Tonight’s the fright-night when porch lights turn on, the candy comes out and little ghosts and goblins show up on doorsteps everywhere in hopes of getting lots of sugary-sweet treats. It’s a fun tradition that kids look forward to for weeks, and one that makes moms hit the stores and scour Amazon in search of that perfect costume. Television programming leans heavily toward shows about hauntings, paranormal investigations and ghostly encounters in anticipation of Halloween. But long after the trick-or-treaters have recovered from their sugar comas and the Hollywood spook-a-thons are over, many of us are still curious: Is it possible that ghosts are real? Or are they just a figure of our humanly overactive imagination?
Been there, done that
In 2009, I covered Texas hauntings for a “Texas Live Magazine” (no longer in print) article. In the name of research and curiosity, I got “up close and personal” with Houston’s haunted Spaghetti Warehouse, Goliad’s Presidio la Bahia, Navasota’s Horlock House and the Fayette County jail in La Grange.
Years later, I was fortunate enough to hang with an Austin paranormal investigative crew through the better part of the night as they brought sophisticated equipment into Brenham’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow antiques shop in order to do a little ghost-busting.
To say that the stories of these places are intriguing would be a gross understatement.
Each location has years of documented “evidence” to “prove” that something supernatural is happening. In every case, my research turned up enough “proof” for me to now have a healthy dose of respect for the purported paranormal activity.
Whether it was hearing stories of items that sail across tables with no logical explanation or accounts of voices of children at play when there are none in sight, or being told in vivid detail of spirits that clearly appear in these places, even to the most skeptical … Each allegedly-haunted location had recurring events that could not be logically explained.
Do you see what I see?
Perhaps one of the most interesting things that I personally came across in my “ghost hunting” can be “seen” in a photo that I took in the basement of the haunted LaGrange jail. After a very long day of interviews, I sat at my computer late that night going through the photos I had randomly taken during my investigation. When I downloaded them onto my computer, I noticed there appeared to be faces (skulls, precisely) on the brick wall. In person, no water marks, stains, etc were visible on the wall — it was completely blank.
Was this a simple case of the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia (the mind’s ability to see images, particularly faces, where none exist)? Too much research and not enough sleep? Or were there truly images on the wall?
When in doubt, ask. Having shown the photo to several friends— both believers and skeptics— I found there was about a 50/50 split. About half saw the images, the other half saw nothing. To my surprise, it was not a simple case of the skeptics versus the believers: Some skeptics saw the images, while some of those who strongly believe in the paranormal saw nothing at all.
Another random photo that I took last year was also very interesting. I stopped to take a picture of some out-of-place, meandering peacocks, but when I got home it was the door of the abandoned shack that got my attention. Again pareidolia, or vivid imagination? The power of suggestion?
One thing that we can most assuredly toss to the curb in both instances is the possibility of photo manipulation: I’m not a fan, nor am I any good at it.
Believer? Or skeptic?
Being the information-junkie that I am, I wanted to also know how many people out there believe in God and whether it is possible to believe in both God and supernatural phenomenon? According to Pew Research Center/Religious Landscape Study, 65% of the 35,000 Americans surveyed believe in God. A slightly smaller percentage said they believe, also, in the supernatural and have encountered spirits or ghosts. (USA Today article, October 2017)
How is it possible to believe in both? Is it sacrilegious? Dabbling in the occult?
There’s an interesting article in “Psychology Today” that addresses the question in a way that’s very easy to grasp, seems fairly plausible and keeps me out of the hot seat of having to offer a personal opinion. If you are so inclined, you can read, “How the God You Worship Influences the Ghosts You See.”
I’ve remained open-minded enough to realize through my research that the people who have tripped across orbs, cold spots, mists and apparitions are usually the last people you’d expect to believe in something intangible. They are not the ones who drag out the Ouija board in search of things that go bump in the night. Rather, they are rational people who did not want to believe— until they had no other choice.
Circumstance apparently escorts skepticism right out the door (or through the wall, as the case might be).
Let them be little
I’ve always enjoyed Halloween. For me, it’s the kick-off to the festive holiday season. I’ve never bought into the negative, “occult” side of the event and while I respect their viewpoints, I’ve never understood how some believe it fosters devil-worship when it comes to children.
Nope. I dressed my kids every single year in cute costumes and took them trick-or-treating through the neighborhood. Neither of them grew up to worship devils, hold séances or cast any spells, to my knowledge. Now they carry on the tradition by way of their own children.
I’m not on a mission to lose friends or gain enemies (if I were, I’d give you my political opinion), so delving into the occult is not what this post is about. It’s simply food for thought. It comes down to another prime example of “to each their own.” Everyone has a right to their belief or skepticism.
As for me, we live far enough away from town to not have many, if any, little goblin candy-seekers. I’ll miss that. Maybe I’ll just kick back in my Casper the Friendly Ghost t-shirt and “scare up” a pizza; maybe watch a little “Poltergeist.”
Then I’ll say my prayers and go to bed.
Reminding you to bloom where you're planted,
To read my article with another mention of the haunting of the LaGrange jail: https://www.texascooppower.com/travel/central-texas/tugging-on-the-heartstrings.
My original article on Texas Hauntings:
PLEASE NOTE: I realize that this article is not easily readable, and I've gotten requests from several who are wanting to make that happen. Please contact me and I will send you a readable file. Sorry that I can't make it legible below. THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST!!
A word about Kevin's photo (top of article): He came across this particular house and realized it possessed an "other-worldly" charm. I decided it would be the perfect spooky addition to my post. Kevin took another photo in an abandoned graveyard that inspired me to write "God Only Knows," resulting in a collaboration that we are working on and hope to present to the public soon, available for purchase. Stay tuned!