Ghosts & Haunted Houses
- By Jenna Maxwell
In a Gallup poll taken in 2005, it was discovered that at least 32% of Americans believed in ghosts. Have you ever wondered about the possibility of their existence yourself? Perhaps there have been times when you’ve felt yourself being watched, or you’ve had that creepy crawly feeling that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. Perhaps it’s a bad case of the heebie jeebies, a really vivid imagination or maybe, just maybe there is something paranormal going on. Here's a look at some of the history and beliefs surrounding the existence of ghosts and haunted houses.
It has been purported that ghosts are most frequently thought to dwell at or near a place where they have a strong emotional attachment. This could be a former residence or other place that they regularly frequented, such as a ship or a prison. Sometimes a dramatic or traumatic event occurred in a location, which might explain the existence of a ghost in a particular place. For example a sudden accidental death, a murder, or even a suicide might be a likely place to feel a ghostly presence. Locations that seem to be associated with possible haunting include graveyards, battlefields and other places of massive disaster.
The Ancient Days
In very ancient days, the highly superstitious people of old were always fearful of ghosts, spirits and demons that may be out and about. These particular people believed that spirits of the deceased always returned for a specific purpose, whether it was to be a messenger, for a prophetic purpose of some kind or in the case of evil demonic spirits, the purpose was usually thought to be to tempt the living or try to frighten or torment them in some way. Even in these early days there have been stories of people seeing ghostly apparitions of various types, sometimes rattling chains or causing other forms of mayhem or chaos.
The general school of thought, however, is that the spirits that are doing the haunting seem to be tormented in some way and therefore it’s natural to have some level of fear regarding them. The potential instability of this type of spirit indicates that some could possibly be dangerous. Some spirits are thought to dwell in a home where they once lived and seem to be upset by any new residents that live there. There are many stories of homeowners that have heard strange noises and voices and sounds at unexpected times. Other times, a more playful spirit just has left cabinet doors open, misplaced small personal belongings only to make them reappear later and at times slammed doors or other minor annoyances. Although there often is a logical explanation for many of these occurrences (such as drafts, carelessness, or hoaxes) other times, the phenomenon has no explanation whatsoever, leading many to suspect more supernatural forces may be at play. Some more malicious ghosts are thought to be present and reeking havoc out of vengeance or some other evil agenda. It is believed by some that occasionally ghosts are simply trapped here in a form of purgatory as punishment for sins committed while living, and their length of time in a state of limbo depends on the level of sin committed and how long their actual penance may be.
People who have had ghost sightings seem to universally agree that an actual ghost seems to have a very misty, wispy appearance and are often noted to be translucent. Some stories have told of very detailed ethereal images appearing with full clothing and features as the person may have appeared in life. Other ghosts have appeared in a more blurred, airy and subtle form. Undoubtedly, the image is usually thought to have the image of a person and is now appearing in its spiritual form although there have been reports of some pets and animals coming back as ghosts as well.
As long as there have been people dying, there have been those who have believed in the existence of ghosts and spirits, whether they are considered to be good or evil. Many funeral rites and rituals were actually originally designed to prevent the deceased from coming back in spirit form to haunt the living and to ensure that the person moved on successfully into the afterlife.
Haunted Houses - Legend & Folklore
Haunted houses have been told of in both legend and folklore for thousands of years. Strange visions, lights, sounds, odors, breezes, temperature changes, movement of objects, doors opening and closing, ringing bells and musical instruments that spontaneously play are some of the strange phenomena that has occurred in homes or locations that were thought to be haunted. Sometimes the ghost is more malevolent and will break things and cause damage to the home. Still other times, the ghost will appear as a frightening apparition in order to create fear to those residing in the home.
There are legends that some important historical figures have been thought to appear as ghosts from time to time. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed after being accused of numerous crimes including witchcraft, adultery, and being a traitor. Numerous supposed sightings of Anne’s ghost have been reported near the Tower of London where she was killed and still other people have claimed to see her ghost near her childhood home in Kent.
