Haiku: Thumbs Up

They weigh my sins, they

balance my good deeds.

But wait.  There’s a thumb

on the scale.

***

j.o.   6/30/17

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Haiku: Oops

Coffin’ed, he went down

Into disrupted

earth.  The bottom floor:

all out.

 

The ride down had been

Smooth.  Not a gelled thin

Hair had been dislodged.

His hands

 

clasped a rosary;

he wore a scapular:

(not his, he was

Jewish).

***

j.o.  6/29/17

Haiku: Rest In Fleece

May you sleep soundly

In the ruched rayon

Of your casket. May

You fart

At your wake, startling

Your frenemies, there

For free food and booze.

May you

 

Grace the viewing room

At Lethe Brothers, and

May all the chairs be

Taken.

 

May your funeral

Be solemn, refined.

May the priest not flub

His lines.

 

May your burial

Go smoothly. May your

Casket not be dropped

Head first.

 

May your Other Side

Be fun, and not a drag.

May you always rest

In fleece.

***

(From Rest In Fleece: Ghosts  Tall Tales & Horror Stories, by Jan Olandese)

https://www.amazon.com/Rest-Fleece-Ghosts-Horror-Stories-ebook/dp/B0721NW6R3/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Say Cheese: Ghost Photography!

(This is an excerpt from my book About Ghosts:  A Useful Handbook, on amazon) about ghosts coverwhh sevenmumler 2Image_of_a_ghost,_produced_by_double_exposure_in_1899mumler 17

With a little digging, it’s easy to find ghostly photographs.  Some show actual ghosts (or fakes) and some, streaks of light, orbs, or other irregularities that signal a paranormal presence. An interesting place to explore for examples is http://www.ghostresearch.org, which analyzes photos for paranormal contents. There are links to many photos that look ghostly but aren’t, as well as those they’ve deemed authentic.

The best known spirit photographers of their time  (whose work made up the illustrations in my book, About Ghosts:  A Useful Handbook) were  William Hope and William Mumler.  Hope was English; and Mumler, who was American, was considered the father of spirit photography. Both were proven to have produced fraudulent photographs.  The work of both photographers remained popular, despite this, because of their appeal to sentiment (and probably, wishful thinking).

The history of ghost photography is as old as the camera.  In mid-Victorian times, people were believers: spiritualism was a popular fad. There were séances and all kinds of spirit phenomena (again, much of it fake).  There was much societal upheaval caused by the industrial revolution in the mid to late 1800’s, which created a great deal of emotional and spiritual discomfort and insecurity.  People reached out to the mediums and others who offered support from the Other Side.

The camera was coming into its own.  So were creative photographers willing to take advantage of a wanting-to-believe public. A majority of the ghost photos from this period have been debunked by the experts.

The popularity of spirit photography has soared during times when culture and society were hungry for spiritual nurture.  The Great War was such a time.  Nothing like it had been experienced by the world.  The death toll was enormous.  People were hungry for reassurance that connection with their loved ones might bring. So planchettes (or Ouija boards) and table tipping, séances and mediums all grew in popularity during this period.

The most famous ghost photo of all, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, was studied in the 1930’s by the well-known and reputable expert, Harry Price.  Price thought it authentic, but this assessment has been disputed by some modern photographers.

Some ghosts seen in cell phone camera shots are just a result of the way these cameras work, and are not actual phantoms.  Some: but not all.

Currently, ghosts are popular topics for television, podcasts, and youTube. We live in uncertain times.  Terrorism pops up unpredictably.  International relations have become at times quite strained.  Many never recovered from the economic downturn of 2008-9, generated by the housing crisis. It is possible that society’s insecurities push this, but certainly modern technology does.  Today it is relatively easy to make videos for popular internet consumption, to blog and share special interest websites.  This makes information much more accessible for those interested, as well as easier to disseminate by those who have material to share.

Have you taken a photograph that contains a ghostly image?  I did, once.  I used a 35mm throwaway camera on a trip (around 1996) to Victoria, B.C.  In the Empress Hotel, my group had tea in a parlor apart from the main crowd.  It contained period furnishings and portraits.  I used the portrait wall as a backdrop and when everyone was seated, I took a snapshot.

