The Fullerton Phantom

In January of this year, a family in the city of Fullerton, California contacted the IIG regarding strange occurrences in their home. An IIG delegation visited the home in April to investigate the report.

The Fullerton Phantom house

The family consists of a husband and wife, their 11-year old son, two daughters under the age of 10, and several dogs. Note: the name of the family is being withheld out of respect for their privacy.

The IIG separated the husband, wife, and the children, and interviewed each separately in order to determine exactly what occurrences the family agreed were taking place (the interviews with the parents were videotaped, the children were not). Following is a list of most of the strange events reported in the interviews:

  • Orbs appearing in photographs
  • Nocturnal noises in and around house
  • Doors opening and closing on their own
  • People see movement out of the corner of their eyes, but nothing is there when they look
  • Husband was paralyzed in bed once
  • Dead grandfather sensed, including his scent
  • Strange connection between the girl and grandfather, who died before she was born
  • One of the daughters seeing the ghost of a little brown-haired girl with a bloody knife
  • Photo of the son as a baby looks “demonic”
  • Lights flickering
  • Doorbell ringing but no one there
  • Mysterious splash in swimming pool
  • Cup on a table moved by itself
View from the living room
View from the living room

Many of these events were one-time events. Some of the events occurred in the family’s current home, some in the previous home, and some in the grandmother’s home. The list of events covers a time span of several years, and although unrelated, added up in the collective mind of the family to something significant.

Some of the accounts told by the separated family members conflicted with one another. Also, some of the events were described by one of the parents as first-hand to them, but upon pressing for details, it was determined that the event was actually first-hand with one of the children, and the parent’s account was second-hand.

The only repeatable phenomenon found was the orbs in photos. Several new photos containing orbs were taken while the IIG was at the house [see below].

Following the family interviews the IIG delegation met as a group to discuss which, if any, of these strange events could be investigated further. The one-time events and events that took place at a previous home, years ago were removed from the possibility of further investigation.

With regard to the nocturnal noises, we decided any further investigation would require us to move into the house with the family for some period of time, which isn’t practical with the nature of our volunteer organization. It was decided that almost none of the remaining reported phenomena was “investigable” either.

However the group felt obligated to provide some sort of response to the family, who had real fears and distress over these activities. To give the family some piece of mind, the authors researched many of these types of experiences they reported, and provided a comprehensive report to the family in a letter. This letter was delivered in a follow-up meeting with the family in July 2005.

Below are selections from the letter to the family. To keep this report to a reasonable length, the following represents a sampling of the information provided in the letter.


It was fairly clear to us that the type of orbs being produced were artifacts from internal reflections in the camera lens. This particular home has many windows and light sources, which may make this environment particularly conducive to producing orbs (also see next item below). The artifacts only occurred with one of the two digital cameras the family uses. Several members of the IIG took digital cameras along on the visit: some produced orbs, some didn’t. The letter explained the prosaic nature of these artifacts. On the follow-up visit the IIG supplied a light shield ring made of construction paper, for experimentation. This was taped around the lens of the family’s digital camera that produced the orbs. In several test photos taken with the light shield ring in place, no orbs were produced. We suggested they try more experiments with the modified camera. The family was referred to the following web sites for more information on orbs:

Interviewing the Daughter
IIG member Jerry Buchanan interviews the daughter. Note the “orbs” created by the bright window in the background.

Seeing movement

We explained that human vision includes peripheral vision very sensitive to movement, which has helped us avoid predators and is probably one of the reasons our species is still around after thousands of years. Other unique features of the house possibly contributing to perceived motion:

  • The house has a lot of windows, many with no drapes or with insubstantial, translucent curtains. The house also has a fairly open floor plan, with good-sized openings connecting all the spaces from the living room at the front of the house, through the dining area, all the way to the family room at the back.
  • The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, and several windows in the living room face the street. IIG members witnessed moving shadows inside the house resulting from people moving around in the front yard in the daytime.
  • There’s a good likelihood that the headlights of cars at night, or a streetlight filtered through moving tree branches, can create flashes of light patterns throughout the house.
  • In spite of the windows, some of the interior walls of the home have wood paneling and trim of a somewhat dark color, giving the home a somewhat gloomy atmosphere inside. This may contribute to a perception of creepiness to someone with a predisposition in that direction.
  • There is also a swimming pool in the back yard, the dappled surface of which may create moving patterns of light in the house, from sunlight during the day, and from moonlight and yard lights or other artificial sources at night. This may contribute to an eerie atmosphere in the house.
  • Once the idea is established among the family that there is a “presence” of some kind in the house, it undoubtedly contributes to a hypersensitivity to any movement, creating a vicious circle of reinforcement.


