Ghosts, Hauntings and Karma:  Does What Goes Around Really Come Around? Part II


The classic M R James story, Casting the Runes,* is a perfect example of karma coming back to bite the deserving!  In it, an angry, resentful, nasty individual lives for cursing/causing the death of those he perceives to have wronged him.  In the end, the victims become empowered and he gets even worse than that which he sent out into the cosmos.

People have always understood this, and thus many stories have built-in “lessons” – warnings to avoid unknown dangers of the occult, cautions to act rightly and treat others well, and to not allow feelings of shame, blame and guilt “haunt” us.  Those who obsess about past perceived wrongs, problems, slights, and injustices will be eventually consumed by them.  Healing (whether counseling, spiritual, or even (in extreme cases), exorcism) is essential to move on in an integrated way.  Looking at this from another angle:  we may be haunted by our own feelings – we ourselves may be the haunters as well as the hauntees.

Then there’s the person who scorns or belittles the dangers of hauntings and ghosts: these people often become the focus of paranormal events!  This is true in fiction and has happened in real life.   I recently saw a telecast about an individual, a private investigator, who absolutely didn’t believe in ghosts.  He was hired to debunk a certain case, which ended up making a believer of him.  Now his focus is working with those struggling with haunting.

A fictional example is the character Inglis in the E F Benson story, Caterpillars.*  At the outset, Inglis makes a point of declaring that those who believe in ghosts are fools, there’s no such thing.  Unfortunately for him, the setting of the story is a haunted one.  He ends up, after dissing an aspect of the phenomena, becoming victimized by it.  But the reader is left with “Well, he did ask for it.”  Rather like the little boy whose mother says “don’t touch the hot stove!” but he does anyway.  (Sometimes it just takes life experience to build a learning curve)!

While karma isn’t a factor in all hauntings (fiction or true accounts) it often plays a significant role, and can be seen as a common “moral of the story” in ghostly tales of all kinds.

*(Both Casting the Runes by M R James and Caterpillars, by E F Benson, are free to read online – see google to access links).


Ghosts, Hauntings and Karma: Does What Goes Around Come Around? Part I

In ghost stories, there’s a common trope of cause and effect.  This is because many ghost stories, legends and folk lore have a “teachable moment” aspect.  They’re not just for entertainment, but to warn, and to guide the reader to make good decisions.  Here are some examples:

*If a character noses around too much where he shouldn’t, despite hints and warnings, he’s bound to encounter a ghost or worse.   This is also referent to perceived perils of the paranormal.

*If a character does evil to others, it usually comes back to “haunt” him.

*If a character’s sixth sense warns him to be cautious, and he isn’t – he’ll regret it.

Blame, guilt, shame can haunt as effectively as spirits of the departed, and may even manifest as ghosts.  Even if these feelings don’t wear a ghostly mantle, they can relentlessly haunt people who do not “exorcise” or deal with them and work towards emotional and spiritual health and wholeness.

Bad feeling for having done wrong can and does come back to haunt people in the form of unhealthy obsession and anxiety, and these sometimes manifest as ghosts.   Thus, all the sayings about karma coming back to one, or the tenet of many belief systems  that if you do bad things, they will return to you threefold, sevenfold, or more.

To be continued….

Photo: By Frederick Augustus Hudson (B. CA. 1812) was a British spirit photographer who was active in the 1870s ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ghosts: The Anatomy of the Ghost Story

Ghost stories have been with us always.  They’ve been told ’round campfires, in Victorian drawing rooms, and later, the subject of many films, books and telecasts.  What’s kept them going?

  • Ghost stories are often cautionary tales. There’s  always a moral to the story!  When you read or hear a ghost story, think “what’s the message?”  They are a teaching tool!


  • Ghost stories demonstrate what might happen if you don’t pay attention. The guy who keeps going back to the vampire’s castle, despite warnings from the local peasants and other omens, does so at his peril!  Part of this is a lesson – don’t touch the hot stove! And part is referent to perceived perils of the paranormal.


