Are you experiencing paranormal happenings in your home? Before you pack it in and move, read this true-life ghost story from 1921.


We heard this story on a recent Halloween-themed This American Life episode which opened with a real-life ghost story from the American Journal of Ophthalmology. It featured an account from a patient about a strange series events that she and her family experienced in an old house on November 15, 1921.

This house was lit by gaslights rather than electricity and had servants quarters and passageways, a perfect house for a haunting. From Mrs. H’s account to her doctor:

“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 can not 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.”

The hallucinations continued, with the family feeling the presence of the unknown. They experience hauntings, rattling beds, lethargy, and temporary paralysis. The plants wither and die.

Mrs. H continues:

“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.”

After speaking with different people about her haunted house, her brother-in-law suggests that they are being poisoned. He had heard similar accounts from people poisoned by combustion gases experiencing similar symptoms.

It turned out that the brother-in-law was right. Carbon monoxide (CO) from the furnace was flooding the home instead of escaping out of the chimney. Eeek! That’s an even scarier notion.

Since carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, Mrs. H and her family thought that there were genuine apparitions trying to kick them out of their own home. Carbon monoxide was producing all the effects of a great ghost story: ghostly sights and sounds, lethargy, paralysis, delusions, you name it.

Carbon Monoxide Symptoms

Many people describe CO poisoning symptoms as being “flu-like.” Often, they are much worse than that. Before things get so bad that you lose consciousness and die (which is a real possibility), here are some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Confusion
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Death

People and animals alike are susceptible to the dangers of carbon monoxide, however, CO poisoning poses a special risk to the young, elderly, and ill. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fossil fuel is burned, such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal. Chimneys, gas water heaters, furnaces, generators, grills, cars, and other fuel-consuming equipment all create a risk of CO leaks.

How Does CO Poisoning Work?

Carbon monoxide poisoning and its effects are generated due to a lack of oxygen in the blood. Since CO molecules are absorbed by your red blood cells faster than oxygen, they end up blocking oxygen from entering the bloodstream. Cerebral hypoxia is the term we use for oxygen deprivation to the brain and can be caused by a variety of factors, including carbon monoxide.

Victims of cerebral hypoxia often report “feeling like a different person.” The eventual outcome of oxygen deprivation is death. Learn more about cerebral hypoxia here.

How to Avoid CO Leaks

1. Schedule annual heating maintenance from a professional. One of the most common causes of CO leaks in your home is from a cracked heat exchanger. Besides conducting thorough safety and efficiency tests on your heating equipment, your Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning technician will also clean and lubricate moving parts, change the filter, and inspect your ventilation and ductwork systems. Join Interstate’s Maintenance Club, or simply call for a free estimate on regular maintenance and tune-ups. If you have any other fuel-burning appliances, such as water heaters and generators, make sure to have these inspected by a qualified professional every year as well. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

2. Test and replace carbon monoxide detectors. We highly recommend testing your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month by pressing and holding down the “test” button. Still, these tests will only make sure that your power and circuitry are working; they don’t test the actual sensors. This is why you should also replace all carbon monoxide detectors after 5 years and all smoke alarms after 10 years. Usually, there is a replace by date on your alarms that tell you when they are no longer reliable. For safety’s sake, go around your home testing all alarms and checking all the replace by dates.

3. Check for carbon monoxide detectors in all of the following places:

  • On every level of the home
  • 5 feet from the ground
  • Near all sleeping areas
  • In the kitchen
  • In the living/dining room
  • The office
  • Attached garages
  • Follow manufacturer recommendations

Do not install CO detectors too close to fuel-burning equipment, windows and vents, in direct sunlight, or in excessively humid areas like the bathroom.

4. Change your furnace filter. A clogged furnace filter contributes to the likelihood of carbon monoxide leaks. By restricting airflow, a dirty air filter can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide around your furnace. Make sure you check and/or change your furnace filter every 30 days.

Carbon Monoxide Don’ts

  • Never perform self-service on your heating equipment. Leave this to a professional with the proper tools and expertise!
  • Never run a generator indoors or close to any open windows or doors. Your generator should be about 25 feet away from your house.
  • Never burn coal indoors or bring the grill inside either!
  • Do not heat your home with your oven or other gas appliances.
  • Never let your car idle in the garage, even if the garage doors are open.

Visible Signs of Carbon Monoxide

  • Rust and soot around the furnace, flue pipes, venting, and pipe connections
  • Visible moisture and condensation on windows, walls, and other cold surfaces
  • No upward draft in your chimney
  • Leaking water from vents, flue pipe, or chimney

For more safety information on the horrors of CO leaks, see this carbon monoxide safety flyer from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association):


If you notice any of these signs, you may have an issue with your gas furnace or ventilation system; make sure you test your CO detectors and call a professional immediately.

Read our Furnace Safety blog for more information on maintaining a safe and efficient heating system.

For more information about heating and air conditioning service and safety, call Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning at 405-794-8900.

Don’t forget to schedule your heating/furnace tune-up for winter! Schedule service online or give us a call!

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From everyone here at Interstate, have a safe and happy Halloween!

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