We know it sounds crazy, but parents around the world swear their tot-checking devices are picking up paranormal activity. Eimear O’Hagan listens in nervously…
When baby monitors go bump in the night
Picture an autumnal Friday evening when, after a typically boisterous bathtime followed by the donning of superhero pyjamas, my four- and two-year-old sons, Ruadhán and Donnacha, are – hallelujah – tucked up asleep in their respective bedrooms.
Collapsing on the sofa with a well-earned G&T, I glance at the baby monitor to see a now familiar, but still somewhat unnerving, sight in Donnacha’s bedroom: three small green specks of light flickering on the screen as they dance like fireflies above my snoring toddler’s cotbed.
I can guarantee if I crept up the stairs and opened the door there would be no sign of them. They are only visible on the monitor’s screen, and only ever appear when the camera is in Donnacha’s bedroom – nowhere else in our home or at the hotels and friends’ and relatives’ houses where we’ve used it.
I first noticed them over a year ago, when we moved my youngest son from a cot in our bedroom to his own room in our three-bed, 19th-century home in the Scottish Borders. They don’t appear every night but we still see them several times a month.
Initially, I heeded my husband Malcolm’s pragmatic insistence that some sort of electrical interference or a fault with the monitor was to blame. But that didn’t explain why we only saw the orbs at home.
Malcolm is as ‘non-woo-woo’ as they come and refuses to ponder any sort of otherworldly explanation. And, conscious that revealing UFOs appear in my child’s bedroom at night in my mum-circles might mark me out as odd, I kept shtoom. That is until I saw something on Instagram that sent shivers down my spine.
A friend of a friend had posted about an app that links to her baby monitor and sends notifications to her phone when there is movement or sound in her baby’s room – and how she gets these when the house is empty. She also wrote that she has seen a ‘figure’ in her child’s room on her monitor.
Another mother commented that she didn’t invest in a baby monitor because of so many unsettling tales she’d heard about them picking up ‘paranormal activity’. A quick scan of some popular online parenting forums reveals lengthy discussion threads about this. Part of me scoffed. What nonsense. But… the orbs. What if my monitor was also attracting spiritual visitors? ‘Is this a “thing”?’ I wondered, goosebumps creeping up my arms.
Fully expecting to be laughed off social media, I posted a request for other parents with spooky baby monitor experiences to share their stories. To my great surprise, I was inundated. A colleague recounted hearing a recording of a friend’s baby-monitor where the name ‘Steve’ was whispered over and over (the family in question don’t know a Steve). Then another recording of their child saying, ‘Someone’s at the window… They want to get in.’ So unsettled were the parents they called in a medium, who believes the child has psychic abilities, and are now selling their house, too spooked to stay.
Sarah, from Dartmoor, also contacted me. At pains to insist she was a sane, rational person, she told me about her six-year-old son’s bedroom in their barn conversion, which by day is an ordinary little boy’s room filled with Lego and storybooks. But by night it seems to be a hive of ‘activity’.
‘This used to be my husband’s grandmother’s home – my son’s great-granny. His bedroom was her kitchen where she spent much of her time before she passed away and the building was converted,’ said Sarah. ‘Although he’s six, we still use a baby monitor because his room is a little way from ours, in case he is poorly or needs me in the night.
‘Since he began sleeping in there five years ago, we have regularly seen two light sources on the monitor – one is a round ball, the other more ribbon-shaped – that travel around the room at varying speeds.’
Sarah and her husband tried to find a rational explanation for the orbs, but failed. Then, Sarah says, ‘One night, after a glass of wine, I asked my husband if he thought it was possible that his grandmother was still present in the house. He was sceptical but we decided to test the theory. Standing in the hall outside the room and watching the monitor, he asked, “Granny, is that you? If it is, can you show your presence?” Immediately the round ball of light flashed across the room. Then I asked, “Are you just checking on him?” and as the light hovered on the end of the bed, we saw an indent on the duvet as if someone was sitting there.
‘I know it sounds crazy, but I do now believe she has a presence in that room, maybe because it was her haven when she was alive. I don’t feel frightened by it. In fact, it’s nice to think she’s watching over her great-grandson.’
