Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Got Any Good Ghost Stories?

I don't often think of changing my blog for the holidays, but I've been inspired by my friend and contributor, Stewart Sternberg, to add a little Halloween spirit to the page. Stewart has had a great series of posts on his blog with Halloween motifs, including posts about vampires, creatures that inspire fear, werewolves and the rush we get from being scared, and I realized as I read his posts that so many topics encompassed by fantasy & scifi are tailor made for Halloween. I just reviewed a book about zombies-- as an example. But Halloween has it's own special associations. Granted, it has become a holiday about candy and costumes; but it's also a day that kind of brings out the creepy and the weird. Look at the costumes when the kids come down the street and see how many ghosts, mummies, vampires and witches you see. And then think of how often you see those very characters in your fantasy fiction. Nowadays you can't walk through the bookstore or turn on the television without seeing vampires. But as I was watching television tonight, I was reminded that ghosts are also the subject of an increasing number of reality shows. I may have mentioned before that my husband is a reality-show junkie. I can't say I'm a fan of the genre in particular. In fact, I'd pretty much dump most of them. But there are a few that have their charm-- Stewart himself had mentioned Ghost Hunters at one point. But the show we watched tonight (dare I say, the latest cheese-fest?) was Celebrity Ghost Stories. "Celebrity Ghost Stories" is an interesting conundrum for me. I actually believe in ghosts. I'm one of those people who is open to pretty much anything because I think there is likely all kinds phenomena that we simply don't have explanations for. Ghosts may be wandering spirits or the sightings may be windows into a different time and space. Who knows? We may never know. But like any other unknown, there's always the potential that it's real. But when a celebrity tells the story I'm actually predisposed to skepticism because, well, most celebrities are attention whores. Not all of them... but a lot. And "Celebrity Ghost Stories" is populated with it's fair share of reality show regulars, including Scott Baio, Belinda Carlisle, Debbie Mazar and Carnie Wilson. And yet, it's kind of compelling. I like ghost stories that are corroborated by a second party. Joan Rivers, for example, tells a story that could potentially be confirmed. She claims that her New York City apartment is haunted by the niece of J.P Morgan, who apparently owned the building for many years. She also says that many of the other apartment dwellers have had sightings as well. Is it true? So far, I haven't found any accounts online that back up the story. But you gotta admit, it would be strange for her to tell a story that could so easily be debunked. On the other hand... you know.. publicity whore. But a lot of people I know have ghost stories. My in-laws have a pretty good one in fact. They collect antiques and one time they bought a cradle that was built in the 1800's, and both of them swear that once they brought it into the house they would occasionally hear an infant cry. They also saw ghostly apparitions. My in-laws are not flaky people and they both saw and heard the same things. Spooky. I've never had a close encounter but sometimes I wonder if I'm too prosaic for my own good. My house, for instance, makes a lot of weird noises. Sometimes when I'm home alone I hear a noise that sounds like someone is running across my bedroom upstairs. But I'm convinced it's the acoustics of the house. I'd swear by it. I've never had the someone is looking over my shoulder feeling in my home, so it's easy for me to explain it away by thinking it has something to do with how the breeze blows through my windows. Or maybe I'm just not sensitive to certain vibes... So are ghosts real or are most stories simply a case of the imagination run amok? And more importantly, do you have any good ghost stories?


Charles Gramlich said...

I actually did some primitive ghost hunting when I was a teenager but never found anything remotely weird. I have since developed pretty firm doubts about it.

Daelith said...

When I still lived at home with my dad and step mother (many long years ago), I would wake up and see the outline of a male figure sitting on the end of the bed or standing by it. Also I had a musical unicorn snow globe that sat on my dresser. Had not wound it up to play in ages. One night it started playing on it's on. No one had touched it. When I went to look at it while it was playing, the unicorn figure inside was cracked. It wasn't before that.

