Homer's Halloween 2006 Blog - 2006-10-23 22:34:56 Linda kept urging me to go, and so finally I agreed. It was mildly against my better judgment. She wanted me to go to a haunting. The very idea put a few chills down my spine.
One might think that I, seemingly the most rational of men, trained as an engineer, and a serious amateur scientist, would not be a believer in the spirit world. The truth is I'm not, at least as it is shown in pop culture. I do not believe in werewolves, or vampires (not counting the bats that live in South America and certain women I've known and even dated), or witches (ditto) or warlocks, and so forth. But I have always believed there is more than is evident by our physical senses, that there are many things that simply cannot be explained by logic, or deduced by mathematics, or measured by scientific instruments. That's why I agreed in 2003 to write the foreword for a Harper-Collins book about Hildegard of Bingen (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780060750664&itm=16).
Hildegard, who was a Benedictine abbess, lived in France during the 12th Century and was sort of like a rock star today. People came from everywhere to see and hear her. She wrote and sang songs, and prescribed medicines taken from her observation of the natural world. But the main reason for her popularity was her most remarkable visions. She had twenty-six of them that she set down in a book known as Scivias. They are astonishing in their power and scope. Read them and see if you don't agree. Hildegard was obviously plugged into something beyond what most of us can see, hear, taste, or touch. She very possibly tapped into the mind of the Creator of us all. If you have never heard of her, shame on your teachers! In many ways, she began the modern feminist movement. She even had the Pope listening to her, this in a time when uppity women were being burned at the stake!
Reviewers are always noticing the spirituality that flows like an underground river in my work. I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about the implication in my stories that we are never alone, never entirely in control of our destiny, that destiny is in fact a combination of luck, circumstance, perseverance, laziness (going with the flow), and the intercession of things we know nothing about, but some call God.
Anyway, it is this sensitive side to me that made me a bit nervous about going to a haunting, but Linda talked me into it ("You'll get no supper, otherwise, boy!"), and that was that. Chris Welch is the editor of Go Magazine which is a weekly insert in Huntsville Times. He is also Linda's workout partner (lifting boring weights), and my friend. He was the instigator of this whole thing. So it was that Linda and I met Chris with a dozen or so other folks at the Huntsville Depot. The Huntsville Depot is actually a collection of buildings centered around the old railroad depot that served Huntsville for over one hundred years. It was used as a structure to hold prisoners during the Civil War, as a hospital somewhere along the line, and also a place where thousands of people left their loved ones, or returned, sometimes in coffins. There is a lot of past energy in the place. If you want to get fully up to speed on it, here's an article by Chris about the depot and its ghost hunters (http://www.al.com/go/out/index.ssf?/base/entertainment/116003991219530.xml&coll=1).
So here we were, after dark in this old, spooky place, and I was handed a tape recorder by renowned ghost hunter Tim Smith and told how to contact the ghosts who might be in the depot or grounds. "Talk to them just like they were there, even if you don't feel them," he advised. "Ask them questions. 'What's your name?' 'How old are you?' 'How are you doing tonight?' Be friendly and respectful. And don't whisper. Ghosts whisper and if you're whispering or people around you are, I won't be able to tell which is which."
Armed with my tape recorder, Chris with a temperature measuring device that could be aimed (ghosts seem to affect normal temps), and Linda with a digital camera, off we went. The first place we went was an old passenger train car outside. Nobody had been in it to look for ghosts, Tim said, so who knew what might be in there? In we went, and I turned on my recorder and began to ask questions. Nobody answered. It seemed the ghosts had all taken a different train. We wandered around the car a little longer, then went outside and inspected other cars until I got cold (I love tropical islands and for good reason) and so we went back inside and I gave my recorder to Tim to have a listen at the nothing I'd heard. He sat down and plugged the recorder in and nearly jumped out of his chair. He then put what I'd recorded on a speaker. A deep voice very clearly roared "I love you!" And then there were other voices, just whispers, a woman's name, a breathless chirping, all in response to my questions. I said "I'd be happier if that ghost had said "I love your books!" But it was a bit unnerving (I told you I was sensitive!). And, if you have a suspicious mind, there was no way Tim could have faked the responses. I saw him plug in the recorder. It was never out of my sight.
After that excitement, we kept exploring, and as we ascended to the upper reaches of the depot, things got really spooky. I felt as if I was being watched, and there were odd sensations. Once, I could have sworn somebody touched me on my hip (a ghost getting a little fresh, perhaps?). A door where we were gathered suddenly swung shut and when I opened it, nobody was there. It was all kind of low key but something was happening. There's no way to deny it. Linda took photos and one of them seems to show an orb of some sort that could not otherwise be seen. Now I know why the people who work in the depot (it's a tourist attraction) refuse to stay there past 5 PM.
So that's my ghost story. Not dramatic, but true. It's easy when things like that happen to believe in ghosts. I mean, who among us hasn't caught sight of something flitting along out of the corner of our eye, or lost something and had it reappear in a place where we've already looked, or heard a voice of someone who wasn't there? And who hasn't experienced an impossible coincidence? Something is going on in this world that simply is beyond our imagination, beyond the physical realm.
But I am also logical (thank you for the inspiration, Mr. Spock). We live not in a young world. We live on an ancient planet. It is billions of years old. We humans are relative newcomers, here probably not more than a half million years, if that, and even then in the most primitive state. It's only in the last ten thousand years or so that we have developed our intelligence enough that we can use tools and language. So, am I to believe that after billions of years, now there are ghosts, former humans now dead but still somehow alive, spirits that can talk and do some of the things live humans can do (hide your car keys, for instance)? What about the creatures that occupied the planet for hundreds of millions of years? Could they be ghosts, too? If so, you'd think there wouldn't be room left around for anybody except roaming spirits. On the other hand, maybe it's just "intelligent" spirits that get themselves hung up between states, between life and death, caught inter-dimensionally. I don't know, but I have an idea to explore at least a little of it in a book I will write next titled The Dinosaur Hunter. Not to give anything away, but is it possible that other intelligent creatures, such as some of the dinosaurs clearly were, might also exist in the spirit world?
These are things you might like to consider and ponder this Halloween. In any case, take my advice and have fun, give and get treats, but forget the tricks.