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Ghouls or gas: Are ghost stories just a bunch of hot air?


We’ve all seen one before…an old abandoned house down the street or around the block that looks like it came straight out of a Alfred Hitchcock movie. Whether or not you were daring enough to enter, the scariest part of these homes may surprise you.



Now, for illustrative purposes and in the spirit of Halloween, let’s imagine you’re in a stereotypical Halloween movie setup. You’re young and at the rusted gates of an old Victorian manor, the paint peeling off the decaying wood paneling and the broken windows staring back at you. Your friends egg you on, daring you to enter the obviously haunted house. As you make your way up the weed-infested walkway and past the cracked visages of aged sculptures, you begin to regret your decision, but there’s no going back now…Entering the house, you observe a mouse scurry past and a spider slowly descend in front of you. Gulping, you hope that there aren’t any spookier residents. But, just then, you hear a whooshing sound and a sense of dread descends upon you. You suddenly find it difficult to breathe…as if someone were squeezing your lungs. Gasping, you begin to panic, the sense of something wicked surrounding you intensifying…and you can definitely hear something flying around you…

After running back to your friends, you would swear that a ghost was haunting that building…but you would be wrong. It was something much worse, something very real, completely invisible, and life-threateningly insidious – carbon monoxide. According to Harvard Medical School, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • Headache 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Personality changes 
  • Unusually emotional behavior or extreme swings in emotions 
  • Fatigue 
  • Malaise (a generally sick feeling) 
  • Dizziness 
  • Clumsiness or difficulty walking 
  • Vision problems 
  • Confusion and impaired judgment 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Chest pain 
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat

Sound familiar? Turns out many cases of “haunted house” are actually cases of “old house”. When buildings aren’t properly maintained and equipped to detect gas leaks, time will eventually degrade seals or cause blockages, resulting in 50,000 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S. alone each year. While these leaks may lead to a sense of the “paranormal”, they also pose a very real health risk. Just ask Carrie Poppy, an investigative journalist and inspiration for this post. A few years ago, she had her very own encounter with what she thought were supernatural forces only to find out she was actually threatened by a not so abnormal presence. To help you avoid this situation and banish the ghosts that may or may not be haunting your home, we’ve compiled list of tips for banishing carbon monoxide from you life:

  • Avoid running a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open. 
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented. 
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or outside less than 20 feet from a window, door, or vent. 
  • Maintain your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances yearly by a qualified technician. 
  • Don’t use a gas oven to heat your house. 
  • Install a CO detector in your home, checking and replacing the batteries on biannual basis. 
  • Evacuate your home immediately and call 911 if your CO detector goes off and seek medical attention if you notice any CO poisoning symptoms. 

So, if you get a spooky sense of foreboding this Halloween, maybe check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector before hiring an exorcist. Oh, and, if you do in fact find a real ghost, go ahead and channel your inner ghostbuster to vacuum up that specter with your Wynd Plus 😉

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