The Ghost of an Opinion: A Spooky Guy’s Take on a Spooky Phenomenon

Definitive proof of ghosts.

June 7, 2016 — I’m a guy who digs the ghostly. I love the macabre. I obsessively search out spooky sites and objects like my afterlife depends on it. That means I always find myself in paranormal circles, be they crop, spellcasting, or fairy. I’m constantly absorbing other people’s takes on the paranormal. And I have a take on it, too. Actually, let’s get specific. Ghosts. I have a take on ghosts.

I don’t believe in them. But I am glad that other people do.

Let’s start with that first sentence. I’ve three reasons for my lack of belief.

The first is the evidence of mainstream science. This is the arena where the debate is usually held between paranormalists and skeptics. It’s boring, but let me check it off my list right quick. At the end of the day, this day, in 2016, the skeptic side seems more compelling to me. That science, which recognizes microscopic organisms and invisible forces, still can’t find enough evidence for dead floaty things. That the omnipresence of camera and video equipment still hasn’t yielded evidence that even shifts the conversation on ghosts, much less overturns it. That we have multiple, crystal clear videos of rare oarfish swimming in the vast, vast ocean, high-res photos of brand new species of tiny frogs in thick, distant jungles, and enough one-in-a-million occurrences videos to fuel 26 seasons of America’s Funniest Home Videos, but not a single clear shot of my dead great-great-great-grandmother.

I just feel at home in cemeteries.

I don’t want to go further into this reason because it’s actually the least compelling to me of my three reasons. Because, whichever side of the argument I believed, I would just ignore the other side. The other two reasons I can’t ignore.

The second evidence is my past. For decades, I was a fundamentalist Christian. Which meant I believed in ghosts. And demons. And angels. Talking animals. God-stuffed humans. Magic boats. Resurrection. The evils of movie theaters and women in pants. I was a believer in a lot of extravagant ideas. And then I wasn't a believer of any of those extravagant ideas. But that's how elastic belief can be for a single person. To completely believe something one day, and then to disbelieve it another. And it goes the other way, I've personally seen hundreds of people converted to Christianity.

Sometimes we pretend our mind is a sieve separating the true from the false, when in reality it’s more like old flypaper where stuff sticks when it appeals to us, falls off when it doesn’t, and there’s really rarely any other metric.

Waiting for a ghost in her room at a castle in Ireland.
We have a lot of practice at believing. We go around doing it all day. Believing that we’re not going to die in a car wreck when we jump into the car. Believing that the weight we’re gaining in our thirties is only a temporary condition. I mean, when our mundane beliefs regularly turn out wrong, our extravagant beliefs don’t have a chance. This is only the second-most compelling reason to me.

Possessions in both senses of the word.

The third reason, the one that I can’t shirk if I wanted to, is the evidence of my personal experiences. That’s what every single belief comes down to. For all of us. Whether it’s a belief in a Holy Ghost or the Canterville Ghost, the basic goodness of humanity or the basic jerkiness of humanity, the free market versus whatever the opposite is of that, string theory versus whatever the opposite is of that, we measure it against our own personal experiences and if it doesn’t match up, we say “Go fish.” Even though we fully know that our senses suck. That memory is wiggly. That experiences are limited in every possibly way. That what we’re not misinterpreting we’re deliberately fooling ourselves about. I would say I’m not quite sure why we trust our experiences at all...except that we have to.

Dying to see the dead at an infamous murder scene.

But here’s the relevant thing about the intersection of my experience and this topic. I’ve stayed overnight in a 150-year-old decommissioned prison. Slept at a murder scene. At haunted castles. Hung out in cemeteries at midnight (Hell, I’ve spent more time in cemeteries than my guest bedroom). I’ve tiptoed my way through abandoned asylums. I’ve participated in séances. Had readings done. Played the Ouija. Sought out spiritualist landmarks. Walked through a haunted artifact collection. Entered haunted caves. Haunted factories. Haunted hospitals. Haunted hotels. Haunted restaurants. My own house is 125 years old. I’ve been in classic ghost scenarios as often as I’ve had weekends. And I’ve done all that not as a debunker, but just as a dude who likes creepy stuff.

And I've never had anything close to a paranormal experience. Not so much as a boo. Not even something I could make sound cool with a little bit of exaggeration.

And so I don't believe in ghosts.

In prison thinking it must suck to live both both your life and afterlife incarcerated.

But maybe I am just one experience away, who knows? But if that’s true, I’m going to be really pissed at the paranormal for taking so long to say hi.

