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The Not So Scary Ghost

There is a haunted house in my parent’s town.  The house was built in the late 1700s.  A family was murdered there in the early 1800s, and a fire gutted the inside of the building.  It was rebuilt soon after that, but it has been vacant on-and-off for the last 200 years because — legend goes — the family that was murdered in the house haunts it.  You can see the house from the road, hidden by the trees, and the kids and I have ventured as far as the driveway, which is marked by many signs stating the trespassers will be prosecuted.  It is currently owned by a man who opens it up as a “haunted house” attraction near Halloween.  The rest of the year, it lies dormant.

The ChickieNob — a huge fan of ghosts and all things haunted — was interested in getting tickets and going inside until she discovered that it was just a bunch of teenagers in scary costumes writhing around on the floor.  “I want to see a real haunted house and talk to real ghosts; not waste an hour looking at what someone thinks a haunted house should be like.”

Good point.

Because here’s the thing: why are ghosts always portrayed as something scary?  I mean, if I were a ghost, I wouldn’t make a rocking horse creepily bow back and forth to get someone’s attention.

Antique Rocking Horse

Image: Thomas Quine via Flickr

Real ghosts don’t give a shit about rocking horses.

Look at it this way: Real kids don’t really play with rocking horses save for a few months of childhood.  Fine, I’ll accept that a toddler ghost may play with a rocking horse to get our attention, but anyone over the age of five?  Unlikely.

Human ghosts are still humans.  I mean, we don’t suddenly morph into being squirrels or goats.  We’re people.  And human ghosts would behave like people.  I suspect that if I were a ghost, I would behave with strangers the same way I behave around strangers currently at the grocery store.  I don’t try to freak out people buying grapes or make the people behind me in line quiver.  I either ignore them or make small talk.

As a human ghost amongst strangers, I would mostly be curious about all the things they’re using that weren’t around when I was alive.  I’d be all, “hey, what’s that crazy piece of wearable technology you have over your forehead, kid?”  Maybe I would move said piece of strange technology — I mean, THAT makes sense.  Slide that puppy across the floor toward the person so they’ll put it on and show me how to use it.  But rocking horses?  Or making curtains blow?  Seriously, what ghost is going to bother with that?

I plan on being an inquisitive ghost that keeps up to date on the latest advances in technology.  I am hoping that the humans I lurk around leave open Web pages so I can read them too.  In fact, realizing how I want to be in the afterlife, I’m thinking about placing the latest issue of People magazine on my dining room table and turning the pages every five minutes so any ghosts in the room can keep up to date with celebrity gossip.  THAT is what ghosts would care about; the same sort of drivel we care about while we’re living.

“Maybe they’re angry,” Josh offered.  “Maybe the family that was murdered is still angry and that’s why they’re haunting people.”

Give me a break.  I hold a grudge against people who have pissed me off.  But strangers?  Even at my angriest, I don’t take out my frustration on strangers.  I don’t think ghosts — even angry ghosts — would turn their anger towards people who weren’t even alive when they were murdered hundreds of years ago.  I really hope that after 200 years, they could set aside their spite and enjoy watching someone use their iPhone.  That has got to be cool for someone who died in the early 1800s.

I like the idea of ghosts.  I would be comforted to have someone I lost still with me.  I know that idea doesn’t sell tickets nor does it feed into the general festivities surrounding Halloween.  But I’m sticking to my version of ghost stories.


1 Persnickety { 07.13.14 at 7:39 am }

Hmm,,I suppose it might depend on the circumstances under which the person died as to how angry/curious/friendly a ghost is.

I have never really beleived in ghosts, but I have seen one. It didn’t harm me, but we didn’t have a conversation either ( possibly because we spoke different languages ?).
It might also be affected by how they perceive our world?

2 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 07.13.14 at 11:22 am }

I don’t know. It’d make me pretty surly if people kept ignoring me generation after generation. I think of it as the kind of acting up kids (and let’s face it – sometimes adults) do if they don’t feel they’re getting heard as much as they deserve. It’s like, oh yeah? well I’ll rock the rocking horse, then let’s see who’s paying attention. Yeah. How do you like that?”

Chickienob should buy that ticket just to placate those ghostly spirits, for politeness sake.

3 Shana { 07.13.14 at 4:47 pm }

I live in an area where the mob used to “disappear” people out in the desert. There have been a number of clearings in my neighborhood. That is, someone who is gifted in communicating with spirits has performed a ritual to clear spirits out of homes. The spirits, or ghosts, are thought to be angry that their lives were taken too soon and because their last moments were filled with terror. I have never had any experience with spirits, but it has been suggested that my son may be open to perceiving them.

4 Northern Star { 07.13.14 at 7:28 pm }

Mel, you are awesome.

5 Ellen K. { 07.14.14 at 9:43 am }

The limits of my experience have been creepy Ouija board games, and I’ve been in houses that seemed unsettled, including my paternal grandma’s house. A few of my cousins have had encounters, as has a good friend. I don’t have any reason to doubt them. I had some creepy Ouija board experiences at slumber parties with said cousins. I’m not Little Miss Doctrine, but I talked to my priest about it because it was unsettling. He said that it was a game, but games can quickly get out of control, especially mind games in a group.

I hate horror movies and TV shows about paranormal investigators — I will run out of the room on the rare occasion that D. turns on “Ghost Hunters,” not just because I’m nervous, but also because it’s just plain wrong IMO to provoke a ghost.

Last October, our archdiocesan (Catholic) newspaper had an interesting and surprisingly reassuring article on “lost souls.” Its explanation is pretty much like in “The Sixth Sense” – the lost soul wants and needs acknowledgment: “Lost souls serve to aid the living in communicating something that needs to be known or to ask the living for help in prayers.” As Aerotropolitan said, after a long time of being ignored or avoided, it’d likely grow surly. If there’s interaction, NOT provocation, it may remain benign. Chickienob might like the anecdote in the link about a ghost nun who hung out at a girls’ high school in Chicago.


6 Tiara { 07.14.14 at 12:37 pm }

I don’t know if I believe in ghosts or not but the thought of my loved ones hanging around & hearing me if I talked aloud to them is comforting.

7 Justine { 07.14.14 at 10:28 pm }

Here’s the book I was talking about: http://www.hobbyhorsepublishing.com/shop/books/grandmothers-guest/ … sort of nice to think about people staying with us somehow. But only if that doesn’t mean that they’re somehow stuck in limbo, which would make me feel awful for them …

8 Geochick { 07.17.14 at 3:06 pm }

I’m completely fixated on the Chickienob being disappointed in a Halloween haunted house because it’s fake. That is awesome.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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