The ghost of Benjamin Franklin is another spirit that some claim to have seen on a number of occasions. Sightings of Mr. Franklin’s ghost have occurred near the library of the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia where the statue of Benjamin is located. Some say that his spirit has been seen dancing near this locale in the streets of Philadelphia.
One of the more infamous people to make ghostly visits back from the afterlife seems to be that of Abraham Lincoln. Many people have claimed to see Mr. Lincoln’s visage wandering about the Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois as well as in nearby office buildings. In the actual White House, numerous people have claimed to feel the presence of Abe on several occasions, particularly in the bedroom that was purported to be his. Many other claims of spirits and presences being felt in the White House have been reported over the years and based on numerous stories and rumors that have been told, the White House could easily be considered as most likely haunted.
Haunted locations and houses have been reported virtually all over the world and in many different locations. It seems that the most active centers for haunting occur in locations that naturally would attract such activity. Battlefields, for example are a popular place for ghost sightings, which stands to reason based on the grisly history that occurred in these spots. Another infamously active source of paranormal activity is the Queen Mary, a luxury ship that is docked in Long Beach, California. Once a British-Royal Navy ship, the cruise ship was supposed to be turned into a floating luxury resort and hotel. With over 50 ghost sightings on the ship, it’s not uncommon for people to go and stay on the Queen Mary not so much for a luxurious experience, but rather in hopes of having a paranormal or ghostly encounter. The ship has become infamous for its supernatural activity, including a plethora of strange sounds, such as ghostly children playing, splashing sounds near the swimming pool, unexplained activity on the ship’s bow, and many other strange phenomena’s.
Many make claims about the haunting of various sorts of places and the sightings of ghosts and spirits, but very little evidence has ever been gathered to support these claims and most of the stories that go around have little scientific proof to give much validity to them. Sometimes simple explanations can be made to assuage fears of residents as to what might be actually happening within the home. Strange phenomena can sometimes be explained simply by drafts, house settling, bad wiring, old plumbing and other things that happen in antiquated buildings. Still other claims of Haunted houses have been exposed to be orchestrated hoaxes which makes one naturally dubious about any other stories of ghosts or other paranormal phenomena. Even still, since the beginning of time, man has been aware of his mortality and wondered about what occurs when his sojourn here on earth has ended. Man’s curiosity about ghosts, spirits and the paranormal is unlikely to wane until all his questions have been fully satisfied and getting all the answers to those questions seems very unlikely to ever occur.
Haunted Houses & Halloween
At Halloween time, it will always be very popular to visit Haunted Houses that are created as seasonal attractions. These houses aren’t actually haunted by real ghosts of course, but are decorated with a wide variety of pretend ghostly beings, ghouls, monsters and lots of other things that go bump in the night. The sole purpose of these attractions is to scare the visitors to the point where they are screaming in fright. These set up Haunted Houses are extremely popular at Halloween time as they try to simulate the experience of entering an actual Haunted House. The experience is often done at a very extreme level with bloody, grisly and very gruesome created scenes set up inside the house. The addition of animated props, effects and special lighting such as strobes, along with smoke or mist machines add dramatic flair and a spooky ambience to the haunted setting.
Ghosts, supposed hauntings, paranormal activity and ghost stories (fact or fiction) will always be an integral part of Halloween celebrating. Halloween’s deepest roots, legends and folklore center on the fear and intrigue that people have when it comes to things unknown. Spirits of the deceased were feared because it was unknown how these ghosts might impact people’s lives. Although in our modern day we don’t focus our lives around these fears and worries, human nature will still garner great intrigue and curiosity when it comes to the paranormal and it’s natural to wonder what really is out there.
Halloween is a holiday that stems from customs that center around ancient supernatural and paranormal beliefs. Dressing up in ghostly costumes that represent the frightful, mystic and metaphysical beings we fear will always be a great way to celebrate and to make light of things that might actually be considered somewhat frightening. Scaring ourselves just for fun will always be an element of what has become one of the most enjoyable and exciting parts of celebrating Halloween