In honor of Halloween I’d like to write about Ghosts. I’ll try not to bring anything “controversial” such as religion into this one but I can promise nothing. What I can promise is an honest post about an issue that seems to be taboo. Even though in our culture we go to church, pray to the divine, eat flesh and drink blood we seem to have trouble sharing stories about the supernatural, and those that do seem “weird.”
Ooops, there I went with the religion. I promise I’m done with it. From here on out, no more. 🙂
In American culture we too have ghosts but if you happen to actually see one, you shouldn’t tell anyone or else you’ll become the “crazy person.” Yet, we have quite a few documented cases of ghosts but they remain just stories. Asia on the other hand has a very intense ghost culture and people will actually believe you if you have seen one.
Well, I suppose that is enough of an introduction, let’s get started.
I have seen a ghost. I will share this only with a few close friends and of course you my readers. To be honest, when I think of it, my arm hair stands on end and I feel a range of emotions from extreme fear, to wonder, to anger and start to imagine that when I die one of the first things I will do is go straight to where I saw it and berate it for scaring innocent, slightly drunk college students.
But that story is the cream of this post and thus the last to be shared. Let’s instead start with my interest in ghosts (and other spooky stuff) from things I have read and experienced. Further, I do not really feel like writing a long post tonight so I’ll just get straight to the spooky with each point.
This is an American ghost and one of the scariest I have read about. Just click on the link in Wikipedia to read about her. Apparently she is very aggressive and has no qualms about causing things to happen.
What caught my eye with this one is that even a President of the USA acknowledged her existence when he said “”I would rather fight the entire British army single handed than face the Bell Witch again!” – Andrew Jackson, seventh President Of The United States.”
As I mentioned, Asia has a very intense ghost culture. The one spooky thing that I have read about in Chinese culture is that ghosts can die as well. Sometimes they can be killed but more often then not they just fade away. I read about this but could not find the Kanji associated with it so I asked a Chinese friend (thanks Jessie!!)
This is her response.
“good question…Not too many people know this, but I think it’s called 聻, an ancient character… Yes in Chinese culture, a ghost can die too, when a ghost dies, the form and spirit disappear 形神俱灭，never comes back to another life 永不超生。Chinese culture believe that after people die, they can become something/someone else in another life 投胎。But a 聻 wont. Of course those could be some kind of superstition 迷信 in the culture, not everyone believes it… ;)”
This kind of freaks me out because in many religious traditions you either go to heaven or come back to earth when you die. But in Chinese culture there are instances when you can never come back and I’m not quite sure where the 聻 would go.
If we think about mind and the intense feelings it can cause I would suppose that some “minds — ghosts” would hang around for a while until the strong feelings dissipate. But perhaps there are instances when these feelings can be shattered or simply fade away and thus the mind would go off into another plane of existence never to return to this one? I don’t know, just letting my own mind wander.
Getting further off the point, if you’ve never had a change in consciousness well, then you just aren’t aware of it. Can you imagine when you have a very strong, intense dream? That is a change of consciousness of sorts until you wake up and those feelings dissipate. I wonder if this is what death is like?
If this seems off the wall, I can give you another example which you should definitely not try at home. Again, DO NOT DO THIS.
If you want to see what an entire change of consciousness is like there is something we did as kids which never fails called “The Elevator.” Basically, you bend over, take 20 deep and strong breaths and then have a friend push inward and upward on your stomach (under the top of the ribcage) against a wall for about 15 seconds after which you will pass out. The things you will see when passed out are INSANE!!!
To demonstrate the power, we did this to a friend and after about 2 minutes he woke up and asked us why we were at his house. Little did he realize he was laying on my living room floor and it took him about 15 seconds to realize it but after he did he had a complete fit!
But I must repeat, do not try this at home because it is pushing blood, oxygen whatever into your brain which is not healthy at all. All I’m trying to relate in the example is that we are so comfortable with what we consider to be “normal consciousness” yet if you try “the elevator” you will be quickly transported to a whole different consciousness for a while. My theory is this must be kind of what death is like but you simply remain there and never wake up again.
In Japan, they have a yearly tradition called “Obon” (お盆). Here is a quick description:
“Obon (お盆?) or just Bon (盆?) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spiritsof one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori. – Wikipedia”
I have always admired this festival as I think it very important to take time to honor your deceased ancestors. Basically, you set out the favorite foods of the deceased as they are actually going to return to your house and visit you. You turn on a special light so they can find their way back to your house and then make time for them.
