This month is a busy month for me. I get a number of requests to tell ghost stories at local libraries, museums, and even our local radio station. Of course, it makes sense with Halloween being the big holiday in October. But did you ever consider why ghost stories are so intriguing to most of us? Or why we like to tell ghost stories? Or why we often tell ourselves that we didn’t see what we thought we saw?
Last year, just before Halloween, The Washington Post printed an article called, “A lot of Americans believe in ghosts. But what do their ghost stories actually tell us.” (Yes, I agree, one of the longest titles I’ve ever seen!) They reported that about 45 percent of Americans believe in ghosts. (I would bet that the number would be higher in Great Britain and Europe.) And that 18 percent of American adults are convinced that they’ve seen or been in the presence of a spirit.
I wonder about that last number because I still think there are a number of adults who don’t want to admit what they saw was a ghost. They would rather blame it on their cat, a nightmare or, as Ebenezer Scrooge so aptly excused the ghost of Joseph Marley as “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
This story comes from the Washington Post article: Colin Dickey, author of “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places,” and his wife host annual ghost-story parties. “Everybody’s a bit skeptical until the first couple of stories come out,” he says, “and then everybody seems to have a story. That’s kind of the enduring popularity of this genre, because, for so many people, they have, somewhere in their history, something they can’t quite explain, but yet don’t want to dismiss out of hand.”
Ashley Jones, a 28-year-old arborist from Gaithersburg, is one of them. She grew up as one of 15 cousins who spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s historic farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
As a child, she often slept in a front room of the farmhouse. That’s where she once woke in the middle of the night and glimpsed a whitish, translucent figure of a man striding past her, wearing a uniform-like suit and a top hat. On another occasion, she awakened to see the same apparition, this time accompanied by a ghostly woman in a long gown. On both occasions, she says, she forced herself to close her eyes and go back to sleep, convinced that it must have been a lingering fragment of a dream.
“I didn’t want to be seen as the nut in the family, so I didn’t bring it up to anyone,” Jones says.
But things kept happening in the house, she says — a Christmas train set that suddenly started running without anyone turning it on, the sound of creaking stairs when no one was walking on them. Then one of her younger cousins, who had slept in the same front room of the house, announced one morning that she woke in the night and saw a pale, shimmering man sitting on the hearth, wearing a top hat.
“My stomach dropped,” Jones recalls. “There was no way, with nobody knowing what I saw, that she would come up with that exact same outfit for the guy.”
Jones never knew the exact history of her late grandmother’s farmhouse, which was sold last year, or the identities of residents who might have lived there long ago.
I’ve mentioned before that Dale Kaczmarek, the president of the Ghost Research Society in Chicago, talked to me about seeing things out of the corner of our eyes. Often, when we see paranormal things, we just get a glance of a shadow or a figure out of the corner of our eyes. Then, when we turn to “really” look, we don’t see them anymore. Dale explained to me that the rods that make up our eyes are more elongated at the edges of our eyes. This rod shape helps us to see things that are in different spectrums – things we wouldn’t normally see when looking at them straight on. So, the things we can see in the corner of our eyes don’t disappear when we turn to face them and look, they’re still there, we just can’t see them using the shorter rods of direct vision.
How many times have you “thought” you saw something, but when you turned, it was gone, and you dismissed it? Maybe it was still there. This is a post from Reddit: Seeing things moving out of the corner of my eyes
I have been seeing things moving out of the corner of my eyes and it has only sort of stopped recently, also to add up it only happens in the bathroom, lol, which is more disturbing.
I would be in the bathroom chilling out to then just spot things moving out of the corner of my eyes as if they were being moved by the wind, and thing is the windows are closed and there’s seemingly no current also it happens and stops all of a sudden only when I look at its direction.
What do you guys think, is this a ghost or something? And why the hell is it only in the bathroom?
Okay, I can’t answer the bathroom question, although, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over the age of 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom, and almost 14 percent of them are hospitalized. And, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission Report issued in 2012, from 2006 to 2010, 434 Americans died in bathtubs. I bet you didn’t realize that you were taking your life in your hands every time you enter the smallest room in your house.
One more Reddit story:
Keep seeing things out of the corner of my eye at my grandmother’s house.
Just a little background info: my father passed away on June 16 in a car accident at an intersection about 300 feet from my father and my house, and my grandmother’s house. We lived in a little cottage basically in the backyard of my grandmother’s house. We were pretty much best friends and two unique people that got along with each other more than anybody else, really. It’s severely rough trying to get on with my life and no sense of normalcy is returning, my life is in a seriously “disturbed state”. My grandma feels similarly, and this is actually the third son she’s lost in sudden motor vehicle accidents. My dad was hit by a woman in an SUV going through a red light, his brother Steven was cut off while on his motorcycle by another driver while going the speed limit, and his brother Jimmy died in the hospital after being hit while the passenger in a friend’s car.
Fast forward seven months, I’m living in New Mexico with my uncle and his wife since after my father died I severely needed a change of scenery and there was basically nothing holding me to the town we lived in anymore.
However, I’m back for the holidays and am staying at my grandmother’s house now. I keep seeing both human figures out of the corner of my eye (like somebody entering the room or walking past) as well as indiscernible movement and very quick glimpses of our old cat doing things like jumping off a chair in the room or running across the floor. My dad loved this cat dearly, and when he died she’d wait at the door to our old house and perch on the hill waiting for his car to come home in the driveway. According to my grandmother, she went MIA about 5 months ago while I was gone.
So, what’s going on? Do spirits ever genuinely come back to visit the living, or is it always something malicious, mimics or tricksters trying to take advantage of the grieving? My dad’s ashes are currently in my grandma’s house where I’m staying now, does that have anything to do with it?
By the way, seeing things like this never happens to me outside of this particular house at this particular time. I didn’t experience this in New Mexico, nor did I experience this at my other grandmother’s house in the state as well. I don’t think I’m sensitive to paranormal activity at all, and I tend to complain that I must be boring because UFOs, ghosts and other things like that because they clearly aren’t attracted to me. This is a very definite first of phenomena like this for me.
I also should add that there isn’t a real positive or negative vibe or energy to these occurrences. Asides from being sort of startled when they happen, I’m not scared or intimidated, just curious.
I’m pretty sure it’s just his dad stopping by to say hello and the cat running up to greet him.
So, going back to my initial question – why do we like to tell and hear ghost stories?
I believe that it’s because we want validation that the things we’ve felt, seen, and heard when we’re alone, are real. We want to know that this isn’t a figment of our imagination, it wasn’t just the shadow of a passing car, and it really wasn’t the cat. It was something or someone reaching out from beyond this life to make contact with us. Whether to comfort us, warn us, or just tell their story, for some reason we get chosen to participate in this paranormal phenomenon.
So, as the night grows dark, the cold autumn winds howl against your house, and the shadows shiver and sway, remember to pay attention to what’s happening around you. Because everyone likes to hear a good ghost story.
Like what you read? Find more stories by Terri Reid here.