  • Ghost stories translate into tales about how we deal with our problems: not always so well!  Like the characters in the stories, we can be in denial about the “ghosts” or dysfunctions in our lives.  We may feel like victims (things “happened” to us, we have no control) or we can accept what is and make the best of it.  I will write more about this in an upcoming post.


  • In ghost stories there is often cause and effect. If the characters pay attention, they avert disaster. If not – they regret it. Often, something they do causes the supernatural to emerge!


  • Ghost stories demonstrate the difficulty we have dealing with the unexplained, the unknown, the scary. Do we hide, avoid, leave? Are we in denial? Or do we face up to whatever it is (the ghost) and deal with it?


  • Ghost stories can be analogous to dysfunction (as discussed in an earlier post) or to illness: people can either accept the situation or be in denial about it, reducing the sick person to a victim who is helpless, and creating a platform of blame (the doctors, caregivers, God, whoever didn’t “save” the patient).  More on this to come.


  • In ghost stories, the action often accelerates as time goes on. It’s not just a “Hi, I’m here” one-time visitation. Sometimes the visitations descend into something darker than ghostly glimpses.


  • Some ghost stories take place in lovely settings. Haunted locales are often pleasant, not ruins.  What’s that about?


So, while ghost stories make great entertainment, there’s much more going on.  Stick around – as usual, I’ll have more to say!

Ghosts: What Do You See?

What do you see when you encounter a ghost?  They’ve been described many ways.

  1. Like a filmstrip, a shadowy figure walking through a wall as if it wasn’t there.  A slice of the past.
  2. A series of lights, moving in the dark, which come together to form a figure.
  3. It looks just like a regular person.
  4. Invisible, but makes its presence known by sitting on and indenting the sofa or the bed, or leaving footprints.
  5. You don’t see, but sense them –  you feel the presence in a vivid way. You may hear or smell it, or you may get a physical feeling like a chill down your spine.  But you know something’s there.
  6. Translucent, white, you can see through it to the wall behind.
  7. It calls your name or makes noises.
  8. Poltergeist phenomena:  doors slamming, lights going on and off, things thrown through the air, etc.

These are just a few examples. Have you ever run into a ghost?  If so, what did you see? How did you experience it?  Love to hear from you  – feel free to comment below!



Ghosts:  Haunted Houses as Mirrors of Dysfunction    Part III Healing from the Haunted Places

Healing from Haunted Places     (Exerpted from © About Ghosts:  A Useful Handbook by Jan Olandese)

about ghosts

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 or hauntedness as a level of sickness, of disintegration, of lack of health (remember, the words health, oneness or integration come from the same Latin root word).

One who is struggling with anger, compulsions, obsessions,  addictions, or other unhealthy behavior 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 still, sometimes an exorcist or other spiritual worker 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.  It is important to seek help – preferably before things spiral out of control.

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 describing the daemons and ghosts which inhabit our beings from time to time, with which we struggle.  And they may give us clues as to how to rid ourselves of these shadows.

Mob Haiku: Bagging It

Wives all got Chanel:

falling like petals off the

proverbial truck.



Ghosts:  Haunted Houses  As Mirrors Of Dysfunction    Part II        

The Shining as an Allegory of Haunting and Emotional/Spiritual Issues.  (Excerpted from About Ghosts:  A Useful Handbook by Jan Olandese)

about ghosts

A tale that exemplifies haunting as dysfunction is Stephen King’s The Shining.  In it, the Torrance family, a couple and their young son, move to the remote Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado. The father gets a job there as a winter caretaker, hoping to have time to write. They are told the hotel will be snowed in for weeks at a time. The reader correctly takes this as a bad omen: but not the clueless Torrances. The father struggles with alcoholism and anger issues.  These are analogous to 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. He evolves, indeed, into ‘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 house cases, 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 become 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.

The haunted house 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.  As nightmares can be messengers of the subconscious mind to call our attention to something important, so might hauntings.

(To be continued…stay tuned for Part III!)

Photo:   Jack Boucher [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons