“You have grown strong and powerful, just as I imagined.” – Qui-Gon Jinn’s Force Ghost appearing to Anakin (“Ghosts of Mortis”, The Clone Wars)
“Ah, Skywalker. Missed you, have I” – Yoda’s Force Ghost appearing to Luke (The Last Jedi).
Ghosts exist. I believe they do because I’ve seen them. There was an apparition I saw as a child when I was kept at a Catholic Home for boys. I saw another in a home for wards of the state when I was twelve. On both occasions the figures seemed to pass completely oblivious to my presence. I was wide awake when I saw these apparitions and remember how the room was cold before and during. The first was a Nun in an old habit; she stood as if in prayer, her face was down, I blinked and she was gone. The second was a shadow of a man who seemed to drift like grey smoke across the room before vanishing.
I don’t remember being scared when I saw them. I was upset and deeply sad. The figures seemed to imbue a deep sense of melancholy. Perhaps they were real maybe they weren’t. In the orphanage we also played with Ouija boards and scared ourselves silly with our imaginations. The region in which the old children’s home was built had many Ghost stories. In such an environment it was easy to imagine what was not there.
Many years later I learned that my sister was sensitive and told me she had seen Ghosts her entire life. They didn’t scare her at all and never had. To this day she practices as a psychic medium and has investigated Ghosts, Poltergeists and other phenomenon. Some of her “cases” have turned out to have a rational explanation. Others have been very strange. I’ve seen her bring a sense of relief to people who thought they were losing their minds. It’s amazing what a few words and some burning sage can do for a family’s sense of sanity.
When my daughter turned eight she began reporting that there were “others” in our house. I had to admit at the time I did find a few things odd. There were smells such as old pipe tobacco. Batteries would go flat in devices soon after being replaced. Objects would go missing and then reappear in odd places or not at all. Doors would open and curtains would move although there was not the slightest breeze. There were cold patches and sometimes the house just felt cold. I thought I saw shadows.
According to our daughter there was a boy she spoke to, a sad lady and a tall angry man whom were both silent. I asked her to draw them and she drew a boy with a white shirt, black trousers held up with braces. She drew a large happy smile on a wide face. In the bubble and stick fashion, she drew a thin woman with a long black dress that went to her neck. The man had a vest, a long mustache, a pipe and a large hat. The man had an angry face.
Of course I was skeptical. I had been trained to be. A degree in science demanded empirical evidence. I wanted to believe that such things were not really possible. The supernatural might be fanciful or hypothetical, but not indisputable. Without empirical evidence based on quantifiable data derived from replicable experimentation one could entertain that Ghosts might exist but still hold a healthy amount of skepticism.
We went to see a psychic medium that has a reputation of being anything but a charlatan. I was impressed the moment I saw him. For a start the man looked extremely fit and well groomed. Wearing smart jeans, a shirt and leather jacket he met us cordially. I was expecting some sort of facade and a bit of melodrama but this medium was just an every day guy. The sort of guy who barbecues on the weekend, goes to football matches and drinks beer.
Our Medium explained that he had been able to see Ghosts since he was a child and could get impressions from them sometime faint, sometime strong. Our visit would allow him to determine if there was anything attached to us “psychically”. Whether we were haunted or not.
We were instructed to keep our answers to questions as yes or no in order to reduce any suspicion of mentalism or “fishing for answers”. He also warned us we could go home empty handed if he failed to “channel” anything.
Without much effort he gave me a run down on my personal history, my dead parents, my fears and he pretty well told me without saying it aloud that I was alcoholic and headed for a fall. He told me that I was perched on a wall waiting to either topple to oblivion or fall in to the arms of safety and sanity. I could feel panic and denial welling inside of me. He sensed that and moved on.
Touching the right side of his head he told me that I had had a major operation and had actually been pushed “from the other side” to seek help when I’d started noticing symptoms instead of ignoring them. This floored me. It was true that I had had a tumor growing in my head. It was quite large and the specialist had told me if I had left it another month I would have probably suffered a stroke and died. The Medium said “second chance” with a blank face as if he was remembering something. I looked at him strangely, indeed I had seen the experience as a “second chance” at the time. The problem of course is that I had not embraced it and was soon drinking heavily again after a short pause.
