Saturday, February 07, 2004

After seeing, from a moving car, one of Chicago's haunted cemeteries, I thought 'twould be a swell idea to be a ghost host myself. When far-off friends visit Vancouver, we could go down a checklist of haunted houses and buildings here. I already know of five haunted buildings in the Lower Mainland. More research is needed. Robert C. Belyk's book Ghosts: True Stories from British Columbia is the ubiquitous guide to local supernatural occurrences.

Scholars divide ghosts into two categories: those who haunt places and those who haunt people. Hauntings might be like a film of past, playing what once occured in the vicinity.*

Crisis apparitions might also appear to the living within twelve hours of a death. Nela, my mother's best friend, dreamt one night that her father appeared from the woods behind her house in Canada. In her dream, she asked how her father, living in Romania, suddenly came to Canada. He answered that he simply wanted to see her. The next morning - we all know what's coming - she gets phonecall from Romania that her father passed away during the night.**

Ghost scholars say that hauntings may simply be a means for spirits to announce their continued presence. Tricks like turning on lights and opening doors are the spiritual equivalent of attention deficit children.

Which brings me to my ghost.

After nearly a year of inactivity, I heard the footsteps coming up the stairs again. Friends suggest it could be the house expanding or contracting. But the weather recently remains constant. There were no sudden changes in temperature. Someone suggested I had mice in my house. There is no smell to back this up, nor droppings or any evidence of gnawing. As well, the footsteps sound heavy, manlike, and they move with a human speed. They begin from the middle of the stairway. The sound gets louder as they approach. Then, once they reach the top of the stairs, the footsteps continue across the floor to the doors of two adjacent bedrooms. (Where, needless to say, I am not spending the night.)

Having never been in this house alone until a few months ago, I asked my sister if she has ever heard this disquieting noise. She knew all about the ghost, which is why she never slept in those bedrooms either when she was alone in the house.

Which brings me to my heating bill for December.

I went away for two weeks. Clutching a list of things to do before leaving, I went through the house checking off my tasks. I delivered the hamster to a temporary caregiver. I packed enough pairs of underwear to last the whole trip. I scrubbed the bathtub in case the person watering my plants decided to judge my housekeeping skills. I turned off the heat.

Two weeks later, I arrive home and the house is as hot as a greenhouse. I consulted my list of pre-departure tasks and "turn off heat" was crossed off. I don't cross anything off until I completely complete something. It's happened before that I crossed off items on to-do lists before finishing them. I've learned from those mistakes. It is not possible that I would trick myself.

I phoned the person watering my plants. Why, both times he came by, the house was hot.

The heat control panel is on a wall directly in front of the stairwell and beside the two bedroom doors. Obviously it is the ghost playing havoc with my finances.

However, as the person watering my plants said, if the heat was off, some calamity might have transpired in the cold snap this winter. Is my spirit a benign one? Is it helping me avoid greater calamity?

This week, after hearing my resurrected ghost, I had a dream.

Mom, dad, Niki and I were visiting Nela and Fane at their former house in Port Coquitlam. I had to study. I left the dining room and went alone to Serge's room so I could sit at his desk. Something stood behind me. Turning around, I saw no one.

Yet I couldn't shake off the feeling that there was someone behind me. I got up and went to Dan's room. I noticed there was a shirt carelessly tossed on his bed. I closed the door to his room, then immediately opened it. The shirt lay neatly folded on the bed. I re-crumpled the shirt, went out of the room and closed the door. After a second, I threw the door open again. The shirt was once again folded. I went in, shook the shirt, threw it on the bed and, as I turned around to go out again, I felt something happening behind me. I spun around and there was the shirt, folded.

I immediately went back to Serge's room, closed the door and sat to study. I looked at my book without reading. Serge was messier than Dan. There were many clothes thrown about. I felt something happening behind me. All the clothes were folded and on the bed directly behind my chair.

That was it. I went back to rejoin the crowd in the dining room. We went out for a walk. When we came back, the door was open. Nela looked shocked. She was certain that she had closed it. I then told them what took place in the bedrooms upstairs.

Even though my dream ghost and perhaps my own ghost are trying to be helpful, their presence is still not too welcome. Sorry to hurt your feelings, dear ghosts!

*Most people think we are seeing the image of the ghost. But I think some ghost sightings might be what we are seeing through a ghost's eyes. For example, there is the case of a British ghost that was always seen through an opening in a wall. When renovators removed the lower half of the wall, instead of seeing the whole ghost, spectators would still see the ghost only from waist up. If it were this ghost we were seeing, why would the ghost replay itself with its lower body missing? Why would it go to such lengths to remind us of the lower half of the wall?

On the other hand, if we look at it from the point of view that we have stepped into a ghost's point of view, we can easily explain this wall ghost. The image of the person behind the wall, from waist up, was so ingrained in someone's mind that after death this sight remained fixed to that area. The ghost through whose eyes were are seeing remembers the person behind the wall so strongly, that we - seeing through her or his eyes - see only this image too. The image of the person is what the ghost remembers, and is independent of the wall. Spectators throughout history have only seen half the person regardless of whether the wall was there or not.

My theory might explain other sightings. Anne Boleyn walking around with her head under her arm; she might be playing over and over again in Henry's guilty conscience. It's hard to believe that a coquettish woman like her, in death, would allow herself to be seen in so undignified a manner. It's like some 1950s housewife going to the supermarket without makeup. It is possible, though, to believe that someone's fear of seeing Boleyn come after them is what we are seeing being replayed.

**I strongly believe in ESP, from a scientific point of view. In Grade Twelve Biology, when the textbook said that brains emit electric currents, I knew my theories were true. Too bad I never pursued that biology degree.

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