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When Ghosts Lie

“Why are you here?” It’s just another dumb question the investigator films themselves asking for filler on their YouTube video.

“This,” the voice can be clearly heard coming from one of their high-tech investigation devices.

Sometimes the investigators look puzzled. “What do you mean by ‘this’?”

Other times they know exactly what it means—because they know exactly what they are dealing with. On some such cases, the voice responds to that question with a different word—a more honest word: “Fear”, or “dread”, or “evil.” Because, let’s be honest, that thing haunting the creepy old house or the abandoned hospital atop the hill…that thing would not hang around if it wasn’t getting what it wanted. And most definitely what it is getting is fear. Or maybe, if it were truly being honest about itself, it would use a different word: “Awe.”

Humans have fallen into this trap for thousands of years, though. Find me a tall mountain anywhere in the world and I will show you a man-made landmark built at the top. Find me a tall tree in the middle of a prairie and I will show you initials carved into its trunk. Even where there are no tall trees or rocky crags, humans have built tall monuments to serve as a common focus for all within sight of it. Most ancient temples were either built in high places or served as their own.

Most churches feature tall steeples or bell towers so that all within the village can be reminded of its presence. Heck, two of the most universal “focal points” of humanity—the sun and the moon—both have their own mythologies about them based on what paranormal properties people assume them to possess.

So we’ve established that this desire to gather and socialize at (or focus on) common landmarks is a very old, very human phenomenon. Okay. So why am I complaining about it?

Fifty years ago, this instinct was sated through the manifestation of churches, temples, sports bars, and other houses of worship and fellowship. Sometimes people focused on their god, sometimes on their sports hero, and sometimes just the good times shared with friends. True, there were movies about old, creepy houses on the hill that might feature a ghost or two, but nobody rented out their haunted house as an Airbnb or turned it into a museum for fans of the paranormal. True, the local teenagers might break into the basement and hold mock satanic rituals, but only in the last decade or so have we seen the burgeoning of this phenomenon into a new, widespread medium of social connection. True, there have always been local legends about a haunted hill or a spooky cave, but in most places those legends remained secondary mythologies to the dominant, centralized social or religious structure of the dominant ruling organization.

Today the exact opposite is happening. This troubles me in several ways.

Paranormal tourism has recently become a hot new industry. But it is an industry rife with innocent misunderstanding and dangerous consequences. Possibly the most childish thing we can do as humans is to assume that the supernatural world exists to serve or entertain us. There is, in fact, plenty of evidence to suggest the exact opposite. That the paranormal world thinks we exist to entertain them. Or, if we want to consider a much darker possibility…

We exist to feed them.

Consider the possibilities of an entity unlike any that humanity has managed to discover and classify within the animal kingdom—or any scientific kingdom, for that matter. Consider an entity that does not possess a physical body but is still, in some ways, able to interact within the physical world. Perhaps it uses infra-red energy (heat), ultraviolet light, or even electricity to interact with the world around it. What is its purpose? What does it need to subsist?

Paranormal tourists assume it is merely the disembodied spirit of a former human being, lost on its way to the afterlife, haunting the place it died or a familiar location it knew of in life. But what if it’s something else pretending to be a ghost? Why is it doing that? Could it be that human emotion is the source of subsistence it is looking for?

Or is it the attention itself that feeds the entity? Like clicks to feed an algorithm on the internet, but instead of building its popularity, it empowers the entity to perform more complicated—and more inspiring manifestations. If so, what source provides more power: fear or awe?

Maybe that’s it. Maybe the deeper purpose of the temples and churches in this world is the exact same thing. Maybe whatever is haunting that old hospital or the cemetery or that creepy house on the hill wants people to focus as much attention there as they do their local pub or podium.

Maybe that house on the hill is just the newest replacement for that old obelisk in the Egyptian desert, or that pile of carved rocks atop the tallest hill in the region. Maybe whatever has come to live in that creepy old hospital is the same thing that once dwelt in that Mayan pyramid or that ancient circle of stones.

Or, more precisely, wherever the location, the legend, or the expectations of those who seek to “investigate” it…maybe “it” has always just wanted to be worshipped like a god.

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