Are Ghosts Real?

If you believe in a spiritual world, especially if you have an active faith in God, more than likely you believe in ghosts. I would agree that it does seem that ghosts do exist in our world, at least for some amount of time. I’d like to discuss the nature of what these ghosts could be and why they may possibly be appearing to people on occasion.

After that I’d like to share some ghost stories with you, and tales of the paranormal that may surprise you because of where they come from.

What are Ghosts?

Before I begin I should tell you that my view of ghosts comes directly from the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. I’m a life-long Catholic who loves her faith and her Church, and I believe in all matters, it teaches the best, most common sense, level-headed scholarship available to us in this world. Am I insulting other religions or viewpoints? No. I’m simply explaining how I see things, so you understand where I’m coming from.

So let’s begin.

The word ghost derives from the German word, “geist”, which simply means “spirit”. So certainly the Catholic Church believes in spirits.  We believe, however, that as soon as someone dies and their soul leaves their body they go to their final judgment. From there it’s either Heaven, Purgatory (for some more purification in preparation for facing God the Almighty in His Glory), or hell.

People going to Heaven go straight in, those bound for Purgatory are sent for a set amount of time (in other words, it’s not forever), and the poor souls destined for hell are condemned and sent there.

One thought about hell: people are sent to hell because they themselves turn away from God. With God there is always forgiveness, no matter the sin. A person need only cry out to God for forgiveness, and God will reach out to them. I always felt sorry for the souls condemned to hell, then once I realized they are sent there because they themselves don’t want to be with God, I had some understanding of it, but found the tragedy nonetheless sickening.

Anyway, what other spirits are there?

Angels, the bright servants and messengers of God. Unfortunately, there are also demons, the malevolent servants of satan.  Don’t forget, demons used to be angels, but after Lucifer’s fall, they joined him in eternal damnation. Demons can take the appearance of other people, figures from history, even Mary, Jesus and the Saints themselves, as well as animals and other creatures that defy understanding. But they are still demons.

The TV Shows

Today we have an abundance of TV shows that seek to prove that there is life after death. They hunt ghosts, they challenge what they believe to be demons, some try to conjure up the spirits of the dead. All of this is extremely dangerous. Why? Because satan and his demons can alter their appearance to deceive us and to do us harm.

My worry about this is that people trying to conjure these spirits and to communicate with them leave themselves very vulnerable to demonic powers that they can in no way control.

I’ve watched some of the shows too, because who doesn’t like a little ghost story to be comfortably spooked by? It’s like sitting around a campfire telling stories to spook your friends and family. But what seems to be happening is these hunters are finding all manner and sorts of “ghosts” that, in my opinion, are almost certainly demonic in origin.

Demons can imitate innocent children. They can cause objects to be moved and thrown. They can possess the humans trying to conjure them. It’s like playing with fire – NOT a good idea.

The Evidence

The TV programs sometimes reveal evidence that looks like authentic activity on the part of a ghost, or in my opinion, very often a demon.

On the other hand,  I know a few people in my life who have had strange encounters with the supernatural, and I know them to be very sensible, down to earth people, so I believe their accounts. What they’ve encountered doesn’t sound like demonic manifestations. So where does that leave us?

Shakespeare wrote,

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

And that was back in 1596.

Weird things occur around the world, in every county  that people can’t really explain, so they attribute it to ghosts/demons. Some people in our Church speculate that human souls may appear on earth for several reasons, but that is NOT a part of the Church’s doctrine.

But how do you tell the difference between what could be a human soul or a demon?  A Heavenly apparition or a demon?

Here’s a good summary of what we Catholics believe from the book Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven but Never Dreamed of Asking by Dr. Peter J. Kreeft:

“ Without our action or invitation, the dead often do appear to the living. There is enormous evidence of “ghosts’ in all cultures … We can distinguish three kinds of ghosts, I believe. First the most familiar kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones. They seem to be working out some unfinished earthly business, or suffering some purgatorial purification until released from their earthly business. These ghosts would seem to be the ones who just barely made it to Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to learn many painful lessons about their past life on earth.

“Second, there are malicious and deceptive spirits – and since they are deceptive, they hardly ever appear malicious. These are probably the ones who respond to conjuring at séances. They probably come from hell. Even the chance of that happening should be sufficient to terrify away all temptations to necromancy.**

“Third, there are bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family, especially spouses, who appear unbidden, at God’s will, not ours, with messages of hope and love. They seem to come from Heaven. Unlike the purgatorial ghosts who come back primarily for their own sakes, these bright spirits come back for the sake of the living, to tell us all is well. They are aped by evil spirits who say the same, who speak ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace’. But the deception works only one way: the fake can deceive by appearing genuine but the genuine never deceives by appearing fake. Heavenly spirits always convince us that they are genuinely good. [In Heaven] the bright spirits are not ghosts but real, solid and substantial because they are at home there. One can’t be a ghost in one’s own county.

