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Tales of spectral activity. Have you ever seen a ghost?

I suppose because today is Halloween I should have something seasonal here. Above, the famous "Chloe Postcard" from The Myrtles, a haunted house in my Louisiana hometown. Look just behind the white pillar, near where the two buildings meet. You'll see the image of a slightly stooped woman. Some say that's Chloe, the 19th century servant ghost who supposedly lingers there.

You've heard all my ghost stories over the years, so I won't repeat them in much detail here. Here's a fun collection of anecdotes from travel writers who experienced spooky places, for starters. And there was a neat story in the Times the other day about what it's like to live in a haunted house. Excerpts:


On a routine afternoon, Shane Booth, a photography professor living in Benson, N.C., was folding laundry in his bedroom, when he was startled by a loud, crashing noise. He stepped out to find a shattered front window and his dog sitting outside it. He was confused, how could his dog have jumped through the window with enough force to break it?

After cleaning up the glass, Mr. Booth came back to his room, where all of the clothes he had just folded were scattered and strewn about, he said. “That’s when I thought, this is actually really scary now,” said Mr. Booth, 45.

In an interview, Mr. Booth described several other inexplicable, eerie encounters that have led him to believe that his century-old house is haunted. Pictures that he’d hung on the wall he’d later discover placed perfectly on the floor with no broken frames to indicate a fall. He noticed vases moved to different locations, had momentary sightings of a ghost (an old man), and heard bellowing laughter when no one else was in the house. “There’s so many little things that sporadically happen that you just can’t explain,” he said.

The story goes on to cite survey data showing that an incredible number of Americans believe they do live or have lived in a haunted house. More:

Some people believe that ghosts can follow them from one house to another.

Lisa Asbury has lived in her home in Dunlap, Ill., for three years now. But the paranormal activity she’s observed began in her old home in 2018, following the death of her husband’s grandfather, and is identical to what she’s been experiencing now, she said. Ms. Asbury, 43, said that she’s seen objects fly off shelves, lights flash in multiple rooms and fan blades start turning suddenly. “I hear my name being called when I’m alone, phantom footsteps, our dogs barking while staring at nothing,” she added.

But nothing has felt aggressive, Ms. Asbury said. Just attention-seeking. “I believe our spirits to be family,” she said. “I get the feeling that we have different family members visit at different times.”

And though it was unsettling for a while, she’s figured out how to live within the ghostly milieu. “Usually if something occurs, we will acknowledge it out loud or just say hi to the spirit,” Ms. Asbury said.

Unsurprisingly, the young are more likely to believe in ghosts. More:

There are generational differences in who believes in ghosts. In the Vivint survey, 65 percent of Gen Zers (defined as people born between 1997 and 2012) who participated in the survey thought their home was haunted, while 35 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) surveyed thought the same.

“With so much conversation on TikTok about true crime, podcasts about haunted things and crime documentaries, we thought that could be spreading this trend among younger people,” said Maddie Weirman, one of the researchers of the Vivint survey.

Gen Z “might be searching for meaning in new places,” Ms. Hill said. “If the modern world they live in isn’t providing food for the soul, if capitalism is a system that drains us of personal enlightenment, it’s not hard to figure out that younger people will search elsewhere for that and find the idea of an alternate world — of ghosts, aliens, cryptids, et cetera — to be enticing to explore.”


Well. You know that I believe in ghosts, and have encountered them. What I don't know is precisely what they are, or why they exist. They are not easy to reconcile with my theology. Back in 1994, when my grandfather's noisy ghost haunted my mom and dad's house the week after he died, we were able, with the help of an exorcist and his charismatically gifted lay Catholic assistant, to discern that God had for some mysterious reason allowed my grandfather to remain to seek forgiveness from my father, his son, whom he had badly wronged. I say that "God had for some mysterious reason" allowed this to happen. All we were told by the priest and his helper was that it was my grandfather's spirit, and that he couldn't move on until my father forgave him. My dad did, the priest blessed the house, and that was the end of the drama.

My other direct encounter came around 2005, in Dallas, when a new friend -- not a religious believer -- told me in tears that the house she and her daughters moved into after her divorce had one or more spirits in it. They had been living there for a decade or so, but my friend was tired of it all. She agreed to allow me to bring over a priest to bless the house, to see if that would have any effect. As soon as Father P. and I walked in, we both felt a sense of heaviness in the air, and Father P. asked my friend the homeowner who was in the back whispering.

