It’s that time of year again, when thoughts turn to jack o’ lanterns and spookiness, ghosts and goblins and all things that go bump in the night.
And, of course, candy. Don’t forget the candy.
For me this time of year is really just an excuse to delve more deeply into something that has always fascinated me . . . questions about ghosts and the paranormal.
Do you believe in ghosts? It’s a complicated question in this somewhat pessimistic era, where people demand proof of everything before they will believe (except, of course, those who are able to devoutly believe in religion without questioning–something I am not really able to do).
In some ways I think it was easier to live in a time when everyone believed in the unexplained, because they had no way of proving anything differently. For example, the roots of Halloween are based on the Celtic belief that
on the night before the new year, [which for them was November 1] the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.(http://www.history.com/topics/halloween)
Nobody questioned the existence of spirits them, because spirits helped explain away the challenges they faced throughout the year.
Despite the fact that we tend to be more cynical, it seems like questions about the paranormal still haunt many of us, and provide hours of entertainment. Television shows like Ghost Hunters have inspired the creation of numerous ghost hunting adventures, as well as a variety of other paranormal based television shows and movies. If you do a Google search for videos about ghosts or paranormal or anything related, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of clips, many completely fake but a few that leave you questioning. I admit, I do this often because of my own fascination.
Do I believe in ghosts? I’m not sure I can answer. When I was younger, I could sense shifts in energy that left eerie feelings inside me. I’ve met many people who still seem to have an intense connection with spirit. In some ways, I recognize that believing in ghosts serves a psychological purpose, but I am just as fascinated by that psychology as the question of whether or not ghosts are real. Why do we want them to be so much?
And of course, I have had several experiences that leave me open to the possibility:
- One Wednesday evening when we were children, my sister and I (and maybe my brother, I don’t remember) used the Ouija Board (which I will no longer touch because of this incident) and were supposedly talking to the spirit of my grandmother. When we asked where Grandpa was, the response said, “Out dancing.” Further inquiry led to the name of a specific dance, that I cannot recall. Later, in discussion with our mother, we learned that Grandpa used to go out every Wednesday to do that dance. Now, my sister might have been old enough to remember that, but I certainly wasn’t. You decide.
- Around the time the mini-series The Holocaust (1978) came on, I immersed myself in reading everything I could find about this horrific event in history. I was in Hebrew School and was immersed in my own Judaism at the time, so that isn’t surprising. I read, and read, and read. That is, until one morning when I lay awake in my bedroom and saw a pile of skulls and dead bodies lying across the room. Yes, I know it was probably just my mind making visual sense of all the words I read, but it was eerily real and scary enough that I did not pick up another book about the Holocaust for years.
- There was the night in college when several of us decided to sneak into the theatre building and spend the night on the stage. Every theatre has its ghosts, and this one was no exception. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep well that night, and it had nothing to do with the security guard that surprised us at one point (but let us stay because he knew many of us had keys anyway).
Perhaps these aren’t the most convincing ghost experiences, but the feelings I get sometimes in ancient places are enough to make me unsure of what I believe. My fascination carries over into books I choose to read, not horror fiction but non-fiction that explores the topic from believers to skeptics. I just finished reading The Medium Next Door by Maureen Hancock. She shares her experience as a “Real-Life Ghost Whisperer”, but her book does more than that, it helps explore the reasons behind this need to believe in ghost. It offers an explanation of why ghosts exist. She explains that our souls are here for a designated time and then move on, leaving our physical bodies behind like a “used car.” She offers an understanding of death that can provide comfort to the living, and enables them to understand that death is not an end–without delving into any specific religious doctrine.
Because, after all, isn’t the question about ghosts really a hope to understand the meaning of life an death?
I may never truly know whether or not ghosts exist, or at least not until I am looking from the other side. I may never know if there are creatures from other planets, or magic is real. I may never know, but I’m okay with that, because the mystery adds spice to life. After all,
“There are more things in heaven and earth, . . . Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Shakespeare)
What do you think? Do you believe in ghosts?
For a fabulously creepy and wonderfully written post that got posted as I wrote this, and supports the existence of ghosts read The Footsteps on the Stairs at She’s a Maineiac.
More stories keep cropping up now, so I will continue to add links to fabulous stories as I go. Here’s one called “Serendipity, Coincidences or Lifes Small Miracles” by Georgette Sullins.