Lately, one of the ideas kicking around in my brain is about the existence of ghosts, spirits, past lives, and some of the many things that may come with these. I’ve done some reading, which has fed both my writing and my curiosity–a lot of Michelle Belanger, to start. I read Paranormal State‘s Ryan Buell’s book, Paranormal State: My Journey into the Unknown. I read most of the way through Sylvia Browne’s Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds. In my fiction writing, I’m interested in exploring how traumas can shape people for better and worse. The way that people deal with their pasts–with a haunting, either literal or figurative–is a big draw for me.
I’ve had my tarot cards read as a walk-in in a few different stores over the last ten years, and those readings didn’t make much of an impression. My husband went with me when I wanted to go to a local bookstore to hear Mark Anthony, Psychic Lawyer. Last year, I had a phone reading with a psychic I knew more about, and that experience made a big impression on me. I spent some time in few graveyards, photographing old headstones and reading the inscriptions. My husband laughs at me when we drive by graveyards now and mocks me (lovingly), “What graveyard is that?”
I’m following up on my interest whenever I can. I’ve found this to be a successful way for me to stay inspired as a writer. I remember my college writing professor urging us to give ourselves up to our influences so that we could learn what we needed to learn. I’m doing it, to the best of my ability. I’ve watched every episode of Paranormal State and Animal Planet’s The Haunted that I could access on Amazon Prime. I’ve watched a fair number of Ghost Adventures episodes, and my husband always greets the sound of Zak Bagan’s voice with a joking impression: “What the f*** was that?” I am impressed by Lorraine Warren, and researched Ed Warren, after seeing Lorraine on Paranormal State. I learned the word “demonologist,” how dangerous it is to play with Ouji boards or conduct endless EVP sessions, that house blessings and Benedictine medals can be helpful ghost deterrents, that negative spirits feed on negative energy, and that filling one’s life with positive things can, among other things, help with a haunting.
Recently, I discovered The Haunting of… with Kim Russo. And is anyone else watching the new Lifetime show, Ghost inside My Child? There was a new idea for me. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about past lives. The young children on this show (if we have faith in the way the show presents information to us) seem to have real memories of past lives, down to specific and obscure details which match other places, times, and people–details which seem impossible for them to have known. My husband and I are fascinated by this show (though we were disappointed they changed their hilarious creepy child singing three notes of music intro to a less hilarious piano intro). A girl who remembers all the symbols of an ancient culture’s alphabet? A boy who knows which Civil War regiment he served in and the little-known battle in which he died? There’s a new parenting challenge: helping your child to make peace with her or his past life. (At least, if we have kids, I’ll have an awareness of this, if it comes up!)
Is anyone else following some of these shows? Any thoughts? My research has definitely fueled my writing, though I do suffer occasionally from nighttime nervousness. For about a week and a half in August, I woke up at either 1am or 3am (which I know, from ghost investigation shows, seems to be a paranormal time!) and felt like something was there, while at the same time feeling that it was all very likely a symptom of watching too many ghost shows. I did try to wake my husband up one of the times, but he has the enviable gift of being able to sleep through anything….so, on the night I woke up at 3am and needed to go to the bathroom, I woke up my sleeping dog and got him to come down the hall with me, thinking: in the shows, the animals always know if the ghost is there, so I’m good.
While I’m fascinated with all of this, most of what I write I wouldn’t put in the “paranormal” box, though I don’t like strict categories for literature anyway. I’m interested, above all, in how humans work, and for me, that’s a focus on trauma, memory, choice, and rituals. Ghosts in literature work well as metaphors, but they can also be characters in their own right. Only one of my short stories has a ghost. My first novel has one. My current novel has more. We’ll see what happens in the future and where this will take me. I’m still working on my beliefs. I’ve met a lot of people who have had paranormal experiences. It’s an interesting lens to bring to different events. I definitely believe there are things that we don’t understand about the world around us. I believe that sometimes, there are connections and events that seem to rely on an explanation beyond what we commonly accept as real or possible.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these topics. Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Do you believe in past lives? Have you had a paranormal experience?
(All photos are mine, taken in the last few years in some of the cemeteries I’ve visited)