"You hear them too!" said my friend, who explained that since she and her daughters (who had since grown up and moved out) moved in, they've all been able to hear murmuring, but can't make the words out. Me, I heard nothing -- but then, my hearing is not good.

When the priest and I moved towards the back of the house, we passed through a bathroom leading into a back bedroom. We both felt a wave of energy pass over us, and said, "Whoa!" at the same time. My friend was not surprised; she said that happens sometimes when someone goes into that bedroom. She explained that she bought the house from the adult children of an elderly couple who had lived there, but who could no longer take care of themselves, and who had to move to a nursing home, where they soon died. This particular room had been the old woman's bedroom. When the priest opened the door to the bedroom closet to bless it, he revealed that the back of the closet door was covered with twenty or thirty stickers, of the "Hi, My Name Is" kind. They had all belonged to the old woman.

My friend explained that over the years, every time she would decide to scrape them off, she felt something stop her. The priest blessed the whole room, and then the two of them left to go speak privately in the front of the house. I remained in the bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed, praying a rosary and asking Christ to call home the spirit who dwells in that room. After some time, an image flashed into my mind of a naked, withered old woman with a short white perm walking into the base of an enormous cross on which Jesus hung. Then I physically felt the room lighten. I called for Father P. and my friend, who came running.

They both said that something had changed in the room, that they could feel it. So could I. I believe the spirit of the old woman was freed from the trap. Three days later, I called my friend to see how she was doing. She said that the house had been so peaceful since that night, with a serenity she had never known there before. Except something weird had happened the night before: my friend woke up in the middle of the night with her room filled with the aroma of roses. She could not explain this.

"You've been visited by the Virgin Mary!" I told her.

Shortly after that, she began to study to become a Catholic, and was later received into the Catholic Church.

I don't know why people make their peace, living with ghosts. By now, I am not frightened by the existence of discarnate human spirits, but I do want to send them on their way, if I can. For one, it's creepy to share a house with one or more ghosts. For another, I think they are all tormented, and out of place, stuck in this plane of existence. They should be moving on, but for some reason their attachment to this world was such that they couldn't let go. Again, I hasten to add that I don't really know how to make sense of this in Christian theology, but I have had too many encounters myself, and heard too many similar stories from people I trust, to say they're all either of one's imagination, or demonic.

In the winter of 1993-94, I lived mostly alone in an old plantation house in West Feliciana. I say "mostly" alone, because the landlady was a friend who spent most of her time in New Orleans with her husband. I was more or less house-sitting, except on weekends when they would come up.

I had my pick of the four upstairs bedrooms. The one I moved into was on the front left quadrant of the old house. I never slept soundly there. I kept waking up, feeling that I was being watched. For the longest time I thought it was just my imagination, trying to get used to sleeping in an old plantation house in the middle of the woods. But it persisted. I would leave a lamp on in the room to try to make it go away, but nothing worked.

Finally, when my landlady and her husband were up visiting one weekend, I told her I was going to have to move out and back in with my parents, because I couldn't get a good night's sleep. I told her I felt like I was being watched. She rolled her eyes (she's a strict materialist), but her husband said, "Why don't you try a different bedroom? I've never been able to sleep in that room. The same thing happens to me."

That night I tried a different bedroom, and slept like a baby. That's where I stayed for the remainder of my time there. And certain by then that there really was an unhappy spirit there (perhaps of the ancestor who hanged himself in the ceiling many decades ago), I began to pray for the Holy Spirit to cleanse the house.

And then, there was a big movement of the spirit in that house on Saturday afternoon in late January. I was praying a rosary quietly in a bedroom downstairs when the room filled with sunlight and the aroma of roses. It lasted for exactly one decade (the second of the Glorious Mysteries, if you're curious), then went away. I had prayed for two things: first, a prayer of thanksgiving to the Virgin for her prayers for me as I discerned whether or not to take a new job, which I had just accepted moments before retiring to pray; and to hold the hand of my friend Kim, visiting that weekend, who was badly broken up over her recent divorce. Well, a few minutes later, Kim came rushing in from outside, where she had been walking in the garden. Her eyes were huge, and she held her right hand out to me.

"Smell this!" she said.

Her palm smelled powerfully of roses.

"Did you put perfume on it? Wash it with soap?" I asked.

No, no, she shook her head.

