Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Ghost of a Chance

I was walking down a dank, dark aisle in an old theater called the Cinematheque in Coral Gables, trying to find the bathroom. I was alone as the rest of the cast was rehearsing in the green room. As I got about halfway down the aisle, the hair on my arms started to stand on end, and I felt like I was not alone.   I tried to shake off that uneasy feeling, but the mustiness got more robust, and the air around me got colder. I knew what was going on, and I started to panic.   I tried to step further, but something was blocking my way. The path to the ladies' room was getting harder to see and it felt like I was moving on one of those moonwalks — my feet were suddenly very unsteady.   I was really starting to get uncomfortable and cold.   I breathed, closed my eyes, and said, "Hey, I mean you no harm - just respect. I just need to use the bathroom. I tried to hold it, but I had this Diet Coke Big Gulp before rehearsal, and now my back teeth are swimming. OK, you probably didn't need to know all that, but I really need to go, and if you end up scaring me - I might pee all over the place. No one wants to see that, so please let me by."
When I opened my eyes, I was right in front of the bathroom door, but I didn't remember walking the rest of the way - I was suddenly there. I ran into the stall, did what I needed, and ran out of there saying prayers and a big thank you to the entity that took pity on a poor human who just wanted to take care of business. I returned to the rehearsal room with my 25-year-old face as white as a ghost.   Max asked me what was wrong, and I told him.   Max understood as he had seen a full female apparition on the main stage, so he did not doubt my story.   He told me it might have been the gangster ghost standing in the way, but the woman ghost probably helped me get to the bathroom.   I didn't care; I was just glad to be out of there and vowed to never have another large drink before rehearsal if it meant I had to go back into that dark theater alone.

Later in the run of that same play, The Man Who Fought the World (you've probably never heard of it, and for a good reason - it was awful), at the Cinematechque, some of the teens in the play asked Max and me about the curse of Macbeth. We told them immediately never to say that word in a theater and that if you had to refer to it, it should be called "The Scottish Play" or "The Scottish Tragedy."   The legend of the MacBeth is that it's cursed. The first time it was produced, the boy playing Lady Macbeth died suddenly, and Shakespeare himself had to play the role. Theater people, being the superstitious beings that they are, don't like to mention the full name of the play lest they invoke those dark forces themselves. Many people believe that the three witches' mutterings at the play's beginning bring about evil and cause a myriad of production misfortunes. The teens thought it was exciting, but one of the more sarcastic young men immediately said, "I don't believe it, and I'll prove it to you - MacBeth, MacBeth, MacBeth!" just to see what would happen.   A minute later, the top of a plastic trash can popped up, flipped over three times, and landed right back on the can.   The snarky teen looked at Max and me wide-eyed and asked what to do. We told him that the theater ghost had felt disrespected and knew of the curse; therefore, he had to undo his actions. He had to go outside, turn around three times, say, "Piss Pot," and ask to be let back in. The teen ran out, did as he was told, and returned to the theater a minute before his cue to go on.   After that, he showed way more reverence for theater traditions, and I doubt he ever said "Macbeth." 

When Max and I considered moving to Atlanta, we decided to have lunch at Underground Atlanta.   I remember sitting at the table across from Max and seeing what looked like a faded Super 8 movie playing behind him with a parade of Confederate men with their heads bowed, strolling, covered in blood, and feeling defeated and upset.   I'll never forget how sad their faces looked. They seemed to be walking in slow motion, and I looked up to see if a projector was near us that was showing the movie. There was nothing.   I asked Max to see if he could see it as well.   He didn't see it but asked me what my impressions were. I described it as I saw it, and it faded away. We've lived here since 1998, and I've never been back.   I found out later that Underground Atlanta was near a Confederate hospital, and the injured might have been brought there. It was mostly a train station and one of the many places General Sherman burned when he ravaged Atlanta in the Civil War. It might explain that overwhelming feeling of defeat that I sensed. 

These are a few encounters I've had with ghosts or otherworldly entities. I'm what you call a sensitive - I can pick up on things that most people can't. I've found that I'm more sensitive to angelic presences, earth, and animal spirits - but I can pick up on ghosts if they are in the area and want me to "feel" them. Most people can if they open themselves to the possibility but dismiss those funny feelings as a cold draft of their imagination. They refuse to even consider the idea of a ghost because they have been told they are evil demons or that it's not Christian to believe in them.   Yet, ghosts have been in folklore for quite some time, even in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Book of 1 Samuel chapter 28:7-25 —  the King of Israel visits a medium when God does not answer him when war approaches. The prophet Samuel has died, and King Saul asks the medium to bring Samuel from the dead to see if he has additional insight for the upcoming war. The Ghost of Samuel tells him that his fate is sealed as it was when he was still alive. The Bible clearly states that this is the Ghost of the prophet Samuel, so believing in ghosts does not go against traditional biblical faith. There are references to ghosts in ancient Egyptian writings, and most cultures believe in the presence of ghosts.   But somehow, that belief is frequently scoffed at as being flaky.   Recently, Regis Philbin admitted that he had seen a ghost while on the Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman frequently told Regis in the interview that he didn't see a ghost and that it was all in his imagination.   Regis could hold his own while telling his story, no matter how often he was dismissed. I'm sure he and Dave are still best friends, even if Dave tried to make it out as a drunken vision when Regis was younger. But what about those who have seen something like that but are told they are crazy or that it was evil and never to speak of it again? Many of us have had encounters that we can't explain but weren't lucky enough to have someone like Max to tell and be believed. Luckily, many cable shows will validate what they've seen, and those individuals can feel less alone because of what they've witnessed.  

