I was about five years old when it began. An older friend lived three houses down on the same street. We would be playing, and then I would start begging her. Eventually, I would wear her down, even though we both knew how it would end. She would pull down her collection of Scholastic “Haunted” books and allow me to choose one. We did Haunted Pets and Haunted Teachers a lot, as I recall. Soon, it would be time for me to go home for supper. Except that in the interim, it had grown very dark outside. And the distance back to my house seemed so much more perilous. I would end up calling, and my dad would walk the forty or so feet down to meet me at the end of my friend’s driveway. After about the fifth or sixth time, he told me I could manage on my own, and I would sprint the whole way.
So began my love affair with ghost stories and being scared. Something is exhilarating about it to me. It’s especially prevalent as the leaves start to change in the fall, when the first crisp breeze blows, and when Halloween is just over the horizon. At least, that’s when I usually begin trying to find the most terrifying book available.
You must be thinking, then, that I am a believer in all things ghost. But you would be mistaken. I do not for a moment, believe that ghosts are real. I think most of what gets attributed to spirits is a combination of regular occurrences (creaky floors in old houses), strange events (gas leaks), and overstimulated imaginations.
And it’s that last one that is the allure for me. I know full well that there are no ghosts, and nothing lurking in the darkness of my bedroom can hurt me. But my mind starts running amok. “But what if you open your eyes and there’s a ghost there!” my brain says. Well, then you HAVE to look, right? That’s where the fear kicks in. The rational part of your mind tells you, there’s not going to be anything, but there’s a small voice saying, “what if?”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lost many sleepless nights because I watched a scary movie too late at night or didn’t put the book down before it got dark. I’ve had to watch Disney movies to cleanse my mental palate after consuming horror too late at night. But that is because I possess a wickedly wild imagination and not because I think any of it is remotely real.
At the end of April, I’m taking a little trip to Savannah on the way to a wedding. I’ve got most of the trip booked, and that includes two ghost tours and a night in Savannah’s most haunted hotel. This may seem like a contradiction. If it’s not real, why waste money on it? And the answer is because it’s fun. I like hearing about ghosts. I enjoy the stories, the chill that goes down your spine. The excitement of “maybe.”
But, I don’t expect to experience anything other than my own imagination. I might sleep like a baby in that haunted hotel. Or I may lay awake all night listening to the house settling, my heart racing. The ghost tours may be nothing more than seeing Savannah on foot at night. And if that’s all it ends up being, I won’t be disappointed.
When I was in Dublin fora few days a decade ago, I took a ghost tour. A purple double-decker bus conveyed us about the city where we were let off at various supposedly haunted places with gruesome pasts. I saw zero ghosts and had the time of my life. It’s probably the part of that trip I talk about the most.
I’ve run into a gentleman at my local coffee shop a couple of times who is writing a book about the haunted farm he runs. And while I applaud him for taking on the challenge of writing a book, I know how hard that can be, I think he’s taking the wrong approach. From what he’s told me, the book will be entirely serious. He’s including some research to back up his claims, whether scientific or not, I haven’t been able to determine. And it all sounds very un-fun.
A friend and I both enjoy watching Buzzfeed’s Unsolved series on YouTube. For half the season, they do true crime, and the other half is supernatural. Half the fun of the supernatural episodes is the one host psyching himself out while in the “haunted” locations. There is an element of terror as things are happening, but in the end, everyone has had a good time. It doesn’t take itself of the subject matter deathly serious (pun intended).
All of this to say, while I personally don’t think ghosts exist, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the idea of them. Because it’s a beautiful thing to let your imagination run wild now and again.
Do you have a ghost experience? Drop it in the comments!