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Ghost: Shadows Hold Their Breath

Updated on October 17, 2013
"Going Home"
"Going Home" | Source

What is a Ghost?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a ghost as, "an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear to the living, typically as a nebulous image; a spirit or soul."

some spooky reading
some spooky reading

Ghosts in the Media

"I see dead people," is the famous line from M. Night Shyamalan's movie, The Sixth Sense. But that was not the first to bring ghosts to the big screen. From The House on Haunted Hill (1959), to Ghostbusters (1984), to the Paranormal Activity series (2007-present), we have been eager to visualize encounters with the spirit world.

For centuries, authors have capitalized on our fascination with spirits of the dead. Charles Dickens, Niel Gaiman, William Shakespeare and Stephen King incorporate spectral phenomenon into their tales. Washington Iriving penned The Legend of Sleepy Hallow, about a headless horseman who haunts a small post-colonial town just north of where I grew up in Westchester County, NY. One of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe's collection of works is filled with frightening and emotional encounters with the beyond.

Some people have even been able to make a living connecting with those who have moved beyond our corporeal world. Theresa Caputo has a show on TLC, called The Long Island Medium, where she visits with families and contacts their deceased loved ones. She seems quite at ease talking to these ghosts and her clients appear genuinely moved by the experience. Crossing Over with John Edward was a popular television series from 1999-2004, in which the host spoke to spirits connected with audience members. The host, John Edward, supposedly had no prior contact with his guests, but watching it, I couldn't help feeling the whole thing was staged. I'm not saying that Mr Edward is not able to communicate with ghosts, I'm just not certain how genuine his televised program was.

a midnight grave visit
a midnight grave visit | Source

"Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that's what."

--Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

Ghostly Celebrations

Many cultures have traditions and celebrations of the dead, with the belief that, if only for one day, they shall rise again and walk the earth.

Hungry Ghost Festival: On the 14th day of the 7th month, based on a lunar calender, this festival is celebrated by Buddhists and Taoists. It is believed that the gates of hell are open at their widest and wayward ghosts come back to visit. A parade of decorated lanterns is carried to the water, where they are lit and released. The glowing lanterns guide lost souls and deities to the food offerings which are left for them.

learn more at

The Day of the Dead: El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition with celebrations beginning the night of October 31st and going through November 2nd, in which people honor their deceased loved ones. The Aztecs had month long festivities in the summer for the goddess Mictecacihautl, the Lady of the Dead, with similarities to current traditions. Common customs today include fixing up a relative's grave or making an altar to welcome the spirits home. Families may bake a pan de muerto, bread baked with a skeleton figure in it.

more info can be found at

Halloween: This popular Western holiday was originally an ancient Celtic harvest festival, Samhain (sow-in). As a new year celebration, it marked the end of summer and the beginning of the harsh winter. On this night, the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Druids would build bonfires and made sacrifices to their gods while dressing in animals skins and heads. That is where we get the tradition of wearing costumes to celebrate Halloween. When Christianity took over much of Western culture, November 1st became All Soul's Day to honor the dead.

get the complete story at

#712, Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death--

He kindly stopped for me--

The Carriage held but just Ourselves--

And Immortality

We slowly drow--He knew no haste

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too,

For His Civility--

We passed the School, where Children strove

At Recess--in the RIng--

We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain--

We passed the Setting Sun--

Or rather--He passed Us--

The Dews drew quivering and chill--

For only Gossamer, my Gown--

My Tippet--only Tulle--

We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground--

The Roof wqas scarcely visible--

The Cornice--in the Ground--

Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses Heads

Were toward Eternity--

A Close Encounter

Professor Hans Holzer, PhD, has studied the paranormal extensively and published numerous books on the subject. In Ghosts, True Encounters with the World Beyond, he ascertains, "Ghostly experiences are neither supernatural nor unnatural; they fit into the general pattern of the universe we live in." For my life, that has certainly been true.

I grew up in the city of Mount Vernon, NY, which is rich with ghastly history. It was founded by Anne M. Hutchinson, a colonial woman who was later hanged as a witch for her outspoken political and social views. Like in the rest of NY State, the land in Westchester County was allocated in deeds to European settlers, taken away from the Natives that had resided there. During the Revolution, Wetchester became a battle ground, specifically in Pelham and White Plains, creating divisions in families between Loyalists and rebels. There was much bloodshed. In many cases of ghostly encounters, the deceased had met a gruesome and untimely death, leaving their lives unfulfilled or leading to a restless afterlife. Due to this history, I am never surprised to find ghosts wandering through my home town.

