Then she came back in from the bathroom.
“It was so weird, dude,” Mr. Dunlap said. “It was so weird.” But the incident left him and Ms. Cohl with a lingering positive impression: like whoever — or whatever — it was had been trying to make the couple feel more comfortable, or to mediate a potential conflict between them before it happened.
Kurt Gray, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studies how we perceive and treat the minds of other entities, including animals, machines and the dead. Times of great unease or malaise, when there is an increased drive to find meaning in chaos, can lend themselves to perceived hauntings, he said — not to mention that disease itself shares certain psychological parallels with a “malevolent spirit,” creeping invisibly upon its unsuspecting victims.
This phenomenon could also be a side effect of the loneliness of our time. “In quarantine, you are physically confined and also psychologically confined. Your world narrows,” Mr. Gray said. “You’re trapped at home, you’re needing human contact — it’s comforting to think that there’s a supernatural agent here with you.”
For Danielle, a 39-year-old lawyer, isolation predates this pandemic. (The Times agreed to not use her last name, to protect her professional reputation.) She has been recovering at her home in Richmond, British Columbia, since contracting an unrelated serious illness over the winter.
She first experienced strange activity in February, she said, when she kept walking into her guest bedroom to find a particular lamp turned on, although she had no memory of leaving it that way. This happened again, and again, and again, until, on a whim, she said aloud, “Don’t turn that back on.”