When you imagine a spirit guide for people, chances are your mind’s eye probably pictures some kind of bird. Not only because birds tend to live long enough to help humans cross over (and also because their feathers look like ethereal wisps), but also because they’re believed by many cultures around the world to be connected with souls. In fact, “bird” may just be another word for “guide.”
But what about dogs? Sure, they don’t fly through the air like eagles or perch themselves on trees like parrots — but they’ve certainly proven useful in helping us make contact with those who have passed over. For centuries, stories have circulated about the spiritual abilities of animals, including dogs, horses and cats.
It has been suggested that these animals possess clairvoyance, the ability to perceive information hidden from sight. They supposedly know things about us, our past and future without being able to see them.
In the early 20th century, filmmaker William K.L. Dickson filmed a short movie titled “The Haunting of Helen Benson,” which included footage of an apparition seen by a woman named Helen Benson after her death. The same year, a man claimed his dog helped him communicate with his dead wife by barking at specific words he wanted her to utter.
Also in 1921, Arthur Conan Doyle published a story called “A Story of an African Ghost,” which featured a character named Sherlock Holmes accompanied by two small terrier dogs, John and Bruce. According to legend, John and Bruce were psychic animals possessed of extraordinary powers.
These tales led to the general belief that dogs are sensitive to human energy vibrations and can sense certain types of spirits and otherworldly presences. Even today, pet owners sometimes choose pets specifically because of their supposed sensitivity to nonphysical entities.
So does this mean that dogs are really capable of seeing ghosts and sensing them? We’ll take a closer look at how dogs might interact with hauntings in the next section.
If you believe in ghosts, then maybe your dog sees them too. That seems to be the prevailing theory behind claims that dogs are psychic animals. One popular explanation suggests that dogs become aware of paranormal activity once it begins to affect their surroundings. This might explain why dogs will often begin acting strangely before storms strike, earthquakes occur or fires break out.
Some people say that when such events happen, dogs start growling and snarling more than normal due to an unknown cause. Other theories suggest that dogs pick up on electromagnetic fields produced by all manner of unexplained phenomena, including ghosts.
To test this claim, paranormal investigator Joe Nickell set up shop outside of a haunted house. He placed several metal objects in the yard and recorded readings taken from each one. Then he took readings from himself and his assistant while standing nearby.
His results showed that neither the metal detectors nor his own body had picked up a reading. However, the assistant did detect something unusual during his reading. When she stood near the metal detector, she detected a strong electromagnetic field emanating from the object. She also reported feeling tingles down her arms and legs.
These results seem to indicate that dogs are sensitive to electromagnetic energy, which isn’t surprising considering their proximity to us. What’s more interesting is that dogs’ sensitivity to electromagnetic energy would provide another way for them to detect hauntings.
Of course, there are skeptics who contend that dogs aren’t actually able to sense the presence of ghosts. Instead, they argue that dogs experience hallucinations brought on by various environmental factors. Dogs are particularly susceptible to electromagnetic interference because their bodies produce electrical impulses.
It’s possible that when they come into close contact with electronic devices, dogs hallucinate based on electromagnetic frequencies. Skeptics argue that people often mistake these hallucinations for actual visions of spectral entities, leading them to develop beliefs that dogs can see ghosts.
As far as whether dogs are truly able to see ghosts, no conclusive evidence exists. There are reports of dogs seeming to see or hear apparitions, but none of these cases have been definitively documented. The most common case involves a young girl named Lisa Stokes. On May 30, 2001, Stokes went missing while walking home from school.
Her parents reported her disappearance to police, and three days later searchers found a bloodstained blanket floating off the coast of Lake Michigan. Two weeks later, police discovered Stokes’ skeletal remains under a bridge near where the blanket washed ashore.
