Why do they haunt us? What do they want as they wander through our homes and across our land as the light fades and the moonlights seeps through our windows?
Ghosts have been with us since man began to ponder the meaning of death. They began to wonder what happened to friends and family when they died. Was there survival after life drained from the body? We want to know that our loved one is watching over us so we are comforted when they pass. We also want to know that this life, so precious to us, is not the only thing out there. In that sense we are a little selfish because we want to hold onto our lives. Our experiences on this earth are sometimes all we think we have. Religion is like that too. It is a way for us to be comforted by the belief that there is something else after we die, something better we hope, but something; anything is better than nothing. Right? For they’re to be nothing else would be the ultimate slap in the face, a cosmic joke in the making as we come closer to the grave. Belief is a powerful thing; it keeps us sane at times and allows us to be at peace knowing that death is only the beginning.
First I want you to dispel any and all preconceived notions of a ghost. Ghosts are not your typical walking through the attic rattling their chains and moaning entities although I suppose they could be if they wanted to. The problem is that over the years the term “ghost” has become a dumping ground for all sorts of ideas from poltergeists to run of the mill flickers in the corner of ones eye. I suppose the best way to begin this is to start at the beginning and work up to the present day explanations of ghost phenomenon. Ghosts are not new they have been around for quite some time and have over the years become more than attic dwelling apparitions.
This story comes from Ancient Athens and was written by Pliny the Younger (A.D. 61-115) but the question is: Is it true or a writer’s fabrication?
In Athens there sat a house which none could dwell. In the night there arose such a noise as metal crashing and chains rattling that one could not sleep. In turn an apparition would appear in the form of an emaciated old man with a long beard and fettered in chains. It was to the point that madness would overtake any tenant in the house and finally it was shut up. In hopes that some unknowing individual would come by and take up residence in this haunted dwelling a sign was placed out front for rent or sale.
In time the philosopher Athenodorus happened by the dwelling and noticing the sign and the reasonable price decided to take the residence as his own. Having been told the full story of the ghastly apparition, which haunted the halls, Athenodorus still took the place without question. The first night while he toiled over his books and writings the apparition appeared before Athenodorus rattling his chains and sending out a ghastly wail. The philosopher having no intention of giving into such nonsense simply told the ghost it would have to wait until he was so inclined to pay any attention. The apparition undaunted continued to assail the philosopher until, upset he could not continue his work, he took up a lamp and followed the ghost to the courtyard where the spirit promptly vanished while pointing to a spot on the ground.
Having no desire to continue the nonsense Athenodorus marked the spot and went to bed. Upon waking in the morning he decided that he would, for civility and reason, put to rest the issue of the ghost and called the local magistrate to his home and to the spot he had marked the previous night. Upon the digging of a hole in that exact spot there was revealed the bones of an adult male bound in chains. Once the body was removed and the bones interred in a proper burial the spirit never again visited the house in Athens.
This story has all the classic trappings of a ghost story. There is the ghastly spirit trapped on earth, moaning, wailing and even the discovery of the body and the subsequent laying to rest of the bones properly. But is it true? I know that before I said ghosts are much more than chain rattling attic dwellers and this has become more apparent over the years. Science has come to the forefront of trying to prove that spirits exist, mediums have always existed for contacting the spirit world, and there is always the trusted Ouija Board. Through all of this though there have been theories on what ghosts are and the types that exist.
First there is the Residual Haunting, which is not actually the ghost that many would think it is. Simply put the residual haunting is a place memory. There is a popular theory out today that the residual haunting is caused through environmental means. Think about and audio or videotape that is in every household across the world. The material that the tape uses to record the images or sounds is oxidized or rusted thus allowing for the recording process. If you think of a building or area as the tape and the materials such as rock or rusted nails as the oxidized or metallic elements that allow for recording it makes more sense. An image is stored somehow in the surrounding area until the right conditions are revealed and the “Play” button is pushed. Thus the residual haunting begins to play. Images and sounds may repeat once a year on the same day or when it rains. There is any number of triggers. Maybe over the years in your home you have heard footsteps coming up the stairs but there is no one ever there. Every time there are twenty-seven footfalls and then nothing. Observe when it occurs and possibly you can figure out the trigger. There is no “physical” ghost present but only a “place memory” playing back from time to time. This leads us to our next type of ghost:
An apparition is the ghost of an individual. This is the ghost everyone associates with the term. This is the conscious entity that interacts with you and the environment around it and that is aware of its surroundings. The story that Pliny related to us was this type of haunting. Typically the spirit is connected to the place or the people where it resides. These types of hauntings are not as common as you would think and are only experienced by a handful of researchers. The spirit energy that makes up this entity is that which was once the person so in turn retains the personality and manners of the living self. Often the spirit is tied to the area for a few specific reasons; it may be that the spirit does not want to move on, or that they never realized that had died due to the suddenness of death. For whatever reason the spirit resides there it still is only the person that it once was.
I often hear people say that they are afraid of ghosts. Most people are and that is only because they fear what they do not understand. In the story that I wrote about myself regarding my grandmother I was scared, scared to death of what I saw but now in retrospect I wonder why. Actually, I know why; it was because I had no idea what I was seeing and in turn could not even begin to understand what it was. So I was scared. Now that I know who I was seeing and understand that she was just watching over us children for a time then it is not so frightening. If she was alive when she visited I would not be so afraid so why would I be in death?
Likewise, ghosts are the people they used to be. If you were good and kind then in death it would stand to reason that you are good and kind. IN life if you were bad in turn your spirit may be bad. People are people and in death they are still people. We just cannot always see them or understand why they are there. There are very few instances of “negative” spirits but it does happen. However, if you understand what you are dealing with and stay calm most injuries and interactions can be kept in check. You have to understand that you cannot always see them but they can see you. Imagine yourself in a room full of people and you are trying desperately to get someone’s attention but no one sees or hears you. How would you feel? I can guess very frustrated and would do anything you could to get attention drawn to yourself.
These spirits can manifest in many ways. You may be able to see a full or partial bodied apparition of the individual as they were in life, or from a time in their life. You can hear footsteps, knocking, or even words or whispers. Pipe smoke and perfume can manifest when no one is smoking or wearing that specific perfume. At times you may see orbs or light effects, see doors open or lights go on and off. There are many ways they try to get our attention or become visible to us but in the end it is always just a person who has passed away. Nothing more than conscious energy still here on the earth it once lived on.
The third type of haunting is the Poltergeist from the German for noisy ghost. The Poltergeist has always been exemplified by mischievous actions, objects flying around rooms, furniture moving, and people being levitated. It was always assumed that if one had a poltergeist that the spirit was being vengeful and in death trying to exact retribution for a wrong doing and in turn is able to interact with rage on the world around it. In present times the Poltergeist has become something else. In studies of poltergeist phenomenon by noted investigators like Hans Bender, William Roll, And Harry Price it has been learned that it is not necessarily a spirit causing these issues but an individual or agent the phenomenon focuses around. This person known or unknown to himself or herself is the one, through psycho kinesis, causing the activity. Usually occurring in adolescents nearing puberty the poltergeist activity eventually calms down eventually after a peak period. This type of haunting is only included here because there is no real proof that it is not a ghost but whatever the cause poltergeist activity is a paranormal occurrence.