Under such circumstances, where did the orthodoxy, "there are no such things as ghosts" come from? Did somebody, perhaps during the Age of Reason, examine a major sample of the best and most cogent ghost sightings, and demonstrate that all of them had mundane explanations? If so, time has not been kind to him; his name and work have been lost to posterity. You will not find them referred to in any skeptical article. No! What really happened is it was decided, about the same time, that ghosts did not fit into the developing scientific materialist framework, and therefore they could not exist - and so, any alleged sighting must have a mundane explanation.
As for me, I belong to the nine out of ten who have never encountered a ghost. However, I have noticed that if you raise the issue in a group of any size - say a dozen or two - you are likely to find someone who has had the experience. And in one case, the story she told was so vivid and impressive, that I wrote down the details before my memory had a chance to fade.
The date was 20 January, 1975, and I was boarding temporarily with a group of young fellow-Christians in a house in Epping, Sydney. The youngest of these was a 17-year-old girl called Tracey C., who had recently joined the group in order to get her life back together after a couple of years of wild abandonment, which had left her with alcoholic gastritis. Tracey was a memorable character in more ways than one. She told us about her recent employment as a cartoonist for Hanna Barbera in Australia, assisting in creating a cartoon of two fat kids for an ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC), and an ad for the short-lived product, Uncle Sam's underarm deodorant. (I'm not making this up.) She liked snakes, and claimed that she had once had a number of pet snakes roaming free in her home. She had first milked them of venom, and then broke the tips off their fangs so that the venom would never accumulate, but merely leak out one tiny drop at a time, which was of no danger. (I'm not making this up, either.) But Tracey liked all poisonous creatures, and the last I saw of her, she was recovering from the bite of a spider she had tried to befriend.
In any case, on the night in question, a group of us were gathered around a table, and the conversation moved from the recent movie, The Exorcist, to ghosts in general. At that point, Tracey announced she had seen the "Green Girl" ghost, which she heard was about to be the subject of some TV documentary. I asked her to tell the story. When she did, it was in a manner which vividly caught the atmosphere of fear that had been present. I had no doubt whatsoever of her sincerity.
The events had taken place the previous year. She and her friend, Liz had gone to visit her Uncle Charlie, who was 89 years old. Over the dinner table, he told them a story of his youth: about how, in that house, an Aboriginal fellow had murdered his girlfriend, called Green (and buried her?), and then committed suicide. He had hanged himself in such a position as to be hidden from view when the door was opened, with the result that Charlie, who regularly visited the place, did not discover the body for three days. This being in the country, when he finally did so, he buried it before going to the police. After that, the ghost began appearing regularly in that room.
This, of course, is just the sort of thing you need to tell a couple of impressionable teenaged girls before putting them to bed in that very room. Uncle Charlie, with the wisdom and nonchalance of age, told them that ghost was quite harmless, so they shouldn't be scared if they saw it. He then went out to sleep on the verandah, leaving the girls lying together in bed. The door was shut, but the windows let in the moonlight, and their eyes became accustomed to the dark. There were trees outside, but Tracey was adamant that they were not so thick that any light shining through them could have caused the effects about to be described. Anyhow, it could not have been a lighting effect, even had the trees been dense.
The tone of Tracey's voice as she told the story clearly revealed the "spooky" feeling which came over her and Liz as they wondered whether this was the room where the girl had been murdered. They then went outside, woke up Uncle Charlie, and asked him.Yes, he affirmed: that was the room, but there was nothing to worry about.
Not surprisingly, the young ladies did not share his calm, philosophical view. Going back to the room, they turned on the transistor radio full blast, then pulled the blankets over their heads and cowered. From this you will gather:
- The girls were a couple of impressionable, imaginative teenagers; and
- There can be no doubt that they were well and truly awake when the phenomenon commenced.
At first Tracey referred to it as a "light shadow" but, on being questioned, she said that it was definitely three dimensional, moving in front of the walls, not upon them, nor did it change shape as it passed over an object, as a lighting effect would. It was transparent. For half an hour (surely a gross overestimation) it moved around the room, sometimes up and down, but never approaching the human occupants. Sometimes it would turn right around, but then its arm would swing away from them, never towards them.
One can just imagine how they felt at the time. Incredibly, they did spend the following night in the same room, and witnessed the same phenomenon. During the day, she said, poltergeist activity - the throwing of objects around the room - took place.
Well, folks, that is the story I have been sitting on for the last 37 years. I never did learn whether the TV documentary on the Green Girl went ahead. I also sometimes wonder what happened to Tracey. But at least I wrote her story down while still fresh in my memory. It was unusual, but by no means unique. A couple of years ago, a woman told me how her defacto of 30 years had hanged himself (she had discovered the body), and that he later visited her, and laid his head on her lap.
Do you know anybody with such a story? Of course you do! You just haven't asked. Probably everybody who has not personally encountered a ghost knows someone who has.
If you do want to read a lot of personal encounters, go to the Castle of Spirits website.
Also, when someone on Quora asked whether anyone had had any ghostly encounters, he received more than 100 replies.