When developed, it had very odd streaks of light (over the heads of the group and in front of the portraits), which I think might be more than photographic anomalies.  I’d had a feeling of being watched during our tea, and I learned later that the Empress has quite the reputation as a haunted hotel. Witnesses have supplied many reports of paranormal phenomena there.

Most ghost photography doesn’t actually capture apparitions, but there are a percentage of these pictures in which paranormal phenomena cannot be ruled out.  Most cell phone ghosts are cell phone oddities. But that weird image caught on your iPhone photo may be a ghost, after all.

***

 

 

About Ghosts: A Useful Handbook

I’m happy to announce my new book is now available(!!)   It’s a nonfiction collection of essays about ghosts: their types, some ideas about their greater meaning in terms of the psyche, culture and spirituality, and a selection of true accounts of ghostly encounters.  About Ghosts:  A Useful Handbook is concise, original, and offers new perspectives about this slice of the paranormal.  Illustrated with antique “spirit photos” from the past.  If you’re intrigued by ghosts, or have encountered them yourself, this may have your name on it!  Thank you for checking it out, and for sharing the link with any friends who may be interested!    

https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/books/book-detail-page?ie=UTF8&bookASIN=B072Z36R8H&index=default

Types of Ghosts

Talk is cheap.  We can tell stories all day long, but what exactly are we talking about when we say “ghosts?”  Based upon sightings, these vary considerably.

The ghost as filmstrip: This kind of ghost appears like a slice of another time. It walks through walls as if they don’t exist (and maybe in his time, they didn’t.  This ghost appears to be non-sentient, just a visual trace of someone from the past.

The ghost as sentient being:  This ghost appears aware of those present. It may or may not communicate with them.

The ghost as messenger: This ghost may or may not be someone known to the witness, but he has a message to convey which he does telepathically, verbally, or in other ways.  An example would be a ghost appearing someplace significant in a way that would be meaningful to a witness. A ghost like this may appear to someone during a crisis of some kind.

The ghost as harbinger: This kind of manifestation appears to warn us about something.

The negative ghost:  This ghost doesn’t want you to be there and will make that clear.  These presences as reported by witnesses can be quite terrifying.

The angelic or daemonic presence:  not actually ghosts, but paranormal presences.  They are self-descriptive.

Spirits of the once living:  This ghost was a relative, or perhaps just a person who lived in the home before you moved there. It is usually neutral or sometimes even welcoming.  Witnesses notice something’s there, even if it’s not visible. Pets do, too.

Elementals: These are an entity which was never  human. They’re something else.  Nature spirits (called devas by the Findhorn people), fairies, other beings fall into this category.

Spirit of some other kind: not an elemental but not a human spirit, either.  Witnesses see these as shadows, among other things.  Spiritualist tradition warns that these can be dangerous, but they are not daemons.

Ghosts with an agenda: These spirits have something on their minds, some purpose that propels them and some would say prevents them from “crossing over.”

Ghosts with issues:  These ghosts seem to exist in a spiral of dysfunction: absorbed by issues that are as dead as they, yet held back from crossing over by those very problems.  Needy ghosts (codependents) fit into this category.

Ghosts of Contagion:  These ghosts appear to have a negative energy field, which can be very unpleasant to be around.  They spread malaise.  A type of negative ghost.

These basic classifications are just a starting place. There are more.  Also, these are ghosts, as opposed to other paranormal beings:  perhaps vampires, werewolves or other folkloric creatures. But it gives us something to work with as we explore ghosts in terms of psychological, spiritual and cultural symbolism.

Types of Ghosts

Talk is cheap.  We can tell stories all day long, but what exactly are we talking about when we say “ghosts?”  Based upon sightings, these vary considerably.

  • The ghost as filmstrip. This kind of ghost appears like a slice of another time. It walks through walls as if they don’t exist (and maybe in his time, they didn’t.

This ghost appears to be non-sentient, just a visual trace of someone from the past.