The conversation turned to our house. The Medium would pause and sort of look up or to one side. Once or twice he seemed to not even to be there but in some sort of trance. We had not mentioned we had children but he told us that we had “entities” in our house and that our young daughter could see them and had interacted with a “child spirit”. Sensing our alarm he told us not to worry. The spirits were harmless and tied to the house or rather the land. The way we view time is not how time is. Reality is an illusion and sometimes, depending on things we don’t understand, our dimension touches the next.
This didn’t reassure us much and we asked about a cleansing to which he replied it could be done but not by him. He went on to say that the spirit who was “looking over me” when I was sick was my mother. He said that she was also “watching over” our children. Soon after a subtle change came over his face as if a curtain had come down and the Medium announced that the meeting was over.
It’s an understatement to say that I had trouble seeing the world the same way after that brief visit. Was it all real? Had I been played and fleeced out of my money? If it were true then everything I thought about reality was up for debate. My mind reeled and everywhere I looked I saw Ghosts hiding in shadows. I needed a stiff drink.
A couple of weeks later I called my sister and she came over. I explained some of the events that had taken place but omitted our meeting with the Medium or any specific details. It was the middle of the day and she walked though the house pausing in our daughter’s room a little longer. Finally she reported that there was family tied to the house. The land the house sat on had been a farm. The farmer had been cruel to his family and had died in an accident. The woman and child had lived out their lives.
With sage in hand she walked from room to room, trailing smoke, inviting the entities to “go to the light”. I watched with fascination. Sure enough a peace seemed to fall over the house. It felt completely different. From that day there were no further “disturbances”. Whatever had been there was gone and I had to admit I was sort of sad about it. The house was clear but a dark shadow fell over me. I responded with alcohol.
As the Medium predicted my “second chance” soon ran out and I hit rock bottom. I realized when it happened what it meant. Ghosts of the past held me down. I felt myself sink in to a dark place and was utterly haunted. I could take my real “second chance” now and climb out to safety or I could fall to oblivion and never emerge. Doing so required a type of Faith and belief in something that cannot be proved through empirical science. By that stage, I already knew that. If anything the last few years had taught me was to keep an open mind, even if it meant accepting there is more than we can see and measure.
“No live organism can continue to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality” – The Haunting of Hill House
The Red Door
Recently I decided to watch the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I’ve always been a fan of psychological supernatural movies. There are few that rank as truly great. The Haunting (1963) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) are both timeless classics.
I have to admit that the new Netflix release of a retelling of Shirley Jackson’s Hill House story was excellent. The experience was not unlike jumping into some Rabbit Hole. Over ten episodes the series explores the dark inner psyche of a family haunted by events that occurred a quarter of a century earlier. Against the brooding backdrop of Hill House, a short and terrifying childhood summer is played out. There are secrets and the house is calling them home.
The series was compelling and terrifying not so much for the Ghosts, which there are many, but because it was a reminder that people suffer the Ghosts of their pasts and fears. Eventually one must return to face them. Doors that are locked and contain sinister and dark secrets must be opened. Sometimes we must peer in to the dark recesses of our soul. In order to be free we must confront our darkest and most terrifying fears.
“A ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see.” – The Haunting of Hill House
Why is it that the “Force Ghosts” of Star Wars aren’t scary? Even Casper the Friendly Ghost was a little creepy. The story goes that when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after the resurrection they were terrified to see him returned from the grave and walking among the living. Any manifestation of the dead is naturally disconcerting. Cultures demand that the dead stay dead. Ghosts are not welcome.
I’ve learned that Ghosts are not scary (unless we want them to be) but they are definitely not something you want to turn a corner and see standing there. So why is no one concerned with “Force Ghosts”? After all they have all the trade mark features of a Ghost. They shimmer, glow pale and appear out of nowhere and start dispensing practical philosophy, yet they comfort those they appear to. If Socrates were to appear again in Athens and start approaching people the city would lose its mind and try to evict him.