In Western society this might seem a bit strange. Well, it shouldn’t because we practice the same traditions but always dilute the meaning. We celebrate Halloween but how many of us know the origin?
Scholars trace the tradition to the Celtic festival of Samhain where apparently,
“The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes andmasks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm.”
And there you have it, I bet you thought the Japanese were a bit strange for celebrating a day to welcome the dead back to their home until you found out the origins of Halloween! 🙂
Let us also not forget that in Christianity we have “All Souls Day,” which also commemorates the dead to try to get them get to heaven. And where did this come from? Well, it is also practiced in Judaism “Historically, the Western tradition identifies the general custom of praying for the dead with the Jewish practice of prayer for the dead dating as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42-46.”
All Souls Day falls on November 2nd and Halloween is on October 31st. These are all pretty close together so perhaps the ancients knew that during this time our plane of existence came very close to that of the spirit world?
Please also note the following.
“Another popular name in English is Feast of All Souls. In some other languages the celebration, not necessarily on the same date, is known as Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or de los Difuntosin Spanish-speaking countries; Yom el Maouta in Lebanon, Israel and Syria).”
Well, nowadays we just pass out candy, watch scary movies and dress our kids as Elmo. Quite a bit of meaning has been taken out of it, but it is fun none the less! 🙂
By the way, I think s
omething is looking over your shoulder right now, don’t look.
Just kidding, on to more things I admire about the Japanese.
In each Japanese home you will find a shrine to their deceased ancestors. I admire this as just because your relatives are dead, does not mean they are actually “gone.” As I mentioned in my post “Graveyards and the Meaning of Life” we will all die someday but in Western culture we have a very hard time thinking about it.
I don’t have this problem. I’m here now, I am going to enjoy myself, love others and appreciate being alive. After all, I have a very limited time here. I would like to think that others, especially my family will remember me from time to time and a shrine in the house will certainly help that.
I took this picture in Japan as I was amazed that they were so close together and right in the middle of the city. To be honest, I was hoping to catch a ghost by camera but I do not see one there, do you?
Another thing I admire about the Japanese is that they leave favorite foods/drinks right on the grave of their deceased acquaintances. I was surprised to find full cans of beer right there on the grave and can only assume that ghosts like to drink as well. Why is it that in Western society we do not really like to visit graveyards? I personally would still like to feel a connection and if you go before I, just let me know what your drink of choice is and I’ll leave you a six pack. 😉
If a person dies in a house in Japan, the market value of that house will fall dramatically as nobody is going to want to live there. If they were murdered then just completely forget about it, that house will most likely have to be demolished.
The Japanese are extremely afraid of ghosts and thus are the best makers of horror movies. Here are two of my favorite scary ones, the first of which is about a woman being murdered. It scares the crap out of me. In fact, it was so good, the Americans made a remake and called it “The Grudge.” But the American version just does not do it justice. Here is the original.
The second one is called “Ringu.” It was also remade to an America move. Yep, it’s called “The Ring.” Here is the Japanese version
Here are the creepy ghost things I’ve found in American culture.
These are very aggressive ghosts and seem to like teenage girls. Apparently, sometimes teenage girls can create extreme negative feelings which these ghosts feed on and attract. So if you are a teenage girl, I would recommend not becoming too negative or bad things could happen.
What you might not know about this film is it is associated with a curse. The child actors all died untimely deaths after the movie was made as documented by Wikipedia.
“The franchise is often said to be cursed, because several people associated with it, including starsDominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke, died prematurely. “The Poltergeist Curse” has been the focus of an E! True Hollywood Story.”
They do not mention this in Wikipedia but one of the reasons may be (or could be urban legend) is that they actually used real dead bodies when they discover in the movie that the house is built upon a graveyard. Yes, actual dead bodies.
Therefore, for disrespecting the dead some of the cast members actually died.
As I write this post, I do have to mention that the lights have flickered quite a bit here in my office. Of course I attribute this to just being a new house (yes I moved) but it still makes me wonder.
b. Ouija Board
– Yea, don’t use the Ouija board.