Police arrested and charged Steven Edwards, who’d met Stokes briefly about six months earlier. During questioning, Edwards said he saw a female figure watching him from across the street. A few days later, Edwards told investigators that he’d heard voices coming from inside his apartment. Afterward, Edwards started exhibiting strange behavior, including speaking gibberish and refusing to leave his bedroom. Police concluded that Edwards was mentally ill and was suffering from delusions caused by schizophrenia.
One of the main arguments against the notion that dogs are able to see ghosts is that dogs cannot accurately interpret visual data. Their eyesight is notoriously bad, especially compared to ours. Most dogs rely heavily on scent to track down food and to find their way back home. So, it makes sense that dogs couldn’t possibly understand what they’re seeing.
Still, it’s hard to completely discount the possibility of canine vision. One intriguing report involved a woman who claimed that her dog began displaying strange behaviors shortly after she moved into a new home. The woman noticed that her pup seemed frightened of the television, which sat atop a dresser near her bed. Eventually, the dog grew accustomed to the TV and stopped showing signs of fear.
But when the woman replaced the TV with a computer monitor, her dog immediately became afraid again. The woman’s husband tried explaining that the screen looked nothing like the television, but his explanations didn’t convince his pet. The animal eventually got used to the new machine, but still refused to approach it. The woman took her dog to a vet, who diagnosed her pooch with epilepsy. Epilepsy may account for the dog’s reaction to the television.
Some people believe that dogs are much better than we are at detecting anomalies within electrical systems. Perhaps they use their highly developed sense of smell to sniff out stray currents. Others speculate that dogs may be able to sense magnetic disturbances similar to those created by UFOs hovering above Earth’s surface.
We’ll explore the role dogs play in paranormal investigations in greater detail in the next section.
Dogs as Clairvoyants
Dogs have long served humans as helpful guides in times of need. Nowadays, they also serve us as our best allies when it comes to investigating hauntings. Pet psychics and paranormal researchers use dogs to locate lost or stolen property, assist in rescue operations and gather clues related to crimes and mysteries. Many believe that dogs provide assistance in ways that go beyond mere detection.
For instance, some people claim that their pets are able to sense the location of buried treasure and that they can lead them to it using special maps. In one tale, a boy named Robert Thompson claimed that he’d found money stashed away in jars beneath his grandmother’s garden.
Each time he dug up a jar, he kept the cash inside, but soon realized that digging up jars wasn’t worth his time. Later, a neighbor spotted a black hound running loose in the area.
The creature came to visit Thompson every night, and he followed it until he unearthed a potter’s wheel and two chests full of gold coins. He returned $10,000 to the ground intact, but the rest of the treasure remained undiscovered. Another version of the story says that the hound belonged to a witch who stole the boy’s gold.
Pet psychics and paranormal researchers are also interested in scrying, the practice of attempting to see images of the future or past hidden within tea leaves or water. One method involves holding a cup of hot water between finger and thumb while gazing into its depths. Psychics claim to receive messages from the other side through their pets.
Some people say that dogs can act as mediums for deceased loved ones. To prove this, they perform séances with their pets and record communications between the living and the departed. Typically, these sessions involve attempts to elicit information regarding the identity of the person performing the ritual. Sometimes, the séance participants ask questions designed to determine the personality traits and habits of the deceased.
Although anecdotal evidence supports the existence of such practices, skeptics wonder whether the communication between humans and pets occurs because the animals respond to subtle cues given off by the living. Still others claim that pets merely mimic their masters’ emotions.
Regardless of the methods employed, pet psychics and paranormal researchers agree that dogs offer their services free of charge. As such, people usually keep them as pets after their sessions. Of course, these situations are unique in terms of both the nature of the work performed and the relationship between client and animal. People who participate in these activities typically regard their pets as family members rather than tools.
Most scientists dismiss the notion that dogs have supernatural capabilities. In 2005, psychologist Stephen Porter wrote an article arguing that dogs are incapable of clairvoyance and other forms of extrasensory perception. He cited research indicating