My kids love the show Ghost Adventures. It has three guys named Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin who go into "haunted" places and try to get proof of ghosts with EVPs (Electronic Voice Prints), which capture ghostly voices, and full spectrum cameras that can capture apparitions and EMF thermometers which can trace changes in temperature since they can drop dramatically when you are around ghosts. They try to debunk any evidence they find so that when they get something ghost-like, it can be proved scientifically by ruling out things like outside light or noises. They do capture some exciting things that cannot be easily explained. The biggest problem with the show is that Zack, Nick, and Aaron seem to invade the area where the ghosts hang out and harass and sometimes threaten them to get a reaction.   If it's an evil spirit they're after, they will ask that the entity "come out and get them" and then jump back and squeal like little girls when the ghosts do what they're asked.   I just don't get that, and it bothers me. From what I know, most ghosts are lost between worlds. Some are "unintelligent," which means they are trapped doing the same things repeatedly because they are unaware they are dead. Then there are the "intelligent" ghosts who can communicate how they died, know who is visiting them, and show themselves by knocking over things, touching people, and making them feel funny. Being a ghost is like being on a lost highway and looking for that exit that will finally take you home.   You see a film crew who might be able to help you, only to have them disrespect your plight, film you being lost, and then leave without giving you directions on how to get to your final destination.   I tend to root for the ghosts when those guys do get their comeuppance, especially when they ask a ghost that many consider a demon to try to do something to them. That's like going into a strange neighborhood with gang members and saying, "I don't believe in you, so come on out and kick my ass."  Don't be surprised if you get an ass-kicking later when the cameras are off. It's very irresponsible. 

The Dead Files takes a different approach. It uses an ex-NYC detective, Steve DiSchiavi, and medium Amy Allen, who "sees and talks to dead people."  Steve researches paranormal activity at a location where their clients request help because they are experiencing ghost-like hauntings.   Amy takes a walk to see what psychic impressions and entities she can pick up.   Amy even sits down with a police artist to sketch out the entities she sees to help prove or disprove what people see or identify a specific person they think might be responsible for the haunting in the afterlife.   Steve and Amy communicate when the reveal when they reveal their findings.   She also offers advice on how to help the ghosts move on because often they are just trapped where they are, scared, and they act out on humans. This approach makes the most sense and can offer peace to a place perceived as haunted. It's up to the property owners to take that advice — sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. Even worse, sometimes they take advantage of the Dead Files experience to promote their business as haunted by ghost seekers. Again, that lack of respect is just asking for a celestial bitch slap.  

When the kids were smaller, we had an unintentional otherworldly encounter caught on film. We went to see the Christmas lights at Dorothy Oven Park in Tallahassee.   My mother took a picture of the lights as we left. Later, we found some exciting impressions once the photos were developed. It looked like a ghost in a tri-corner hat from the Revolutionary War traveling with one or two other entities. We looked at the other photos, and none had the same anomaly -  just that one.   We showed it to some "Ghost" experts who looked at the photo and asked if it was a digital photo or taken on film. When we replied that it was taken on 35-mm film, they said that we had captured something and that it might be ghosts, which was inconclusive.
The following year, we went to see the lights again and had no intention of trying to capture anything on film - it was just our annual holiday outing. My mother wanted to get a photo of the kids on the swing. When we developed the film this time, we noticed four bright white misty figures standing behind the kids, and the tri-corner figure was to the left looking away. They seemed to be gathered around the kids, saying, "Hey there, happy holidays from your friends, the ghosts!"   I was a little disconcerted when I saw the photo because these things were around my kids, and I wanted to ensure they were good and not negative spirits. I sent the photo to another occult investigator, who returned with a different interpretation. She felt the entities were too light to be bad and that more than likely they were spirit guides who just wanted to make their presence known.   My sister thought that my dad might be the one with the hat since he was a Revolutionary War buff. I wouldn't rule anything out.   It did make me feel better that my kids were surrounded by loving entities who were there to protect and guide them.   We've been back many times since and have never caught those images again. That could be all we were supposed to see.  
So, for your naysayers who don't want to consider that there is something out there that logic cannot explain - open your mind to the possibilities. Ghosts are mentioned in the Bible; there are similar ghost stories in ancient texts that would have been impossible for the authors to have copied from one another. Shakespeare sincerely believed in ghosts and incorporated them regularly in his plays like Hamlet. In the opening scene, Horatio, who is Hamlet's best friend, doesn't believe in ghosts even though the castle guards claim to have seen the Ghost of Hamlet's father walking around the castle at night. Hamlet reminds him, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."   So, for those who refuse to believe,  don't scoff at those who have claimed to see a ghost or something they just can't explain.   It's not all bad - and sometimes death is not final. Ghosts are just entities that have yet to find a way to walk into the light. They are just like the rest of us - they need help finding their way home. What's more human than that? 

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