“We are entitled to some muddled thinking now and then” said my new friend, Steve (fake name). Steve is an atheist, with a certain amount of superstition he can’t get out of his head. By that I mean Steve doesn’t like to say that he is an atheist because that might cause something bad to happen to him. Like he says, “such is the power of social conditioning.” But Steve believes in ghosts.
I thought ghosts were exclusively compatible with God-believing. My thought was that a ghost means an afterlife and an afterlife means a God. Each of those steps isn’t actually correct though. Conceptually speaking, a “soul” could still linger in this world until it eventually dissipates, so the eternal afterlife thing is not necessarily true. And even if an afterlife in fact real, that doesn’t mean a God at all. Why does an afterlife need to be managed any more than lifelife? Still, it struck me as weird that he believed in ghosts (and not an afterlife). As a reminder, I cut myself out of this at ghosts; I don’t believe in them.
“It is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.”
I thought it might be interesting to share his stories. I have dismissed them, but in a way I recognise that I do but am not proud of; I simply don’t believe them. Yes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but I’m not sure I have reasons to assume that ghosts are extraordinary claims, as opposed to just feel like extraordinary claims. Every story I am about to share can be dismissed as an unreliable childhood memory or as having the touch of the alcohol about them.
One night, when I was meant to be asleep, when I was 4 I walked into my mum and dad’s room. They discouraged me sharing their bed as a child in case they crushed me death in my sleep; it wasn’t normal for me to go into their room after bedtime. They asked me if I was okay. I said simply “Yeah, fine. Granddad is on my wardrobe. He just came to say goodbye.” That night he died. I feel that’s pretty watertight
I was 4, maybe. I was playing on the floor in the kitchen and my mum was cooking. I got up and I walked over to my mum. She asked me if I was okay and I said “fine. An old woman told me to move.” Seconds later the plaster on the ceiling directly above where I was sat collapsed.
I pointed out that the latter story suggested that the ghost could predict the future. Steve has some other stories, but they include eerie feelings and things you see in your peripheral vision. But I thought I might as well share a few more interesting accounts I have from people I know, about ghosts and the afterlife. Obviously, by the time they get to you they are 3rd or even 4th hand accounts, so I expect you will consider them less than I do. But they are interesting. The first one comes from my dad; I tried to dismiss his claims of being psychic in an earlier post, so consider this man’s words carefully. But still, here is his story:
Julie and I were staying at a hotel. We’d just gotten back from a restaurant and I was desperate for the toilet. I rushed into the bathroom, threw my car keys down on the cistern and sat down on the toilet. All of a sudden my keys started rattling in the cistern. I felt I knew there was a person doing it, so I said “stop it”, and it stopped. A few moments later they started rattling again, and I yelled “stop it”. And it stopped. And then it started a third time, and I yelled “I told you! Stop it!” and I threw my keys down on the floor. I told off the thing I felt was doing this the same way I tell off Macsen and Morgan [his youngest children], and I did that because I felt I could see whoever was rattling my keys: a little girl with brown hair and blue eyes. Later that night I wondered down stairs to the hotel bar and in the stair way was a big, old painting of a little girl and it struck me immediately—except her eyes were brown. While I was in the bar I heard maids talking about how the hotel’s previous owner had a daughter who died and now haunted the hotel. When I came down the next morning for breakfast a cleaner has cleaned that painting in the stairway and the girl in the painting’s eyes were blue. Bright blue
– My dad
My brother was at a bar with a few friends. He’d been there for about half an hour before one friend had gone to the toilet and another went to move the car. He was alone and a barman appeared across the bar and asked “are you Anthony”, which he was. “Have you lost someone close to you recently”, which he had—we both had—our grandma. The barman then told Anthony “I have a message from her, she wants you to know she’s okay, she’s with granddad now.” Anthony looked around the bar for his friends and then told the stranger-come-barman that he knew his friends had put him up to this and it wasn’t funny. The barman then proceeded to describe our grandma’s kitchen in immaculate detail, including the hideous wallpaper around the bottom and the cracking paint work Anthony had promised to clean up around the top—stuff none of his friends knew. Anthony freaked out and left. A few days later he returned to the bar because he had questions for the barman. The manager said the barman had left; he came in begging for work one day and left within the week
My brother and a few of his navy friends all moved into this flat. During the viewing the place felt fine. But when they moved in by themselves they felt terrified. They were scared. But—that was in their head—they stayed there. They all have stories of seeing things move in the dark or the feeling of being shoved when no one else was in the flat. But the strangest story happened in twilight. Ian Rutter [an author, if you want to check out his book] was alone in the flat and something took hm by the throat and held him up above the ground, choking him. He couldn’t talk; he couldn’t breathe. But he could see and there was nothing visible in front of him. Rutter though he was going to die there. The choking stopped when someone else entered the flat through the front door; Ian Mahony [Ian Mahony was my SCUBA diving instructor. Thoroughly recommend it! Moskito Diving, Phi Phi, Thailand]. Mahony heard Rutter gasping for air; saw nothing; and the next morning Rutter had bruises around his neck
To an extent, it’s like Steve said to me; we don’t know how the human brain works. It is possible there will be an answer in neuroscience to explain how we vividly hallucinate or falsely remember ghost-experiences. But that certainly isn’t a likely enough answer to cut ghosts out of the picture (again, using Occam’s Razor). But, it certainly seems certain people are susceptible to these kind of experiences: Steve has several, Gert’s brother has two that I know, my has numerous. My brother has none; Gert has none; my step mum has none; my stepdad has none; I have none. Like religious experiences, some are blessed with it, others aren’t. Perhaps there is a neuroscience answer to this. But, the two of Steve’s stories that I shared included a successful telling of the future—but he was four; but the stories are recounted to him by his parents; but his parents were mourning when the memories formed, one of them lost a parent…
Besides, it was a lie when I said I have had none:
When I was very young, my great granddad died and a few months later my first granddad died. This was also around the time of the collapse of my parents relationship—and straight away you can see how I am preparing you to dismiss my account as a case of short-lived mental instability. After his death I heard my granddad’s voice. I don’t remember it in much detail, but my parents worried and sent me to a counsellor. My dad waited until I was much older before he told me that he also heard my granddad’s—his dad’s—voice after he died. My dad’s life was up in the air at the time: a relationship had just crumbled, his job was uncertain, another woman had just had his child, my dad felt a lot of guilt for his dad dying before he resolved certain issues with him. My dad interprets hearing his dad’s voice as his dad looking after him, because he stopped hearing his voice when things started looking more stable. But I interpret it this way: hearing voices was counselled out of me. It was a sign of being ill
(I know a few of you know my real name, but I want to keep the Google monster out of my blog)