This past weekend I had a profound experience. One that has sort of changed my view on ghost stories, ghost hunting, paranormal investigating, and haunt jaunting in general.
Let me start by giving you some background first.
WHEN LOVED ONES DIE VIOLENTLY
I’ve shared before that my Aunt Pearl, who I never met because she died before I was born, was murdered in New Orleans. She was shot in the head in a hospital parking lot. Whoever killed her was never found.
Whether her ghost roams that area, or perhaps even one of her old homes, I don’t know. (Because who knows how it works when you die, right? Do you haunt where you died or where you loved spending your living moments? There are accounts involving both…people haunting where they died, and haunting where they lived even though they didn’t die there.)
I’ve often wondered how I’d feel if I found out my Aunt Pearl was a ghost. How would I feel about people telling ghost stories of her? How would I feel if people who thrill seek via ghost hunting tried to get their kicks by looking for her? Would I be mad she was part of their cheap thrills? (I’m not knocking on all investigators, mind you. But there is a difference between those who ghost hunt for fun and those who do it because they’re genuinely trying to find evidence of the beyond and make sense of it. The former is looking for pseudo scary fun, the latter is not.)
Putting myself on the other end (as the family member of a ghost) leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I think it’d be cool to have a ghostly relative. But I’d also be fiercely protective. I wouldn’t want people getting cheap thrills at my dead relative’s expense.
A NON-BELIEVER’S STRUGGLE TO UNDERSTAND HAUNT JAUNTING
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I play tennis. My USTA 2.5 team headed to Memphis this past weekend for the State Championships because we won Districts here in Nashville.
Over the weekend I had a chance to talk to some of the girls on my team a bit more off court. (Our USTA team was just sort of thrown together. We’re all on different teams in another league we play in and wanted more game time, so we formed a team. We don’t really even know each other all that well. Although, after this past weekend that’s sort of changed.)
Over lunch Saturday, one of the girls shared a story with me that rocked me to my core. She’s very religious and has expressed curiosity in what I do with Haunt Jaunts. She never seemed judgmental like some people of deep faith can, but I could tell something troubled her when I talked of my odd travel inclinations. (ie. Jaunting in search of haunted places, where, most times, it’s haunted because of a violent death.)
Early in the season I remember her asking, “But what about the family members of those who’ve died violently in the places you travel to. Do you ever see them?”
I remember thinking it was an unusual question. It’s an issue I’m sensitive to, but have never been asked before. I told her, “I’ve never had that happen yet exactly.”
She then went on to explain her father had been murdered in a robbery. She said it would cause her great dismay if people went to the store where he’d been killed looking for evidence of his ghost.
Like me with my Aunt Pearl, she’s not aware there’s any paranormal activity where her dad died. She was just speculating that if there was since he died a violent, unexpected death and something of him remained behind, she wouldn’t like people “thrill seeking” at his expense.
When my teammate shared her story, my heart broke. She loved her dad fiercely. She was furious some thug had ruthlessly murdered him and snatched him forever out of her life. (The man who did it was caught, but he admitted he shot her father first, then robbed him. He also admitted her father had done nothing to provoke him to shoot first. He just wanted him dead, and he then wanted whatever money he could scrounge off his body. Total scum of the earth!)
Sitting across the table from her, I saw the face of all the people who have loved and lost. Some loved ones have passed on themselves, leaving only the memory of a tragedy they were once connected to behind. Years pass, the stories grow, legends form.
Before this weekend, I jaunted in search of such legends. There’s a romance to tragedy. That’s what drew me.
I confess, part of it has been cheap thrill seeking, too, though.
But it’s also been more than both of those things. I want answers.
I want to see if I have another experience like I had in that hotel room at the Shiloh Inn or the bathroom at Harry’s. I seek what many of us do, whether we believe in ghosts or not: to know if there is anything beyond this life. Or when we die is that it, the most final, complete ending of all?
PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
I’ve never meant any disrespect to anyone when I share the stories of haunted places or the people connected to them who are now suspected to be ghosts within them.
If you haunt jaunt or ghost hunt or investigate, do you ever think how would you feel if the “ghosts” you’re so eager to try and “catch” were your relatives? Would you talk to them differently? Would you extend different considerations during your investigations?
And what if you come back as a ghost? Would you appreciate people treating you the way you treat ghosts when you’re out looking for them?
Have you ever thought about it from this perspective?