Opinion by Luca Filigenzi, Newswire Intern
They’re creepy, they’re kooky, they’re mysterious and they’re ooky; they’re just downright spooky. However, given the season, they are everywhere. I’m not talking about politicians making hollow election promotions, I’m talking about ghosts.
Today, many skeptics would call balderdash on these campfire story ghouls, claiming they are nothing more than symbolic, silk-sheeted specters passed down from older, more superstitious generations. However, it is my belief that these phantoms are indeed real, and I am going to take you on a little stroll down memory lane. You, too, may see that there is more than just a Scooby Doo villain beneath this mystery.
The first-ever recorded sighting of a ghost occurred 2,000 years ago in the Roman Empire by Pliny the Younger. According to Pliny, this creature haunted a house in Athens, where they would rattle their chains and waive their beard, all while suspended in mid air — all telltale signs of a classic haunting. From there, ghosts have held a proverbial possession of societies of all kinds.
In Japan, ghosts are called “Kami” — spirits that, while inhumane, possess many similar qualities to ghosts —haunting people, moving objects, appearing human, etc.
In Germany, the first recorded case of a violent poltergeist was seen threatening a family of farmers with throwing knives. Then, the rapid spread of Christianity raised a question about ghosts: When people die, they’re supposed to go to either heaven or hell, so where do ghosts fit in?
Many theories and refusals were raised, but Italian poet and theologian Dante Alghieri raised an idea in his famous poem Divine Comedy. In the poem, the dead Roman poet Virgil guides Dante on his journey through hell, purgatory and heaven. Dante’s famous work introduces the idea that ghosts may be former members of the living stuck between the circles of hell, stricken with the duty to guide the living.
So, if ghosts could coexist with Christian theology, they could continue to keep those anxious minds awake with worry. If they could no longer be cast aside by devout minds, every creak in the night could become a reason to hide under the covers.
But stories as numerous as these don’t only exist as part of our distant history. Overtime, the fear that was put in the hearts of medieval farmers was quelled by the age of discovery. Learning more about our world, its inhabitants and the rules we are bound by limits the potential for spookiness overall. Now science has disproved all sorts of myths, from A for Atlantis to Z for zombies.
However, ghosts remain one of the few myths that has survived because sightings and encounters with the beyond are constantly and tangibly occurring. Every day, self-proclaimed ghost hunters walk into graveyards with radios and voice detectors hoping to catch a glimpse of their local phantom. Many of them are successful in finding something… ominous. Maybe it’s a cross in radio waves, maybe it’s a squirrel rustling in the bush, perhaps it’s just an overactive imagination.
Though for every hundred that are easily explained and disproven, there are one or two that keep your attention. You may look at the picture or listen to the recording again and again, running every possible solution in your head. Yet there’s always just that one piece that doesn’t fit, discrediting the theory. “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” the infamous writer and parapsychologist Arthur Conan Doyle wrote.
Sometimes the line between the two is as thin and vague as the ghosts they represent. The sheer mass of these accounts, over thousands of years and across multiple cultures, suggests some truth. Amongst the thousands of stories, accounts and frightenings, at least one of them must be true.
Maybe ghosts aren’t exactly the spooky, booing, house-haunting ghosts that we often think of. Perhaps there exists some inexplicable, cold, intangible force, a voice that can be seen or spoken to on eerie, lonesome fall nights.
Ghosts are more popular and believed in than ever. Ghost tours that advertise the promise of seeing one of their passed celebrities populate all great cities. Ghost movies like The Shining and The Ring are regarded as some of the greatest, scariest and most culturally influential films of all time for a reason. Still, perhaps what keeps the thrill of ghost stories alive is not the evidence upholding or disproving their existence but rather the human love for mystery — the fact that even in this age when all cryptids and creatures have been thrown to the wind, they may still be here. Perhaps they are real and have been kept around by those who aren’t quite convinced by the skeptics and realists. Maybe that noise in your dorm is something more. Maybe out of the corner of your eye, that shadow wasn’t just a trick of the light. Try to keep that sense and spirit alive. Happy Halloween to all, and to all a good fright.