Saturday, January 8, 2011

Should We Fear Ghosts?

The long history of ghosts and ghost stories is deeply rooted in horror and fear.   From such classic horror stories as The Haunting to the ghost lore that saturates folklore ghost stories are given a malevolent quality.  They are told around the campfire to scare children and they are brought out at Halloween to add to the spooky quality of the holiday.   Ghosts are supposed to be scary.  Almost every ghostly movie made capitalizes on this fear of ghosts.  From The Grudge to The House on Haunted Hill to  Thirteen Ghosts, ghosts are almost always scary and bad.

As I begin researching my second book, I have to wonder why ghosts have become associated with fear and terror.  Almost all of the people I interview who have had encounters with ghosts describe them as harmless and sometimes even beneficial.   The ghosts are scary in the same way bugs are scary.  They don't harm anyone, but they are scary because we have learned to fear them.  They are scary because they are unknown or just creepy, but I haven't encountered many true ghost stories in which the ghost itself is malevolent.   In fact, most of the really true scary supernatural stories I've gathered seem to be more drive by malevolent, nonghost spirits or demons.  They don't seem to be connected to a deceased person, but rather to some other kind of hostile entity.

 Many of the true ghost stories I've read step beyond being just neutral and are actually benevolent.  I heard one story in which the ghost protected a home owner from a burglar and another in which a ghost protected their child from a fall.  It seems to me that ghosts are like living people,  they can be good, neutral, and occasionally bad.  So why do we naturally fear them so much?  Should we fear ghosts at all?  I've spoke with people who say they've lived in haunted houses for years and never had any problems, just odd occurrences.  My family has a house that has been filled with odd, ghostly occurrences for the better part of a century and it has never bothered anyone.  It does keep you up at night, but it is never scary.  So why are we so naturally afraid of ghosts?  Is it a fear of the unknown or a fear of death or some cross between the two and will there be a point when that fear fades?  I've never really been afraid of ghosts, so I can't entirely answer these questions on my own, but I believe that ghosts shouldn't be feared unless they've been shown to be malevolent.

8 comments:

pr0udmom0f3 said...

Like you, I've never been afraid of ghosts. But some of the things they have been known to do have scared me in the past.

Like being pushed down the flight of my basement stairs. Having a dark shadow figure at my bedroom door, or even my husband's experience with a dark, fog-like mass entity.

Ghosts can be either a negative or a positive spirit. Just like there are good and bad people, there are as well within the spirit realm.

I feel that what you see in the movies is a product of religion-based fears. Mainly within the Christian religion. Many teach that ALL ghosts are demonic entities, a product of the devil. And those demons are only out to scare and harm those of the living.

Personally, I see that assumption completely far fetched and just plain ludicrous.

Pam Morris said...

completely agree...but humankind has always feared what is 'different' and what it does not understand; hence, bigotry, racism, and squashing bugs and spiders (there are only about 6 spiders in the world that actually bite, I think). really interesting journal entry, Jessica!

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

Never been afraid of them. Ghost, spirit, whatever we want to call them....I figure they're people in another room with the door 'shut.' Hearing disembodied footsteps upstairs bothers me no more than the footsteps of neighbors in an upper apartment. The sounds that have startled/scared me are the ones where I thought it was a human who had no business being there. Finding out there's no one there is actually a relief! I am frightened of what living humans can do...not the people who've moved beyond the veil.

Sure, there's got to be personalities there as disparate as 'here'...happy souls, bitter souls, angry souls, sad souls, mischievous souls. That's what makes them interesting to me....that, and that 'this' life is not our only life. I like knowing we have another life waiting for us.

Courtney Mroch said...

So weird you wrote about this. Just the other day I had 2 neighbors on separate occassions say they'd be afraid to go anywhere haunted. I thought that was odd. Ghosts don't scare me. People do. But ghosts fascinate me because I want to understand what they are, if they're real, etc... Good post.

Brenda said...

No reason to be afraid. I've been in many places haunted; personally or professionally. I've also lived in places that are active; one in particular. No one told me of the history until after contracts were signed. I spoke with the owner to make sure the person was ready to move; given the circumstances. It was time after many years. So I loved the home, and the activity; although there were times it could be exasperating. I hated having to move; as I didn't want the next owner to be mean and neglectful. :(

Jessica Penot said...

proudmomof3: It sounds like you have had some scary ghost experience. Yours are some of the scariest I've heard.

Robin: I agree with you. I fear the living far more than the dead. The living cause real damage.

Courtney: I know a lot of people like your neighbors and I never really understand it especially if it is a haunted location in which nothing bad has ever happened.

Brenda: We have a family house that is haunted and I feel the same way. The new owners might not be so kind to the ghosts.,

PaleMother said...

Hi J. :)

My soul rescuer medium friend would tell you that yes, people usually have much more to fear from the living than from the dead. And that often times when someone is troubled by paranormal activity, their fear feeds the activity and makes them feel they have no control of the situation, which is naturally upsetting. When you teach people about things like psychic protection and empower them with a little understanding, they feel more at ease and things improve (unless it's a more extreme, negative situation).

"Should we fear ghosts at all?"

There is a theory that spirits can feed off of our energy and that a ghost who can provoke fear can feed off of that high emotional charge. This is also why something like home renovations can kick up activity. And why certain places where there is a lot of emotion can be hot spots. If you believe this bit about energy feeding spirits, then fear is actually counterproductive because it is attractive -- especially to entities with less noble intentions.

"It seems to me that ghosts are like living people, they can be good, neutral, and occasionally bad. ... I believe that ghosts shouldn't be feared unless they've been shown to be malevolent."

My friend always told people to trust their instincts. As well as to use the same caution with spirits that they would with the living ... don't invite strangers into your home and don't believe everything strangers tell you. Good people will understand your need to be cautious and respect boundaries that you set; bad people will keep coming even after the word "no."

He also used to say that spirits are very like their former selves. Unfortunately someone who was nasty in this life may have extra reason not to cross over ... fearing punishment on "the other side" among any number of other things. Andy did talk about dealing with some spirits who were pretty unsavory characters in life. I think when you talk about 'earthbound' spirits, if you believe in such things, there is always something unresolved, some unfinished business or something that keeps them stuck between. It may be something really negative or it may just be average human baggage or concerns.

As for long standing benign hauntings and "good hauntings" ... Mary Ann Winkowski, the medium that Ghost Whisperer is based upon who specializes in earthbound spirits, claims that being earthbound (as opposed to having crossed over) is an unnatural state that isn't good for anyone. In cases where a spouse or a parent is reluctant to cross because they are worried about their loved ones ... earthbound energy is actually unhealthy in the long run for the living. My medium friend believed similarly and like Mary Ann, he worked to convince earthbound spirits in cases that he worked on to cross over -- unlike some mediums who don't believe in 'tampering' with a haunting, they just "investigate". Convincing earthbounds to cross, he said, was the trick and the key to accomplishing it was different in every case. Sorting out the why and the how to persuade was the whole job.

I myself have heard of 'good' hauntings, where the living occupants were not at all disturbed by the spirits in their space. One thought might be that spirits who have crossed over can come back and visit, and this is not the problem it can be when the spirits are earthbound. Who knows?

Interesting to hear all the different POV's out there on these things.

Anonymous said...

I'm scared to death of ghosts yet I find myself wanting to learn more about them.

My past 3 houses have been haunted- and each one has been bugging me and only me.I have no clue why it only comes to me and nobody else.Everyone thinks I'm crazy! But I'm not.WTH does the ghost want from me? It never does anything to "harm" me, it seems more playful.