“… As [G.K.] Chesterton says, “We believe an old apple woman when she says she ate an apple; but when she says she saw a ghost, we say, “But she’s only an old apple woman.’ A most undemocratic and unscientific prejudice.”

** Necromancy is a method of divination through alleged communication with dead; black art. Also, magic in general, especially that practiced by a witch or sorcerer.

For the record, these paragraphs describe Dr. Kreeft’s theory as to what these ghosts might be. As such they are pure speculation. They are not part of the Church’s doctrine. Taken for what they’re worth, his theories MAY account for some of these apparitions that people are seeing.

Bottom Line

The spirits of the dead cannot come back to “haunt” us of their own will. I firmly believe God must allow it. I also firmly believe that people should not try to conjure the dead and especially not any demonic entity. That’s just asking for trouble.

That said, we’re still left to ponder those apparitions that we just can’t identify or explain that simply happen and we witness it, and which seem more benign in nature, than evil.

There are people who have encounters with strange “entities” in their homes, places of work, etc, that don’t seem to fall into the categories mentioned by Dr. Kreeft. The Ghost Hunters crew have developed terms such as “intelligent hauntings”, “residual hauntings,” and have speculated that some phenomena may just be like “psychic recordings” in the environment especially if granite and quartz make up the landscape surrounding that particular area.

But that’s all speculation. There is no proof, scientifically or theologically, that any of that is true. If you ever read what skeptics say about the methods that ghost hunters in general use to try and explain and quantify the phenomena, you’d be very disheartened, as was I.

That’s the trouble when trying to study something that does not exist in the same dimensions of time and space as we do. There’s nothing to ‘get a hold of’.

I feel sure in this: any of the purgatorial spirit sightings, Heavenly spirits, and sorry to say, even the demons will all be “intelligent” hauntings per the criteria set out by Ghost Hunters.

Residual hauntings? I completely understand why people use that term when describing some ghost sightings and reports. Look at Gettysburg, PA, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. People have accidently caught spirits in period clothing in one of their photos without having seen it in real life. The stories go on and on – that is one major crazy place.

The house in Villisca, Iowa, where that whole family was axed to death one night? Only God knows what got left behind there, but one thing is sure, it certainly seems like something did. There may be memories somehow imprinted on the house from that night of terror, but I firmly believe God in His mercy took those poor souls to Him as soon as they crossed over. But something does seem to have been left behind and my GUESS is that it’s the damned soul of the murderer. Why would God allow that? I don’t know.

We could go on and on with all the instances we’ve seen from the television shows, and I’m sure some of you have witnessed crazy things in your own life.

Friends Accounts

I know three people who have strange things happen in their homes, or in and around the towns they live in. In fact, if you want to read two of their accounts, look at the top of this page and you’ll see the tab marked “Your Stories”. You can read their accounts there. Very compelling and very puzzling.

The third account goes like this: a friend was over in Jacksonville, FL, shopping at a beautiful old Victorian house that was renovated into a gift/antique shop. The friend was in the attic, looking at something when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned because she thought someone wanted to pass by her, but no one was there. There wasn’t anyone else in the attic. She put the object down and hurried back to the first floor. As she was checking out she told the clerk what happened to her in the attic. The clerk said, Oh don’t worry, that’s just our ghost. She doesn’t hurt anybody.

I know this person, they are reliable, down to earth, objective – she didn’t imagine it. She said she definitely felt a full hand on her shoulder, gentle but firm.

So what to make of this and all the stories like it around the world. Well, I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers. But I think it’s a safer practice not to seek these things out. If you witness something, fine, if you come across something, fine. But I can’t recommend pursuing these things simply because as Earth-bound humans we do not have the capability to handle or control these things nor can we control what they ultimately do to us.

Remember Aaron’s story (from Ghost Adventures)? Something followed him home from one of their investigations. It haunted him and his wife in a bad way, and wound up breaking up their marriage. He discussed it with Zak on camera.

I’ve read other accounts where investigators say they believe something followed them home too.

Do you recall when psychics go into these places to aid in the investigations, they always “cleanse” themselves and surround themselves with special light (which I interpret to mean the light of God?). They do so because they KNOW it’s dangerous.

