My Spooky Fascination

It’s that time of year again, when children’s minds turn to costumes and candy, and adult’s who are in touch with their inner child think about spooks and specters as well as their own opportunity to dress in costume and become someone else.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy last Halloween.

I find Halloween fascinating. I don’t usually dress up, and prefer to stay home handing out candy and commenting on costumes. But I love watching the specials about hauntings and ghost hunts.  I thrive on the spooky feelings, and often wonder what is real and what is imagined. I admit that, when my mind is too cluttered to think straight,  I will sometimes (or often) distract myself by searching for videos of ghosts caught on tape, even though I know the majority of them are lame attempts at creating something spooky. (I hate the ones with pop-ups). Still, at this time of year I can’t resist . . . and if I am to be completely honest (as I try to be) when I feel overwhelmed and need to just get out of my own head I will even look for these videos at other times of the year. It’s my guilty pleasure.

I’m not talking about horror or slasher movies. I’m talking about the videos and pictures that give you a chill and make you feel like things go bump in the night. Of course, if I watch too many of them, then I start seeing shadows move or hearing things in the night. My mind begins to play tricks on me, or perhaps I open myself up and become more sensitive to what might be out there.

I am fascinated by the psychology of it all.

What really interests me though, is that questions about the existence of ghosts and  holidays celebrating and honoring the dead exist in cultures throughout the world. While modern Halloween has become a kind of bastardization of the Druid ceremony of Samhain, the roots and traditions of these ceremonies say a lot about human psychology, our attitude toward life and death, and our fears about a natural world that functions beyond our control. (I believe that our attempts to control nature have led us down an ultimately self-destructive path). Samhain  itself was a celebration connected with the harvest and the transition into winter:

“The origin of Halloween can be found in the ancient Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain (pronounced SOW-in). From present-day Ireland to the United Kingdom to Bretagne in France, the ancient Celts celebrated October 31st as the day when the normally strict boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead became mutable, and the ghosts of those who had passed away came back to earth. The celebration coincided with the final harvests of the year, the stockpiling of stores for the cold winter months when the sun set early and rose late, and when nature itself hibernated, dying until its rebirth in the spring.” (from “Not Just Halloween: Festivals of the Dead from Around the World“)

If you click on the link above, the article gives a brief overview and comparison of festivals of the dead from around the world including the Japanese Obon festival, the Cambodian P’chun Ben, and the Mexican Los Dias de los Muertos. I’m sure if I spent more time delving into research on the topic I would uncover many other cultures who have some sort of ceremony or day that honors the dead. (I have too many other things to work on so I can’t distract myself with that research now. Focus, Lisa! Focus.)

Why does this topic fascinate me so much? There are many reasons. I’m intrigued by the very human desire to seek out understanding about life and death. Most of us seem unable to live completely in the Now, which means we want to know where we are heading. What is our purpose in life? If our purpose isn’t simply to do good and live a happy life NOW then  we seem to need the reassurance that something else happens after death.  We also, I believe, yearn for an opportunity to connect with our loved ones lost, and festivals like these make the veil between the living and the dead seem less permanent.

I’m not 100% sure that I believe in ghosts, but I do believe that we are all somehow connected through energy. Perhaps that energy retains some snippets of our personalities or our thoughts and some sensitive people can sense those moments, those memories, those thoughts. Or perhaps ghosts are merely our brains trying to send us a message. I doubt I will ever know, but I will remain fascinated by the topic. I can’t help it, it’s my Spooky Fascination.

For some of my past posts about ghosts, you might want to read these:

 

 

 

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

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.

Haunted Holiday, 100 Word Challenge for Adults

Mary thought all the people who believed the mansion was haunted were crazy. She had to see something to believe it, and without scientific evidence of the existence of ghosts, she would never believe in them. To her this trip would be a dream vacation, an opportunity to experience the life of the landed elite, as if she lived in Victorian times. She would relax, read books, wander through the gardens and drink tea. It would be heaven on earth. The first night revealed a truth she never expected. Mary thought wrong, and now Mary has become a ghost.

Sharing Chapter 1 of “Giving Up the Ghosts”

Candle wick burning.