In the house I spent most of my childhood, I had my first conscious encounter with a ghost. The house was a three storey grey and white Victorian, which was over 100 years old when we had moved in. I was a young child, about three or so, and the house seemed enormous! I remember always having a fear of the attic and basement, but it could have been attributed to my claustrophobia. The longer we lived there, however, the spookier it became. An old house, with lots of wooden parts is likely to creak. As we walked up, or down, the stairs. In the heat. The cold. Damp or dryness. Storms. Wind blowing. This house surely had a voice!

But there were times, in the darkness of the night, when all the world was still, that you could hear something else.

Laying in my bed, alone, with only a night-light for comfort, I could hear the attic stairs creak and moan as if a full grown man was walking upon them. (Note: my mother was raising 3 children alone for the majority of our time in this house.) And then, as I sucked in a breath, I could hear the attic door open. The same thing would happen in the basement. If I was on the first floor, I would often hear a loud POP! as the basement door flung itself open of its own accord. And the rickety wooden stairs would creak as if the weight upon them would make them crack.

I was more than certain that someone else besides my family was occupying our house.

However, I can honestly say, that I was not necessarily afraid of the spirit itself. It's nightly wanderings were startling, no doubt, but it didn't seem evil in any way or have any malicious intent. I named him Harry, though I am still uncertain as to why. The name felt like it fit and helped me be at ease with his presence.

On my 13th birthday, three friends and I had a sleepover in the attic, and getting spooked by his trip upstairs, we used the Ouija board to attempt contacting Harry. I don't believe the Ouija board actually works, there's too much human interference to be truly open to the other side. I think all we ended up doing was scaring ourselves silly and falling asleep snuggled in a corner under a pile of blankets. We had made up a story for Harry's life and untimely demise. Something about lust and betrayal. But it didn't feel right to me, it didn't fit with the benign spirit that wandered my rooms. I don't know who or what Harry had been when corporeal on this earth, but i know I felt bereft when my family moved from that old Victorian house and I had to say goodbye.

a photographer's representation of "Harry," the ghost in the Victorian house
a photographer's representation of "Harry," the ghost in the Victorian house

To Bless Rose Water Yourself

  • Light a candle
  • pass the bottle over the flame (do not place it in the fire)
  • recite a prayer to the deity in which you believe (the words to do not have to follow a specific pattern)
  • the sentiment should involve protection and positive emotions: love, faith, etc.

To Rid Unwanted Sprits from Your Residence

** Do not attempt an actual exorcism, banishment or to help a spirit "move on," unless you have the proper experience, tools and support. This is to be used for non-violent, relatively benign otherworldly presences. To deal with more severe cases, seek out your religious leader or a professional in the paranormal.

You will need a sage smudge stick (purification) and a bottle of blessed water (protection). If you are Catholic, Holy Water works great. If not, a bottle of Rose Water will work. (See my previous blog post of details on how to make your own.) Have the Rose Water blessed by your person religious leader or you can do it yourself. You may, if comfortable, do this on your own, or have someone trustworthy by your side. If you inclined, invite your prayer group or coven to assist.

Light the sage, walking around the room or house, gently calling forth the spirit. Try not to be hostile in any way or you may provoke hostility from the ghost. Once the room is cleansed with the sage, place the smudge stick, still lit, in the center of the room in a plate or bowl which will not melt or catch fire (traditionally, an abalone shell is used).

State your intent with honesty and calmness. A good way to put it may be: "To the spirit roaming the place, I ask you to leave me in peace. I am choosing to reside here and if we cannot coexist in tranquility, I ask you to leave this space and disturb me no more."

Now, sprinkle a drop or two of your blessed water in each corner of the room, in the corners of all the doorways and windows. If you have a specific area in which you feel the ghost linger, sprinkle there, as well as any household altars or relics you may have. I like to place a few drops around my bed, and my son's bed also.

Wait a few moment, breathing deeply with the thoughts of peace and tranquility in your mind. You may choose to pray at this time. Give thanks to the ghost for complying and your deity for lending you its strength. Extinguish the smudge stick.

You may not notice it immediately, but the space should feel cleansed and peaceful.

"...and that the bandages and draperies of the grave still imparted their charnel character to the figure, I might have dreamed that Rowena had indeed shaken off, utterly, the fetters of Death. But if this idea was not, even then, altogether adopted, I could, at least, doubt no longer, when, arising from the bed, tottering, with feeble steps, with closed eyes, and with the air of one bewildered in a dream, the lady of Tremaine stood bodily and palpably before me."

--excerpt from Ligeia, by Edgar Allen Poe


Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

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    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      Interesting hub, especially this time of year it's fun to read about ghosts. I grew up in a house with a benign ghosts, I think it really helps to abate a lot of fear because you get used to it before you can get to an age in which you judge it harshly with pre-conceived notions.