"Kim, I was just praying a rosary downstairs, and was surrounded by the aroma of roses," I said. "And I also prayed for the Virgin Mary to hold your hand through this divorce."

I thought Kim was going to go on her knees. Then the aroma of roses vanished.

About an hour later, a spiritually gifted Christian friend in Texas called me at the house, which was unusual. He asked if anything spiritual had been going on there that afternoon. Yes, I said, then told him the stories.

He said, "I had to call because I had this overwhelming sense that there was some sort of cleansing wind blowing through the house."

All that happened on the afternoon of January 29, 1994. I lost touch with sweet Kim ages ago, but she later moved away, got remarried, and last time I checked, has a happy family.

Years ago, on a lark I read a book by Mary Ann Winkowski, who was the inspiration for the show Ghost Whisperer. In it, she talked about, well, ghosts, which says she can see. I recall her saying that ghosts feed off of high emotional energy emanating from the living. You might think you would see a ghost in a cemetery, but according to Winkowski, they are far more likely to be in bars, sporting arenas, and anywhere that people congregate in numbers, and experience emotional highs. For what that's worth... .

This is the point in which I invite you to tell your own ghost stories. You who can comment, please do. If you can't comment below but have something to say, email me at rod -- at -- amconmag -- dot -- com, and put GHOST in the subject line.

UPDATE: Several letters came in overnight. Let's go!

I have a story from a little over a decade ago. I was recently out of the army and starting to explore becoming a Christian. I was living in a century old farm house. On frequent occasions, there would be footsteps on the stairs, lights turned on, and a general uneasiness that would move about the house and the grounds around the house.This was occurring over the course of almost a year. I would have friends spend the night and hear the footsteps, thinking that I was walking around at 3 am. 

One friend, who was a Lutheran youth pastor at the time came to visit. The entire night he was there, we both felt a mean presence, to the point where the friend stated that clearly, the presence did not like him there.

Some other friends were really into having mediums come check places out. Their medium really wanted to come to the house and engage with the spirit. I refused, because you don’t talk to demons. 

As my commitment to Christ grew, the spirit seemed to go away. First the lights turning on and off stopped, then the footsteps, then the menacing presence. I am convinced that faithfulness and prayer drove it away.


Prior to us meeting, my future wife lived alone in a house in the older part of her hometown.  Shortly after her conversion to Catholicism, something within the house started actively sending the message she wasn't welcome.  Once was pushed down the basement steps by some unseen force, but caught herself on the railing before tumbling headlong.  Occasionally, the front door would refuse to open for her even after throwing herself against it, but if someone else where present, he could open the door with ease.  There was a bedroom on the second floor with her piano.  She learned to avoid it after 10 pm as unbidden thoughts like "kill yourself" would occur.  A first-time overnight guest, after staying that room, asked in the morning "Who died in the room?".

She asked her priest to bless the house, but after he looked at her like she was 'One of Those', she took matters into her hands by prayerfully asking God to enforce her rights to the place as property owner, sprinkling holy water and placing blessed Benedict medals around windows and doors.  The resistance of the house to her simmered down after that, but it was nonetheless uncomfortable until she moved out.


I have seen one ghost, an elderly black lady in a blue chambray dress walking down the service road to my apartment complex.  In bright sunlight, as I was  looking at her, she vanished, and there was nothing behind which a real person could have ducked.  I was not too surprised to see a ghost,  as there were 3 old folks’s homes in the area.

My son and I smell coffee at odd times, even in closed-window seasons.  We don’t drink coffee, but my father, who left us the house, did.  The Archdruid said it’s probably Grandpa saying Hello.  If it is, we’re happy to have him haunting the house.  We miss him.

This one has a photo:

This picture was taken one morning in Edinburg, Scotland about ten years ago when my son and his cousin were traveling together.  The church was empty—neither of the boys saw or sensed anything out of the ordinary.  When the picture was developed, there was an odd figure standing about halfway down the aisle by one of the pews.  Looks like a deacon waiting for the offering plate.

I don’t know what I think about ghosts, but the picture is intriguing. 

UPDATE.2: This just in:

My maternal grandmother passed away in the Spring of 2012. She was a Catholic and a loving person, but she had a very strong personality and would sometimes clash with my mother and her siblings. Our relationship was generally good, but I would quietly suspect her of hiding my books or gaming systems when I visited in an attempt to get me to spend more time with my extended family who I seldom saw more than once a year.

