Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ghosts Are People Too

Last weekend I participated in an overnight investigation in a grand old theater that had been built in 1928. The Washington State Ghost Society had been there once before and recorded several EVPs (electronic voice phenomena). Members also reported having personal experiences, such as seeing shadows and feeling a sense of presence, and the theater owners talked of hearing voices and seeing objects move. We decided to head back and see what else we could uncover.

On the drive down, I carpooled with the Society president, Dave K. and we got talking about how interacting with spirits had become so normal and commonplace in our lives, that we had forgotten it was not a typical pastime for everyone else. It had occurred to us, rather humorously, that we take for granted our ability to dive into locations where most people fear to tread. To us, our experiences have shown that ghosts are not something to be feared, and that such encounters are really to be embraced. So we asked the question: why are people afraid?

The answer seemed quite simple, but it was worth examining. We started with the usual – Hollywood. The movie industry has done a fantastic job coloring our perception of what spirits can and can’t do. For the entertainment crowd, moviemakers would love to have us believe spirits can do ANYTHING! And that they are always out to FRIGHTEN US! This is actually further from the truth. Naturally, the other culprit in making us fear so much about ghosts is that spectre referred to as “the unknown.” Because we do not fully understand the nature of the phenomena, the missing puzzle pieces could – could (gasp!) – represent something nefarious. At least, I think that is what we sometimes tell ourselves. We as humans have this tendency to apply fear to things we do not fully understand because we assume our lack of knowledge just might lead to our downfall in connection with it. In other words, it’s hard to look out for Number One – personal self-interest – when you do not fully comprehend what you might be going up against. It’s a logical conclusion, but life rarely ever turns out to be so clean-cut.

The realizations Dave and I (and many of our investigator friends) have discovered over the years of coming face-to-face with the spirits of those who have remained behind stands in stark contrast to what we’ve been taught as a civilization over the centuries. It is in direct contradiction to what Hollywood would have you believe – and in many cases, counter to what a lot of the paranormal “investigation” television shows air. (Let’s face it, when you’re dealing with T.V., you’re dealing with RATINGS, competition, etc.). So in this blog, I would like to clear up a few things about ghosts and hauntings that I’ve learned over the years, to hopefully give people the sense that it is okay to actually NOT be afraid when you encounter a spirit.

1) Ghosts are there to frighten you. Nonsense. Only on very rare occasions are ghosts trying to deliberately scare the bejeezus out of you. 9 times out of 10, they are just trying to get your attention (and in some cases, may not even be aware of you or that their actions are affecting you). There may be any number of reasons why a ghost might want to make contact (and all of them non-threatening) – The ghost might be a relative of yours that is trying to tell you they are okay; It might be a former owner of the house you just moved into, letting you know you are welcome and watch out for the occasional leaky faucet; and believe it or not, the spirit might be trying to get your attention to warn you of danger, such as a loose floor board on the staircase. Yes, sometimes they might be wanting to make contact to see if you can help them get free of where they are at, or provide some kind of closure to their lives, or just have fun because they think you are such a cool person. Sometimes they might NOT LIKE how you’ve position a piece of furniture and are wanting to tell you that – but that doesn’t make them evil. Sometimes they just want the honorable acknowledgement. Are they really hanging out in the corner asking themselves “How can I torment this person?” No.

2) Ghosts can do anything. No, they can’t. Yes, they can move objects – but then again, so can you. But they don’t move them nearly as often and to the magnitude Hollywood shows you. The amount of energy a spirit has to gather in order to move something as light as a pencil can be quite draining. The opening of cabinet doors, the rolling of a ball, tapping you on the head, all can take place. But they can’t take place in a non-stop every-moment-of-the-day fashion. They will only happen sporadically, and at the expense of the ghost’s energy. Once they have opened that cabinet, it’s going to be a few minutes to several hours before they can do anything like that again. They certainly don’t have the energy to levitate your entire house and consume it in a ball of fire over the graveyard your home was unwittingly built over. We may not know everything about what spirits can do, but this much we can more or less agree on.

3) Because we don’t fully understand the phenomena, it could be dangerous. Yes, the phenomena could be, but that doesn’t mean it will be. I have interacted with spirits for decades, and the more I talk to them, and the more my Society investigators interact with them, the more we have come to realize they are actually more benign than they are malevolent. To me, this knee-jerk reaction of fear has got to be a result of cultural conditioning – starting from the summer campfire tales of restless spirits designed to frighten children, to the Hollywood hit designed to startle you and hopefully curl you up into a fetal position in the chair.