Another mother, Hayley, got in touch to tell me about her video monitor which picked up three balls of white light hovering in the open doorway of her sons’ room one evening. ‘I froze and tried to tell myself it was just a reflection of something, then the balls rose in the air, moved into the room and circled over my sons, then aged three and one, before whooshing towards the curtains and vanishing,’ says Hayley, a business owner from Cheshire. ‘It was over in less than 15 seconds. I bolted up the stairs to find the boys sleeping soundly, but the room had a very calm, settled feeling. I felt very shaken and upset.
‘I never saw anything on the monitor again but after that my youngest went through a phase of telling me there was a man in his room. He would wave at the ceiling and say he was waving goodbye to him.’
According to psychic Amanda Tooke, infants and monitors are the perfect storm when it comes to rousing the paranormal. ‘Babies and children up to the age of about seven are very receptive to seeing and hearing spirits and angels. They are too young to have been conditioned into not believing in such things, they simply accept. As we get older, we’re told these things don’t exist so we close off to them even though they are all around us,’ says Amanda. She believes that ‘spirits use electrical devices to communicate so it’s not uncommon for parents to see and hear things on monitors that they can’t explain. It’s a golden opportunity for spirits to make themselves known. They don’t want to scare us with a full-blown apparition so they use the monitor to present as a light or a sound.’
I tell Amanda an anecdote from a mother called Stacie who contacted me. Stacie’s mother-in-law had died from cancer when Stacie was pregnant with her first child, a boy. When he was three months old, she moved his crib from her bedroom to his own nursery, which had very creaky floorboards.
‘One night, about a week after we moved him into that room, I woke to hear the floor creaking through the monitor. At first, I assumed it was my husband, then I realised he was in bed next to me,’ says Stacie. ‘Then, clear as anything, I heard my mother-in-law saying “You’re so perfect, I’m so proud of you.” I leapt out of bed and ran to his room but he was sleeping peacefully.
‘Around the time she died I had experienced very strong, premature contractions – I was only 28 weeks pregnant. Two years after her death my second child, a girl, was born on the same date she’d died. Towards the end of that labour I didn’t think I could carry on, but I heard her voice comforting me and saying that I was having a girl. It’s hard not to believe that she wanted to be part of her grandchildren’s lives even after death.’
Amanda believes it’s common for loved ones who have died to want to be around when a new child is born. ‘If parents are open to the idea that a deceased relative is present, then they may well see or hear activity that otherwise would be missed or dismissed, because spirits are very subtle.’
Of course, for every believer there is a sceptic and consultant psychologist Dr Elena Touroni of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic says all of these experiences are rooted in normal parental emotions, not the paranormal.
‘It’s very natural for parents, especially those of young babies and toddlers, to have an intensified sense of anxiety and alertness triggered by physiological factors and things such as sleep deprivation, plus the stress and new responsibilities that come with parenthood. It’s a time of great change in every sense, and that can have a knock-on psychological impact,’ says Dr Touroni.
‘Parents pay more attention to what is around them because of that heightened concern, noticing things they may previously have missed, and may read these sights and sounds as suspicious or even dangerous, because of their anxiety.’
Dr Touroni also explains that believing a deceased relative is present is more likely to be rooted in grief than the paranormal. ‘The arrival of a child can trigger feelings of loss and a deep-rooted desire for that absent person to be there. So a person can project that desire and believe something they see or hear is a “sign” of their presence. It’s totally understandable and if it gives someone comfort there’s no harm in it.
‘These beliefs only become problematic when they start to affect a parent’s day-to-day life. For example, if they become paranoid about their child’s safety or can’t move on from a loved one’s death because they believe they’re still present.’
I ask Amanda about the green lights in my son’s room. ‘Orbs, which can be different colours, are often angels – these are different to spirits. Spirits are loved ones who have passed over, but we all have an angel assigned to us,’ she says.
I’m not sure how I’m going to explain this to my husband – or whether I’m convinced. But there is no disputing that many parents believe something supernatural is going on in their child’s room. Do you?
- Have you experienced something strange on your baby monitor? Tell us your stories at email@example.com