1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Disappearing Object Phenomenon


Do objects disappear around your home, then inexplicably reappear? You might be a victim of Disappearing Object Phenomena. What could be the cause?

One afternoon I was copying programs using my old Commodore 64 computer in a room designated as the "computer room." The copy program had just instructed me to swap disks, and I remember taking the "original" disk out of the drive and laying it on the desk next to the keyboard. At that time, my mother called me out of the room and I went to see what she needed. Upon my return a few minutes later, I noticed that it was time for another disk swap. The disk was not where I had left it. I looked everywhere. I took all of the disks out of the disk file, looked under the desk - everywhere - and couldn't find it. I left the room, and came back, determined to retrace my steps. When I came back, the same result - nothing. I left again, saying to myself that "enough was enough." When I came back, my first impulse was to check the disk file again. I flipped down the first disk in the file - and there it was - backwards. At that instant, I felt an incredible feeling of dread and could swear that I heard a faint, but amused laugh.

Stories like this appear in my e-mailbox on a regular basis - common examples of disappearing object phenomena (DOP). Typically, DOP involves an object that the person had just been using or that they invariably keep in one particular place. When they go to use the object, it is gone. The person looks high and low for the object, often getting others involved in the search, but it cannot be found. A short time later, or perhaps the next day, the person is surprised to find the object returned to the spot where it is always kept or in some other obvious place where the search should have found it.

What happened here? Where did the object go? Why did it "disappear"? How was it returned? What forces are at work in this highly strange yet relatively commonplace phenomenon? There are several possibilities, from the mundane to the peculiar to the profoundly bizarre - both psychological and paranormal.


[My] latest loss is a nice birthday card that my husband printed out for my mother. I showed it to everyone, then left it on the kitchen table overnight so I could send it the next day. It's gone. No one has seen it, no one remembers moving it, and we still haven't found it, although we've looked all over the house....

When examining such occurrences as DOP, we must first consider the most ordinary possibility: that the person simply misplaced the object or forgot where he/she put it. This, in fact, probably accounts for the vast majority of reported DOPs. For example, a woman always puts her hairbrush in the same place on her dressing table, but now is not there. It's quite possible that, being distracted somehow, she absentmindedly carried it to another room and put it down on a table. Naturally, when she goes to look for the brush she's astonished that it's not on the dressing table. And she'll most likely look all around the dressing table since that is where it is always kept. She might not even think to look in the other room on the table because... why in the world would she ever do such a thing? Yet things like this probably happen more often than we imagine.

This DOP possibility falls apart when the hairbrush is later found on the dressing table in its usual spot. Unless the woman was experiencing temporary blindness with regard to this one object, then other possibilities must be considered.


Here's another mundane, but highly possible cause that we must consider if we are to investigate DOP seriously. When the hairbrush has vanished from the dressing table, after her initial search, the woman would quite likely question other members of the household. Even though they might deny up and down that they borrowed the hairbrush, it's very plausible that a family member did, in fact, borrow the item. Seeing that mom is upset, and perhaps not wanting to get into trouble for borrowing an item they know they shouldn't touch, they'll deny taking it. Then, when mom is elsewhere in the house, the borrower sneaks back to the dressing table and returns the brush. And when mom returns to the scene of the "crime," the brush has amazingly returned to its proper spot. And a household mystery is born.

This possibility can be eliminated, of course, if the person lives alone or when other family members are not around when the DOP occurs.

The "absentminded" and "borrower" possibilities aren't as exciting or intriguing as those that follow, but they probably solve a majority of DOP cases. We must remember that any paranormal investigation must first rule out the most likely, if pedestrian, explanations for what seems like an unexplainable event. Only then can we consider more unusual possibilities.

Next page: Poltergeists and Weirder Stuff

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.