Why I believe in ghosts

I have a confession to make; I believe in ghosts.

I remember when I was a little girl I had always been afraid of the dark. I would never walk into a room that didn’t have the light on. It was that fear of what I couldn’t see that used to liquefy my innards with terror.

There was many a time when I was a child that I would suddenly wake up from a deep sleep by someone whispering my name in my ear. To this day I’ve never really been able to figure out if it was simply my imagination or something else. It would make sense to blame it on my overactive childish imagination… but at that time, I never even really knew what a ghost – or spirit – really was.

My fear of the dark was so strong that I would always sleep with the quilt covering whatever ear it was that I wouldn’t be lying on, simply to stop the possibility of anyone – or anything – whispering in my ear when I was asleep and helpless.

I had been raised in a moderately Christian household. I remember about 7 or 8 times when we went to church… usually on Christmas Day. My father – like every little girls father – always seemed to have the answer to everything. Whenever I was particularly terrified of going to sleep late at night he’d tell me; “If you ever see a ghost, just tell them this: You’re not wanted here. Go away.” And as all little girls did, I believed him.

I lost count of the times I’d woken up late at night – after hearing my name whispered in my ear – and shakily hissed that phrase into the darkness. I usually ended up running down the length of our federation-style home – the longest 20 or so meters of my life – until I reached the haven of my parents’ room.

At that age – to me – ghosts and spirits were something that existed only to torment the living. I’d always imagined them as twisted souls that weren’t good enough to get into heaven, but not bad enough to get into hell, so they were stuck forever in limbo on the same plane as us humans.

I used to have this re-occurring dream; I’d be too scared to sleep in my own bed and run down to my parents’ room, but just as I passed the kitchen I’d hear this multitude of whispers and slow, like I was running through quicksand. Blackened invisible hands (don’t ask me how they were black AND invisible) would stretch out of the shadows of the china cabinet on the wall and catch me, dragging me down through the concrete floor of the – at the time unfinished – house and trap me under the dank earth of the house whilst my parents slept, oblivious.

When I was about 8 or 9 was the time when movies like the ‘Candyman’, and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ came out. Although I was never allowed to see these movies, the horror stories spread around my primary school like wildfire. It was the ‘in thing’ to whisper ‘Bloody Mary’ into the school toilet mirrors three times and see who lasted the longest before finally giving into fits of terrified laughter and run out of the toilets squealing.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 or 17 that I had my first real paranormal experience. I grew up on the northern edge of the Southern Highlands, in a little town called Bargo. My parents probably wouldn’t agree with me calling it ‘little’ but in hindsight, let me assure you; it was little.

During high school I’d developed an interest in theatre, specifically musical theatre, and I had the chance to do a number of performances in two known haunted locations in South-Western Sydney; the Picton Community Hall and the Campbelltown Theatre.

My first paranormal experience – and I call it this loosely… there are still a lot of variables that should be acknowledged – happened on the opening night of the Wollondilly Theatre Group’s production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.

Before all of this happened, I had never known about the hall we were rehearsing and performing in being haunted. I was fresh out of high school and rearing to do my own thing without the judging constraints of the social group I had belonged to at school.

I remember just before the scene where Jesus is overwhelmed by lepers and beggars at the temple (I was a leper) I realized I had forgotten my ‘leper-sheet’. I leapt off the stage into the women’s change-room, through the huge swinging doors at the base of three stairs and began rifling through the pile of costumes that I had heaped in my own little corner of the room.

Behind me, I heard the door swing open so hard that they hit the walls either side of them (on reflection, I realized that I didn’t hear any footsteps). Thinking that it was one of the girls I was performing with, I said “Laura! We’re supposed to be on stage!” I turned and found that the doors were still shut and no-one was there.

I had never run so fast back onto the stage in my life.

I suppose, thinking back, it would be easy to rationalize this as perhaps someone poking their head into the change room and then disappearing once they saw that I was in there. That doesn’t explain the loudness of the banging doors that I heard, nor the lack of footsteps on the old creaky floorboards that lined the old community hall or the fact that everyone in the production was on stage at that very moment besides me.

There was also the issue of the magically moving lights. Between every performance the lighting people had to duct-tape the lights into place, otherwise when we arrived the next night they’d be all over the place in the wrong positions.

My second – and perhaps the most important – paranormal experience happened when I was 18, a year after the incident in the community hall. I was on a historical ghost tour with Liz Vincent in the town of Picton. We had done an entire walkabout of the town of Picton and ended up at the grand finale: the Redbank Tunnel.

