Ghost Hunting (with Your Nose)

Sniffers go in search of spirits at an offbeat olfactory event.

The sense of sight is typically invoked when it comes to searching for ethereal beings from beyond the veil, as in "so, did you see any ghosts?" 

Less referenced is our sense of smell. No one asks "did you smell any ghosts?" but consider that those buildings believed to be haunted are often described as bearing a trace of old perfume or the scent of candlewax or wine or some other odoriferous substance favored by the being now long gone.

Your sniffer, and not your eyes or your ears, will be called into action at an unusual self-guided ghost-hunting tour on Saturday, Oct. 3. Well, not totally self-guided; aficionados of apparitions'll first gather at The Institute for Art and Olfaction to discuss how our ability to sense odor may lead us to supernatural findings of the phantomiest sort.

It's free to join the fun at the institute, but if you want a special Phantosmia map for your self-guided explorations at several Los Angeles ghost spots, you'll need to show with a fiver.

After the gathering, ghost hunterers are welcome to set off on their own in search of "13 SMELLY GHOSTS" around Southern California. No surprise that "13" is the number of the night, and no surprise that you may be searching out some celebrities from the great beyond ("the phantom smell of Rudolph Valentino's horse" is one scent your sniffer will want to watch, er, sniff for).

There's also a Phantosmia Kit for sale, created by a fragrance-mad group of fans from the Smelly Vials Perfume Club, "a punk rock perfume-making society." The kit is priced at sixty bucks and will pay homage to the spirited scents you're looking for.

Yep, the kit also comes with the map you'll need on your nose-forward adventure.

We live in a region that's flush with phantom stories, both involving ye olde Tinseltown and some newer night-eerie icons as well. But to search for them in a fresh way, involving the appendage in the middle of your face, is a twist that's time has come.

Was that a trace of lilac perfume you just smelled in that back room of that one bar? Or was it rose perfume? Sometimes the nose knows that something strange is among us, before the other senses have come to their senses.

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