Also was visiting in middle TN and stayed at the Walking Horse Hotel in Wartrace, TN. The hair on my arms and neck stood up as soon as we walked inside. I asked the lady checking us in exactly how many ghosts they had in the place. She looked at me strange for a second, then excused herself for moment. Came back with the owner who proceeded to tell me the history of the place. Parts of the building dated back to the before the Civil War. Never did see any ghosts while there, but I sure could feel their presences.

SQT said...

Charles, I wonder if people who actively seek the paranormal usually end up more skeptical. It'd be interesting to ask around.


My husband and I were watching another show about ghosts the other day, I forget the name of the show, and they specifically covered Civil War ghost sightings. I guess there are a lot of them around various Civil War battleground-- which makes sense. They also say the White House, and other historical buildings in Washington are haunted.

Steve Malley said...

I believe I have seen ghosts, but at the same time I'm quite open to the idea that I was hallucinating, in a hypnogogic state, etc. No way to verify, really...

SQT said...

Steve, I know exactly what you mean. I have a few experiences that I could attribute to a ghostly encounter if I wanted to, but I believe that there are certain states-- like that in which we are close to sleep-- where we're prone to seeing/hearing things that aren't there. Not that I think that's the case for everyone. But a lot of ghost stories are told in which the person who encounters the ghost is sleeping and I think a lot of those stories are probably the result of a sort of waking dream state.

Lee said...

This is my first comment here, so I am not sure what the character max is. I have three ghost stories:

1) Related to me by my mother: My great grandma Lee stayed in a room at my aunt's house the last years of her life. After she died her room became the guest room. I stayed there quite a bit as a child. One morning after sleeping in her old room I came out and saw a picture of her. My mom says that I looked at the picture and asked why the lady in the picture only comes and sees me at night now. My mom says she and my aunt looked at each other, then pretended not to hear me.

2) Related to me by a co-worker: She was looking for an apartment. The manager of one complex had one open unit. They went to look at it. She knew it was supposed to be upstairs, so when they approached a stairway, she looked up at the two units the stairs led to. There was a little girl looking out of the windows of the unit on the right. She waved at the girl, then looked over at the other unit, figuring it was the empty one. When the manager got to the top of the steps, she turned right. To my friend's shock, the manager entered the unit where the girl had been. My friend got there and the unit was empty. The manager saw the shocked look on my friend's face and asked her what the problem was. My friend told her about the girl and the manager told her that the previous occupants had moved out after their young daughter had died in the unit. My friend did not rent the apartment.

3) My story: When I was around ten when my parents bought a new house (as in we watched it being built). This was the first house where they left me alone overnight. The first night alone I went into the kitchen and started making...something. While in the kitchen I heard footsteps coming own the main hallway that went through the house. I grabbed a kitchen knife and stood there petrified. The footsteps kept coming. It was obvious to me that the person was trying to sneak. The footsteps were very faint and slow. They never actually reached the entryway, though every step sounded closer than the last. Finally I jumped out into the entryway. There was nothing there, and the sound of the footsteps stopped.
I didn't tell my parents, because I was afraid they wouldn't let me stay alone anymore. I didn't tell my friends because I knew they'd make fun of me. This happened every night I stayed alone in the house. Over time, after we left he house, I decided I was just young and imaginative.
That was where that story stayed for years. Then, when I was in my late twenties, I was trading ghost stories with several people, including my mother. When I told the above story, my mother wigged out. She then told me her ghost story.
One day when it was just she and I in the house I asked her if my friend Larry could come over. She said sure and I went back to my room. She was sitting at the dining room table doing bills and facing the entryway where I had heard the sneaking footsteps. After some time she saw, out of the top of her vision, a figure sneak across the entryway on tiptoes. She thought it was Larry trying to sneak up on me, so she kept writing the check.
After a couple of minutes had passed with no outcry from me, she yelled down asking if Larry was there. When I said no, she got up and searched the entire house. Finding no bad guys, she eventually wrote it off as her imagination, but it seemed so real that it always stuck with her. She didn't talk about it, because she thought people would make fun of her, seeing ghosts and all, until I told her my story.

That's it.