I realize it's over a month before Halloween, but I've already heard a ghost story. It was a radio interview yesterday morning with a woman who bills herself as a "ghost whisperer" -- like a horse whisperer only with departed spirits instead of bashful equines. In fact the new television series, The Ghost Whisperer is supposedly loosely based upon this woman's work. How loosely? Well, I'm betting the woman I heard doesn't look like Jennifer Love Hewitt who stars in the TV series. Beyond that, it sounds like they "borrowed" this lady's gimmick to make money. Go figure.
Anyway, during the interview the ghostbuster explained that she could see departed spirits who never followed the light into the next world. According to her, it's a little like missing the last train out of town -- don't go and you can't change your mind later. Her claim is to be able to see these spirits, even if she is simply talking to you on the telephone. There were a couple of contradictions in her accounts, but finally she told the radio hosts that someone in their building who has a lot of pictures of animals around their desk has a departed spirit following them. Nobody knew of anyone in that building with a bunch of animal pictures, but our whisperer calmly assured the radio cast that they'd probably been overlooking that desk and would figure out who it was in the next few days.
Personally her schtick sounded an awful lot like some of these other paranormal experts. Be vague. Try to get the person "buying" the services to provide more information. Have limited revelations. Use descriptions so vague that almost anyone will be able to associate with them. When John Edwards (the Crossing Over guy, not the senator) had his television show everywhere, I used to try to do the trick along with him. It's not really that hard when you work with a person who desperately wants to believe.
"I'm getting a woman's name beginning with S. Is there a female in your family whose name starts with S?"
"Not really. Oh, there's Aunt Estelle!"
"Yes, that must be right. Estelle!"
Pul-eese. I couldn't watch much of that show or it's ugly twin program Pet Psychic, which still shows up on Animal Planet from time to time. These poor people were desperate for peace, but looking in the wrong place.
There was a bit of a surprise in the interview. One host asked the woman with ghost vision about her spirituality and she answered back that she is a practicing Catholic! When asked about the biblical admonitions against speaking with the dead, she claimed it all to be a matter of interpretation. She interpreted these passages to mean that we should pursue communication with the dead, but these "departed spirits" aren't really dead because she believes in eternal life. She never enlightened us on who the dead actually are if everyone is eternally alive, not surprisingly.
She also said that if you have a ghost living with you, the first thing you should do is contact your priest or minister and have them bless the house because, in her words, "it couldn't hurt!" After that blessing you should get a special Native American spirit stick and try to drive off the departed folk. There was a third step too, but it didn't make any more sense than anything else she said.
I guess I shouldn't have really been surprised. People will always twist a biblical interpretation to fit their own preconceived notions or their experiences -- real or otherwise. It was just so odd to hear a professed Christian expouse such an anti-Christian worldview.
Ghost stories have been around since Bible times. Some can be explained by understanding the mindset of sad and grieving people. Others can only be explained as demonic activity. In other words, it's not really Great Grandmother hovering in the corner bedroom telling you to listen to your heart, it's something disguised as Great Grandmother. Remember the passage of Scripture warning us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light? While I believe some of these sightings are from honest people who genuinely see things, the majority are probably bunk. The few which aren't are reminders that we don't see all of what is going on in this world. And while it may seem pretty scary on the surface, I am comforted by the fact that "Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world."