Strange Scents in the Air

Sweet smell of roses

Musty and cloying

Drifts along the walls

And over my bed


Darkness surrounds me

An uncomfortable stillness

Though I cannot see

I know something is there.


Breath caught in my chest

Icy fingers touch my arm

And I suddenly realize

I don’t wear perfume!

Perfume Bottle

The sense of smells peaks to us of mom’s homemade cookies, of lovers’ perfumes, and of things gone sour. It is both comfort and warning, sometimes welcome, and sometimes unwanted. But have you ever experienced a paranormal smell? Along with our four other senses, people also tell stories of experiencing phantom smells.

Some go as far as to say the smell of sulphur means you are in the presence of something demonic or unpleasant, and that the smell of roses is a good omen. Some report smelling a scent familiar to a lost loved one. Opinions differ and I will be the first to admit nothing about this is an exact science, at least not yet. But I’ll tell you a few places where I have encountered odd smells that I do not believe were naturally made.

There is an old estate called Sagtikos Manor that used to belong to the Gardiner family here on Long Island. Now it is run as a historical museum but I have made lots of trips out there at night to walk the grounds, use some equipment, and see if I could catch anything. Me and two friends were in the gazebo area outside what was once a garden but is now a field of grass with a fountain. Out of nowhere this odd strong scent of roses came up. Everyone smelled it but the odd thing was the cent seemed to move around, being stronger in one place and then moving to another nearby. Following the scent we worked our way back to the enclosed field where we found it covered in a thick mist that had not been there before. This is where the scent led us and then mysteriously vanished. We never smelled it again. Below are pictures of the gazebo and of the main building.

Sagtikos Gazebo Sagtokis sized

My grandmother passed away when I was five. It was a loss I still feel to this day. When I was just a year or two old my grandmother said to my mother, “She will be the only grandchild to remember me.” And it was true. She died of pancreatic cancer just a few years later. One of the scents she used to love was roses. My mother tells me she used to have rose scented perfume and the odd thing is, I love it too. In fact I share a lot of mannerisms and loves with my grandma, whose name, coincidentally, was Rose.

The reason that I bring this up is that I feel she came to visit me one day. I was in my dorm room at college feeling stressed and overwhelmed by assignments, loneliness, homesickness, and general college nerves. I was still a freshman and was a bit overwhelmed by it all as it was such a drastic life change for me. I remember feeling really worried this one morning over an exam coming later that day. I was lying in bed, watching the sun stream through the blinds, when all of a sudden the room was bathed in this light scent of roses. It seemed to immediately lighten the room and I almost felt as it were surrounding me like an embrace.

I remember saying out loud, “Grandma”? I felt strangely comforted as if she were really there telling me everything would be alright and was filled with a sense of peace and even happiness. The smell dissipated a moment later but the feeling didn’t leave me for the entire day. Though I cannot say for sure, and I know there are other explanations, I sincerely feel that on some level I knew that was her way of getting a message to me.

There is one more story I can share with you. One of the things me and my husband love to do is to explore abandoned buildings that have a connection to history. And we happened to have been blessed by having not one but three psychiatric hospitals in various states of abandonment here in Suffolk County. We spent many, many countless hours exploring every corridor. I do not recall which building we were in anymore, though I know it was Kings Park State Hospital.

One of the things I love to do is wander off a bit by myself and just listen to my surroundings. When no one is around me making a racket I feel like I can really hear the whole building, all the creaks, groans, and aging history. The general feeling of the building descends on me like a cloak and I can almost feel the history.

This is exactly what I did on this one day. I went into another hallway and wandered farther and farther away from my husband just letting my feet take me where they will. All of a sudden I thought I heard a footstep which was followed by some sort of a clinking sound. Frightened that someone else might be in the building I ducked into a doorway and crouched down behind the door, listening intently. There were a few other subtle noises as of someone were wandering around at the end of the hallway but I determined that they weren’t likely to be police or vandals based on their quietness.

Suddenly the strongest scent of cigarettes wafted by me, which to me confirmed that there really was a person there. At the same time, my husband caught up with me from the other end of the hall. I mentioned to him about the smoke and we decided to just come out and approach the other person, since they were in a dead end and neither party seemed to mean each other any harm, so might as well get it over with so we could both stop hiding from each other. It’s sort of the way with fellow explorers once we recognize our own kind, if you know what I mean.

But as we got to the end of the hall which let out into a day room, there was no one there. The smell of cigarettes was still there, thick and cloying in the air, however there was no smoke. Now it is possible, were they a crafty explorer, that they could have found a way to slip past into a stairwell but these doors creak loudly and I believe I would have heard them. So I am left to wonder, could that smoke have come to us through time? I suppose we will never know.

Having done a bit of reading online about this, it looks like the consensus is rosewater scents indicate female hosts, cigar or smoke smells indicates a male spirit, and sulphur and rotten eggs indicates something unsavory. These seem to be the most popular consensus. However, here’s a funny little story that will put some doubt back into your minds.

In Oyster Bay there is an old house that goes back to Revolutionary War days and is run now as a museum. It is also rumored to be quite haunted. One of the main stories comes from the museum interpreters who report smelling apple pie being baked in the kitchen. They even go so far as to feel it is a rite of passage. Every new docent is only officially a part of the museum family once they smell the phantom apple pie being baked for them. Well this was many years ago when I was a wet-behind-the-ears brand new paranormal researcher and was on an outing with one of the Long Island groups. We split up with radios, and being the newbie, all I carried was my own camera. I remember being so excited and so eager to actually have an experience.

I wandered into the hallway outside the kitchen and stopped dead in my tracks. I could smell it, the famed apple pie baking smell. And it was strong. I could almost imagine the ghost of the African American servant that they say is the phantom baker standing over the old oven. I thought to myself, if she was truly in there, I didn’t want to ruin the moment until someone with better equipment could get down here and take some readings. So I turned the corner, and in the whispering voice Peter Venkman uses in the Slimer scene in Ghostbusters, I said:

“Hey guys?”

“Yeah what’s up?”

“I smell it. The apple pie…it’s here…in the kitchen. Could someone come down with equipment please?” It was all I could do to keep the excitement out of my voice.

But all of a sudden, despite my best attempts at sounding calm, five sets of footsteps pounded all the way from the second floor, down the stairs, and everyone ran into me in the hallway leading to the kitchen. Apparently I was not the only one who was excited. We all poured into the kitchen like eager ghost-hunters. But what we found was not a ghost. On the counter sat a large dish of apple-cinnamon potpourri. We had a good laugh at that one, and it was certainly a lesson to me not to jump to conclusions and not to take things at face value.

So how about you all. Have you ever experienced something supernatural through smell alone?

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