I was a pretty scaredy kid. As far back as I can remember I have memories of bad dreams, and nightly trips to my parents’ bed thanks to a vivid imagination that was constantly working against me. To clarify, my fears went well beyond the “monster in my closet” classic. We’re talking crazy serial killers under my bed, deranged clowns and dolls hiding in my wardrobe, ghosts materializing by my feet, and zombies (way before zombies were mainstream) breaking through my bedroom door to come eat my brains. It started around 6 or 7, but went on for years, well into my teens – minus my parents’ bed part. While the subjects of my nightmares changed as I grew older: clowns lost their scare factor, zombies were too dumb and too slow so I could easily outrun them, and slasher serial killers hiding in my bedroom became extremely improbable, the one thing I was never able to shake were ghosts. To me, ghosts are as real as real gets. It is interesting trying to figure out why I am such a believer, considering I have never had a supernatural experience in my entire life, and that I am a very analytical and pragmatic person who has a hard time buying into the concept of faith. I am a catholic who has a hard time believing in God, for God’s sake!! Why do I so piously believe in ghosts, then, when I have had no proof of their existence?
I understand ghosts fascinate a lot of people; I do not claim to have the market cornered on that one. Everyone loves a good ghost story, and a lot of people have at least one of their own to share. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. My dog never randomly barked and stared at corners; I never heard or saw anything out of the ordinary, and up until I was 18 I had never even known death. As much as it would have probably given me a heart attack, I have always longed to have something supernatural happen to me. In hind sight, perhaps I was like the plain girl in school that tries too hard to get a boyfriend…I gave off a desperate vibe, so the other world wanted nothing to do with me (I might get too clingy and call every 30 minutes). The kicker is that ghosts seemed so readily available!! All my friends had had something weird happen to them. One supposedly had her Walkman (shit, I just aged myself) work without any batteries for an entire day. Another used to claim she was a medium, and saw spirits behind people, and that most everyone had someone who followed them around (she never saw anything behind me). Since I didn’t have proof of my own, it was incredibly cool to have friends substantiate my beliefs. I think for many years I continued believing because I saw their stories as the proof I needed. They were my little connection to the paranormal, even if vicarious.
Eventually, even my friends’ stories were not enough; after all, they could be lying to me. Still, I refused to accept ghosts did not exist, and the hope that one day something would happen to me was now the driving force behind my hardheadedness, much more so than my second-hand connection to the world of the dead. So I decided to take the “right place/right time” approach and help the universe along. I vacationed to some creepy spots notorious for ghosts, still do to this day. I played games like Ouija Board or Bloody Mary, all hoping to elicit some response from the beyond. I have gone on multiple Ghost Tours, snapping hundreds of pictures in the off chance I would capture that fleeting Will-o’-the-Wisp. One would think it was a matter of time until I got something, but unfortunately, to this day, I have come out empty handed every time. Even my husband Patrick, who is a huge skeptic and could care less about ghosts, was visited by my own father right after he died, while I have never gotten a message from anyone, let alone a family member. That one, of all of the others, was the one that hurt me the most. My own flesh and blood did not visit me, and chose my husband instead. Sure, I can rationalize it; I suppose the message was more poignant coming from a skeptic than if it had come from the very daughter of the recently deceased (who also happens to believe in ghosts), but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I have to admit, it is very frustrating. A less stubborn, reasonable individual would (or is should a more fitting choice of word?) have given up by now.
While these days I am still “ghost-crazy”, I enjoy the stories mostly for their entertainment value, and not for their potential as evidence. The hope that I’ll have my own experience one day is also no longer a driving factor for my belief (although I would love to experience something for myself). I now realize the truth behind it all is very simple: I still believe in ghosts because I want to believe in ghosts. I stopped trying to justify my beliefs a long time ago, after years of not having any “proof”. Perhaps I should look at my lack of experience as evidence that they don’t exist, but I prefer to see it from another angle: no one has proven to me they don’t exist; therefore I’ll go on believing. And you know what? Most believers fall in this same category, whether they admit it or not. The more I study the paranormal and observe reputable ghost hunters, the more I realize ghosts are not as readily available as I once thought. If someone is seeing them everywhere they are most likely lying, or not taking a critical eye to their experiences, which is dangerous when trying to legitimize the field of paranormal research. You can see almost anything if you convince your brain of it. A random shadow can look like a person, a smudge in a mirror can become a face, and a speck of dust can turn into an orb. It makes for a cool story, but it is certainly not proof of anything (aside from the fact that maybe it’s time to clean the house). The fact is, I look for evidence that cannot be explained away, while some people take anything and twist it to fit their story. Maybe it’s not that I am a repellent to the paranormal, but that I am simply not reading too much into things, whereas other people are. I am, and will always look for my ghost story, but I want it to be a real ghost story. Until then, I accept my role as Captain Ahab in search for my white whale.