Do you believe in ghosts and spirits? That after death, the essence of those who have passed can linger on? That these whispers of the past can wreak havoc with the living?
I seem to ask myself those questions more this time of year than any other. Giving a definitive answer to any of the above, however, is something I struggle with. I guess you could say that Iím on the paranormal fence when it comes to ghostly spirits and the like.
Have I had some experiences that have made the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention, sending shivers down my spine and causing the blood in my veins to beat at an unhealthy staccato? Absolutely. But with an imagination as overactive as mine, itís hard to tell how much of what Iíve seen or felt actually was real and what was in my head. I just canít rule out that itís more power of suggestion or wanting to believe.
I have a friend who scoffs at the very idea that such things could possibly exist. The idea provokes such rancor in him, that it always shocks me. I think heís convinced that everyone who does believe in them is delusional. (Itís the hoaxes that really get to him.) In some instances, that might even be the case, but I strive to keep a more open outlook.
Iíve always felt that people are entitled to their own beliefs, even if they differ from mine. I know just enough to realize how much I donít know or understand about the universe we call home, not to mention life, death and everything in between. Maybe they are privy to some knowledge that I am not.
For every person I know who is adamant that spirits and ghosts are little more than folklore, I know at least one that is just as adamant in their belief to the contrary. They have told me about things they have seen, felt and heard that have given me goose-bumps. In fact, just thinking about what theyíve told me is giving me those tell-tale shivers right now. I wouldnít dream of discounting their experiences. I just havenít experienced anything similar on my own. And I guess Iím looking for something definitive to happen, something I canít explain away.
Oh, how I hope some intrepid spirit doesnít take that as a challenge. Because, while Iím open to the possibilities of their existence, Iím also a big pansy. Confronted with any real evidence of ghosts and ghoulies, Iíd probably die of fright. Or, at the very least, wet myself.
I enjoy flirting with the idea, though. Thatís why I love the chance to do a bit of ghost hunting with the Evening Sun crew each year. Donít worry, youíll get to hear more about that at some point, but not yet.
Even as a kid, I was always enchanted by tales of magic and mystic mystery. I havenít lost that as Iíve gotten older. (Notice how I did not say ďgrown upĒ - yes, Iíve read all the Harry Potter books. Twice.)
To truly get myself into the Halloween spirit, I stock my reading list with the full gamut of urban fantasy, border-line horror novels (so canít handle the really scary stuff) and a smattering of paranormal romance. Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison and C.E. Murphy are a few of the authors that often appear on that list. But Iíve branched out this year. Iíve already finished The Magicians by Lev Grossman (kind of Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia in Donna Tarttís The Secret History) and Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. And Iím trying to decide which of Maggie Shayneís novels to read first.
While I enjoy escaping into these alternate realities, most of the time Iím quite happy that these beasties donít exist. Or at least I sincerely hope they donít. But if they are, I want to be prepared. Iíd rather be an Anita Blake than a Sookie Sackhouse.
By comparison, the ghostly spirits I might encounter on one of these ghost hunting expeditions seems like cake in comparison. So I think itís safe, at least for the time being, to stay open to the possibilities.