  • The ghost as sentient being. This ghost appears aware of those present. It may or may not communicate with them.
  • The ghost as messenger. This ghost may or may not be someone known to the witness, but he has a message to convey which he does telepathically, verbally or signaling in other ways. An example would be a ghost appearing someplace significant in a way that would be meaningful to a witness. A ghost like this may appear to someone during a crisis of some kind.
  • The ghost as harbinger. This kind of manifestation appears to warn us about something.
  • The negative ghost. This ghost is doesn’t want you to be there and will make that clear.  These presences as reported by witnesses can be quite terrifying.
  • The angelic or daemonic presence: not actually ghosts, but paranormal presences.  They are self-descriptive.
  • Spirit of the once living. This ghost was a relative, or perhaps just a person who lived in the home before you moved there. It is usually neutral or sometimes even welcoming.  Witnesses notice something’s there, even if it’s not visible. Pets do, too.
  • These are an entity which was never  human. They’re something else.  Nature spirits (called devas by the Findhorn people), fairies, other beings fall into this category.
  • Spirit of some other kind: not an elemental but not a human spirit, either. Witnesses see these as shadows, among other things.  Spiritualist tradition warns that these can be dangerous, but they are not daemons.
  • Ghosts with an agenda. These spirits have something on their minds, some purpose that propels them and some would say prevents them from “crossing over.”

These basic classifications are just a place to embark.  There are more!  Also, these are ghosts, as opposed to other paranormal beings:  perhaps vampires, werewolves or other folkloric creatures. But it gives us something to work with as we explore ghosts in terms of psychological, spiritual and cultural symbolism.

Say Cheese: Ghost Photography

With a little digging it’s easy to find ghostly photographs online or in books.  Some show actual ghosts (or fakes) and some, streaks of light, orbs, or other irregularities that signal a paranormal presence. An interesting place to explore for examples is www.ghostresearch.org, which analyzes photos for paranormal contents. There are links to many photos that look ghostly but aren’t, as well as those they’ve deemed authentic.

The history of ghost photography is as old as the camera.  In mid-Victorian times, people were believers: spiritualism was a popular fad. There were séances and all kinds of spirit phenomena (again, much of it fake).  There was much societal upheaval caused by the industrial revolution in the mid to late 1800’s, which created much emotional and spiritual discomfort.  People reached out to the mediums and others who offered support from the Other Side.  The camera was coming into its own.  So were creative photographers willing to take advantage of a wanting-to-believe public. A great many of the photos of this period have been debunked by the experts.

The popularity of spirit photography has soared during times when culture and society were hungry for spiritual nurture.  The Great War was such a time.  Nothing like it had been experienced by the world.  The death and injury toll was enormous.  People were hungry for reassurance that connection with their loved ones might bring. So planchettes (or Ouija boards) and table tipping, séances and mediums all grew in popularity during this period.

The most famous ghost photo of all, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, was studied in the 1930’s by the well-known and reputable expert, Harry Price.  Price thought it authentic, but this assessment has been disputed by some modern photographers.

Some ghosts seen in cell phone camera shots are a result of the way these cameras work, and are not actual phantoms.  Some: but not all.

Currently, ghosts are popular topics for television, podcasts, and youTube. We live in uncertain times.  Terrorism pops up unpredictably.  International relations have become at times quite strained.  Many never recovered from the economic downturn of 2008-9, generated by the housing crisis. It is possible that society’s insecurities push this but certainly modern technology does.  Today it is relatively easy to make videos for popular internet consumption, to blog and share special interest websites.  This makes information much more accessible for those interested as well as easier to disseminate by those who have material to share.

Have you taken a photograph that contains a ghostly image?  I did, once.  I used a 35mm throwaway camera on a trip (around 1996) to Victoria, B.C.  In the Empress Hotel, my group had tea in a parlor apart from the main crowd.  It contained period furnishings and portraits.  I used the portrait wall as a backdrop and when everyone was seated, I took a snapshot.  When developed, it  had very odd streaks of light (over the heads of the group and in front of the portraits), which I think might be more than photographic anomalies.  I’d had a feeling of being watched during our tea, and I learned later that the Empress has a reputation as a haunted hotel, and witnesses have supplied many reports of paranormal phenomena there.

