In folklore the banshee is a female fairy spirit that wails to warn of an approaching death. We all assume the banshee is simply folklore. Yet maybe behind folklore there is truth just interpreted differently.
Lara is a widow. Her husband died around two years ago. I was chatting with her when she told me about something that happened the previous night that was unnerving. She was asleep, lying in the same bed where she had slept with her deceased husband. Lara said she still tends to still sleep on her side of the bed even now.
It was early morning when she was awakened. Awakened by pressure on her husband’s side of the bed’s mattress. It was identical to the movement she experienced when her husband laid down or moved around beside her. The bed creaked, the mattress moved. Startled she turned and saw her husband in their bed. And then he was gone.
Lara got out of bed, not comprehending what just happened. She decided to call her daughter who would be getting ready to go to work at this early hour. She immediately called her daughter and told her what she had just experienced only minutes ago.
Talking with her grown daughter, her daughter said she had her own visitation from dad only a couple of nights earlier ago. She saw him, briefly, in her apartment.
Here we have multiple ghost/spirit sightings or ADC (After Death Communication) days apart of the same individual to members of the family. That is remarkable.
Less then a week after Lara’s encounter with her husband’s spirit she received some shocking awful news. Her nephew (who was in his early 40s) was beaten to death in his apartment. It was a brutal murder. Some thugs entered his apartment and simply beat him until he died. Why? Nobody really knows yet. The police have an active investigation going. They are confident they will bring the killers to justice. We hope.
This nephew was her favorite, who she always thought of as like a son to her. She and all her extended family were obviously in shock. When I heard of her nephew’s death I didn’t get any details until later. Then I recalled she told me the ghost story shortly before the murder.
Perhaps Lara’s deceased husband visited Lara and her daughter shortly before this hideous event not to prevent it, or to even warn them. But to comfort them and let them know there is a life after death, and the nephew would be ok. The role of the banshee may not be so much to warn of ruin, but to let the living know death is not the final word.
I was visiting with some friends and I mentioned my previous post about a spontaneous shower of water on my hand from nowhere. A watery apport. I asked for some suggestions for an explanation. None were offered, but it inspired Nick to offer his own ghost story.
Very long ago Nick lived in Boston, obviously a very old place. He said in his younger days he liked to take walks about Boston’s old streets often for an hour. On one night empty of anyone else, he spotted a strange gentlemen walking down towards him.
This individual wore a strange outfit. He had a top hat on is head, and a dark outer garment. Nick said he recalled the guy had a tight white collar around his high collared neck. And he carried a cane, which he heard going “click, click” as the stick struck the sidewalk. He was approaching Nick, with the light of a streetlight on him.
Nick thought the guy was going to a costume party. He was going to greet the man when he walked by and praise his outfit. But then the man turned, and passed behind the light pole. As he passed behind it, nobody emerged from the other side. The Top Hat Ghost vanished.
I had a strange day, strange almost beyond reason. I was at my father’s home. I’ve been helping out my dad since my brother’s death. We needed to print letters from our lawyer and copies of his death certificate. We printed a copy of the lawyer’s letter. How about scanning copies of the death certificate? His printer does not have a scanner. He had one, but my brother used it and we couldn’t find it.
My dad exclaimed, “Damn Michael, he must have thrown it away.”
The next day we found the scanner tucked away in a cabinet. However, when we tried to print more pages, after his exclamation, the printer failed to work. It grinded away, something was mechanically wrong with it. After repeated attempts, looking for paper jams and such, there were appeared nothing wrong with it. It just spontaneously failed to work. We joked that my deceased brother was responsible for the printer’s failure.
Don’t speak ill of the dead.
I was going to go out and buy a proper printer/scanner for my dad, when I recalled I had a spare stored in his basement that I had nearly forgotten about. Dad now had a new printer/scanner and we were able to finish our task. We remarked that my brother did us a favor by stopping this old printer so now we could use this new one I had squirreled away. Really, don’t accuse the dead for our own mishaps.
Later that evening my dad went to sleep early. He is 80 years old, which I call old by even dog years. I stayed for a while watching his TV. My arm was on his sofa’s armrest. Suddenly there was a sprinkle of water on my arm as if someone had used a squirt gun on it. I was startled. There was spray of water spots on the sofa’s arm as well. I looked up at the ceiling to see where this spray came from.
