Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10-16-07: Ghost Walk

On Saturday night, I went on a “ghost walk” around Wilmington with my family, as part of UNCW’s Family Weekend. It was an interesting time, but it involved more walking than originally planned. Two and a half hours of visiting houses and “actives sites” was a bit much. But, it was different.

Our guide was an interesting fellow, equipped with a top hat and a shovel. He didn’t sound like he was from the South, and he used the phrase “sure enough” exactly 137 times, or thereabouts. In all, we walked over a mile, and visited about six sites, mostly houses. The last house we visited was Bellamy Mansion, where a caretaker told us he had slept over the house one night and had an encounter with a spirit.

The night before, I had met a friend of my dad’s cousin Bob, with whom we were staying at his house. Her name was Jane, and she was a very sweet woman from Wilmington. She had come from money, but you couldn’t tell. She was well dressed, but very down to earth, and funny. As it turns out, she grew up in the Bellamy Mansion (her name growing up was Jane Bellamy). None of the ghost stories are true. That was a bit disappointing, but expected.

I live in a town that has a cemetery that is nationally renowned for its Union Cemetery, where the White Lady resides. Apparently it is one of the most “active” locations in the United States. Radio stations and TV crews make regular visits to the site, and cops need to check on it at night so high school kids don’t do anything crazy while trying to catch a glimpse of the ghost. The White Lady has a special history in my town. One time, during my eighth grade history class, my teacher was showing us a series of slides that exhibited some of the history of the town. One picture stood out prominently. It was a picture of one of the oldest stores in town, and there was a woman on the roof… hovering. It was just odd, but my teacher simply passed over it, nonchalantly saying “And that is the White Lady,” before moving on to the next slide. It was an interesting class.

I’m pretty skeptical of ghost hunting in general. I remember in my senior year in high school, during my Writing to Speak class, a girl I knew gave a presentation on the topic. It was about 20 minutes long, and she did an OK job, but the questions afterward were interesting. I asked her a few grilling questions, which I, to this day, think were harsh but appropriately critical. Throughout the presentation, she relied on photographs she had taken of various locations, including Dudleytown (infamous colonial settlement in northern Connecticut that is supposedly cursed), to explain some of her paranormal encounters. She explained that there are basically two things that ghost hunters look for: orbs and fog. Orbs are circles of light, that are supposedly connected to the spiritual/paranormal realm, and fog is… fog. Either one, or a combination, of these two things can reveal a paranormal presence. Our shovel-toting guide on Saturday night mentioned orbs many times, and would tell us stories of seeing them in various photographs taken by guests on past tours.

One of the questions I asked the girl in high school was if it were possible that orbs could simply be dust on the camera lens or a lens flare. She didn’t bite. She stuck to her theories. That’s fine. I also asked how fog played its part. From what I remember, she said it was not simply fog, but how it moved or didn’t move that mattered. Spooky. I then went on to say, and I regret saying this, that “So, from what you’ve said, I could theoretically own a fog machine and a copy of Photoshop and declare myself a ghost hunter.” She went red, and I felt bad afterward, but it was an honest question.

I don’t believe in ghost hunting, but I will admit that, for many years, I was terrified of the dark. I think that people can do whatever makes them happy or excited, but they won’t convert me by using orbs and fog as evidence. I also find it odd that, often times, drugs are involved, as in many ghost sightings involve drunk or stoned individuals. I even saw a minute or two of a ghost hunting special on the History Channel once that had a guy carrying a stick and saying “This would hanging down straight for the ground if there weren’t a presence in this room.” Sure thing, or maybe you’re holding it up subconsciously.

In my opinion, it’s all about your subconscious. Is it really a ghost? How can you know? Try this out. Gather a few friends this Halloween, and tell them you’re going to visit a haunted graveyard or a house, or something. Then, go in the middle of the woods somewhere and pretend you heard/saw/felt something. See what your friends do. I can almost guarantee you that, if not at that moment, they will tell you they also heard/saw/felt something. If you are told to look for a ghost, you will see one. It’s all in your head. You seldom hear of ghosts in malls or office buildings. It’s always in places where people think they’ll be, like abandoned hospitals or graveyards, and it’s never somewhere new or recently settled. Wouldn’t you think there’d be more ghosts in cities, where more people have lived? You never hear one of those ghost stories, except in Ghostbusters. Man, that was a good movie.

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