Monday, August 13, 2007

G is for "Ghosts"

When I was thirteen, my best friend and I began to play with the Ouija board, all-the-time. Don't have time to get into the whole story, but lets say that although it is a board game marketed by Parker Brothers I'll never play it again and it isn't because I am not a good sport it's because I have a soul and I want to keep it. Take a peek at the "Alleged consequences of usage " section from Wikipedia for a few reasons why I will never ever touch one again. So, anyway, during the summer and fall that we were into playing with dangerous mystical occult things we of course had experiences with ghosts. Then there was my friend a few years later who worked at a hotel famous for having ghosts. Her stories were riveting. Then there were the incidences of strangers walking up to me, proclaiming themselves to be sensitive to the "other world/s" and constantly telling me that I was basically a human lighting rod for ghosts. When my roommate my Freshman year at university confided in me that she hoped that the poltergeist from home hadn't followed her off to college I wasn't thrilled. When she woke me up one night with a terrified whisper of, "oh Laura, it's here. It's here!" I sat straight up in bed, and said loudly and firmly, "GET THE HELL OUT. WE ARE CLOSED." I have steadfastly remained closed and unopened to the "other world" since. I sincerely intend to remain as about as spiritually conducive as a large lump of granite.

Being so adamant about not being receptive to ghosts obviously tells you how firmly I believe in them. And the real reason that I am absolutely sold on them is due to my scientific, fervently Christian father. This is the man who used to read aloud from "Lives of a Cell" by Lewis Thomas at dinner. My father is by profession an organic chemistry professor. He also was nearly constantly a member of the church board at one church or another during my childhood and adolescence. We were so thoroughly inundated in theology and science that I felt like God surely was up in heaven combining DNA and whipping up black stars just like any diety who loves science would be.

So the day that my father told me a ghost story I was very, very skeptical and a little nervous, wondering what he was up to. Turns out that Dad had had a very difficult day at work. He had moved our family from Illinois out to California in order to take up an administrative job as Head of the Department of Health and Sciences at a university in the central valley. Aside from having a hard time adjusting to being taking out to eat at Mexican restaurants (a variety of food he had no previous experience with) and learning the new job, he found out he was expected to lower the axe on several tenured professors in his department. He became one of "them" after years of being on the other side. Then after several years of excelling on the "them team" (administration) he finally couldn't stomach any more football tail gate parties and took a big pay cut to go back to teaching organic chemistry. The problem of course was that all the other chemists in the department still considered him "one of them" and they reverted to nearly school boy level bullying and prank pulling. I mean, at the time I was only an 8 year-old little girl trying to find her Daddy's office. I walked into the department of Chemistry and there sat about six grown up men. When I asked for my father's office number they exchanged knowing looks and then several said at the same time, "you must be really lost little girl. There is no Prof. X in this department!" At that moment the department secretary stood up and took me by the hand. "I'll take you to your father's office." Just as we were going out the door she paused and threw back over her shoulder, "You should be ashamed of yourselves. She's just a little girl! Grown men!" and made a wonderful harrumph noise that must of certainly put them in their place.

Anyhow, after a particularly difficult day of dealing with his hostile colleagues, Dad came home in a down mood. The mood got worse when he and Mom had a bit of a spat about something or other--the usual. Probably the fact that California--does not have grass. No real leaves, nothing but mile after mile of scorched brown dirt and long weeds. Dangerous weeds, like foxtails that were forever burrowing into mother's beloved cockerspaniel and having to be surgically removed. Mom didn't transplant that well. It took about seventeen years before she kinda liked living on the West coast. So Dad retreated upstairs, carrying our ancient upright vacuum up the stairs with him and as he vacuumed and thought about the mean guys at work and the unhappy wife downstairs and the cut in pay he had taken and the loss of status he had taken with it he started thinking about his Grandmother. Dad grew up with his mother, father, his older sister (kinda. she was ten years older so she wasn't at home as long as Dad was) and his maternal Grandmother. Apparently Grandmother Cross was always there for my Dad as a young boy.

When he opened the barn doors to show off his FFA flock of sheep to his local FFA chapter and each and every single sheep was on its back, legs up in the air stiff, dead as a door nail, she would have been the primary comforter and pillar of strength that he turned to back at home. When the pony his dad bought for him kept scraping him off it's back by galloping into the barn when the double doors were open on the bottom but closed on the top . . . Grandmother Cross was there to dabble the home remedies on his cuts and bruises and her comforting words for his bruised pride.

Apparently Grandmother Cross always laid her hands on the back of his neck.

Apparently this is just what she did that day that he was vacuuming upstairs. He shrieked and ran downstairs completely white and visibly shaking. Then he didn't tell me about it for several months.

He reckoned that she was only trying to comfort him. But he told me about it at the same time that he cautioned me to stop messing around with the Ouija board.

I think that the opinion of my father on the matter of ghosts had a greater impact on me than even the multiple unexplainable highly eerier and frightening "Alleged consequences of usage" that I experienced.

So, there you have it. I believe in ghosts. But I definitely don't go looking for them. I have several times entered houses and immediately experienced intense discomfort and had overwhelming feelings of dread. These places have always later been revealed to have had some sort of supernatural connection. Did I go back? Did I even stay the first time? Good God no. Remember, "I'm closed to all supernatural forces."

And now I have the added benefit of living in a country where the ghosts will feel uncomfortable around me--you know, a "gaijin" and even if they bother to whisper threatening things at me chances are that I might not catch what they are saying. I can probably get off with looking confused and maybe even scare them off by answering back in English.


Sarah said...

Wow. I write that a lot after reading your posts. I have to say that I have never really thought about whether I believe there are ghosts are not. I have been really surprised by how superstitious Japanese people are. There are a lot of special shows on television about people who believe their are ghosts or bad spirits in their house and a spiritual designer comes to their house and remodels their house, putting all things in the right place, and then prays over the house and then the spirits are supposed to be gone. It's a weird combination of Feng Shui, Buddhism and expensive remodeling. I always watch in fascination at how easily the people believe that a 100 grand is going to fix all of their problems.

Very interesting post. I wonder what H will be?

Anonymous said...

Laura, we used to use the Ouija board also, at about the same age, and it did seem to really work for my sister and I also. (great messages etc., and we both insisted that we weren't pushing it around....) Thanks also for the Wik.. link., I had no idea about the history etc. Thank you for sharing with us your experiances in moving to California etc. Your writing is so expressive.... I really enjoy your posts. Nancy Tsurumaki