In honor of Halloween, Alanna and I will be forsaking television and snarkicisms regarding it to share with you what is a casual passion for me and a minor area of interest for her: ghosts/the supernatural. We were both shocked that the usually judgmental commentors of Gawker's sister site, Jezebel, were nothing but respectful and self reflective, sharing their own ghost stories prompted by a feature on this New York Times article on home ghost removal. Ghosts and belief in them seem to be very of the moment, so why not put our expierences out there into the blogosphere.
Aside from my constant obsession with Ghost Hunters, I believe my thoughts on the issue have already been best expressed in a guest blog for Pat over at A Blog About Things this summer. Without his permission, I shall reprint here:
My interest in things otherworldly probably began in 1994, when my best friend and I formed the Fourth Grade Psychic Society. We issued professionally laminated cards to our friends clamoring to be members, but actually could not boast any psychic skill of our own. I think this was more our way of mildly rebelling against our Catholic school indoctrination, so we kept things tame; instead of using a Ouija board, we constructed our own Angel Board (same idea except supposedly not demonic). And we used a shot glass* as the object to move from letter to letter. Which I never pushed. I swear.
This hobby died down over the years, with the occasional tune in to Montel Williams' show when psychic Sylvia Brown was a guest and then, more recently, the propensity to fill my DVR memory with Sci Fi's hit series Ghost Hunters (Don't even attempt to mock. I have become very good at defending myself and will, in fact, blow you out of the water).
My curiosity did perk up a few years ago, though, when for work I had to become familiar with Lily Dale, NY. Lily Dale is located just west of Buffalo, and in order to own a home there, you must be a registered medium** that has passed the Lily Dale board's accreditation. Every summer, Lily Dale has its open season in which there are lectures and workshops, and visitors can make appointments to visit a Lily Dale Medium for a private session in his or her home, which is most likely a Victorian era cottage.
Fortunately, my ability to make friends willing to follow through with my absurd ideas had not died down since the fourth grade. I convinced my friend from Rochester, NY that we should go during my visit to her—it was only a two-hour drive away. Although she was a huge and vocal skeptic, she agreed (She was probably just bitter that she didn't know me in the fourth grade and couldn't be in the Psychic Society).
Our first run in with Lily Dale's mediums happened at an afternoon service held at Inspiration Stump, supposedly the site of some of Lily Dale's most intense spirit energy. A la John Edwards, a crowd gathers here several times each day, and a group of mediums will tag team read the crowd. For most of this session, we were not convinced. It was easy to tell that a vast majority of the visitors to Lily Dale were in search of some fulfillment their life just wasn't offering, meaning we were in fairly miserable company. One medium did come through with someone that, to a T, fit a very specific description of my Great Grandmother***, but I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to earn an honorary membership in the Sad and Pathetic Psychic Society. And interestingly enough, no one else in the crowd claimed this spirit as their own.
I had made private appointments with one of the town's mediums, but only after some fairly intense research. I steered away from anyone who remotely resembled the woman who told Carol Ann to go into the light, and also avoided anyone looking for a deposit ahead of time (Mediums take paypal?!). Instead, our medium is the definition of down to earth: a former marine and proud lesbian, she has flags commemorating both hanging in front of her two story cottage. She couldn't be older than 38, owns two dogs (and specializes in animal communication), and puts her skills to real world use, working as a grief counselor. Sounded way better than some middle-aged, crystal ball gazer dressed in resort wear.
After a spiritualist prayer, I repeated my name three times, and the medium briefly meditated. The first thing she came back with: My friend and I had said hello to cows on our way to Lily Dale. Had we? Yes. She told me the cows said hi back. Weird. Next, it sounded as if my Great Grandmother may be coming through again (I won't bore you with the exact validations as to why I thought it was her, but believe me, they were pretty impressive). She asked if anyone in my family had recently undergone medical testing, and if so if they were suffering from diabetes. I told her no. Take home point was that my Great-Grandmother wanted me to tell my Grandfather to take care of himself.
We neared the end of our time together, and the medium asked if there was anything else I was interested in. Because of her animal specialty, and my ongoing obsession with Barney, our family dog that we had to put down in February, I asked if she saw any animals around me. Brief meditation... "Do you have cats that you feed ice cream?," she came back with. Yes, my roommate and I make a habit out of, when we are done, spoon-feeding our cats the leftover ice cream. She said she saw a little dog. She was confused because, in life, this dog knew no other co-pets. Yet this dog thinks he is mine and is jealous that he does not get ice cream. "Next time, leave some out for him." She said.
Pretty darn good, right? I mean, I was kind of bummed with the lackluster message for my grandfather—he wasn't the one paying $65 dollars—but at least I knew Barney was no longer horribly arthritic and was still capable of focusing on fine dining. So I called my mom. I told her that if it had worked, the only person that came through was Grandma Kutchins, as we called her, telling Grandpa to take care of himself. "Well that would make sense," she said. "Grandpa was in for tests this week and is in the beginning stages of diabetes."
OMFG?!#WTF?#!?OMFG?! Not your usual reaction to hearing of a grandparent's illness, but warranted in this situation. Looks like my medium was pretty dead on.
One interesting thing to keep in mind is that there are no documented cases of anyone coming through and confirming our earthly superstitions about life after death. For example, my Great-Grandmother was very Catholic, but at no point did she say, "I am chilling here with Jesus! SUCK IT JEWS!" Are any of the earth's major religions right? Or do dead people get a handbook, like in Beetlejuice, asking them not to pass on any info that might start a religious World War III? Or is there a place where the energy of all living things continues on once they die, no deities included?
Or am I just insane?
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