Don’t Get Spooked: Your Next Thrift Store Buy Could Be Haunted
Ghosts sometimes come free with purchase when you shop second-hand.
First came the shadows, then the tingling sensations in their arms and shoulders. When strong waves of old-fashioned “grandma” perfume began randomly permeating their home in Stockton, California, the couple knew the items they bought were haunted, and they had to get rid of the Ziploc bag of saint medals and cheap jewelry they’d purchased three days earlier from a thrift store.
As the husband chronicled on an anonymous message board for ghost stories, they felt a bit silly chucking the baubles in the dumpster at their condominium complex, but their instincts were right. The moment the trinkets were removed from their house, the energy inside felt “normal” again.
“It was like a weight was lifted,” the husband recalled. “The place seemed lighter. There was no denying that something was different.”
The couple’s verdict? The bag of jewelry they’d bought from the thrift store had been haunted.
Their story is not unique. Nor is it — if you believe in the paranormal — hard to believe. Thrift stores are full of antiques and second-hand items for sale that are “haunted,” which we buy despite not knowing anything about who used them, what happened to them, and, perhaps most importantly, why they ended up being donated. When you think of it that way, it’s not so hard to imagine that at least some of those goods contain ghosts. Consider it your free gift with purchase.
The internet is rife with accounts from people claiming to have bought haunted second-hand goods. From porcelain tea cups to Brooks Brothers pants, paranormal forces, it seems, can inhabit pretty much anything. Thrift shoppers have reported buying flags that brought them bad luck, old books with bad vibes, and wall organizers that left spontaneous scratches on their arms. A bargain-loving grandmother once bought Christmas ornaments from a thrift shop that she believes were possessed, making her bed bounce up and down in the middle of the night and flinging all of her kitchen cupboards open at once.
Some people like the idea of owning something with spirits in it. A doll collector named Ollie frequently buys new toys for his collection from thrift stores“know[ing] for sure [they] are haunted.” “I know this,” he wrote, “because I sometimes watch them move or change expressions.”
A vintage collector with a fondness for clothing from the 1930s and 1940s was elated when she discovered a U.S. Navy sailor top from World War II at a thrift store. “All I could think of was what stories this particular piece of clothing could tell me if it could talk,” she wrote on Reddit. When she tried it on, it left her with “an extremely heavy feeling” that started at her head and creeped down through the rest of her body.
“It sort of felt like I was a stranger in my own mind, and that someone else was in my body,” she wrote. “I had to sit down it was that heavy and overwhelming.”
She bought the top and claims she still wears “it from time to time.”
In fact, it turns out selling haunted things can be good for business. A thrift store in North Carolina learned this last month when it acquired a 1950s bedroom set that was — according to its previous owner — possessed with evil spirits. The ReStore, run by Habitat for Humanity of Rowan County, listed the two-piece set, consisting of a queen canopy bed and a highboy chest of drawers, for $1,000 and taped a sign next to it that read:
Please note: Previous owner reports that the highboy is haunted. He reports continuous nightmares for he and his wife while it was in their room. He also reports that the dogs would not stop barking at it.
It wasn’t long before shoppers took notice of the quirky (and possibly spirited-infested) store display. That same day, news of it went viral. It sold the following morning.
The Consignment Furniture Showroom in Waco, Texas has known for a while that ghostly items can be a coup for business. Since August 2007, they’ve had an antique couch in their showroom that everyone — including the store’s owners — is pretty sure is haunted.
“There’s good haunted and there’s bad haunted, and this is bad haunted,” showroom co-owner Dean McNeil told OK Whatever. “Bad things happen to people that have this couch. It’s all negative.”
McNeil, who was there the day the couch was donated, said it has erased data on the store’s computers, stopped television studio clocks from working, and ruined video footage taken by newscasters.
He also suspects the haunted piece of furniture to be behind the misfortune that has befallen those who’ve interacted with it. Within a short time of sitting on it, moving it, or spending significant time around it, people have gotten into car accidents, fallen through roofs, broken bones, and received terminal cancer diagnoses.
“We don’t know if the couch caused it. But, like I said, nothing good has ever happened around it, so we stay away from it.”
It helps that it looks creepy. There is a hole in the back of the couch that could have been made by a bullet, and a stain that a ghost hunting team confirmed is old blood. Paranormal investigators once left motion-activated cameras pointed at the couch overnight, and ended up recording 16 hours of footage even though nothing seemed to have been happening to the naked eye.
“If you pointed the camera away from the couch, the camera would stop. If you pointed the motion sensitive camera at the couch, then it would start recording,” McNeil said.
Despite this, the Consignment Furniture Showroom has held onto the beige upholstered three-seater for the last 12 years. Conspicuously marked with an orange laminated sign that reads, “Haunted Sofa, they keep it safely away from their electronics in the back of the store, “down at the end of one of the rows of sofas … so that way, we don’t have to be around it very much.” .”
Over the years, word of the haunted couch has brought droves of curious customers and paranormal seekers to the 25,000 sq. ft. showroom in the heart of Texas.
“We have people all the time coming by to see it. They take pictures with it and stand right next to it. Some people are even brave enough to sit on it and get their picture taken,” McNeil said.
The Consignment Furniture Showroom has received plenty of offers from people wanting to buy the haunted couch — but they’ve turned them all down.
“We like it because people come in from all over the United States to see it,” he said. “So for now, we’re holding on to it.”
If the store ever does decide to sell it, McNeil said the first person they’ll offer the couch to is a man who has “a $3,500 standing bid on it.”
If you’re spooked about the prospect of buying haunted thrift goods, there are a few precautions you can take.
According to religious pundits like the televangelist Pat Robertson, you can clear negative energy — or “demons” — from an object by saying a prayer or blessing over it. Those who are more New Age-inclined can grab a wand of sage, cedar, or palo santo and symbolically “smudge” the bad vibes away.
If you still notice signs, Amanda Linette Meder, a “spiritual living” blogger, suggests talking to it “compassionately” and asking it to leave. She says you might even discover that “you’ve brought home a friend.” Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable contacting the ghost yourself, you can always hire a medium, shaman, or other healer who will.
Perhaps the easiest tactic if you have a niggling suspicion that the cactus coffee mug you bought from Goodwill is possessed? Toss it or donate it back to a thrift store. People have done it before.