Two months after her death, my family went on vacation to my grandparent's house to visit my newly widowed grandfather. Their house is on the coast and one day after lunch we planned to spend a few hours at the beach. I was going to bring a new book I had purchased for the vacation but as we were preparing to leave I realized that the book was missing. I told my family to leave and that I would join them as soon as I found it. I looked all over the house, including in my grandmother's old bedroom and bathroom which were now occupied by my parents. As I searched I half-seriously muttered a question to my grandmother asking if she had hidden the book somewhere. 

After another 10 minutes of searching I gave up and, having lost my desire to walk down to the beach I sat down on the living room couch to check the news on my laptop. After a while I gradually became aware of a noise coming from the back of the house. Once I put down my computer and stopped to listen intently I determined that it was the sound of running water. Sure enough, when I walked back to my grandmother's old bathroom her sink was running at full strength. I had to turn the faucet over 180 degrees to shut the water off. My immediate reaction was that my parents must have left the water running as they left for the beach (which would have been extremely out of character for them) and that I somehow hadn't noticed at first, but I quickly remembered that I had searched that room for my book after they had left for the beach, and I certainly would have noticed then if the tap had been left open. I was suddenly overcome by a wave of unease and apprehension and quickly left the house to wait in the backyard for the others to return.

When I asked my parents after they returned if they had left the tap running they both said they hadn't used it since the morning. My mother then told me that her sisters had both experienced strange happenings at the house that summer: a coffee cup that had been knocked off a table despite not being precariously perched near the edge of the table, and a mound of sugar in the pantry that looked as though it had been carefully poured into a neat pile rather than accidentally spilled. Given those incidents and the lack of any obvious earthly explanation for what happened that afternoon (short of my memory failing spectacularly), I feel that my grandmother's ghost or spirit was present that day. Since that summer no one has experienced any more paranormal occurrences at the house, and we believe that my grandmother has finally been able to move on from this world.

UPDATE.3: This is amazing -- the professional skeptic Michael Shermer had an encounter with the numinous on his wedding day.

UPDATE.4: A letter:

The house I grew up in had some sort of presence in or about it. When I was young, I had horrific dreams every single night until about age 12, when I desperately prayed that God would take away the nightmares or prevent me from remembering my dreams. (I’m 40 now, and I remember exactly four dreams since that prayer.) One brother had repeated waking hallucinations of bats or birds or other more demonic figures. Another brother twice woke my parents screaming and flailing with nightmares, unwakable and cold to the touch; that brother was also a creepy sleepwalker. I frequently saw dark, human shapes in the yard and driveway; I dismissed them as tricks of the light until a high-school friend saw them, too. We moved out when I was 16, and all that stuff stopped.

There was also a ghost in my friend's house, where we used to hang out in high school and into college. The ghost looked uncannily like my friend K.C., so we referred to it as C.K. (I don't think any of us ever spoke to it.) Probably six or seven of us had specific experiences with C.K. For example, Meghan was brushing her teeth one morning and looked up to see in the mirror C.K. standing behind her; she turned around, and no one was there. Another morning I was eating breakfast cereal in the kitchen when I looked up and saw, clear as day, C.K. walk across the hallway from one room to another. I went to the room and it was empty; I checked every room off the hallway, and no one was there. (And it wasn’t K.C., either, as he was asleep in the basement the whole time.) And then there were more general things: Lights, video games, televisions, music, etc. would turn on and off in other rooms when no one was there; we heard footsteps in empty parts of the house; once, a whole group of us clearly heard someone taking a shower, but the bathroom was empty and the shower dry. There was never any sense of malevolence or evil — none of us was afraid of C.K. — but we all knew he was there. I wasn’t a serious Christian then, so I don’t know how I’d respond to C.K. now (or him to me?), but back then he was just part of being at K.C.’s house.

That reader suggests this free (on YouTube) paranormal documentary series called "Dark Holler," which is basically Christians encountering the paranormal. I'll watch it later tonight:

UPDATE.5: New one:

In college my future wife was going through a rough time. I got her a Divine Mercy image prayer card she placed next to her bed. One morning, she woke up and the prayer card was ripped in half lengthwise.

We asked the campus priest to come over and bless the dorm room. He did this as I followed him around with a small crucifix, and he sprinkled Holy water in various places.

She never had any issues after that.