Friday, April 9, 2010

Echos of the Past: In Defense of the Pricklings of an Overactive Imagination

Ever since I can remember, I've been intrigued by ghosts. In elementary school my Scholastic book orders always had a ghost story: The Ghost Wore Gray, Ghost Cat, The Haunting of Frances Rain, just to name the ones immediately coming to mind. The first lengthy story I wrote was about about a ghost named Alfred who lived in a little boy's closet. I don't know what draws me. My Wednesday evenings center around Ghost Hunters or Ghost Hunters International, depending on the season, and right now Ghost Adventures on the Travel channel is playing in the background while I write.

When I travel, I have to go on the ghost tours. I've seen curtains move in the Juliet Gordon Lowe house in Savannah, Ga. In Boston, I wandered graveyards by lantern light. When I went to Oxford, England, for Honors Students Association study abroad, my CD player turned on in the middle of the night, playing the music from the sinking in Titanic, and I don't have a complete explanation for why. I could have hit the on button when I put it under my bed, but it seems like I would have heard it before my roommate and I were almost asleep. The next time I went to England for study abroad, the fire alarm in our hotel went off. It could have been a malfunction, but after my Oxford "Titanic Ghost," I have suspicions that maybe my ghost was making its presence known.

Do I believe in ghosts? I don't know. I just know I don't not believe.

I've been thinking more about ghosts lately. Ever since I started my research, the idea has been floating around in my mind that perhaps ghosts are not entirely supernatural. Humans possess energy in addition to their body and spirit. If my memory of elementary science is correct, energy is neither created nor destroyed; it merely changes form. Maybe after the body is gone and the spirit has moved on, the energy remains; maybe if somebody is looking hard enough for it, they can pick up on the energy, like a recording of the past. Ghost Hunters would call that a residual haunting.

Are there echos of the past? I'm so intent on solving the mysteries that my family tree has raised, I keep looking for echos. Anything that leads me a little further. Every once in awhile, I get a prickling in the back of my mind, a tiny itch that keeps me going. It could be my curiosity or my intuition that I'm closer than it seems, or maybe those little residual energies are stirring, ready to be uncovered. I don't think that my relatives are hanging around waiting to be released for earth. I'm sure they've already moved on to their after life, but if the energy of their human form remains, maybe my research has stirred it up.

It's exciting to uncover things that have been forgotten for a century or more. I'm sure part of the prickling in my mind is just excitement, the enthusiasm of a historian brushing back a layer of the past. But maybe, just maybe, there is more than meets the eye. What else explains all the ghost stories, programs (Most Haunted just came on), books, and even experiences that have been written, recorded, and reported over the course of the centuries? I certainly don't think that Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted, and all the rest are entirely true, but I think the theory behind the ghost should not be discredited. Those prickles, flickers, and goosebumps may not be entirely flights of fancy for the overactive imagination.

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