What most of us have forgotten is that ghosts were at one time people too. They got up in the morning, put on socks, went to a job, ate dinner, stubbed their toes, and occasionally had indigestion, then keeled over and “died”. This does not make them demonic entities bent on making your life a living hell. As ghosts, they are still those same people, albeit with a form we typically can’t see, with some occasional enhancements we in the slow-moving atomic suit don’t have. But this doesn’t make them evil, suspect, or worthy of fear. And in my experience, it isn’t the need to create fear in an unsuspecting person’s life that drives them to be ghosts. They, like us, are still searching, expressing, and living life in their own way, from the perception of their own environment. And we on occasion have moments of sharing that with them in an apparent bridge-gap between the world of spirit and the world of flesh and bone.

When it comes to interacting with spirits, we should take the same attitude and ethics as we would with our fellow neighbor: Honor and respect them. After all, that is what they are: fellow neighbors from a different time that have moved on from the physical world. If they have a message, through honor and respect, they will deliver it in a way that will not be frightening. It might startle you – only for the fact that it’s not “normal” to receive information from ghosts (The startle-effect pretty much goes away after doing it for several years though). Through honor and respect, ghosts will take an interest in answering your questions sincerely, versus an adversarial relationship oftentimes created by other ghost investigators who choose to harass – and then wonder why they walk away with little to no evidence, or a real reason to be scared. Through honor and respect, the ghosts will reciprocate your humbleness and sincerity. There have been a few occasions where I have encountered a “negative” spirit, but when I tell them I honor and respect them and are not there to “fight” or “combat” them, they will relax and a real dialogue will open up. Either that, or they simply leave me alone because they know I at least acknowledge them and won’t be frightened by them.

Honoring and respecting the spirits goes a long way, because they usually honor and respect you back. Why? Because as I said, they were once (and still are) people too.

Encountering spirits, to me and my brethren, has been an opportunity to learn more about the continuity of life. What can we expect when we leave the body? What are some the circumstances and dramas that can continue for our existence once we shed the mortal coil? These questions can’t be answered in a state of fear, they can only be addressed through genuine curiosity and honest inquiry. And to date, our answers have been astounding.

Ghost investigating isn’t about confronting demons and things that frighten people; it isn’t about going in and kicking something out and hoping to get a thrill in the process. It’s about learning more of who and what we are and gaining a better understanding of the human condition – inside and outside the body. It’s about answering questions of life, joining the hands of those that have left the body before us, and who have made their presence known to us here. And one of the questions we’ve answered in our travels is: Ghosts really aren’t scary. They’re just people. Honor and respect them as such.

P.S., And if you think you are not being respected or are otherwise harassed, give the Washington State Ghost Society a call, and we’ll try to find out why. Check us out on Facebook


  1. Great Topic! I had a great time talking about all the other topics before and after that investigation. I think this issue about real vs. Hollywood ghosts needs to be presented to a wider range of people. Unfortunately, I've seen that many paranormal groups still promote the fear factor. They are trying to follow the path to get famous through disrespecting the spirits. I feel like the research into the spirit world for us and WSGS is just beginning. We will forge a path of insight that will be uniquely different than the other paranormal groups and thrill seekers.

  2. Thank you for addressing this topic, and in such a compassionate way. It has always bothered me when I see a ghost hunter show on television where the ghost hunters yell at the spirits and really treat them terribly. It's verbal abuse really, and not helpful to those souls who have not yet crossed to the Light. One thing I have felt very strongly about is the need to help these souls get to the Light, and to a state of peace, if they are willing to go. I wish all ghost hunters and paranormal investigators would bring along someone with them who specializes in psychopomp work, a shaman or other spiritual worker who can help the spirit to cross over. That would be the most compassionate thing to do.

  3. I agree with Robyn. Ghosts are people too and as a transitioning medium I get very upset to read about ghost hunters who investigate, and then abandon, poor earthbound spirits. They need help, or they wouldn't be there. They should not be used as form of amusement or entertainment. They don't like EVP recorders (it's very uncomfortable for them) and they don't like being a spectacle. They need compassion and assistance with crossing over.