Reported were footsteps, moaning or crying (like a child), and other odd noises at night. The IIG noticed and the family mentioned several factors that could contribute to these effects:

  • The family owns several dogs that live in the back yard. Reportedly they are part wolf. Wolves and dogs are well-known for howling and growling. There are certainly other dogs (and cats) in the neighborhood that could also contribute to these kinds of noises.
  • One of the children may have in fact cried or called out in their sleep, but been unaware of it when asked by the parents.
  • Directly behind the back of the house is one of the “lodge” type of clubhouses where the members party into the wee hours, sometimes taking the party outside the back of the club which is only separated from the back yard of the house by an ~8ft high block wall. Many different noises are likely from this source, possibly distorted by echoes off the walls and misinterpreted by someone half-asleep as being inside the house.
  • The home is about 1/3 mile from train tracks, passing trains blow their horns periodically during the day and night. If someone is in a light sleep, a distant train horn may sound like a child’s cry or something eerie. Also vibrations in the ground from the train cars passing over the rails could induce parts of the house or objects in the house such as windows and doors to rattle or shake.
  • When the house is quiet, the vibration of normal household appliances may make startling noises: a dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer, furnace, refrigerator, water heater, etc., either while running or just starting or stopping.
  • The family has had ongoing problems with pest infestations, particularly rats. In this area opossums, raccoons, and squirrels are also very common pests. It’s well-known that rodents can make a substantial amount of noise moving around on the roof, in the attic or walls, etc. If a new litter is born inside the walls or attic, there may be a fair amount of weird-sounding noises from the babies.

The IIG suggested having the home checked by a qualified inspector for rodents.

House Layout
House Layout

Husband Paralyzed in Bed

From his description, his experience sounded like the classic, textbook example of sleep paralysis, including the so-called “Hag phenomenon.” Research turned up a web site with a description of the experience surprisingly similar to the one in this man’s situation:

“In some cases, when hypnagogic hallucinations are present, people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the “Hag Phenomena” and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm.”

The family was referred to this excellent, credible web site (the source of the quote above):

Doors Opening & Closing

Possibilities presented to the family:

  • Drafts in the house (confirmed by the family during the follow-up visit)
  • Doors or jambs out of plumb (not perfectly vertical or level)
  • Door misalignment causing latches not to engage, allows closed door to open (poor original construction, or house settling over time)

Splash in Pool

The story as reported was there was a splash in the pool but no one was seen going into the pool or getting out. There were conflicting versions of this story, apparently this was an example of the parents relating a story told to them by the children about an event that occurred while the parents were absent. This one barely rates mention, however it did seem to be important to the family. We offered them the following possibilities:

Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool
  • Someone (possibly a neighbor) jumped in & got out quickly, unnoticed.
  • One of the dogs slipped and fell into the water either completely or partially, but quickly recovered (the dogs are kept inside the same fenced-in area around the pool).
  • A water bird landed in the pool and then immediately flew off, possibly surprised by one of the dogs (there are a lot of wild waterfowl in the greater Los Angeles area).
  • Someone threw something over the back wall into the pool (rock, bottle, etc., possibly even some ice) that wasn’t noticed at the time.
  • One of the family children went into the pool without permission, then fabricated this tale as a “cover story” to explain wet footprints or other evidence.
  • The entire incident was invented by one or more of the children, either as a prank, or due to an active imagination, or daydreamed, or as an attention-getting device.

Animated cup

The husband was shocked on one occasion to see a cup moving across the dining table. Unfortunately he couldn’t remember exactly which of their cups it was, or even what its shape was, what kind of bottom it had, what substance was in it at the time, etc. It was explained this is a common occurrence, based on natural conditions that don’t violate physical laws. It shouldn’t be necessary to explain this any further here.

Conclusion (Amityville Horror)

The conclusion of the letter to the family stated there is not one single documented case of a true haunted house on record, despite all the books and movies that make them seem so common. We included references to the classic “Amityville Horror” book and movie, which the recent remake of has spawned a whole new generation of similar haunted house tales. We concluded our letter to the family with a condensed but factual account of the tragic murders by Butch DeFeo of his family in the Amityville house, and the subsequent fabrication of the haunted house story by the Lutz family, (confessed to in court and a matter of public record). We also referred them to the following source of information on this story:

The family was advised to contact the IIG again if any phenomena begin recurring on a regular or predictable schedule, so that we could follow-up with a more detailed investigation.