– If you are religious then you’re practicing magic (or dark arts) and that is forbidden. Plus, you really do not want to attract bad ghosts to you. Remember, in most traditions the purpose is to keep bad ghosts away. By using the Ouija board you are actively calling to them.
And my lights continue to flicker. Now you’re just annoying me ghosts.
c. Jews in Hitler’s Holocaust
I ran across this article in “From Our Correspondent” with the BBC. “Setting the Memory of Holocaust Victims in Stone.” Apparently, in Berlin some are creating bronze plaques to be put on houses with the names of the Jews who did not return to their house (killed in concentration camps). This correspondent tells us the story of her rented apartment and this:
My daughter, Miranda (she’s four), tells me about “the family of ghosts with big, dark eyes” who live there. She’s petrified.
I have been told that younger children (and babies) can see ghosts much more easily as it has not been long since they were in the spirit world. Pretty freaky eh? But I guess it shouldn’t as we in American culture should pay much more attention than we do to “the other side” as we’re all headed there sooner or later. It’s like you’re eventually going to take a trip to Disney Land but refuse to read about it and consider crazy anyone who has seen a very large mouse with big black eyes and a grin. :O
So, many people were massacred in Germany and experienced so much fear. I would imagine that this fear imprinted itself somehow and will continue until is slowly dissipates. This is actually a very large (yet secret) phenomenon in Berlin and you can hire people to help encourage the ghosts to move on.
d. Post Mortem Photographs
I believe this tradition started in Victorian England but was continued in America for a while. Many American movies such as “The Others” have referenced it and although it does not concerned ghosts, I find this particularly disturbing.
5. My Ghost Story
The post has run long and I feel it is about time to share my own story. Again, I find it strange how people in America run around talking to Jesus but if you happen to actually see a ghost it is taboo and nobody is going to believe you. I have no fear of what others may think so I’ll go ahead and share.
I studied in a very old city called Toledo in Spain. This was founded by the Romans and is 2000 years old. There have been many wars and you can imagine how many times the city has been run over by invaders which would necessarily create a lot of murders. If ghosts were going to be anywhere, they would definitely be here.
Anyway, we were all college students studying Spanish and the school was a place called “La Fundacion Jose Ortega Y Gasset
There had been rumors of three distinct ghosts, The Priest, The Soldier and The Gypsy.
This school was an old convent and thus had classrooms plus dorms for the students. I did not live here the first semester so I believed all these stories to be silly.
My first freaky experience was when they told me there were rumors of a graveyard under the school. This does make sense since in Europe you have “Catacombs” where you buried the dead underneath buildings. Apparently these could be accessed by climbing to the top of the tower in which you would find a trap door. The trap door was there and we opened it and peered down below. What I saw was a very ancient roof, kind of looking like a pyramid covered in dust. Some of my crazy fellow classmates actually tied sheets together and climbed down. They didn’t find much as they would have to climb to the top of the “pyramid” (old roof”) to the top where there was a hole in which you could descend again.
The students climbed back up and got in big trouble for having very dirty sheets but nothing else came of it.
Then, strange stuff started happening.
Some students reported lights being suddenly turned on/off as well as their windows being opened and closed by themselves. It would be very hard for it to be wind as these were solid wood windows with metal latches. Yet, they did and we even asked our teachers if there were “fantasmas” (ghosts) in the “Fund” but they did not answer and it just seemed to make them uncomfortable.
It wasn’t like people were throwing a fit about it as it was so out of the ordinary and was only brought up if specifically asked about.
One of my friends told me how he awoke to find his roommate face down on his pillow struggling to lift himself yet seemed to be sleeping. It scared him quite a bit so he went over and lifted his roommate up. His roommate then awoke in a terror and told him he was dreaming that a soldier ghost was pushing his face down into the pillow so as to suffocate him. Then the priest ghost appeared and woke up the roommate so he could help.
I was starting to believe.
So, Spring semester ends and we have a break in which we all went travelling Europe. A few of my fellow students were staying on to the next semester and I was moving from my home-stay program to live in “The Fund” for the summer semester. This means that just about all of the students had returned to America and it was just me and Alejandro living in the Fund until the start of the summer semester.
We were completely alone in this place. All the Spring semester students gone and all the teachers back home for break.
Well, one night we went out partying (like usual) when I became tired and decided to head back early.
I returned and was the only soul in the entire dark former convent now a school.