Image via Wikipedia

Since I decided to take the plunge and self publish, and today is Fiction Friday over at the Domestic Fringe, and I am trying to get on the road quickly so I shouldn’t stop to write, I thought I would share the first chapter of the book for middle-grade readers. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 1:
SECRETS REVEALED

 

T

he finished basement took on an eerie silence as Andie watched Brittany strike a match to begin the séance. Sleeping bags, pillows, and ten young bodies cast strange shadows on the walls in the flickering candlelight. Several of the girls shifted and giggled as the air started to feel heavier.

“Quiet,”Brittanyordered. “We have to be serious.”

Accustomed to following Brittany’s every word, the girls settled down with nervous glances at one another. Andie wondered if any of the girls really believed in ghosts. Andie was sure that Brittany didn’t believe in anything supernatural or anything that involved the imagination. Andie and Brittany played together all the time when they were little girls. They often held tea parties with “imaginary” friends. What Brittany didn’t know, however, was that the friends were not imaginary—at least not to Andie. There were always one or two ghosts hanging around with the girls that only Andie could see. The ghosts played games, sang songs, asked questions and pretended they were as alive as the two little girls. Andie told Brittany stories of whatever the ghosts were doing, but Brittany always thought it was just Andie’s great imagination.

When they turned twelve, Brittany decided that playing with invisible playmates was no longer cool, and that boys were much more interesting.

“You are like a little baby playing with imaginary friends,” she told Andie one day. “I have more important things to think about. I think Steven is so cute.”

Andie had no interest in boys at that point. Brittany drifted away and went on to form a new group of friends. This group, known as The Circle, eventually led the school. Andie soon had nobody but her ghosts.

Andie had not been invited to one of Brittany’s beginning-of-school sleepovers since Brittany had become so popular. For some reason, Brittany had decided it was time to give Andie another chance. Every year Brittany tested one girl to see if she was worthy of joining The Circle. It was hard to pass the test. Andie was determined to succeed because popularity would make her sophomore year in high school much better, and she was tired of only having incorporeal friends.

So here Andie was, sitting at a séance, watching a ghost form in the corner and wondering if she dared to say anything to the other girls. They’ll just think I’m still playing with imaginary friends, she thought, so I’m not going to tell them the truth. I don’t want to screw this up.

Using her spookiest voice, Brittany began, “Eeef theeeere is anyone heeere who wants to talk to uuuusssss, please give us a siiiign.”

Nothing happened. At least nobody but Andie realized what was happening. She watched as the silvery shape she had noticed earlier took form in the darkest corner of the room. At first a dim blob, it finally emerged as the image of a girl about Andie’s age, wearing an old-fashioned, floor-length nightgown.  Andie sneaked glances at the other girls to see if they noticed the ghost. As usual, she seemed to be the only one who was able to see anything otherworldly.

“Is there aaaanyone heeeere who wishes to speak to uuus?” Brittanyasked.

The ghost wandered over to stand behind Courtney and said, “Hello, I’m here.”

Andie heard the statement clearly, or as clearly as one can when a ghost is talking, which sounds like an echo from a deep well. Courtney, sitting next toBrittany, started giggling and asked, “Did you just blow in my ear?”

“It’s windy outside. You probably felt a draft through the window,” Brittany said, “Everyone should ask a question. Maybe a ghost will respond to someone else.”

Obedient as always, the other girls took turns seeking some connection with the spirit world. Andie had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as the playful girl ghost responded in ways that the other girls could almost hear or feel, but decided to pass off as imagination. The spirit wandered from girl to girl, whispering, playing with their hair, touching their arms. The girls twitched and itched, but couldn’t seem to recognize the signs of a ghost.

“If you are here, knock on the wall,” Courtney suggested.

The ghost knocked, startling everyone.

“My stupid brother must be spying on us,” Brittany said, jumping up to open the door leading upstairs. Of course nobody was there. “Leave us alone, dork!”Brittanyyelled, “Stay away from this room!”

The teenage ghost started being even more mischievous, blowing on necks, causing goose bumps, and pinching arms and cheeks. She stood behind Brittany and made strange faces. Andie pushed her nails into her palm and hid her face behind her thick mane of unruly reddish-brown hair to hide her smile. She pretended to cough to hide her laugh.

“Is something funny, Andrea?”Brittanyasked, annoyed at the interruption to her serious ceremony.