So I’m just advising caution, that’s all. I always seek to tell you the truth when I’m discussing something from cryptozoology because I want the truth, I don’t want to be fooled. And so it is with this topic, I am not comfortable with it, there isn’t that much we can really understand about the spirit world, so I advise caution. I told you how I feel about it to the best of my ability. Now let’s explore some ghost stories from centuries past.

Ghost Stories

John Bosco

Starting off, let’s look at the John Bosco story from the mid 1800s. I wrote a post about it that you can find here:

http://visitcryptoville.com/2012/06/18/credible-ghost-report-from-1839/

The Dominican Friar

Father Dominic Legge, OP who is a friar in the Dominican order relates a ghost story that has been told for decades in their province. Many of the fathers believe the story to be true.

“In the middle of the night at a large, old, and now only partly occupied Dominican priory in rural Ohio, a Dominican woke up to see an unknown man, wearing the white habit fo the order, standing at the foot of his bed, looking at him. The figure pointed insistently at the bookcase against the wall, and then turned and walked out of the room.

After breakfast the next morning, the friar took aside the superior of the house. “One of our guests walked into my room last night. It was very strange.”

“What guest?” the prior replied.

“The visiting Dominican – someone I didn’t recognize. He came into my room in the middle of the night.”

“But we don’t have any guests a staying with us,” the prior insisted. “You must have been dreaming.”

“I don’t think so.”

When he returned to his room, he studied the bookcase; nothing unusual there. He peered behind it, moved it a few inches. Intrigued, he now strained to pivot the bookcase away from the wall. A forgotten door, unopened for decades, stood before him.

The door opened; the friar peered into a dusty closet containing a bureau. Inside the bureau, he found a stack of yellowed slips of paper: Mass intentions. Some priest had long ago left these promises to say Mass for the souls of the dead without fulfilling them. Perhaps that is why the unknown Dominican desired so much that these papers be found – so that the duty he had failed to fulfill in his life could be completed by his brothers who remained alive.

The room was turned into a chapel, an altar erected. Many masses were offered there. The unknown Dominican never appeared again.

John Vianney

John Vianney was a French priest (1786-1859) who was tormented with demonic persecution.

To read the full story of his persecution, visit this webpage:

http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20John%20Vianney%20Persecuted%20by%20Demons.html

Many of his contemporaries witnessed his torments and the strange happenings around his parish in Ars, France. So it is another well documented case of demonic activity.

There is one other mystic of the Catholic Church whose name you may already know: Padre Pio. His life was so extraordinary that I hope to devote a whole blog post to all the “paranormal” activity that he endured in his lifetime.

For now, I’d like to wish you all a Fun and Safe Halloween!!

Til the next time!

10 comments

  1. Very interesting. I’ve never believed that “ghosts” are the spirits of the dead returning to “haunt” us, but explaining what exactly they are is difficult. The story of the witch of Endor calling the spirit of Samuel has always been a bit of a sticky situation with Christians who adhere to the belief that once you leave you are gone forever.
    I have been told in no uncertain terms by “knowledgeable” pastors that is it either angels or demons. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. But I don’t think it’s that simple.
    The story of the Dominican Friar was very good, and a good example of why this may not be just angels or demons.
    I’ll have to read this article again and comment some more later.

    • Patrick, I sometimes think that pastors, etc, tell us that it’s impossible for people to come back as spirits because they want to deter people from pursuing, conjuring, and calling forth spirits that will more than likely be demonic. In that, I think they’re right.

      Then we have these other cases that seem benign, well intended, and don’t harm anyone.

      You may enjoy the story about John Bosco too — that’s an incredible account, so be sure to check out that link.

      Ultimately, I think whatever happens, God’s got a handle on it and for whatever reasons, He allows things to happen from time to time.

      We certainly live in a mysterious and marvelous world, don’t we?

  2. A very thoughtful and well written discussion of the subject from a Catholic perspective.

    I know the Church is somewhat ambivalent about the whole subject, and for good reason. I have heard from a number of people who have used, or know persons who used, ouija boards and while many think it just a parlour game from what I can gather it can be a very dangerous tool. The real life basis for Movie The Exorcist, I believe, began with a young boy playing with a board. However, ghosts aren’t demons; which is a good thing, for as near as I can tell, ghosts are a fairly common phenomena.

