Grappling with the Unseen: Ghosts
“The greatest thing you have to fear walks on two legs.” That was what my parents taught us children whenever we got spooked or watched a ghost story on TV. It was a smart thing to drill into a kid in case he stupidly passed off a nighttime burglary as a ghostly disturbance. Later in life however, I found myself trying to unravel the mysteries of the unseen world.
I was working in an old house that had been converted to business offices. It was a bright, sunny, summer day and I was alone in the building. I had unwrapped two reams of paper, one for the copier and another to put on a shelf. Well trained by copier technicians, I fanned both reams – a common practice to prevent jams. As soon as I’d set the second ream on the shelf, it fanned itself in the same way I’d just done. I immediately said a prayer for protection. When faced with the unexplained, one turns to the highest power. In my case it was a Christian prayer.
I was perplexed. How could an entire ream of paper fan itself? I turned and looked at the window, already knowing it wasn’t open. There was no air moving, everything was still. I tried to recreate it; that didn’t work. There was no logical explanation. I went on working, feeling stupid as I occasionally crept to the other room to look at the paper, as if I could catch it fluttering away by itself. Of one thing I was certain — I wasn’t going to tell my coworkers.
The next unexplained occurrence happened again when I was alone. About a dozen people worked in my building, and everyone had left for a meeting. With a clear view of the door, I had seen them all leave so I was surprised when I heard people walking and talking upstairs. They were making a ruckus, and I was concerned they would miss their meeting. I went to the bottom of the stairs and yelled, “Hey, who’s up there? You guys know that meeting started fifteen minutes ago right?” Silence. I called again. Nothing. I walked upstairs cautiously; perplexed but not scared. The idea that no one was up there hadn’t even occurred to me. But no one was up there. I stood in a hallway and looked down to an office where I heard a heavy thud on the floor. Relieved that Jack was in there, I thought he must have thrown some very heavy binders down. “Jack?” I called. No answer. His high back chair was turned away from me toward the window. As I walked toward it, my mind suddenly flashed a scene of Norman Bates mother in Psycho. I swung the chair around quickly. It was empty.
Later that day, I commented casually to my mother that I thought I was working in a haunted house. She casually listened. I told her about the footsteps…and the trash can.
Under my desk sat a flip top trashcan. The lid would flip by itself so violently I’d jump out of my seat. It was as if someone who had never seen one was playing with it. Though annoying, I learned to ignore it. When the bathroom faucet turned on full force immediately after I turned it off, I stood and stared at it. That is what we humans do best — stare blankly at things we don’t understand. At least dogs know to bark.
One of my oddest experiences was watching a highlighter click in and out by itself, as if something or someone was amused by it.
Finally one day, a respected coworker stood in the middle of the building and declared to anyone that would listen that the place was haunted. For demographic interest – he was politically conservative, Protestant, and otherwise ate, drank and slept “profit margin.” I nearly fell over. He described many of the same things I’d experienced; loud footsteps, shuddering thumps; clamoring sounds in the next office only to find no one there. He was a rational man making seemingly irrational claims.
I felt vindicated. Later, another coworker — a liberal and devout Catholic — confessed to hearing all hell breaking loose in the building whenever he was left alone after 5:00 p.m. On this point, both men agreed.
I was now faced with a possibly life-changing question. What causes so-called paranormal activity and how did it fit into my Christian worldview?
One thing I learned: Don’t bother pondering this question with those who have never experienced what is commonly referred to as a “ghost.” It’s like trying to convince an atheist there’s a God. Until you can prove the unprovable — it’s pointless.
“What do I believe in?” I asked myself. “I believe in God and Satan; demons and angels, good and evil” I responded. I am skeptical, however, that all things “paranormal” are the result of demonic or angelic activity.
I do believe evil can exist in structures or in certain areas. I believe in theprincipalities and powers of the Bible. When I bought my house many years ago, my family and I joined hands the first day and claimed the house for Jesus. It just seemed like the natural thing to do, and I imagine any faith that believes in evil would conduct itself similarly.
A recent poll showed that nearly 45% of Americans believe in ghosts “or that the spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations.” I wrestled with ghosts — or I should say the idea of them. In the end, I decided that when I thought prayer was needed, God would provide protection and comfort. My biggest epiphany was accepting that Shakespeare was right: There were more things in heaven and earth than I could dream of in my philosophy. I knew the most important thing was not to become obsessed with such things or elevate them above God. For instance, I wouldn’t purposely seek out the dead for conversation — a practice prohibited in both Judaism and Christianity. That’s God’s territory. I don’t even have reason to believe that what are commonly called “ghosts” are spirits of the deceased. I only know that all will become clear when I have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Ultimately, the supernatural disturbances at my former employer didn’t sway my faith; but strengthened it. As I plod through this life on my way to meet my God, I don’t mind living with the idea that there are things that are too big for my own comprehension. I’m okay with that. Knowing how a magician does his tricks spoils the show. I’d be disappointed in a God who didn’t leave a few surprises up his sleeve. This world is too full of tangibles and burdensome realities. Perhaps it’s good to have a few ethereal enigmas thrown in to remind us that we don’t have all the answers and that we are, after all, but wayfaring strangers on our way to another land.
Originally published in American Thinker:
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