sometimes as I walk along the hall, I feel as if someone was following me, going to touch me. You cannot understand it if you’ve not experienced it. But it’s real. As I was dressing for breakfast one morning, B, who is four years old, came to my room and asked me why I’d called him. I told him I’d not called him, that I’d not been in his room. With big and startled eyes he said, ‘Who was it, then, that called me? Who made that pounding noise?’
“I told him it was undoubtedly the wind rattling his window. ‘No,’ he said, ‘It was not that. It was somebody that called me. Who was it?’ And so on he talked, insisting that he’d been called and for me to explain who it had been.”
Mrs. H said the whole family felt a strange, paranormal presence in the house. Everyone was unbearably fatigued, and they saw ghosts at all hours of the day and night.
“Some nights, after I’ve been in bed for a while, I’ve felt as if the bed clothes were jerked off me. And I’ve also felt as if I’d been struck on the shoulder. One night I woke up and saw, sitting on the foot of my bed, a man and a woman. The woman was young, dark, and slight and wore a large picture hat. I was paralyzed and could not move.”
The Frightening Explanation
The haunting continued for months. The family considered abandoning the house. Then, Mrs. H’s brother came to visit. Upon hearing the harrowing stories, he suggested that Mrs. H contact a doctor. He believed her furnace was leaking carbon monoxide.
The next day, a physician came to the house and found that the brother was right. “[The doctor] found the furnace in very bad condition, the combustion being imperfect. The fumes, instead of going up the chimney, were pouring carbon monoxide gas into our rooms,” Mrs. H said. “He advised us not to let the children sleep in the house another night. If they did, he said we might find in the morning that some of them would never wake again.”
The family and their servants packed up and left the house while their furnace was repaired. Their symptoms vanished quickly. And when they returned, they never saw the ghosts or experienced hauntings again.
How to Protect Yourself From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Think you’ve seen a ghost? Open your window and let some fresh air in right away. Call Poison Control immediately if you suspect that you’ve got a carbon monoxide leak; then have a professional come and inspect every appliance in your home that burns gas, wood, or kerosene. That includes furnaces, ovens, stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and space heaters. And every home should have a carbon monoxide detector (like this one from First Alert, $23 at Amazon), which is tested and supplied with fresh batteries on a regular basis.
As noted by the CDC, other symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, stomach upset, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Being aware of these symptoms will help you keep a watchful eye.
We hope the only ghosts you see this spooky season are the ones trick-or-treating!
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