Recently Llewellyn published a book with the intriguing title, Don't Call Them Ghosts. That made me remember some of the various "ghosts" I have encountered in my life. And the many stories I've heard over the years.
Perhaps we shouldn't call true"spiritual survivors' ghosts—but it is still a good enough term for many paranormal encounters until the nature of the experience is better understood.
Many years ago I had a really scary experience that taught me a few lessons about the personal nature of paranormal encounters and the problem of pre-judgement.
I knew a lady and knew that she "played around," even though she was married to a nice and successful guy, had two fine children and a good professional career.
In those days, I drove a convertible and on a warm autumn evening I had the top down. I had been working late and as a I drove through downtown on the way home I heard a newsboy shout (that's how long ago this happened) "St. Paul woman shot in motel room."
Somehow I immediately knew who the woman was, and turned on the television (black and white, long before color) as soon as I got home. It was a big story, and her companion of a motel tryst was being held under suspicion of murder. Yet, he was seen having breakfast in the motel restaurant when gun fire was heard. It being hunting season in a hunting area, not much was thought at the time except that "that was damned close by."
I had met the man once, and doubted he was a murderer. Motivation was lacking. He said they had argued, and he had left the room so she could cool down. She was, he said, depressed, and wanted something exciting in her life.
The weapon was his deer rifle. Both his fingerprints and hers were on it. The claim was that it would be difficult to commit suicide with a deer rifle.
I went to sleep that evening with the thought that—in spirit—she would try to contact me to answer the question in my mind: Was it murder or suicide or an accident?
I was awakened after midnight with the most awful sound in the room—like heavy gasping breathing. Huugh! Huugh! Huugh!
I was rigid with fear. If I looked, would I see a terrible apparition of a woman with her chest blown out? Huugh! Huugh! Huugh! As regular as clockwork.
I had to look. I saw nothing in the dark. With the light on I became more sensible and could perceive that the sound seemed to come from the area near my dresser. I got up and went there. As regular as clockwork—there was an old electric alarm clock literally "giving up the ghost." With gears grinding together as the old clock died!
But I was truly scared during this experience, and yet there was no reason for fear and there was really nothing paranormal—unless one could say that I was being given a message that "things were not as they seemed."
The coroner's decision in the matter was that she had first fired the weapon into the ceiling of the motel room in the hope of bringing the man back, and when that didn't work, she had turned it around and taken her own life.
The alarm clock incident wasn't my only encounter with a "ghost."
When I was about fifteen years of age, I was alone in the family house one evening while my parents were at our summer home in the country. I was reading in bed, and was disturbed by a familiar sound. The light switches in our living room were brass and made a distinctive and rather loud noise easily heard in the quiet house. As I was alone, I had to determine the source of the sound. Well, the living room lights were on, and I was more than sure I had turned them off.
Looking through the house, nothing was amiss and the outside doors were locked.
Back to bed and my novel. Soon a similar sound was heard—and again one I could identify: the sound of the basement light switch. Again I found that light on when I was more than sure it was off on my previous search of the house.
Back to bed, and to sleep, feeling perfectly secure. I was awakened several hours later by the telephone. It was a collect call for my mother. I explained that she was not at home and I would not accept the call. A man's voice intervened over the operator's and asked if the name "Louis Tippel" meant anything to me. I said that was the name of my mother's brother. The operator wanted to know if I would now accept the call, and I agreed. The man said that my Uncle Louis had died in a Los Angeles hospital, and would I have my mother call to make arrangements.
I am convinced that those light switches were my uncle's last attempt at communicating with his sister.
As far as I am concerned, this was a real encounter with the paranormal, and there was nothing frightening about it. But in the other case there really wasn't anything paranormal and yet it was very frightening.
Are real "ghosts" or true spiritual contacts ever really frightening?