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"The Quintessential Ghost"

Imagine that you are a ghost.

Maybe you are that little boy who likes to throw the ball around at the place where you died, or the roadside apparition always trying to flag down another passing motorist to help you get home. Maybe you made it home, but your family has all since grown up and died and now you are alone, wandering a building that looks vaguely familiar but doesn’t feel like “home” anymore. Imagine that you remember your mother, your siblings, your loved ones. Imagine all the joys you might have experienced in life—maybe the few that remain stronger than vague memories are what keeps you hanging on to this world…

But then a group of ghost hunters show up with all this strange equipment and weird rituals. And inevitably, while the night is still young, every single one of them goes straight to that most invasive, rectal-probe-of-the-paranormal topic of conversation.

They have to ask, “How did you die?”

Ghost hunters, stop doing this!

Not only does it provoke the unpleasant side of ghost hunting, it is rude. If you truly believe you are dealing with the psyche of another human being, why aren’t you treating it with the same kind of respect you would treat people in real life? You don’t go around asking strangers “how did you get that scar?” or “why don’t you make as much money as you could had you not made those poor life choices?” Do you?

Then again, sometimes I wonder if a ghost isn’t really another human’s soul trapped between this life and the next. Sometimes I wonder if it’s something else. Something that chooses to manifest as the “ghost” we all expect to see.

In Hollywood there is a ghostly tale of a man seen standing outside a hotel with his head in his hands. The legend states that his lover’s husband caught him in an affair and cut off his head. But how does a man know his head has been cut off? And why would his ghost be seen holding his head in his hands? Would this not be an external perception more likely to be expressed by observers instead of the observed?

And what about the little boy who spent his entire life in a hospital that is now a decaying shell of the building he once knew? Would that little boy be obsessed with the spooky stuff the ghost hunters come looking for? Does he really just want to roll the ball back down the hall every time you throw it? Wouldn’t he get excited when reminded of Christmas? Or perhaps a visit from his mother? Or perhaps a favorite song playing on the phonograph? Do the ghosts in these places really want to just haunt the creepy morgue or the room where they died? Or is that just what the ghost hunters expect from them?

From my own experience, I know of a man who is absolutely convinced that the woman he had a crush on has come back from the dead as his “guardian angel.” Though she never showed him such love in life, suddenly she is displaying all the affection he’d longed for. In essence, she is becoming the woman he wants her to be. This, to me, is very dangerous.

A lot of ghosts that manifest as “individuals” often have an alternative explanation: they are something else pretending to be that individual. This becomes even more apparent when they start to take on an image or behavior that they were not known for in life—one that is, perhaps, expected of them but that they never, in fact, displayed. “Perhaps,” the grieving might reason, “they had always wanted to act that way.”

“Yes,” comes my response, “or perhaps it is something else pretending to be what you want it to be.”

In a future blog I hope to expound on the questions this raises.

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