“Sorry . . . um, I just had something in my throat. And . . . I wish you would call me Andie. You know nobody calls me Andrea.” Andie answered quietly.

“We don’t use nicknames in our group,”Brittanysaid, “It’s your turn to ask a question.”

“Um . . . I’d rather not.”

“If you want to hang out with us, you have to do as I say,”Brittanysaid. The other girls responded in agreement.

Courtney said, “You should ask the ghost to do something.”

“OK, let me think a minute,” Andie said, closing her eyes. What do I do? She thought. I don’t really want the ghost to answer me, but I can’t get out of this. Andie remembered that ghosts required a lot of energy to move objects, so often they wouldn’t do it when asked. Usually they just said “No.”  Please just say no, Andie prayed silently.

“If you are here,” she whispered so quietly that the other girls leaned forward to hear her, “please lift the candle in the air.”

The ghostly girl looked thoughtful and headed toward the candle. Andie held her breath as the spirit tried to grab it. The candle flames flickered more brightly as the ghost focused energy in that area. Someone whispered, “Did you see that?”

“Shh!” Brittany said. “You are imagining things.”

Andie held her breathe. The ghost made two more unsuccessful attempts at moving the candle. When she gave up, a look of frustration reflected on her pale features, Andie released air in a rush.

“Well, that was useless,” Brittany snapped and blew out the candle. “I’m getting bored, let’s do makeovers now.”  She looked over at Andie, “Some of us really need help. You should start wearing makeup Andrea.”

Andie blushed, but stood up, relieved that the séance was over with no harm done. She’d even tolerate a makeover, although her mother didn’t want her to wear makeup. She’d do anything to keep her secret safe.

All the girls rushed over to grab hairbrushes and makeup cases. Brittany ordered Andie to sit in front of her and started experimenting with purple eye shadow so Andie was not able to see what the ghost girl was doing.

Brittanyhad just finished one of Andie’s eyes when somebody screamed, “Look at that!” A mirror dropped with a loud crash.

Everyone looked toward the center of the room, where they had left the candle. To most of the girls, it seemed as if the candle was floating several feet above the ground. Andie saw a hand that looked almost solid, and the faint image of the figure of the ghost girl.

Forgetting where she was, Andie said to the ghost “You should probably stop that. You might fade away completely.”  The ghost responded by walking over to Andie and handing the candle to her.

Suddenly Andie realized that all eyes in the room were on her as the girls backed away.

“How did you do that?” Brittanydemanded.

“Do what?”  Andie answered, trying to hide the candle behind her.

“Make that candle float.”

“I didn’t do it. I think you really have a ghost,” Andie said, and then giggled nervously trying to pretend she was making a joke.

“And who were you talking to?” one of the other girls asked.

“Uh . . .” Andie looked at the girls who were all staring at her with shocked, terrified or mocking expressions. She realized she wouldn’t be able to fib her way out of this situation. For the first time she decided to reveal her secret. She took a deep breath and began. “I can see ghosts. There’s a girl standing over there.”  Heads swiveled to where Andie was pointing, but of course nobody could see anything.

Brittanysnorted with scorn. “You’re such a freak. You still haven’t grown up and left your imaginary friends behind. I’m going to call you Ghost Girl from now on!  Girls, isn’t that a great name for her?”

Brittany’s entourage agreed.

“It’s time to play Truth or Dare,” Brittanyordered. “But I don’t want you playing, Ghost Girl.”

Andie winced at the new nickname. She was never going to be part of this group.

Brittany continued. “Why don’t you go upstairs and help my mother with the pizza.”

For the rest of the evening, Andie did whatever Brittany ordered her to do, but was otherwise ignored. Occasionally, she caught the other girls whispering and giving her odd looks. Andie finally remembered to wipe off the purple eye shadow haunting one eye, but the funny looks didn’t stop. If anything, they got worse. The words “ghost girl” followed her around. The real ghost followed her as well. The faded teen wanted to communicate and get the attention of everyone in the room. Whenever she thought she no one was looking, Andie whispered to the ghost, trying to convince the spirit to leave for a while. This only added to the strange looks from everyone else.