The ceiling was dry. There were no water stains on the ceiling, no dripping. This evening was a cloudless night without rain. Where the hell did this spray of water come from? I thought it was an apport. An apport is the physical transference of something from out of nowhere. As I looked around for a source, and seeing none, I simply sat back down,
Then I noticed something else. We were going to throw away an old TV at the local electronic recycle place. On top of this TV was a couple of old 30-years-old Christmas ornaments that my dad wanted to throw away too, a Santa and his wife. He wanted to discard them for some reason.
As far as I can recall, these Christmas ornaments were facing the door. When I noticed them again, they were facing his TV. Directly. Each just slightly different but aimed at his TV. Haunted Christmas ornaments! My dad is not joker and couldn’t imagine doing anything like this. Did they move by themselves? Could they represent my recently deceased brother and mother?
I might be reading too much into these events. The printer failing could simply be coincidence. The Christmas ornaments might have faced the TV all along by happenstance and I’d not paid attention. But the drops of water, the small shower on my arm and the sofa’s arm, that was undeniable and I can’t even imagine an explanation for that.
Don’t speak ill of the dead and that is my take away from these events.
There are many ghost stories and lore in the Chicagoland area. Many of these stories are recorded in books concerning area ghosts. Chicago is not unique; most places have their recognized local haunts. Every city seems to have books about their “locals”. However, by the time these stories become popularized I suspect the ghosts are long gone. Hauntings don’t last forever.
Take the story of Resurrection Mary, which is the classic hitchhiker ghost. There may have been something real to this story long ago but it’s unlikely the spirit still wanders the streets looking for a ride. These popularly known stories soon get told and retold with embellishments added that they soon enter into the realm of modern folklore and urban myth. When “haunted” places are stops on ghost tours, we can be sure nothing remains to scare us.
Where are the current “live” ghosts? Are they all gone? Few current ghosts get any recognition. Perhaps we are just smarter now and less gullible. Are all known hauntings now debunked? I suspect ghosts are still all around but remain unrecognized. Perhaps in the 21st century our attention span has diminished with so many distractions. It would take something really dramatic to get noticed and ghostly phenomena are subtle at best.
Chicago area ghost enthusiasts have many useful references for local ghost lore. One book I recommend is Chicago Haunts by Ursula Bielski. I even have an autographed copy I bought long ago at a book signing. This past Halloween there was a local television show about area ghosts shown on a public TV station. It was “Hauntings of Chicago” hosted by author Ursala Bielski. Below is this show in two parts. It is not comprehensive, and deals with the past, but is worth a view.
We’ve all heard of haunted houses. They are a staple of both literature and real life. But what about a haunted condo or apartment building? We don’t hear much about those. If anything, there should be more hauntings in a high-rise then in a single house, with the number of people who live in such buildings and all the drama and death that goes with the many residents.
Apartment buildings and condos seem to be spook proof, but I’d guess only because nobody would pay attention to them. Living in a building tends to be noisy. I live in an older high-rise, and there are always sounds in the background. Someone could be talking in the hallway just outside earshot, but enough to notice. On occasion I can hear the “tap tap” of someone walking above my unit in high heels. Oh! What is that? I note an argument in the unit to my left with shouting noticeable. If all this dim noise happened in a single residence, we’d swear it was haunted. In a multi-unit dwelling, it’s part of the ambient background sound.
If there were an actual haunting, who’d notice? On occasion, as I lay in bed and all is quiet, I will simply listen. I pay attention to every little sound. I can hear the clock ticking. The heat will turn on and then off. Somebody is doing something in the unit above me. There is always the background sound of a large building.
However, recently I’ve heard something different. It doesn’t appear often, but it seems like at least once a night. On occasion I hear a fairly loud rap in the room. Exactly where it comes from I really can’t tell. It sounds like someone is striking wood with their knuckles. It happens only once and that is it. I really would not pay much attention to it, except it appears to be coming from inside my unit.
Since then I’ve been paying more attention to my surroundings as I prepare for sleep. One night as I lay alone in bed, it felt like my bed swayed just the tiniest bit, as if with the most subtle shake. I was perfectly still. An earth tremor? That is possible but Chicago rarely has tremors.