Most ghost photography doesn’t actually capture apparitions, but there are a percentage of these pictures in which paranormal phenomena cannot be ruled out.  Most cell phone ghosts are cell phone oddities, but maybe that weird image caught on your iPhone photo is genuine, after all.

Hauntings as Modern Dysfunctions

The Amityville Horror, a contemporary case (regarded by some as real, by some as pure fiction), is about a house on Long Island that became reportedly progressively more haunted by some kind of daemonic power.

As with so many haunted houses in fiction or real life, it was a bargain. (Thus another lesson: you get what you pay for).   The longer the family remained, the worse things became.

The overriding theme in Amityville case and other similar stories, something everyone but those affected seems to grasp, is “get out of there!”  Yet the inhabitants doggedly hang in, even as the distressing events escalate to terrifying level.

The haunted house/haunted inhabitants might be taken out of a paranormal context and placed in one that is contemporary and psycho/spiritual.  The ghost or haunt might represent symbiosis, codependence, or abusive situations. In the stories, the people always remain in the haunted house, up until it nearly kills them (unless, in some cases, it does).  As people remain in unhealthy relationships, attached for the wrong reasons, people stay in haunted houses.

Think of this in terms of addiction or compulsion as well. These are very real dangers:  as destructive as any phantom.  As is the case in hauntings, the individual must first admit there’s a problem.  Also, he must heed the warnings (interventions) and avoid the triggers (whether a substance, a behavior, a person, or the case of actual haunting, a place) in order to heal. So in this way, the ghosts or haunts of old folklore and legend appear to correlate to problems which haunt modern individuals and culture.

A book that exemplifies haunting as dysfunction is Stephen King’s The Shining.  In it, the Torrances, a couple and their young son, move to the remote Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. The father got a job as a caretaker, hoping to write.  But he struggles with alcoholism and anger issues.  The latter are like the furnace boiler in the basement of the hotel which we are told has to be watched very closely by the caretaker so it doesn’t explode.

The Overlook can be likened to the superego/ subconscious of the caretaker.  The hotel is haunted (as is the caretaker).  The hotel is the stage, the dysfunctions are the actors or ghosts.  The caretaker becomes overwhelmed by these and goes crazy and is indeed ‘a danger to himself and others.’  True to form as exemplified in classic hauntings, he refuses leave the place. While they do need the money (and in most haunted houses people don’t leave because they cannot afford to move again), his increasing symbiosis with the Overlook and his issues with anger and substance abuse are his primary motivation for staying.

The reader is given a hint: the origin of the name Torrance is Scottish and it means ‘from the craggy hills’ – ‘tor’ may also mean ‘watchtower.’  These are perfect choices for the plot and tie in with the dual purpose: a great ghost/horror story and a fine and effective allegory.

In The Shining, the ghosts enable the caretaker: they become the devil on his shoulder. In other hauntings, ghosts may alternatively be messengers from our subconscious, or perhaps from the Divine, coming to warn us that here lies danger.

According to Jeremy Taylor, the noted dream work author, a nightmare is simply your subconscious, tugging at your sleeve, trying to get your attention when other hints have failed.  Perhaps in the context of modern dysfunction, this might apply to ghosts and hauntings, as well.

The haunted house, in fact, might be a symbol of an unhappy or unhealthy state of emotional or spiritual being.  The being, the ‘housing’ of the psyche and the spirit, is out of balance for one of the abovementioned reasons.  And it thus becomes an unhealthy, disintegrated, haunted.

To heal, become integrated and whole, and to exorcise the haunt or the dysfunctions it symbolizes, one must first acknowledge it/the dysfunctions exist, and then be rid of it by whatever means are at hand.

When we read of daemonic possession, we have the impression if some unholy power has taken over an individual.  An exorcist is eventually called in when all else fails.  Think of possession as a level of sickness, of disintegration (remember, the words health, oneness or integration come from the same Latin root word).  When one is struggling with an addiction, or an addictive behavior and an unhealthy behavior or dysfunction, one is, in a way, possessed.  The equivalent of an exorcist might be a medical, psychological or spiritual specialist:  a doctor, a counselor or psychologist, or clergy.  And sometimes an exorcist may indeed be called for. There are situations in which exorcism has been effective when nothing else worked, and when other causes of malady have been ruled out.