Finally, it was time for bed. “I think you should sleep over there,” Brittany told Andie, pointing to the far corner of the room—the corner where the ghost first made her appearance. “That way you can talk to your ghost friends without disturbing the normal people in the room. Goodnight, Ghost Girl.”

The other girls giggled, saying “Goodnight, Ghost Girl” as Andie grabbed her sleeping bag while trying to stifle a sob. She slowly set it up in the far corner of the room.

I guess I won’t be joining The Circle now that my secret is out, she thought.

Andie had a difficult time falling asleep. She tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable on a hard floor with a tear-damp pillow. She continued to hear whispered conversations from across the room, including the words “Ghost Girl.”  The spirit girl tried to start a conversation with Andie, but Andie was in no mood to oblige. Eventually, the ghostly teen faded away with a look of disappointment.

Unable to sleep, Andie thought about the first time she had ever seen a ghost.

Excerpt from GIVING UP THE GHOSTS

 

It's a ghost!

Image via Wikipedia

 

[The following is an excerpt from the book for young adults that I am hoping to get published. The book is mostly written in third person, with the occasional chapters from Andie’s diary that are written in first person. This is the first of those chapters.  If you want to read more we’ll just have to get it published. 🙂 Enjoy.]

CHAPTER 6:  IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS

Dear Diary,

I’m so frustrated. School is horrible this year. I have no friends and everyone thinks I’m strange and it’s all because of the ghosts. I hoped it would get better, but we have been in school for over a month and it’s only getting worse. They treat me even worse than MM. What’s really strange is MM keeps trying to talk to me. I actually think she seems kind of nice, but I’m afraid of talking to her. I mean, either I will ruin her reputation more, or she’ll ruin mine. But I’m so lonely. I guess I could try to be her friend, but if I do I know that my chances of being popular are over for good. Then again, the ghost things seem to have ruined that anyway. I’m so confused.

I really wish I had someone living to talk to about ghosts who could give me advice. I tried to talk to Mom the other day, but she shuts down every time I mention the strange things that happen around me. She won’t let the impossible disturb her scientific mind. And Dad always thinks I’m being creative. I’m going to have to try someone else; someone who believes in this kind of thing. Today I saw an ad in the paper for a psychic. I know exactly where she lives too. She’s in that little cottage on the other side of town, the one next to the yellow house full of kids. I’ve seen her sign “Psychic Readings: Let me help you solve your problems through the spiritual realm.”  Well I have a HUGE problem. Seeing ghosts isn’t fun anymore. They are around all the time and it’s so hard. Maybe the psychic will help me convince the ghosts to give me a little space. I’ve been saving babysitting money for a while now. I was planning on buying an iPod, but this is more important. I hope his woman can help me.

Hold on, diary, Irene just appeared in my room and she’s trying to get my attention. I’m so mad at her after she embarrassed me the other day. Why does she have to interfere? I have to make her leave me alone so I can write in privacy. That’s part of the problem. I never have any privacy with all of these ghosts popping in and out.

Wow, getting rid of her was harder than I thought, Diary. That visit was really strange. She must have been reading over my shoulder because she said “We’re sorry if we are bothering you, but we need you.”

I told her that I don’t know what she means and that I’m tired of being embarrassed.

Then she said, “Wait, I’ll show you.” She faded slightly as if she was going to go to wherever they go when they aren’t bothering me and said in a faraway voice “Come talk to her now.”

A man and a woman appeared next to Irene. I hate it when you can tell how someone died, and this time I could. They looked a little crispy around the edges, as if they were burned in a fire. They were dressed in jeans and sweaters that could be seen in any store today so they couldn’t have died too long ago. They looked a little confused, as if they had never appeared before. They tried to speak, but that was also faint as if they had never communicated from beyond.

The woman started crying, which is a horrible sound coming from a ghost and said, “Help her.”

I think the man said something like, “Tell her . . .” But he seemed to not have much practice speaking so the end of his sentence was garbled. I couldn’t hear what I was supposed to tell someone. I have no idea what they were talking about.

I yelled “GO AWAY!” as loud as I could and the two strange ghosts popped out quickly. Irene looked at me sadly for a minute and whispered “Please help us. Please don’t give up.” and then faded away slowly.

I feel sorry for these ghosts but I don’t know what they mean. I can’t help them. I just want my life to be normal.

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