Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween-related issues

Halloween was never a big deal at our house growing up; we didn’t really live in a neighborhood, so the folks drove us in costume to homes of people we knew. I honestly don’t have many clear memories of that, even, so I’m guessing it was fun, but ultimately wasn’t too important to me. We always were allowed extra sweets at that time of year, and school afforded an opportunity to wear a costume, so I suppose I never longed for the thrill of knocking on strangers’ doors or pulling any pranks on mean neighbors (we didn’t have any close enough).

But this isn’t about trick-or-treating. I think the whole practice is rather bizarre, but I’m not barring my kid from doing it. He’s done it, and I’m sure he’ll do it again. He’s still small, so we can steer him away from scary costumes glamorizing the latest horror movie killer. And that’s good—because frankly, I’m not sure what I’ll do when he decides to “be” someone like that instead of a policeman (this year’s choice).

No, this post is about the dark side of Halloween: the emphasis on the spirit world. Goths didn’t exist when I was a kid, so I was spared that visual reminder of the undead; mostly, though, just being a goody-two-shoes academic band member kept me from the realization that there are a lot of people in this world who are quite fascinated with “the other side.” In college, a couple of girls on my dorm floor were experimenting with a ouija board, and I know that made me rather uneasy—but I didn’t lie awake at night wondering about evil spirits they might have unleashed. I just didn’t think about it much at all.

An apartment I rented a few years later kind of freaked me out a bit, because the first few days I lived there, I kept thinking I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I am not proud to tell you that I finally just spoke to mid-air and explained that I was not trying to cause problems and I was sure that “we” could co-exist… and I stopped seeing anything unusual. But I’m not convinced that the whole thing wasn’t in my imagination, and that my “addressing” the air gave me adequate peace of mind that I was able to subconsciously quell my overactive, nervous brain.

That little apartment drama was honestly the only time I've even remotely detected anything out of the ordinary. And that experience was still pretty darned ordinary. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad for that. I’ve been told that I am “Missouri” because I must be shown something before I believe it—and I’m quite comfortable with that label. Todd and I stayed at an old Victorian B&B a few years back, and he saw and heard some things that he can’t explain…but not me. Never heard or felt or saw a thing other than what was right in front of my face, plain as day. I was really bothered by the whole thing for awhile, alarmed that my own husband had had an experience like that, but now that time’s passed, I can kind of just not think about that, too.

Yet. It seems that I am one person who has not detected anything spiritually unsettling, surrounded by other people who have had the opposite experience. And some of these are others that I trust, people I have no reason to believe would lie about such a matter. Like my own husband. What do I make of that? And how do I explain all this to my little boy, who right now calls ghosts “ghosties,” finds them cute, and thinks witches are sisters to scarecrows?

The added complication of late is my faith—a factor I didn’t have to consider in my earlier, more wishy-washy/anything-goes years. Christianity doesn’t say a thing about ghosts in the Bible, at least not that I’m aware of. It talks a lot about spirits, but they don't sound like the same thing—the spirits in the Bible are something to avoid, something to keep out of your life and your home and yourself. I won’t lie: I have had a couple of experiences in my life recently that I truly believe were evidence of spiritual warfare, and yes, I do think that’s a reality. I’m more convinced daily that most of what is going on around us, we’ll never see or feel. But if I’m reading correctly, the Bible seems to say that good spirits aren’t spirits at all; they’re angels. There are no lost souls floating around us; they’re all accounted for. (I’m not Catholic, so I don’t feel obligated to delve into the oddity of Purgatory.)

So, accepting Christian doctrine as my reality, I feel as if I have to assume that any valid ghostly experience is likely interaction with an evil spirit. Is that possible? How about the stories where a dead family member reappears and helps someone out, saves someone’s life? Can I bend that scenario and explain it by assuming an angel took on a familiar form to put a family’s mind at ease? That seems kind of far-fetched and unnecessary…why would an angel bother? But it wouldn’t make sense for an evil spirit to assume a lost loved ones identity and then perform good deeds, would it? I’ll tell you, I am just flummoxed. I go months without thinking about this whole can of worms, and then it suddenly reappears in my psyche and I am forced to try to reconcile things all over again.

I’m blaming a blog for the latest resurgence of this train of thought; I regularly read a sometimes irreverent, always amazingly well-written page called Somewhere on the Masthead (there’s a link to it on this page), and one of the recent posts was called An October Moment. The fellow who writes the page described just such an inexplicable experience he’d had, and it turns out he’s had quite a few; there are several October Moments that you can find on his blog. I don’t know if they’re true, and I don’t know this guy from Adam. Maybe he’s just a good writer and he knows that if his readers think the stuff’s true, they’re all the more hooked on it—although he insists they all happened. Anyway, I made the mistake of reading some of his Moments, and now here I am, trying to make sense of something that I shouldn’t even be thinking about because it just frustrates me and frightens me a little and mostly just gives me even more questions to ask God when we meet...and He is plenty aware that I already have way too many.

I should know by now to simply avoid all this ghost stuff. It’s something I just need to steer clear of, like horrible and sick news stories about little children being harmed. I should have learned by now that this grayish, vaporous world of spirits and the like is a bad place for me to even scurry through. I should know. But it’s Halloween, gosh darn it. I can’t get away from the subject. And I’m haunted (tee hee) by all the weird stories I’ve heard from reliable sources. What’s a God-fearing girl to think?

Oh well. That’s all from this very visible, very normal, very logical part of the world. How about you? Seen anything strange lately?


71crush said...

First of all, witches are sisters of scarecrows -- I love it. So cute.

I admit, I am the same way. I have never had an experience, but when I read about a so called haunted house where hundreds of people have seen a ghost, I have to think there is something to it. And arent ghost sitings global? I mean, its all over the place, not just a cultural thing. How can so many people be wrong. I just dont know.

Anonymous said...

Had more than a few odd spirit moments myself, some nice, some not so.

I think it mentions the "ghost" of Samuel in Judges or Chronicles or something, but many don't seem convinced it was a "real" ghost, more likely a spirit impersonating Samuel. Who knows.

One thing for sure - just as 71Crush said - every culture has those stories or ideas. There's SOMETHING there.

Mel said...

yep,yep, yep. guess the jury is out indefinitely on this one, for me at least. I know two things: I'm not anxious to see or hear anything, and if I do, I'm heading in the opposite direction.