History of Ghosts and Hauntings Part 1

History and information about ghosts and hauntings the psychic phenomenon of the dead returning from the afterlife in forms such as poltergeists.

Ghosts and Hauntings

"Do I believe in ghosts? No--but I'm afraid of them"--Marquise du Deffand, 1697-1780

The popular image of a ghost is of an insubstantial, whitish form floating through an ancient castle accompanied by terrifying moans, groans, and the clanking of chains. It is, of course, the spirit of some long-dead individual, the whole thing is extremely frightening, and sometimes the ghost portends death or tragedy.

Yet every year Fate, a major magazine concerned with the unexplained, receives between 100 and 200 very happy reports of experiences in which it appears that loved ones--people and animals--have in some way returned after death.

What are these apparitions that arouse such varied emotions? Perhaps the clearest underastanding can be gained by looking at a number of different, yet typical, sightings.

Most interesting is the ghost with a purpose, like Mr. F.G.'s fair-haired sister, who appeared briefly to him in 1876. A salesman, he was far from home, but this sighting sent him posthaste to tell his parents about the incident. As he described his sister, he mentioned a scratch on her face, upon which his mother burst into tears and explained that while attending to the body after her daughter's death she had accidentally made just such a scratch and then carefully hidden it with makeup so that no one else knew of its existence. Thus the ghost provided comforting evidence of survival after death, and succeeded in prompting F.G. to visit his parents. His mother died shortly afterward, and he might not otherwise have seen her alive again.

Another type of sighting is one in which a dying person seems to see dead relatives and friends waiting to welcome him. This may be mere hallucination (like many other ghost tales), but if he names someone who is believed to be living, but that person is later discovered to have died before the "sighting," then the case becomes more interesting. In one case, a dying woman, Mrs. Blank, said that she saw and heard a young girl who had spent "the happiest week of her life" singing with the Blank daughters some 6 years previously. Mrs. Blank said that this apparition was singing, with others, to welcome her to heaven. There was no reason for her or her family to believe the girl was dead, but it was later discovered that the girl had died 11 days before she was "seen and heard" by the dying Mrs. Blank.

Not all ghosts are so purposeful. Often referred to as "haunts" are cases where one figure is seen to do the same thing time after time. Haunts may be seen by many people, and they usually seem unaware of the living. Equally pointless are the cases in which the noises of past battles are heard, though nothing is seen. Investigation may show that the noises duplicate exactly the progress of the battle concerned, even though the people who hear them have no historical knowledge of what happened. A 1942 Allied Forces landing near Dieppe seems to have been "heard" on the same date in 1951 by 2 English ladies staying in a hotel near where the landing took place, and other similar cases have been reported.

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