“Dreams they’re like an ocean and the big dreams can spill out sometimes” – The Haunting of Hill House
“Force Ghosts” are a product of fiction obviously. The religious equivalent would be called “Visions”. Most people who have claimed to have had visions of Mary, Jesus, Saints or departed relatives reported feeling an overwhelming sense of love and peace. What causes these experiences is a matter for debate however there is no disputing the fact that visions have a lasting and often life changing effect on those who witness them.
“Force Ghosts” are the heavenly visitations to the Jedi. The “Force Ghosts” are the spiritual experiences that guide the Jedi from the edge of the Dark Side and back to the Light. The “Force Ghosts” appear because they are summoned in some way by those that need them and they change those they visit in profound ways.
“Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns…” – The Haunting of Hill House
Occasionally I run into people I haven’t seen since I got sober. They give me strange look. The comment I get is that I have changed and somehow different. They remark how fit and healthy I look but there is something else they can’t quite name, something intangible.
When people learn that I no longer drink they ask what bought it on. It’s very hard to explain “what happened” to anyone who has not hit rock bottom and had a spiritual experience. To try is to risk being labelled a religious nut. Its also hard to articulate to those that have had a similar experience. Words can’t really describe it. Whether it’s a “burning white light” experience or something that happens at a deeper level the end result is that there is no seeing the world the same way ever again. Everything changes.
The only way to describe what happened to is that in a flash I felt I was catapulted to an elevated level of consciousness. It felt as if I were inside of me but at the same time outside of me and looking down at me. I was had a clear vision of who I was at that moment and a vision of what I could become. I sat perched on a wall between heaven and hell. There was no doubt in my mind I could topple either way. At some deeper level I reached out to whatever spiritual source there was and grabbed the flimsy reed that was offered. I knew at that moment the ultimate truth; there is nothing to fear but fear itself and the fear was gone. So were the Ghosts.
“…But so, it seems, is love. Love is the relinquishment of logic the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it. But we cannot meet it halfway…” – The Haunting of Hill House
I’ve learned that it is rarely the “Ghosts” of departed souls that haunt us. Certainly the memory of those who have passed will linger in mind and subconsciousness. It is not unusual for people to speak to the dearly departed, it’s normal. We can find solace and comfort feeling that not even death can separate us from those that we love. More often it is an impression, a word, a thought or a memory that materializes like a phantom in our mind. We can see it clearly as if it were there in front of us. For a moment we are projected through time and place to that moment. Like a Ghost it begins to fade and then vanish. We are left with the feeling like you get when you come out of a dream. There was a truth, clarity and enlightenment in that moment and then it is gone beyond recall.
Perhaps that is what the “Force Ghosts” of Star Wars represent. They symbolize the resolving of inner conflict and the realization of a deeper truth or a moment of joy. At the moment when Luke feels the most vulnerable and has the greatest doubts born of fear and anguish he is centered and given courage and guidance by the vision and words of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In his happiness Luke also see’s his Father and his former mentors smiling down on him approvingly on Endor.
“…Without it (Love), we cannot continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality” – The Haunting of Hill House
Believe or Not
Whether you believe in Ghosts or not and care for Ghost stories or not, all people are visited by Ghosts of some form. The very act of living allows them to permeate our lives in every way. I’m still visited by the Ghosts of my past but I don’t let them affect me. They serve as reminders of where I have come from. I acknowledge them and let them go. They appear and fade away and I know they are impressions. I sometimes speak to my dead relatives and ancestors. Perhaps they hear me, maybe they don’t. It comforts me the same way the apparition of Yoda and disembodied voice of Obi-wan Kenobi comforted Luke.
I also believe in Ghosts, the “active” type that stare out of windows in darkened houses, the “residual” Ghosts that play out their lives and deaths like some old movie reel on a constant loop. The “phenomena” Ghost Hunters seek out in cold and desolate places at the dead of night. Ghosts do exist, in our minds and in the world. I don’t doubt it for a second.
“Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And those who walk there walk together.” – Steven Crain “The Haunting of Hill House”