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Writer's Block: Spirits

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever encountered one?


Yes. I've experienced ghosts, since I have not actually seen one in anything but a dream. Sometimes though I've gotten the impression of what I would see if I turned around, looked and not seen anyone -- but known who that was and what they'd have looked like if visible. It's just not visual for me. Chills, kinesthesia, awareness, sounds. It happened in Chicago after my grandfather died a lot. He was always just in some other room in the house or out in the garage. He was particularly warm and benevolent. Most ghosts are not scary to me. The ones in New Orleans were fascinating, as beautiful a glimpse into history as finding an old photo or seeing an old building. I liked them and paid attention to them, they liked that and I think it made them a bit stronger. I've never run into nasty ones or at least not stuck around if I did any more than I hang out with people who annoy me.

It stopped being a big deal after the first year in New Orleans. I don't even tell the stories because it stopped being a big deal. Ghosts are part of the world. Way cool. They provide prompts and ideas for stories like anything else I perceive. If I wrote a Ghost Story of the horror story sort, it would more be based on horror stories than on the real ghosts I've ever met -- but it might be a cracking good tale anyway.

Ghost stories in horror are vengeance stories. Sometimes they're just about passing on key information so the ghost's vengeance is accomplished -- say by prosecuting a forgotten crime. Sometimes the ghost is just cruel and it consists of Harassment from someone who can't be prosecuted. Phone calls with heavy breathing or weird sounds or crying children. Guilt trips come into them whether or not the ghost is justified. Ghost stories from other cultures often involve angry ghosts who are either angry they were forgotten or jealous of the living for continuing to breathe.

None of my real ghost perceptions had nearly enough plot or conflict to base a story on. They were just interesting events in my life, especially the lovely New Orleans ones. One of my apartments was very haunted and I got along well with the two ghosts in it, one an older woman and the other a young one. They rocked and I remember them as fondly as past housemates whom I got along well with. They were so beautiful I may actually paint them someday, but a painting doesn't need plot or conflict to work.

One of the big things about Do You Believe In anything is the assumption that belief is either good or bad. That it boils down to something other than "What was that?" into "Do you Believe (what these other people told you that was.) It's a nasty rhetorical trick when it comes to Christian versus Atheist debates because those cleverly leave out any answer other than Yes I Believe And Belong To Your Church or No, I Don't, All Supernatural Stories Are A Total Crock and Probably Fraud.

What I think ghosts are is a matter of ideas and speculation, none of which are Beliefs and all are possibilities that could be proved dead wrong or right. Some ghosts, especially the constantly repeated images or actions that are out of context with the person who saw or experienced them, may not actually have anything to do with the trapped souls of dead people. They may be imprints of some kind, fossils, imprints of those few intense minutes of time left in the place by its burning psychic intensity. If the screaming young woman got raped and beaten and then survived and moved and died decades later as an old woman who went peacefully, it's possible the ghost of a screaming young woman is the thing that would come up on ghost hunters' unexposed films and by witnesses seeing her in the night.

It's possible others could be the conscious self motivated dead coming back to warn or harass or just haunting out of their own original reasons and trying to get someone's, anyone's attention to strengthen their presence.

It's possible others may be local spirits that don't have a real distinct visual image and the details get filled in by the mind of the perceiver, who sees "young woman in a white dress" when the spirit may have been seen before as a young woman in a light colored deerhide dress with long dark hair in braids, by someone in a different culture, who knew her as a spirit with a name and a purpose that never was incarnated as a human being. Do people mistake spirits of place for ghosts sometimes, assuming if there's a mind and a gender and a humanlike sense of identity that must be a dead human being because it's not physical?

I take all the stories as stories -- and among them are the eternal truths of stories themselves, the themes and meanings that shape culture and help people guide their ideas on life and what to do in various situations. I can live with an entire range of credibility between "Oh, okay, this is clearly a scam and someone's making a LOT of money on this obvious fraud" and "Eh, there's nothing to substantiate that but nothing to disprove it either, I'd need to know more" to "Yep, these sources have a lot of credibility and it's the best I can find out about that at the time." Like trying to set objective pricing on artworks, too much of ghost lore is subjective and culture driven. But it is an interesting topic, one where "belief" dissolves into "ideas" versus "personal experiences that may have any of several explanations."
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