Faces without bodies floating in a dining room…a commanding voice from nowhere that saves a woman’s life…a visit from a deceased loved one…Catholic Digest readers share their responses to last month’s Ghost Stories.
Are ghosts real? I looked at that question in some detail last month. I’ve never experienced anything remotely paranormal, and while I greatly enjoy shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, I think we need to be much more skeptical and scientific than the stars of those shows are, even the ones who claim to use science in their investigations. On the other hand, Catholicism certainly believes in a spiritual realm, and I know people who have had powerful and mysterious experiences.
So are ghosts real? As I firmly proclaimed last month, I don’t know. But I do know from the mail that this is a popular topic.
“Mary” spoke for many readers when she wrote in to say, “I’ve never seen a ghost. However, I have experienced some strange things in my life. I’m just not sure if they were ‘real,’ or a product of an overactive imagination. That being said, I kind of like the idea that ‘spirits’ might watch over us. Except, I also like to think that once you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil you move on and are not stuck on Earth. I guess I want to think that any ‘spirits’ around are heavenly ones, sent by God to help us (angels, in other words).
“I do enjoy The Ghost Whisperer (or, did, until it was canceled). I especially like the idea of the ‘light’ the ghost whisperer sends the disembodied spirits into. It sounds like heaven. However, I kind of think God would do the guiding in reality, not a mortal being.”
Many letter-writers have had mysterious experiences that they shared with me, and I’d like to give some of them a chance to tell you their stories. Here, with their permission, is a sampling.
The commanding voice
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ghost but once when I was in my early 20s, I did hear a commanding voice from thin air.
I was driving to a job interview when the hood of my car flew up. I was in the far left lane and I stopped the car because I couldn’t see. I put my emergency blinkers on and got out of the car and tried to close the hood, but I wasn’t strong enough to move it.
I kept trying. All of a sudden, I heard a masculine voice yell out, “Run!” I looked around but there was no one in sight. I obeyed the very demanding order and ran backwards.
It was then that I heard a car’s brakes screeching. A car hit the back of my car and sent it coming toward me at high speed! I was still running backwards and then I veered to my right nearest the divider of the expressway — and it passed me!
By the way, I called the company from a strangers’ house phone. I was after all, late for my interview and I rescheduled. A week later I got the job.
But it seems like a lifetime of awe and wonderment — was it my angel’s command?
The unfriendly spirits
I do believe “ghosts” exist. Back in the mid-1960s, my father was stationed in Germany and we lived in military housing. I was old enough to babysit while my parents went out. The way the apartment was arranged, there was a door that led to a hallway for the bedrooms. The door handle was similar to the ones today that are horizontal instead of round — the handle had to be pushed down. I was in the dining room late one night while my brother and sister lay in front of the TV sound asleep. All of a sudden, faces appeared in front of me — no bodies and transparent. As I slowly walked towards my siblings, the handle on the hall door slowly moved in a downward motion with no one there. I let out a bloodcurdling scream, waking up neighbors in several apartments who came rushing to our front door.
I still say they were evil spirits — they sure did not feel friendly.
Since then, my faith got stronger but I’ve never forgotten the strange feelings and the cold I encountered.
A visit from my mom
On the 4th of July, a year after my mom passed away, I had a horrible cold. My husband was taking care of the family and because I didn’t want to infect everyone, I was alone. I had a raging fever of 103 and I remember praying that I would get well soon. I was absolutely miserable.
I felt something and looked up from where I was lying on the sofa to see my mom sitting on the edge of the coffee table. She was stroking my hair like she did when I was sick as a child. I told her that I had a horrible dream that she was no longer here. She said, “I will always be with you, baby, and you’re going to be just fine.” When I woke up some time later, my husband said that I was calling for my mom, which frightened him. I told him about my “dream,” and his response was that my mom, as usual, was right.
I lived in a haunted house
I lived in a haunted house for a few months (about 20 years ago) and it was one of the worst experiences in my life. Since you asked about our ghost stories I’ll tell you.
When I was moving into the house, the previous resident looked me in the eye and said, “Good luck.” I knew that was a bad sign. It started two weeks after I moved in. I was alone in the house, and upstairs about 6 a.m. I could hear three people speaking, two men and a woman. I could also hear people walking around. I thought maybe it was the radio. Their voices were muffled. I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
This went on for a couple of weeks. I finally asked the owner (whose room it was) what the noises were. She said the place was haunted but not to be scared because they meant no harm. She said a previous roommate had called the police she was so freaked out. I thought it was kind of odd, but still lived there.
She had two cats. One, Targie, was my constant companion, even sleeping with me. One evening I was in my bedroom and I heard the sound of the key going into the back door. The cats heard it and ran out to meet their owner. But there was no one there, we just kept hearing that sound for about five minutes. I felt Targie was an angel in disguise, protecting me from whatever was in the house.
Another roommate moved in. The sounds stopped for a couple of weeks until they got used to her. Then the stomping down the stairs started around 10:30 at night. We would hear something stomp down four stairs and then a few minutes later it would do it again. This went on for about an hour. We could also hear things being pushed across the floor upstairs, but when we went to investigate the next morning the dust hadn’t been touched.
