I’m addicted to Ghost Adventures. I’m a die-hard fan of the late, great Barbara Michaels. I love Stephen King. But if a ghost-hunting group right now, today, offered to take me with them on an official “ghost hunt,” would I go? Even if it was Zak Bagans himself?
Could I stay the night in a place like The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining”?
Not on your life.
My true confession: I may write ghost stories, but I’m a big chicken.
So why do I write ghost stories? Several reasons. First, I truly, deeply believe in ghosts and trapped spirits. My religious upbringing firmly implanted the notion of Purgatory in my brain: that no-man’s land, a place where souls are held in limbo until they finish whatever business they didn’t complete in life. Or make amends for whatever wrongs are keeping them from crossing over to the next realm. The holding tank for spirits who don’t yet know they’re dead.
Paranormal phenomena also fascinate me. I realize that more than half, maybe more of the “documented events” you see on the Internet and on television are fabricated. Photoshop is an amazing tool, though I don’t have the first clue how to use it. And people will do anything to bring attention to themselves, to shock and awe the public at large.
Being of a more scientifically oriented mind, I tend to explore those investigations that follow a tested and validated methodology. It’s why I took a course from The Rhine Institute of Parapsychology and earned my certificate in Paranormal Studies. The world of science does nod to the paranormal, folks, though they’re reluctant to admit it. If you don’t believe me, Google the Gansfeld Experiment, and how its results were published in a recognized scientific journal. Way back in the 1970s.
There’s something there, something we don’t understand, and can’t explain. So much of the civilized world simply turns its head and makes believe the paranormal doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. It’s the fabrication of people who own Ouija boards and celebrate Wiccan holidays.
They say children and animals can see spirits of those passed. During a recent visit to The Ringling Museum in Sarasota with my daughter and three-year-old grandson, I believe we witnessed this phenomenon. After spending the entire day traipsing through the art museum and then across the spectacular grounds overlooking Tampa Bay, it was time to head out. Our boy was getting tired.
Strolling along beside us on the long walkway back, there were few other people about. The Monday timing, the heat of the mid-afternoon sun had sent them all scrambling to the air-conditioned confines of one of the buildings on site. Suddenly, my grandson stopped dead in his tracks, staring straight ahead along the path.
“What’s wrong, Eddie? What’s wrong?” My daughter freaked out immediately, never having seen him act this way. Not unless he was afraid, but then, he’d always run to her side and seek her protection.
Not this time.
He stood frozen, staring straight ahead, as if in a trance. After twenty seconds elapsed, we were both becoming concerned. Had the heat gotten to him? Was he experiencing some sort of seizure?
“What’s the matter, Eddie?” My daughter turned to me, carefully-contained panic in her eyes. “He sees something. What do you see, Eddie?”
That’s when the child lifted his arm, stiffly out from his shoulder, and pointed straight ahead down the path.
There was nothing there.
It was like a scene out of The Exorcist, or Poltergeist. The sight of this small child standing like a statue, frozen with his arm outstretched, sent chills down to my very soul. Yet he didn’t seem afraid. My daughter, just wanting the moment to go away, took him by the arm and tugged him forward.
“Come on, Eddie. You’re tired. It’s time to go.”
The boy took two or three steps, then planted his feet again. He raised his arm, again pointing toward something neither of us could see. Then a smile brightened his face, and he giggled. Whatever it was, it made him happy.
Do you believe in residual hauntings? Traces of highly emotional charged experiences we leave in certain places on this earth? I do. And call me crazy, but I truly believe that’s what my grandson was experiencing during his brief, puzzling episode on the grounds of the Ringling.
So I write ghost stories because I want to believe. I want to imagine that traces of not only traumatic events, but also emotionally wonderful experiences, leave imprints on places, regardless of time. I want to believe in the magic of those connections, which link us and bring us closer to one another in this life. Perhaps bridging us into the next.
But ghost hunting? Count me out. I’m still too much of a chicken.
Claire Gem writes in a genre she calls The New Gothic: Romance with a ghostly twist. Her debut novel from SoulMate Publishing, Phantom Traces, is available in ebook, paperback, & audiobook. You can find out more about Claire’s work at her website.