Folklore, myth and story offer us stories and symbols which are more than frightening-good entertainment. They are that: but they are also meaningful in terms of the daemons and ghosts which inhabit our beings from time to time, with which we struggle.

Ghosts as Superheroes: Post Mortem Retribution

There are countless stories of  ghostly justice.  Arnold  does Bob  wrong.  Bob suffers, and later, dies.  But then, returning as a ghost, Bob has the power to get back at, not to mention one-up, Arnold.  How can this happen when Arnold is alive, and Bob only was?

Some suspension of reason is necessary: it’s legend and story and myth we’re dealing with.   These are cautionary tales:  live rightly, or else!  It’s a grownup variation of the bogeyman theme in children’s stories.

Let’s create an example.  A crooked agent, Steve, cheats his clients out of large sums of cash, leaving some of them impoverished. As a result, they lack for many things: health care, bank balances, pizza.  Sadly, some of them die as a result of depression, frustration and, well, malnutrition.

Life goes on.  Steve is living off the fat of their ex-land in some non-extradition country with good weather.  Someplace ‘way, ‘way south of the border.  There are palm trees and jungles. The hoots and shrieks of wild monkeys can be heard in his courtyard, along with some other sounds he doesn’t notice.  Yet.

One day Steve’s footman (what can I tell you, labor is cheap there) Alfonso brings him a tall umbrella drink and, looking about nervously, asks to take the afternoon off.  He claims his mama is ill.  Who’s to say otherwise?

Steve says fine, run along.  After Alfonso departs, it gets dark out.  The jungle sounds ratchet up the decibels.  There is a clap of thunder, and over the somewhat rank pool water walk a group of Steve’s former clients.  He owes them a boatload.  He offers them some money now, in desperation, but you know how it is: too little, too late.  What good is money to them? It’s not like they can shop.

These ghosts carry a grudge, though.  They met at group therapy on the Other Side, where their therapist said to let out the rage.

The ghosts don’t murder him.  They let Steve do that himself. They glower, freeze the air, make the house shake (shattering the crockery), and generally go about looking deadly.  In fact, they are quite terrifying.  Steve dies of fear, his nitroglycerin just out of reach (one of the ghosts remembered the heart condition and threw the bottle out to the monkeys to play with).

The ghosts are now satisfied (as are we, don’t forget). They’ve extracted some measure of punishment.  Steve finally felt their pain.  The ghosts experience a sense of release.   Each is now free to move on to his nirvana of choice, no longer bound to Steve by their own issues.

It was a just outcome, even if the fight wasn’t fair: the ghosts outpowered Steve Remember, in life it was the other way around, so we are not unduly dismayed by Steve’s fate. We believe there is justice in the afterlife whether it be heaven, hell, purgatory, sheol, or Valhalla.  We reason that since Steve was a rotten apple, some bad karma was bound to come his way.  He asked for it.  And we’re pleased when the underdogs win (in this case, those wronged by Steve).  It’s fair.

But wait.  God wants us to forgive.

Yet there are there countless stories in which justice is meted out from the afterlife.   What does that mean?   What does it say about our ideas about the afterlife?  We may talk heaven and hell, but this requires some hanging ’round the old mortal coil:  as the song goes, “Taking Care of Business.” *

Are the ghosts actual independent entities or are they of Steve’s own making: products of his subconscious who came to life after the actual individual died?  (The outcome doesn’t change, it’s still the same story).

We root for the the ghosts (real or shadow).   Like Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider,  the ghosts can make the evildoers suffer, as we often feel powerless to do ourselves in life situations).   As beings outside worldly existence, we ascribe to them powers that are “supernatural,” and outside of the norm.

In terms of justice, ghosts sometimes resemble the superheroes so common in entertainment today: the Marvel and DC comic heroes:  Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and legions more.

Ghosts are a kind of wild card, a deux et machina: they make things right, even when it seems nothing will.  And maybe that’s why we’ve used them, in folklore and story, to do our dirty work.

***

*Bachman-Turner Overdrive