The cats often would stare into space so I knew they were seeing things. My roommate would see white mist coming down from the ceiling, break into three, and merge back into one to go back into the ceiling.
I thought I was going crazy during this time. I didn’t want to admit it was happening. I also couldn’t sleep because I didn’t want to let down my guard. During this time the fitness clubs were open 24 hours a day. I would often go work out at 4 a.m. because I couldn’t take it anymore.
We (my new roommate and I) moved out about six months after I moved in. When I was looking to buy a condo, I asked at every place I looked at if they’d ever had a haunting there. They looked at me like I was crazy, but I will never go through that again.
We think the previous owner was violent because some of the doors looked like they’d been kicked in. They just didn’t hang well. In addition, the current owner (at that time) was experimenting with crystals. Between that negative energy and her crystals we think she opened up some type of door to the beyond. We called a priest but he wouldn’t come out. I was terrified and I’m sure the ghosts fed off that energy.
Anyway, that’s my story. I know ghosts exist because I had direct experience with them. I have no doubt.
Feeling my husband’s loving presence
I’m not sure if what I’m about to tell you is a ghost story or a love story. I only know that it is true. You can decide for yourself.
When my husband, Jim, died in September of 2000, our family thought that we were destined to be apart until that time, known only to God, when we would be reunited with him. But Jim was not about to be separated from his family that easily. He found ways to make his presence known. The scent of his after-shave lotion would suddenly fill a room, linger for a few minutes, and vanish just as quickly as it came.
If there was one trait that distinguished Jim, it was that he was not one to become easily discouraged. That facet of his spirit came to the fore while our daughter, Betty, sat waiting outside a Florida courtroom. Alone and nervous, she became aware of her father’s presence. He calmed her and reassured her that things would go well.
Sometimes a quiet presence isn’t enough to accomplish what needs to be done, but Jim was up to the task. Our son, Joe lives in Texas. One Saturday evening he very clearly heard his father’s voice telling him to call home. He ignored it at first, but heard the voice again. Joe called our house. I was away for the weekend, but his younger brother, Carl, happened to be home. They chatted for a while. Joe was the last member of our family to speak to Carl. The next night Carl suffered a fatal heart attack as he was walking home from work.
November 21, 2006 was to have been our golden wedding anniversary. I awoke that morning feeling very sorry for myself, angry at Jim and at God. When I opened my e-mail, there was a letter, along with a picture, from a veterinarian that I know. She told me that someone had brought in an abandoned calico kitten. She said that she immediately thought of me and asked if I would like to adopt her. My initial reaction was less than cordial. No way was I about to take in a cat! As the day wore on, I couldn’t get that little one out of my mind. Jim knew me too well. All that day, he kept reminding me that she needed a home, and I needed something living to care for. By the end of the day, I realized that this had to be more than a coincidence. Chatty was Jim’s anniversary gift to me. That night, as I drifted off to sleep, I imagined what it would be like to once more feel Jim’s gentle kiss on my cheek, and I whispered, “Happy anniversary, Honey.”
I’m not sure this fits with your invitation to share ghostly experiences, but I would like to share some supernatural experiences. I’ve had two vivid premonitions of a death of a loved one. The day before my father died in 1969 I had a “vision” of sitting in a chapel beside his coffin. Two days later I received a call that he had died — he had not been sick, there was no reason for me to even think that he was going to die. He was only 54.
Seven years ago my niece was in the hospital to deliver her baby. In the afternoon, I heard myself “speaking” to myself with these words, “If my brother calls me he’s going to say, ‘Lori died.’” At 5 p.m. I found myself asking “Lori, Lori, where are you?” And when I realized what I was saying, I wondered why I was talking to her. At 6 p.m. my brother called and said, “Lori died.” She died at 3 p.m. Denver time, which was 5 p.m. my time, giving birth to Ryan; she had insisted on staying awake when the doctor wanted to put her to sleep in order to deliver the baby, so she heard him cry.
After my mother died six years ago after living with me for 12 and a half years, I moved to a place which seemed to have her “fingerprints” all over it. It was a new senior building that had just opened — she used to say that if she moved, she wanted to move to a new place where no one had lived before. Second, it was within sight of the church where I now work, and we always said how nice it would be to live near a church. And one day shortly after I moved in, I heard “darling” and thought I could feel her holding my hand as I walked down the hall. She never called me that while alive, but I knew it was her, and I know how much she worried about where I was going to live and what I was going to do without her. The job I had was a year-by-year assignment that I knew was coming to an end. The other Sisters in my community all have said that my mother led me to this place.
Thank you for giving me this chance to share.
And thanks to all of you for giving me a chance to share your very powerful and mysterious experiences. I cannot explain or dismiss them, nor will I try. As I said last time, as Catholics today, we need to embrace science and critical thinking, but always remain open to mystery.
And to all our readers, please tell me your thoughts on all this, and perhaps more of your own experiences. I’d love to hear from you.