Category Archives: Ghosts and Spirits

Ghosts

This is the extended version of my notes for a talk I gave for the Nottingham Pagan Network on Wednesday 28th November 2018. Moonphase: 5th Waning Gibbous

Introduction

It’s November, and we are now well into the dark half of the year. From Halloween and Samhain, this time is considered closer to the supernatural realms. The shadows are long and the days are short and when night falls, things that go bump seem more likely to happen. When asked to do this talk, I thought it fitting to talk about ghosts as we have just come out of the days of the dead and have the mischief of Yule to look forward to.

What is a Ghost?

According to our lore, a ghost is the spirit of a dead person or animal that frequents or haunts a certain location, object or living person. In the past, a ghost would either still be around for the ending of unfinished business or even a refusal to depart this world. Some ghosts would be haunting a location to guard treasure, ghosts of the 18th and 19th Centuries were very big on foretelling the death of family members, for example. Whereas ghosts of the 20th Century seemed to have given this up and like to switch on appliances, turn up in photos or even haunt specific vehicles they were attached to in life.

There are supposedly different types too:

  • Poltergeists being the most famous, the name comes from the German for “Noisy Ghost”. Objects moving or being thrown across the room of their own accord are attributed to poltergeist activity. Various researchers claim Poltergeists are a manifestation of latent out of control telekenesis in children approaching puberty, others believe them to be individual spirits in their own right.
  • Apparitions, aka spectres, phantoms etc, these are the appearances of a figure or creature that were not there previously. They are normally present for a few seconds and then disappear once again. For eg: almost every old pub (from 18th Century or older) supposedly has the figure of a man wearing a wide hat and long cloak for e.g.
  • Repeating (or replay as friend of mine describes them) ghosts that perform the same action over and over (thought to be some kind of electromagnetic recording within a building or location). Think your Headless Horsemen that come out every full moon, or a monk that appears at the same time every night, haunted battlefields, etc.
  • Interactive Ghosts where people have supposedly had the ghost speak or perform some action in front of them. ‘The Phantom Hitchhiker’ for e.g.
  • Black Dogs, your barghests, shucks, Boggarts etc. Big black dogs with flaming eyes, heralding the demise of any who see them, although can be revealed to others if touched.
  • Shadow People, A more recently recorded phenomenon, said to appear, some with or without glowing red eyes or even wearing hats.
  • There is even something a friend of mine calls The Dead Barmaid Effect, more on this later.

Supposedly, a ghost is the soul or spirit of either a person or animal that is still on Earth even though its physical body has died. It has yet to pass into either the Otherworld or into the astral plane.

How Do You Know One Is There?

If I’m going by my own experiences as well as those others have reported then having a ghost produces the following:

• Feelings of being watched/ someone in the room despite you being alone.
• Cold spots happening for no reason whatsoever
• Objects moving, appliances and devices switching on themselves.
• Seeing shadows or figures in your peripheral vision
• Hearing voices despite no one being present
• Hearing music or sounds with no source

• A full or even partial manifestation as the ghost reveals itself.

Some entities are even said to have more dramatic effects, scratching of the walls or human flesh, the sound of screaming from nowhere, objects being thrown at witnesses or even full blown possession. However, the latter appears to be the exception rather than the rule. How many encounters are real and how many area form of mass hysteria inspired by Hollywood is difficult to say.

So, Who You Gonna Call?

There are parasychologists, mediums, ghost hunters and even exorcists should you wish to have someone examine or even look into removing the ghost at hand.
The problem with Ghost Hunters, is they like to bring a stock load of equipment, anything from infrared sensors to Ion detectors…. basically all the stuff that they swear can detect a ghost or even traces of such, yet scientists themselves still have found no actual proof of ghosts existing. So, ghost hunters have access to technology that scientists don’t? Interesting that…..

Attending a talk on ghost investigation, years ago in London, the speaker described using our own senses rather than use flashy tech to try and find a ghost. It was using this premise that myself and a few others decided to use when investigating a friend’s haunted house. We went off into different areas and wrote down anything that we thought might have been strange…. an hour of total silence later we met back and tried asking questions out loud. We compared notes three of us out of five all had written down the same year! One of us did bring a recorder for EVP and had an app on his phone for detecting ghosts…. the former didn’t yield any results and according to the app, there where ghosts everywhere, go figure!

Mediums are said to be in direct communication with the Spirit-World but messages are not always clear.

Exorcists go in and attempt to remove the ghost/entity, this is not always guaranteed to work, however.

Then of course there’s us in the Pagan Community: not all of us work with magic or ritual, neither do all of us work with spirits. And even amongst ourselves, we have to watch out for the bullshitters. I’m always wary of anyone who pipes up with “I see ghosts all the time”. Not all of our sources are reliable and like anyone else trying methods they aren’t familiar with, it’s down to trial and error.

What Does Science Say?

It says ghosts don’t exist. According to physicists, a ghost is either there or it isn’t. It can’t be both. A ghost is can either pass through things or it is a solid being, so which is it?
But there is something in the Electromagnetic theory of ghosts that explains quite a few of the symptoms of having a ghostly presence:

Medical studies have found that electrical fields can stimulate the Angular Gyrus (the part that processes interpreting language and numbers, our sense of self, memory recall, spacial awareness, it does quite a few things) in our brains, mimicking the sensation of us thinking there is something or someone behind us. Considering a lot of us have a mobile phone, a tablet or even headphones attached to something, you’d think we’d be experiencing this on a mass scale.

Cold spots are more regular in places with less humidity, too.

The problem is that ghosts aren’t a quantifiable thing, we are talking about something that can move through walls and any solid object, yet can manipulate physical devices. They are invisible by nature, yet can appear either partially or as a whole thing for a limited time. Because they aren’t an exact phenomenon, they can not be measured in scientific conditions. Ergo, according to science, they don’t exist…. even if we do encounter them.

Belief

Belief and expectation have a very large part in ghostly phenomena. Go into a known haunted location with the expectation of finding something and you’ll be swearing every movement and creak is a ghost.
Interestingly enough, there was a paranormal research group who experimented with collective consciousness back in the late 1970s. The experiment was to see if they could ‘create’ a ghost, with an identity and all. The group supposedly were successful and the being called itself “Phillip”.
It could be argued this is what happens when people come together with excited energy and the want for something. Ouija Boards for example (Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!) or even a term coined by a friend of mine called…..

The Dead Barmaid Effect

How is it that almost every old pub in the UK is supposed to be haunted by one of two ghosts (If not both?):

The Dead Barmaid….. You can picture the scenario: ghost hunters go into an old pub (insert 500+ yr old building), eager to make contact. Using a communication method, such as a pendulum or an Ouija board, they ascertain the pub is haunted by a former worker who died as a result of murder/broken heart/fell to her death. Ghost Hunting groups go in there and pick up on an “Alice” or “Elizabeth” who used to serve there years ago…. especially when there is no record of there being such previously. Similar to the “Phillip” creation described above, the Dead Barmaid is more of a group consciousness generated by a belief of the group with a want to find something. Then there’s this guy……..

Dick Turpin

With almost every old pub there is the shadowy figure wearing thick boots, a long cloak with a high folded collar, and three-cornered-hat…. almost always taken to be the infamous highwayman himself. Is it possible for the spirit to haunt several locations at once? Either that or we had old Dicky-T wrong and he went on the biggest pub crawl of the 18th Century!

The Problem With Recorded Evidence….

It can be faked. No matter how good a video or even a EVP recording is, low- budget horror movies have proven that you don’t need huge special effects to make “Evidence”. So, the problem is that even if something was genuinely caught on camera, as an image or recording, we’ll just shrug it off as being fake. Just think of ‘Paranormal Activity’ ‘Insidious’. Even back in the early 1990s the BBC had a one off ‘Ghost Watch’ which was so realistic for its time that it was reported at least one person committed suicide because of it! I didn’t think it was that bad, but I lost sleep for nights watching it when I was a kid…. Even if it was fake and was made as a prank.

So, You Wanna Remove a Ghost?

We assume ghosts were people once. What if they aren’t? From various accounts, animals can become ghosts, too. And what if the entity encountered was never a physical being in the first place? What if the phenomenon experienced is down to something that has been in its location for a long time and doesn’t want us physical people telling it what to do?

Then there are the malicious ghosts of people who were not friendly in life and terrify those who feel helpless in their situation because they think no one will believe them? People can turn to exorcism, but there are a few problems with this: we assume the being was human and also understands and accepts what religion is being used against it. We also assume the being is from elsewhere (spirit world, Hell, whatever) even though it could have occupied the same location since before humankind. Talking to a friend of mine involved with the Church, he informed me that exorcists have to have insurance!

Another approach would be to try and contact the entity in an effort to either move it on, help it find peace or even making peace with it…. neither of which are guaranteed.

Conclusions:

We don’t know what a ghost actually is. We are talking about something that cannot be quantified or even controlled. If there is a spirit world then I believe it runs parallel to our own with pockets of weakness between our world and the other and every now and then someone sees something. I wouldn’t even know how the mechanics of how this would work, but that’s my belief.

If ghosts are real, and if they are the spirits of people, even if they are something else, then we are talking about a non-corporeal consciousness; and like all things on Earth, should be treated with respect. It is not for us to go into a haunted area and start demanding that a presence leaves at our command or performs for our entertainment. I can guarantee if I was a ghost minding my own business and some people came looking for me with their tools and trinkets and demanding my name or disturbing my peace, I would do something to scare the living shit out of them….. or do nothing, just to piss them off.

Further Reading:

http://www.fmritools.com/kdb/grey-matter/parietal-lobe/angular-gyrus/index.html

https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/afterlife/ghost.htm

https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/types-of-ghosts

https://www.inverse.com/article/43545-earth-second-magnetic-field-captured-satellites

https://www.britannica.com/science/electromagnetic-field

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/magnetic/MagEarth.html

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Dealing with ghosts Pt.3- Doing it Wrong!

Welcome to the last of my ‘Dealing with ghosts’ series. If you haven’t read my previous posts, you can check them out by clicking here and here.

I was inspired by my relative asking for advice and thought it would be a good subject to write about during the Halloween/Samhain season. I apologise in advance because this last post is going to be a bit of a rant….

The Ignorance of Youth

Back when I was living in London in my mid to late twenties, a friend of mine in her late teens/early twenties was exploring Paganism and Witchcraft with new friends of hers with similar interests. I got a little concerned when she described some of their activities as “Visiting a haunted graveyard and Smishing the entity that resided there….” Smishing was their word for attacking the spirit of that place.

More recently (this year), the younger crowd who come to the open ceremonies held at every festival went into the caves of the pub we drink in after to hunt for ghosts and spirits. Within 30 mins I feel a “….disturbance in the Force” and head down there to find two of them shouting and screaming at whatever they supposedly found. The energy they shared (fear, panic) was palpable. I talked them down, spoke to the “being” one of them was in contact with until it quietened down. I used the Druid Peace Prayer and that seemed to help a lot. Once everything was calm, I told every one to get out of the cave and stayed behind, apologising to the spirits bothered about what had happened. The younger members are still banned from going down there when we hold our ceremonies.

Ok, in the latter, it was irresponsible to have let them down there in the first place. They’d done it before and there was never anything bad recorded previously. Except that one time when one of them got a stone thrown at them, to which I chided: “Well, don’t piss the spirit off then” or similar.

Respect

Two very different occasions, but one concerning outcome: these were young people who have been drawn to Paganism and Wicca and Witchcraft through books teaching them how to do things themselves. This in it self is not a bad thing, I myself, went down this path and then got my real experiences later and during my “education years”. The difference was they decided to go and try something out in a known haunted location and then see what was there…… with no respect or concern for the spirits who might not want their attention. The spirits in question certainly wouldn’t want any youths who, after maybe a couple of spells that worked and now thinking they were all-that-and-a-packet-of-crisps daring to invade their space, start doing shit and telling them what to do!

What happened to common sense? You might have read a couple of books, tried a few things out and then you get all panicky because this spirit in that haunted place didn’t behave as expected then you lost control of the situation. Who the fuck did you think you were?

I was lucky, I guess. I was interested, as a child, in ghosts and the paranormal before I discovered Paganism or even heard of Wicca. And yes, I know Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing. Back when I was reading those books on ghosts, I came upon lore. Such as a spirit known as a ‘Graveyard Guardian’. My memory is blurred, but this was either the spirit of the first or last person to be buried in a cemetery and supposedly protects the site from robbers and other undesirables, possibly to keep any other spirits in check? I might have made that last up. It was this entity that my friend was involved in “smishing”. The problem here is lack of respect as well as no guidance.

There’s a reason our ancestors had a respect for otherworldly beings, there’s a reason other cultures leave offerings.

We assume whatever spirit we come across was a person once and will behave as such. What about those that don’t behave as we do? Spirits of animals are one thing, elementals, spirits of the place, woodland and cave entities are quite another.

A ghost, a real ghost is just that. It’s an echo of someone doing the same thing over and over again. These are sometimes called “Repeater Ghosts”.

A spirit is interactive to a varied degree. And not all of them are Human. Not all of them are even dead, most never had a physical body to begin with. Spirits, to my limited understanding, can include, but are not restricted to:

  • People
  • Animals
  • Elements (spirits of the place, forces of nature- such as storms, water, the wind, earth etc)
  • Elementals (Type 2) beings that elicit a response to feed off emotional energy of a certain kind, e.g. fear, lust, anger, sadness.
  • Poltergeists
  • Barghasts (sometimes called Boggarts)
  • Woodland and household spirits

In fact, I’ve come to look at spirits like animal pests: they are only considered a nuisance when they start interacting and interfering with our world. It only becomes a “haunting” when it interacts with our everyday existence, sometimes with subtle or terrifying results.

And this brings me on to my next point: say there is a spirit present and you want it removing….. performing a Catholic exorcism isn’t going to work on a being that has A: been there for a very long time. B: it neither recognises or respects the religion now being pushed on to it. And C, really doesn’t like these beings of flesh telling it what to do.

With a few exceptions, those few spirits I have encountered have responded positively to being treated respectfully and as beings in their own right. For anyone who wants to give “Smishing” a bash, please remember you are dealing with either someone who was alive once, or you are dealing with something else…… neither of which deserve you disturbing it nor do they deserve you shouting and hollering at it because you want to play at being “spooky” and think you have a right to prod something you know nothing about.

NB: Please note that not all spirits are neutral in nature and some can not only be quite volatile, they can be harmful too, there are those that even seem to thrive on it. If you come across one of these, unless you know what you are doing….. leave it the hell alone and get away from it.

Merry Samhain and Happy Halloween!

Dealing with ghosts Pt.2- How Do You Know If One Is There?

Photo by pxhere.com
Photo by pxhere.com

As previously stated in Pt.1, 99% of phenomenon in hauntings and ghost hunting vigils are everyday experiences within buildings heightened by excitement, imagination, and expectation of something happening.

But what about that 1%?

How do you know if there is something there?

Well, chances are if something is definitely there, it will make itself known.

The Physical With my physical senses, I have heard footsteps, voices and felt hands upon my shoulder. Each of these was in different locations was ultimately quite ordinary until I realised with a “Did that just happen!?” The touching was in a seance and there was definitely no physical person behind me.

With my own eyes I have seen things I cannot explain, each time was very unlike a Hollywood ghostly encounter. If anything, they were so ordinary, that at first I just assumed they were either a customer or a colleague, or even my own mother (see below). But in all cases, they seemed as solid as you and me, which is why I discounted them until I realised there was no one actually there. And each time, they were slightly blurred, a bit like when I’m looking at someone without my glasses or contact lenses. It was as though I could see them, but wasn’t able to see them properly…. perhaps wasn’t supposed to see them, but at those points my perception must have changed. The examples I gave in the first post were other things I had seen and experienced, all occurred when I wasn’t looking for anything, I wasn’t even thinking about such things. Except for when I was in a seance.

One, which stands out, was from childhood. When we were kids, me and my brother shared a bedroom and slept with the light on. Yes, I was I scared of the dark….. anyway, I awoke one night and heard my brother stirring and my eyes were drawn to the figure of my mother standing at the doorway, she wore her green and blue jumper and her hair was long in those days and because of the way it fell, her face was in the dark. I turned to my brother and told him it’s ok, Mum was there. I asked her the next day why she was standing at the doorway and she claimed she didn’t. Mum was never one for sleep walking, and even if she did, she never went to bed wearing a jumper, especially in spring. So who or what did I see? Year’s later, Mum confided that many years ago, she awoke to see a little boy and a little girl dressed in turn of the century (early 20th Century) clothing standing at the end of her bed. Even if these are descriptions of being in a hypnogogic state, I still get chills thinking about the apparition at the doorway.

Another way, would be for a spirit to do things, open cupboards, move objects, slam doors, throw objects. I can’t say I’ve encountered these, except that one time my hole-puncher decided to leap from the back of a shelf and to the floor for no reason, but I know others who have….. especially when one of them (best mate, very down to earth fella, not one for making things up) lived alone in his grandmother’s flat (she had died a few years previously) and he came home to find all his cupboards wide open. Years later, back in 2016, I was visiting as we were doing a show together and I praised him for having a self boiling kettle…. turns out it didn’t self boil and had never had a history of switching itself on….. I made sure I thanked his gran and made myself a cuppa. Might as well.

The Psychic

Sometimes you walk into a place and it just feels odd. I’m a big believer in emotional resonance and that if an emotional reaction is strong enough, it can stay in that particular room. The rest of a building might feel placid, whereas one room might make you feel sad, afraid, angry etc for no reason whatsoever. Sometimes whole places feel like this, be it a building or even an outdoor space.

Though you might not see any spirits, you might get any of the following. Please bear in mind this is not an exhaustive list and I’m only going on what I have experienced myself:

  • Hairs standing on end and the feeling of not being alone.
  • Feeling emotional in one particular place, even though you were feeling fine and focused seconds before.
  • Images, faces, names, dates repeating themselves over and over and over again.
  • Voices in your mind that are not your internal monologue.
  • Your aura and personal space being “touched” despite no physical thing being there.

I’m sure there are plenty more ways to detect a spirit of some kind, you might have found your own ‘sensors’ in different ways.

A Note On Psychics: I would never go so far to say that I am a psychic. The genuine ones, or at least the ones I have met, tend to be very quiet about being such. And some of those people can’t switch it off, they live with it and carry on with life as best as they can. Others, have some ability of varying degrees and can sense some things, but even then only when something is being active (I would class myself in this category). Then there are those who want to stand out and be special and declare to the world about how they see spirits all the time and how they see “orbs” left, right and centre, yet are strangely quiet when someone needs help of a spiritual kind.

I believe the quiet, respect the unassuming and have no time for the loud.

Click here for Pt.3

Dealing with ghosts…..

Janine Melnitz: Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP , clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?

Winston Zeddmore: Ah, if there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say. – Ghostbusters, 1984.

Throughout my childhood, I was both fascinated and scared of the paranormal. I was all too ready to watch ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ cartoons, read the comics and shared the toys with my younger brother. (Ok, I hogged them, sorry Bruv.) Although when watching the film for the first time when I was 7 (I think?), I totally freaked out! I would loan books from the local school library about mysteries, ghosts, vampires, werewolves and all things generally spooky. Worry not, these weren’t ye olde demonick tomes in easy access of children, these were all children’s books printed by Osbourne, Hamlin, Penguin and others, all with photos and drawings (some of which kept me awake at night!) and were a little old fashioned, even back then- the most recent of which was circa 1982! I was very happy to believe ghosts were real and I could see them (safely) in children’s shows and in books….. I’d have been absolutely terrified to have seen a real one in my own house!