The Redbank Tunnel was opened in 1867 and was one of the first railway tunnels to be used by Rail NSW. Now condemned and heritage listed, it is apparently plagued by the ghost of Emily Bollard, (there are conflicting stories that she used to set signals or used to travel through the tunnel to see family) who tragically was struck by a train in the tunnel and was carried over 50 meters on the front of the train until it managed to come to a stop.
The tour group had moved into about a third of the way into the tunnel. We had been watching a greenish glow move up and down on the walls. Me in my ‘know-it-all’ teenage mind had put it down as (what I now know is) visual matrixing. I figured that were told to expect something and so we saw it, exactly as described.
There came an opportunity for a few of the younger members of the group – there were quite a few children, from about 11 and older – to turn back and wait with Liz’s husband at the entrance to the tunnel. I decided that I had had enough. My hair was standing on end, I was getting very cold chills and my ever-present fear of the dark was beginning to make breathing hard for me.

My brother and I moved back with the rest of the children and we walked to the entrance of the tunnel. As we crossed the threshold, I remember feeling the hairs on my neck prickle again – more intensely – and I looked back down the tunnel. I couldn’t see my parents, but my eyes flicked down to the wall of the tunnel – barely a meter away from me.
That was when I saw an orb.
Now this isn’t the same as seeing a multitude of dust reflections on a digital photo. I saw this with my own eyes. It was within touching distance… maybe fifty or sixty centimeters from my upper thigh.

Even now, seven years later, I can remember it clearly. It was a perfect circle, maybe 6 or 7 centimeters in diameter, and a colour that I’ve never seen before; almost yellow and almost white, but with the same silver that you get from when you shine a torch at the eyes of a cat.

Of course, I screamed. I was a startled teenager… what else was there to do? I grabbed my brother’s hand as I saw it zip backwards into the wall and ran to the relative safety of Mr Vincent’s car.

Liz is dead now (A huge loss to the community. She was such a wise woman), and the tours no longer operate. I can’t rationalize what I saw as a reflection. At that age time, I simply didn’t let myself think about it… maybe it was a black cat? Maybe it was a glimmer of my torch off a piece of glass? None of my reasons explained why it visibly darted backwards into the wall! Had I scared it? I’d never know. The property is privately owned and as far as I know, you need special permission to go back there.

There have been a few little instances here and there since then of paranormal activity; seeing a man sitting in the seats that the Campbelltown theatre (supposedly Fishers Ghost) and the mysteriously shifting coke can (which we watched over the period of about 5 seconds) and slamming screen door (when no-one else was there) at a house that me and my fiancé used to live in.

Now 24, I’ve managed to grow up enough to realize that not every story that you hear is true. I’ve found that for the last two years I’ve been devouring TAPS, Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Adventures episodes by the handful. I’m an English Major at university, and since the age of 19 I’ve been taught to question everything. For me, questioning everything doesn’t end at the range of comfort either.
I’m terrified of heights, so I took up indoor rock-climbing twice a week. I hear a noise on the other (darkened) side of the house at night so get up and investigate. I purposefully like to be the one to turn off all the lights at night and walk up the stairs with the darkness at my back. Why? Because it terrifies me.
I want to know why. Why am I afraid of the dark? Why are humans afraid of the unexplained? Why is it that other cultures around the globe are so comfortable with the idea of life after death, yet typical Western Culture shuns it and denies any existence? Why are people so quick to believe that the universe was created by some primordial ‘Big Bang’ but ask them to look at footage of an apparent manifestation and have them point out all of the flaws in a Paranormal theory?
Can we re-create a Paranormal occurrence with 100% accuracy? Not yet. Can we re-create a mini ‘Big Bang’ in a Hadron Collider with 100% reliability? With an 8 billion dollar machine, yes! But imagine what a team of Paranormal experts could do with 8 billion dollars!
Because this is an area that is still quite young in its development in mainstream culture there are precious few resources available to hone your knowledge base of the unexplained. There are a great deal less knowledgeable public figures to try and garner information from than the scientific field… and then there is also the question of validity.

One thing that has always interested me is how many parallels there are between the current state of the Paranormal Field and physics in the 17th century. Both are relatively constrained by popular belief and marginalised because of these radical ideas that defied what most people are comfortable with. The idea that the Earth revolved around the sun? How about the idea that there exists multiple layers of perception… that the ‘ghosts’ we see and interact with are a beings that exist within a different layer?
I’m not going to go into Paranormal Metaphysics, but theories of the existence of ghosts are almost as unbelievable as theories of planetary motions were in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now – hundreds of years later – we have the technology to be able to prove that Copernicus was right. Who’s not to say that in a hundred years time we won’t have the technology to communicate with the other side?
I like to keep an open mind about these things, so yes; I believe in ghosts. I believe in the possibility that we haven’t discovered all that there is to discover in the world, physically or metaphysically. So who knows? Maybe our grandchildren will be given the chance to complete doctorates in Spiritual Physics and have their own chance to blow 8 billion dollars communicating with the dead.
I’ll just make sure I give them clear EVPs 🙂