Then I recalled a phone call I got from the building’s management a couple months ago. Someone in a unit somewhere in the floors directly above me said they felt their unit shake. She asked if I ever experienced shaking or swaying in my floor’s unit.
“No” I replied, “Never did.” She was satisfied with my answer and I believe the individual’s complaint was dropped. Now I’m beginning to wonder. Someone must have experienced something, a shaking of some sort, probably when they were in bed. What exactly did they experience, if the building itself did not tremble? Someone would not complain to the management if they did not actually experience something disturbing.
Who knows, maybe this old building has its ghosts, for all the people who have died here. Perhaps ghosts are trying to get people’s attention, but nobody notices. Shaking beds and knocking on tables is not enough to get noticed in this place.
A scarier thought…what if something is actually wrong with this building.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I’ve stayed over with my relative George. During my first night’s stay at this fairly old house, everyone had gone to bed and the house was quiet. I decided to stay up a little later and so I turned on the TV with the volume low so as not to bother anyone. After a time I heard a knock in the adjacent kitchen which was loud enough to get my attention. Since nobody was awake I ignored it. Later I heard another loud rap. I got up and looked in the kitchen and nobody was there. Curious.
The following evening I mentioned my blog and asked George about any ghostly or paranormal experiences he may have had. He thought a moment and said he has heard some strange noises in the house. I asked him to elaborate. He said sometimes he’d hear footsteps as the floor creaked. It even happened in his own bedroom as he lay in bed. Also…sometimes he heard the door handle to the kitchen door rattle, as he sat in the living room.
I suggested that together we try listening for ghosts. This is my ghost-hunting tip #1. Temporarily disregard technology with all the various audio/visual recorders and electronic devices. The first step is to simply listen for ghosts.
It was a quiet night and we simply sat and listened. The house was totally silent. Yet, as we remained motionless and listened, we heard all manner of sounds. Immediately we heard airplanes overhead. This house is not far from O’Hare airport. The sound of the plane was clearly heard in the house, as if the walls almost didn’t exist. We could hear many sounds outside.
As we continued to simply sit and listen, we noticed the kitchen’s refrigerator. When it activated there was a slight “thump” and then it hummed until it deactivated with a similar “thump”. Was that the rap in the kitchen I heard the previous night?
Then the basement-heating unit when on and there was a rumble in the heating duct system. When it stopped, the duct system still had its little knocks. Then the basement sump pump went on and there was another quite rumble that we would hear only if we remained quiet. Sound traveled in this old house if you would only pay attention.
Later I was in the basement by myself and listened. This house’s “language” was more pronounced in the basement, a symphony of sounds. Little ticks and knocks and creaking was constant. We ignore these sounds but they are part of any old house. And each house has it’s own unique sounds; no two are the same.
The point of listening is to become aware of the natural sounds of house. Once we became aware of them we could determine if any of the sounds George heard were…unnatural. George mentioned the sound of footsteps as the floor creaked. I tested the floor with my own weight, and sure enough the floor noticeably creaked. However, I never heard anything that creaked without weight on it. Creaking floorboards were not part of the regular symphony of this house’s sounds.
The doorknob jingling was intriguing. He said the sound was not as if someone was trying to turn the doorknob. It was more a tapping on the doorknob. We checked it out. I tried to replicate exactly what he heard. I noticed that one side of the door’s knob was a little loose. I just tapped it slightly, and he said that was exactly what he heard. My video illustrates this.
The tapping doorknob is strange and I don’t have an explanation for it. It may be some subtle force was interacting with something loose enough to respond to it. Add in the footsteps, and I’d say there is at least a possibility a ghost is wandering here. I asked how long this has been going on, and he said it is infrequent but he can’t recall exactly when it started. Wandering ghosts? Or just an old house groaning?
Most first-hand ghost stories we hear took place long ago, years or decades. Encounters with actual ghosts are rare, usually once-in-a-lifetime events. I had the luck to hear a true ghost story that took place only a couple of months ago.
Betty is a lady in her early 40s. She was to meet up with a girlfriend at a tavern and then go out for dinner with some other friends on a girls’ night out. Her girlfriend agreed to meet her at a tavern they hadn’t been to for years. In fact, Betty hadn’t been at this bar in over four years.
When Betty entered this tavern she noted it had been spruced up from the days it was a dive bar. The clientele were younger compared to the older crowd who frequented this bar before it was updated. An improvement, she thought.
Betty sat at the bar by herself waiting for her friend to arrive. Minutes passed by when she glanced down to the end of the bar. There sat someone she recognized from years ago. It was Richie, a truck driver who was a regular at this bar. He looked the same, wearing his baseball cap with his curly red hair. He had a mug of beer. Betty waved at him and he nodded and gestured back in acknowledgement.
Betty’s attention wandered around the tavern. When she glanced back at Richie, she saw he was gone. “Goodness” she thought, “He must have been thirsty.” He slammed down that beer fast enough and was gone.
Her girlfriend soon arrived and they left the bar to meet with their friends. Later in the evening she mentioned to her friends she saw Richie at the old bar. One of her friends knew something of Richie, and asked if she really saw him. “Why do you ask?” Betty inquired. The friend said Richie died three years ago.
This tale almost sounds like an urban legend except it is true. Betty witnessed an apparition. Richie appeared physical in appearance. Betty had no clue anything was amiss…until perhaps when Richie vanished. A full body visual apparition is the ultimate in ghost encounters, and truly rare.
This event took place only two months ago. If Richie died three years ago, that suggests this tavern has essentially been haunted for the past three years. Hauntings don’t last forever and fade away. To discover a currently active haunting is a real find.
Who is Richie? How did he pass away? And why would his ghost continue to haunt this tavern? What happened? I intend to look into these questions by visiting this tavern. A tavern is a public place where a ghost enthusiast can discreetly investigate. A chat with the bartender…”Do you remember Richie?” can get the ball rolling. A current, eyewitness account ghost encounter is worth pursuing.
There is an idea that ghosts haunt cemeteries or desolate, abandoned ruins. Why would a ghost want to wander such areas? Ghosts would likely haunt the location of where they died or experienced a tragedy and not where they were buried. I’d guess hospitals are likely the most haunted of places but you won’t find ghost hunters getting permission to wander hospital corridors with EMF meters.
If possible ghost enthusiasts should check out places where people die regularly. I did this recently. I went to a high-rise condominium that was built in the 1960s. Over the decades this building had a lot of older people living in it…and dying in it. Dozens of people have passed away at this place. However, the tricky part is trying to investigate the premises without drawing attention to one’s self. Who wants to get arrested for trespassing/ghost hunting?
Fortunately the hallways of this old condominium building are mostly empty. I wandered around discreetly taking pictures of the empty corridors. However, the longer I lingered the greater the chance someone would pay attention to what I was doing. My level of anxiety eventually prodded me to the sensible decision not linger for long.
Afterwards is the fun part, checking out the photos. Would anything anomalous appear in them? In one corridor I got orbs. Some consider orbs as potential manifestations of ghostly energies. Usually they’re just dust near the camera’s lens reflecting the camera’s flash. An orb has to have something special to be considered even remotely paranormal.
In this corridor I caught what appeared to be an orb in motion (pictured above). I find these intriguing. Usually an orb-in-motion is a raindrop or a bug caught in the camera’s flash. However there was no rain or insects in this hallway. Could it be dust in motion? Can’t rule that out. There is only one way to know for sure and that is to take pictures with a 3D camera. If an orb or apparition appears in 3D, then we have something. Otherwise we are wasting time. It is time for ghost enthusiasts (myself included) to put away the digital camera and invest in a digital 3D camera.
A decade ago I became casually involved with ghost hunting. I didn’t intend to get involved with ghost enthusiasts and their investigations. However, I had a friend Jamie who introduced me to the ghost hunting subculture, and I was intrigued.
Back then (not really long ago) ghost hunting was a true subculture few people heard about. That is hard to believe today. However not long ago the concept simply didn’t register on the public’s radar. If I talked about the topic, nobody heard of it. Blank stares. “What is ghost hunting?”
It was an interesting and exciting time. We felt we were entering a truly unknown world. Imagine doing something new, possibly groundbreaking. When I discussed our activities with non-enthusiasts, they thought I was…well, goofy. That was part of the thrill of an emerging subculture. We were doing something special yet it was not recognized by those outside the culture.
Today the story has changed. The media has totally absorbed this subculture, embraced it and commercialized it. Ghost hunting has gone mainstream. It is amazing how fast popular culture will consume a good idea. Ghost hunting makes for a cheap reality TV show. There are multiple successful cable TV reality series about ghost hunting. The Paranormal Activity movie franchise is making hundreds of millions of dollars. Once the wider world embraces a subculture, the subculture gets compromised. Mainstream acceptance pretty much extinguishes a subculture.
The original ghost hunters I’ve known have long lost interest in the pursuit. TV ghost hunting shows created an illusion of “expert” which does not exist. I can tell you for certain there are no experts. Nobody understands this phenomena; it is a true mystery.
Many ghost enthusiasts have moved on to newer things, as I have. My blog is one example of this new direction. This subculture still thrives but the wider culture has yet to recognize this new direction. We are still are on the cutting edge, but we now travel on a new blade.
Jamie had a ghost theme website on Geocities. Geocities, owned by Yahoo, was a hugely popular place for people to create websites long before WordPress or Facebook. Unfortunately Yahoo ended Geocities and all these sites created by the passion of thousands of individuals just simply vanished. The early history of the Internet, its Stone Age, was extinguished. Do Internet fossils exist?
It seemed all the content from the early days of the Internet had been lost. However, there is a site named Oocities
They saved many of these sites before they vanished forever. Digital fossils still exist!
The Oocities statement: “In October 2009 we archived many of the unique pages on GeoCities before they were taken down. Geocities started in 1994 and was one of the most important websites in the world until it was closed on 27.10.2009. Our aim is to save those pages which are worthy and unique scientific sources or are of great public interest as well as those, which are historically interesting or just representing the 90?s website culture and style.”
This is a great resource for older content, and I am glad Jamie’s ghost website had been included. Unfortunately not all his content has been brought across, but most has. Here is a reference to the early days of ghost hunting before it became popularized:
I usually don’t repeat hearsay ghost stories in my blog; I don’t trust them. When someone tells me a first-hand, personal account I’ll take it seriously as a genuine experience. The experience was real, albeit explainable in different ways and not necessarily a ghost.
However, today I’ll repeat a hearsay ghost story, acknowledging it as hearsay. The individual who told me this story said his grandmother told it to him. I’m sure, but without the story told to me directly from his now deceased grandmother, how to judge her story? Maybe grandmother was hammered on rum or floating on weed at the time. Or it could have happened exactly as told.
The individual who related this story was born in Puerto Rico, where the incident occurred. His grandparents lived in a village on a small plot of land. He said his grandmother was a pretty but wild, fearless and fiery woman. One day after a heated argument, his grandmother threatened to shoot his grandfather with her gun. His grandfather dared her and barely managed to shove the firearm out of the way as she fired at him, missing. That taught grandpa a lesson…don’t piss off grandma!
One day the grandmother’s brother died. It was a sad funeral, as they typically are. But soon afterwards curious events began to take place at the grandmother’s home. There were strange sounds late at night, like someone was rattling the pots, pans and dishes in the kitchen. Objects seemed to have been moved at night. She would get up from bed thinking someone sneaked into her home and moved things around to annoy her, but she never found anyone.
After a week of this nightly disturbance, she was determined to catch the culprit. When it started again, she grabbed her gun and ran into the kitchen, then the living room, and then outside trying to catch whoever was responsible. “Where are you!” she cried out. Then she noticed someone hiding in a bush nearby. She pointed her pistol at the dark shape in the bush demanding to see them.
Out stepped her dead brother. Shocked, she tried to shoot this person, but the trigger wouldn’t move and the gun literally flew from her hand and dropped to the ground. Startled by the sight of her dead brother, she asked him what he wanted.
He said, “You must go to mass Sunday. And, take dollar bills, five of them, and give each dollar to a different person in need. If you do this I will leave you alone.” The spirit then vanished before her eyes.
Next Sunday she went to mass, and gave dollar bills to five needy people. Thereafter, there were no more disturbances. The ghost of her brother never bothered her again.
I like this story, but it has the feel of an urban legend. I supposed it’s the ghost talking that makes me suspicious. And a ghost with a moral message! Yet, it could also be true as far as hearsay goes. Perhaps the grandmother did not hear a literal voice, but just had a “knowing”.
The actual story was probably more nuanced then what was related third-party. Which is why, when I ask about personal ghostly experiences, I ask for details. Secrets of the spirit world are often found in small seemingly unimportant details. I treat a personal ghost story like a reporter.