So if I don’t believe in ghosts, why am I glad other people do? Because I like ghost stories. And if people didn’t believe in ghosts, we’d have fewer of them. Our lore would be impoverished. Our legends weak. Our metaphors sickly. Our characters less interesting. I like that there’s some guy who works at Arby’s during the day running through an abandoned mansion with an electrical device that somebody on TV told him measures ghost activity so much better than that there’s a guy who spends his day looking at analytics reports and making coffee runs who hits the beach on the weekends.

I've heard from one or two sources that this beauty might have a ghost or twenty.

In the past, I’ve given book talks to ghost hunting groups about my experiences searching out the odd and macabre. I tell them I love ghost stories and tromping through abandoned buildings and cemeteries at night. I love researching old history and learning about local sites. Basically, I love everything that a ghost hunter likes. Except for the ghost hunting part.

That’s all I’ve got. I’m going to go watch a haunted house flick with all the lights on.

At a cemetery at midnight in a rainstorm behind an ex-asylum
after just watching a horror movie that filmed there.




I write more "inside" stuff like this in the OTIS Club Newsletter Thing, only available to members of the OTIS Club. Join here.

7 comments:

  1. I've experienced many things which others would quickly and easily label as "paranormal," but despite some spectacularly unexplainable instances (a pot lid dropping from literally out of nowhere in the middle of my kitchen, books sliding out of densely-packed bookshelves on their own, etc.) nothing that I could definitively point to and say "That was a ghost."

    That said, I maintain a skeptical, yet open-minded, opinion of the paranormal. I believe that what we consider to be "ghostly" and "paranormal" is nothing more than some form of energy (or force of nature) that is as yet unknown or not understood properly.

    It is a scientific law that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it merely changes form. I believe that the same applies to that which we call "life" or the life force (soul); consciousness as we know it does not "die" when physical life ends.

    It simply changes form. What that form is and how it behaves is what we call the paranormal and ascribe to ghosts.

    I could go on, but that's it in a nutshell.

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  2. Out of the 1000s, or maybe tens of 1000s of ghost images out there, there is a tiny fraction that have not been debunked. I would hesitate to label them as anything but 'unexplained' without further study, but there are videos, audio and still images out there that are, minimally, unexplainable and leaning towards 'ghost.' Just sayin'.

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  3. Never say never. You could absolutely end up seeing one but it may be in an unexpected place at an unexpected time.

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  4. Paranormal stuff has it's naysayers and believers just like any other theories/religions, etc. out there but for me, I think a lot of the reasons why people dont' believe is because like you they've never had that experience. I've had many over the years, too numerous to get into here, too weird to just simply be explained away or mind tricks. But I'm not out to try and convince anyone either to believe like I do. I also do believe we do have souls that live on and go somewhere else after we die. Whether it's heaven or hell I don't know, but I don't think there's just finality. At least I hope not. lol I will tell you two quick stories though, because you do enjoy good ghost stories: first, that did happen to me in New Orleans while on my honeymoon with my husband ON Halloween of 2012. We were staying at the Place D'Armes, one of the top haunted hotels in New Orleans and that is featured on the city's haunted history tour we took that night. Going down to breakfast that morning, before we got onto the elevator, the door opened up again abruptly like someone trying to get on at the last minute. We didn't think much of it, except, we were staying on the 2nd floor, hit the down button in the elevator, and 3 button lit up. We went to 3, nobody was there. We found out later on the tour, the hotel was the former site of a school that burned where children died, and one ghost of a little girl haunts the hotel and has apparently been seen by tourists. Now we didn't see anything but we definitely had an experience that was odd.
    Second quick story: my cousin used to live in my grandmother's old house after she got married. My grandmother passed away in the house when we were all in our teens so she never met any of our spouses. My cousin's husband claims he saw my grandmother walking across the hallway from her old bedroom to the bathroom like she often did and the smell of cigarette smoke was also with the vision. My grandmother was a horrific chain smoker to the point where even the cups in her cabinet tasted of stale smoke when you used them. He had never met my grandmother only had seen her in photos, but swore the apparition he saw was in enough detail that it was her, and she was wearing a robe. My grandmother often wore house smocks around the house or a robe.

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  5. Well, you got the expected response. Regardless, I wouldn't have posted that the week that you started your "club." D'oh.

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  6. Do we need to see to believe? I've often found that I'm more receptive when I'm relaxed, i.e. nor expecting or waiting for anything. Perhaps anticipation dulls other senses. I've never seen anything but felt more than I can begin to explain 😉

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