    What ghosts really are, however, is more complex and unlike all these self-appointed ghost hunters running around with their pseudo-scientific equipment, I don’t think one can prove–or disprove–they exist. Nor do we really know what is on the other side; the Bible is not terribly helpful, as it is primarily intended for moral, not metaphysical instruction. The most I think it says specifically on the subject is the passage (in Saint Paul I think) where it says there are angels and archangels, but then mentions “Thrones and Dominions.” Some think those are just other angels, but I think the New Testament is referring to whole worlds beyond this of which we have no inkling. Just a thought.

    • A very interesting thought ckc4me! In Catholic theology there are 9 “choirs” of angels, and each is assigned to fulfill a different role in the service of God. It never dawned on me that one of them might be tending to these other “supernatural” realms that we on earth can’t really make sense of. Very tantalizing thought. Thanks for your input!

  3. Aagh….Forgive me I do not mean to come across as crass with this but I found your post just painful to read. It doesn’t make it less valid it’s just my mind having it’s knee jerk reaction to anything possibly biased due to religious influences. Moving past that I do have to agree that it is fascinating to read your view point while needing to keep smacking the “devil” on my should with a newspaper to shut them up long enough for me to finish. Now that I have I have a couple of counters I feel must be put across.

    A) Spirits can become trapped here on earth and choose to remain here as well. I believe in heaven but not so much hell though if it did existed I have an idea. What if the soul hadn’t committed enough sin for hell to claim them but the soul itself is holding them back. creating a self purgatory if you will, making it so they can’t pass on. For example Jo-hanna at Bobbie Mackies chose to remain there due to having attempted to murder her father. She fears her fate so she remains behind to avoid judgement (according to a few psychics anyway). As for some returning, there are counts of spirits returning to those they love though whether or not God allowed it or not is never mentioned since the spirits never say.

    B) Not all Spirits or encounters with them are demonic in nature. Human spirits can mimic demonic behavior as much as they can mimic us if it’s a truly malicious one of our own. In addition to that just because a majority of the telly shows on today recount the “frightening” encounters with demented beings does not mean that they make up all the encounters. There are several reports of kindly spirits and one account mentions a elderly spirit couple “resurrecting” their former home to give some passers by in need a place to rest. When they came back to visit the couple again said home was gone. I know you said “almost” but that was too close to “all” for me.

    C) Please do not ever site ghost hunters again. I know I know, not a very good point I just feel this needs to be said even if it is just my opinion. Ever since they started to check after more “famous” haunts they’ve lost all credibility. Their original hook was that they were helping families in need when they first popped onto the air. I’d say after the second or third season is when it really began to crumble and once International hit with their newer members they lost any shred of respect they might have had left. You’d be better off getting information from the “variety” hour paranormal shows that hop around from topic to topic than watching the latest ghost hunters. While I’m on the “not credible list” you can add fact or faked to it as well if you’d care to. They’re simply terrible at the paranormal thing and I could dedicate several posts to rant about their stumblings.

    D) This is to the angering spirits bit. To be honest I have nothing here and have to agree. Demonic or kind, you anger a spirit in any form and it will let you have it.

    E) Residual hauntings. Yes, the thoughts behind them are a theory much like any other theory and given there has been research into some minerals being more conductive to energy compared other minerals there is some backing behind it. To add on there’s also Ringing Rocks park made of volcanic basalt and though no one knows why the rocks ring exactly (while we mindlessly bang on them) the “energy field” that seems to surround it disturbs the animals in such a manner that they won’t even go near the place as much as anyone would want to go near the Grinch. To me that at least proves energy can be attached to certain mineral types and can have a retaining or repelling effect. The ringing rocks are just a form of the latter.

    Goodness that ended up far longer than I intended for it to be. Again though I apologize if I come across as crass or disrespectful, I just had to let this steam out before it boiled my brain. Now if you’ll excuse me now I have to get back to research. The longer this went on the more vague I got and I really need to fix that.

    • Interesting take on things, quizicalgin! Although I don’t know why religion makes you so uncomfortable. If we believe in demons and spirits roaming around, how can we avoid dealing with the ultimate paranormal, God?

      • Well It’s not God and demons that bother me. I know they exist no ifs ands or buts. Organized religion however does to the very core of my being. Some nasty experiences when I was small involving churches is responsible for that in some part.

          • Exactly which leaves me very wary of churches and organized religion in general. I can’t even look at a church now without either flinching or seething inside.That’s something I’ve always found funny, is that more evil has been done in the name of god than good. To do such things I can’t help but wonder if a majority of us are just inherently stupid or can’t be bothered to think past the surface meaning of anything. Seems we love doing it to ordinary things but to those that are important it’s face value. Then again we’ve almost always been a species of skewed priorities.

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