I took a shower, closed the window with the metal latch, turned off the lights and went to bed. It hadn’t been about 15 minutes when I felt a very ominous sense of dread and the very strong feeling that something was staring at me from behind. I was laying on my side facing one direction and whatever it was, was directly behind me.
I simply thought it as strange and slowly turned to my other side.
That is when I saw a Gypsy woman sitting on the bed next to me with very large dark eyes and a sinister grin staring at me while sitting on the bed just three feet away from me.
My body reacted as I was gripped with intense fear and I jerked back to my other side. My body had seized up with fear and my hand went straight to the cross around my neck and I rapidly started to pray saying “GO AWAY, GO AWAY, GO AWAY, GO AWAY.” I could not move for five minutes until I made myself reach for the lamp and turn on the light.
I still could not look behind me for what seemed like an eternity until I forced myself to do so and it was gone.
I prayed for my roommate to return home as quickly as possible (No cell phones in 1998) and would not turn off the light until he came back.
So there you have it, my very own real ghost story and I do not care if you do not believe me. I know what I saw and even relating this story has made my arm hair stand on end.
Oh, by the way, the lights just flickered again.
Some will say, well you were out drinking so that explains it.
Well, let me tell you, I have been out a bazillion times and drank
beer, wine and sometimes even tequila. Yet, YOU DO NOT SEE GHOSTS WHEN DRUNK!!!!! Well, I have heard that if you drink Absinthe you can see little green fairies but those are certainly not scary ghosts. 😛
This has only happened one time in my life and I would imagine that if I were going to see a ghost, it would most certainly happen in a place like Toledo, Spain.
I thought I would leave off with that, but there is one more story I would like to relate. I used to live in Saigon and I lived in a house which was accessed by going into a very narrow alley. Across from the doorway was another entrance to a different house in which lived a Vietnamese family. Two of the family members had an intense effect on me. This is not about ghosts but I feel the need to share.
1. A deformed child (agent orange)
– This child was never seen outside but I sometimes would catch a glimpse of him in the upstairs bedroom. He was severely deformed and remained on the bed. I once made eye contact with him but to my shame I could not hold it as he made me afraid.
This, as well as other things has made me eternally against war. I am ashamed when I hear some of my countrymen get excited about something they have never experienced and something that causes so many awful effects. That is all I have to say about that.
2. The old lady
– One day I returned home and was surprised to hear a very weak voice behind me as I went to open the door. I turned around and saw a very frail old lady who looked very close to death.
She said, “S’il vous plait, fermez la porte doucement parce que mon cour est malade.” — Please close the door gently because my heart is sick.
In Vietnam, they have metal doors and I often made the mistake of slamming mine shut. Imagine, this old lady who had been through two wars jumping every time I slammed my door. I cannot imagine the first thing that came to her mind when I did.
That was the only time I saw the old lady and I wish I had had the courage to ask to speak with her about her experiences. But I did not have courage that day and just promised “Oui, madame, je suis desolee.”
Well, that old lady died about two months later and I had my first experience with a Vietnamese “viewing.” It lasts for a week so that people she new in life can have the chance to come see her one last time.
Further, they invite Buddhist monks to come and have prayer sessions that last long into the night. I cannot tell you what it is like to try and sleep when listening to the slow, rhythmic chants that are exactly like this.
From my window I could see directly into their main living room and everyone was dressed in white. From what I understand, these chants are to tell the deceased to please continue on into the next world and do not linger.
In closing, I really have no point to make other than this.
Enjoy life, be kind to everyone and do not be afraid that we will all pass on someday. I sincerely believe that we will all continue on to another existence and should I happen to go before you, please leave a 12 pack of Samuel Adams on my grave and perhaps a nice Cuban Montecristo.
E-mail I received from a student at La Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in April 2015:
To whom this may concern,
Hello my name is Alexandra and right now I’m studying abroad in Toledo at the Fundacion Ortega Gasset. I know this is a long shot, but last week I had a extremely scary experience in my dorm. I saw a woman through my mirror when i was putting on mascara and she was standing in the dark. I immediately turned around and it was gone. I slammed the door shut and I haven’t seen anything since. I was so nervous about this encounter, and found your blog that talked about your experiences. I just wanted to know if you could share any more of your experience with me, or if you remember what room number you were in.
Thank you for time.