I believe in ghosts.

Believing in ghosts, or spirits, was one of those peculiar habits my mother brought across the Atlantic as a 21-year old Scottish immigrant. Aside from her strange preference for ketchup and salt on her French toast in the mornings, teaching me not to fear ghosts made her proud.

“No reason to fear things that go bump in the night,” she said. “They’re harmless.”

Her voice rolled letters like poetry put to music.

“You know, they want to get out and stretch their legs, too. No bother. Not going to do you or anyone else any harm.”

To her, ghosts were as much of her childhood landscape as blooming purple heather and the gray clouds scraping across the hills looking down on the dark lochs. And just because you didn’t see spirits didn’t make them any less real.

As a child, being scared of the world is instinctive. We learn early to fear what we don’t understand. And noises in the dark of night naturally rank at the top of the list.

While my childhood consisted of fields of split-level homes, hers featured towering ancient stone castles — each attached with a family name and heroic or tragic story to tell. The best of my childhood stories might feature a worn-out stagecoach and the town’s namesake, a blacksmith named Ray.

In my mother’s world, separating the past from the present was different. Today’s world still includes the past, as if those who lived hundreds of years ago never moved on. And why should they, she said, it was their home, too.

She repeatedly said so long as we don’t block out the possibility, we would never be alone.

As an adult, I vowed never to let go of her closely held beliefs. But as I grew older, I became more pragmatic, and certain doors from our childhood silently closed behind us with barely a notice.

But then our 2-year-old son reminded me her lessons might travel generationally without a passport.

One day, my wife and I were pushing him through a nearby cemetery in his stroller when he turned to wave behind us.

Looking back over my shoulder, I could see nothing but oak trees and fields of headstones and markers.

“Who are you waving at?” I said.

“Them,” he said, pointing toward the stones. “The people.”

“The people?”

“Yes,” he said. “The people in the grass.”

To this day, my wife and I remember the chill running down our spines.

If I’d listened more closely, I might have heard my mother in heaven hooting and handing out high-fives.

We decided to pass along my mother’s healthy beliefs. We would always tell the children never to fear the sounds at night or the orbs of light out the corner of their eyes. Spirits, we reminded them, were a normal part of life and death — no reason to fear them.

And to my mother’s delight, I’m sure, they’ve never feared things that go bump in the night.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com.


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(7) comments

Carlos Ponce

Depends on your definition of "ghosts". If by "ghosts" you mean the disembodied essence of someone who once lived then no, there no ghosts. But we are surrounded by often invisible spiritual beings - angels and demons. When you are able to see them, feel or hear their presence many will identify them as "ghosts".

Then there are temporal apparitions - a look into the past or future. Ghost hunting shows often refer to them as "residual haunts" - a recording of something that happened or will happen that appears in our present.

Bailey Jones

My family has a long history of events that can only be described as paranormal. As a child, I was plagued by auditory hallucinations that terrified me. I eventually got the courage to confront them - and they went away, and I remain a skeptic to this day.

When we bought our east end house, I would often hear children's footsteps at night running up and down the hall. I eventually traced this to the house next door - which had children. The proximity of the houses and the mutual resonance of the two structures caused the footsteps of the kids next door to be amplified in our house. Still annoying, but not scary.

But I have no explanation for the numerous experiences of my parents and siblings.

Carlos Ponce

If your family is like you they attract demonics. Your current situation sounds temporal. Nothing to fear.

Bailey Jones

Oh great - one more uninvited opinion on a subject you know nothing about. Lord Moloch, give me strength!

Carlos Ponce

A subject Bailey knows nothing about.

Jim Forsythe

Some believe in things that cannot be seen, but mock other that believe in things that cannot be seen!

Currently the most common paranormal belief in the United States is that places can be haunted by spirits (57.7%), followed closely by the belief that ancient, advanced civilizations, such as Atlantis once existed (56.9%). More than two out of five Americans (41.4%) believe that that aliens visited Earth in our ancient past and more than a third believe aliens are visiting now (35.1%). More than one in five Americans says they have seen a ghost themselves, or have felt themselves to be in the presence of one. Nearly half of Americans say they believe in ghosts. 25.3 percent of Americans have no paranormal beliefs at all.

Jean Lafitte's Maison Rouge in Galveston is one of the most haunted places in Galveston.

Bailey Jones

Jim, I'm agnostic on the existence of ghosts - due to the utter lack of scientific evidence, but if any place in the world has ghosts, it would have to be Galveston where 1000's died in the most horrible of circumstances in 1900. The fact that Galveston doesn't have more ghosts is one of the things that keeps me a skeptic. I'm certainly open to a visitation, though, even if it's just Carlos' favorite punk band.


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