So, growing up looking into these things and wanting to be a real life ghost buster (at 8 years old, I had high aspirations!), earned me a bit of a reputation as being a bit weird. To me, that was interesting. Way more fun than football and sports! Even when I decided to become Christian, I couldn’t help but take notice that there were things in this world that people tended to…. ignore. That fascination stayed with me and so began my journey from Christianity to Shamanism, to Wicca, to Hedgewitchcraft and of course to Druidry. Even today, the partner of one of my older cousins refers to me as “Merlin” and jokingly asks “What’s Merlin up to now?” It’s a laugh and I often tell my cousin “Tell him Merlin says Hi!” And that’s as far as the “Merlin” thing goes for me. But, I digress.

And it was a member of the family who sought my advice on this very subject: One of my younger cousins messaged me recently, telling me she and her long-term boyfriend are putting a deposit down on a rather nice looking flat….. in a reconverted mental hospice from 1880. And she wanted to know if she had to be worried about anything spooky being there…..

Now, I resisted all urges of my sense of humour kicking in and making stuff up stuff about her having to watch out for her being possessed, climbing walls and seeing the patients in the mirror as well as messages of “REDRUM!” bleeding from the walls…..that would have only fueled her worries. I got the idea she wouldn’t have seen the funny side.

Instead, I did the decent thing and told her the truth: There was nothing to worry about. Truth is, a lot of it is all hype and expectation. Yes, you get reports of haunted hospitals and hospices. And yes my young cousin has had her potential future neighbours say there’s been a few strange things going on. But this doesn’t mean that every building of the type has to be haunted by spirits of the dead.

I haven’t followed the ghost hunter route, but I did take part in a few seances, ghost hunts and even carried out my own investigations. I’m not an expert in this field, there are others who are way more experienced than me. But what I found when it came to going around looking for ghosts was: a lot of it is down to what people bring with them.

99% of a haunting is in fact quite mundane in what causes it: houses move and creak, as do pipes and wood. Pockets of temperature occur in buildings, as do damp and dry spots. Even vibrations from a road can affect a building in some way. When you take these things into account, these are everyday things that go on in every buildings everyday. It’s amazing how terrifying they can be when you become all excited about being in a reputable place and suddenly the sounds of the automatic ventilation switching on become “psychokinetic phenomenon feeding on the collective psychic energy and interfering with electric machinery”. When looking for ghosts, people want things to happen and will jump at the most simplist thing when they are primed for an encounter or disturbance.

But what about that 1%?

What about when you are in a dark room with a group of others and the dark actually gets physically thicker, the air gets colder?

What about that time you walk past a door and you see the figure of a person and you discount it as one of your colleagues until you realise no one else is in the same area?

What about that dark shape that flies past the living room and not only do you see it, your housemate asks if you saw it too?

What are those lights you see in and above the trees after a Druid ceremony?

Those are my experiences, and they happened and I saw them, felt them with my own eyes and body. Do I know what they were? No. Ok, the palpable dark thing was most likely the fact no one’s eyes were adjusting to the dark as there was no dusk light to allow us to do so. And you know what physically happens when you become afraid? Your hair stands on end, and adrenaline is all ready to kick in that flight response. If you’re already expecting something to happen, then you’ve wound yourself up before you gotten started.

Do I believe in ghosts? Not quite. I have seen things but I don’t know what they were. Do I believe in energy? Absolutely! Do I believe that energy from people can not only be shared, but also affect a place where there is already a strong energy resonance? Yes I do!

So, how did I explain this to my younger cousin?

I told her that they’ll be fine. That Hollywood has a lot to answer for in terms of making what happens in hauntings waaaayyyyy bigger than what really happens.

I told her that if she wants to make absolutely sure, she can burn some smudging sage, taking it to every corner in every room whilst chanting:

“with this smoke I bring peace, for this space we bring peace, for this home we live in peace”.

The idea being that even if there is the remote chance of something there, if you let it know you are there and don’t want to bother it, it should leave you alone. Plus the smudging helps with ridding any negative energies. I did also recommend that if anything did happen, she is to keep a log, recording of any instances….. and to keep me informed. Just in case I’m wrong.

I am no expert on this subject, but I have found it is easier to make peace with a spirit (human, animal or other) than it is to attempt to force one out.

Click here for Pt.2 .