With Halloween fast approaching, many of us are watching scary movies and thinking of all things scary and unexplainable. Halloween night is supposedly a time when the veil between the living and the dead is thin, and people claim to see ghostly apparitions.
In addition to the Western version of Halloween that is celebrated in many countries, there are other cultures that have similar customs as well. In Mexican culture they celebrate the Dia de lost Muertos (day of the dead) on November 1st. This is not the same as Halloween, but has a similar theme of honoring the dead.
According to Dia de los Muertos,
Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) is a two day holiday that reunites the living and dead. Families create ofrendas (Offerings) to honor their departed family members that have passed. These altars are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the one being honored. The offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead as the departed souls hear their prayers, smell their foods and join in the celebrations!
If you want to learn more about the Day of the Dead, or introduce your kids to this holiday in a fun way, the 2017 Disney movie Coco is all about this holiday, and one boy's journey to understand his family's history.
When we honor the dead, we help to maintain a sense of personal history, and our departed ancestors. Many people do this by visiting cemeteries and placing flowers. In Mexico, they believe that marigolds help to communicate with the dead.
Throughout history, there are many stories of ghosts, or spirits returning from the dead with unfinished business. These stories have been prevalent all around the world for hundreds of years, and it can leave us wondering if there is some truth in the legends, since they are so widespread.
You may have heard famous ghost stories, like the ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet, the story of the Carterville ghost, the story of the 3 ghosts that visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve, or other local stories from the area where you live. In one city that I lived in, there was supposedly a haunted graveyard, and although we walked around, we didn't see anything.
According to Smithsonian Magazine,
A tablet made in ancient Babylon around 1500 B.C.E. may be the earliest known depiction of a ghost, a top scholar of ancient Middle Eastern inscriptions argues in a new book.
The clay tablet is part of a guide to exorcising ghosts held in the collections of the British Museum, reports Dalya Alberge for the Observer. Irving Finkel, a curator in the London museum’s Middle Eastern department and the author of the forthcoming book The First Ghosts: Most Ancient of Legacies, says the image on the tablet is only visible when viewed from above under a light. The museum acquired the artifact in the 19th century, but it has never been exhibited.
Apparently, people in early Mesopotamia expected to see ghosts of people who had died, so there are several early sets of instructions on how to banish ghostly spirits.
If you look back through history, there are stories of hauntings and unexplained ghost stories.
According to History,
In the first century A.D., the great Roman author and statesman Pliny the Younger recorded one of the first notable ghost stories in his letters, which became famous for their vivid account of life during the heyday of the Roman Empire. Pliny reported that the specter of an old man with a long beard, rattling chains, was haunting his house in Athens. The Greek writer Lucian and Pliny’s fellow Roman Plautus also wrote memorable ghost stories.
These oldest of ghost stories gives some credence to the idea that people have always believed in things from beyond the grave. People have also claimed to see ghosts of famous figures like Anne Boleyn, Abraham Lincoln, Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson.
There are tons of local ghost stories in different areas of the country and of the world. If you want to delve into more detail of some scary stories, you can check out 11 Scariest Ghost Stories from Country Living:
Venture to St. Francisville, Louisiana, and you just might sight a ghost named Chloe on Myrtles Plantation. Head north to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where the Crescent Hotel is alleged to be haunted by ghosts, and then over to Abbeville, Alabama, for the haunting of Huggin' Molly. Up on the East Coast in New York City, the Crying Lady has been reported to have been seen in The Dakota.
For fans of ghost stories, many cities will even have tours of haunted places that you can go on during the month of October. When I lived in Denver, there were tours of all the haunted places around the city. Colorado is also home to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park that is featured in the movie The Shining.
If you are in Germany, there are supposedly Haunted Castles that you can visit. You can also find haunted tours in places like New Orleans, Charleston, and New York. There is a huge popularity in exploring haunted places, and you can find ghostly history and legends almost everywhere.
But, with all of the history of ghostly apparitions, is there any truth to these stories? Modern day ghost hunters attempt to answer these questions, and to investigate individual ghost sightings.
According to scientific research from the University of Western Georgia,
“So, you’re wondering if ghosts are real?” she asked. “This is an ancient topic, yet a very new topic in terms of academic research. I think evidence suggests that ghosts might be both physically real and imaginary. Both things are coming into play.”
When it comes to scientifically proving the evidence of ghosts, there has been no conclusive proof so far. However, researchers are continuing to conduct studies to determine if ghosts could be real.
There are also modern day ghost hunters that go out to investigate possible hauntings. They use things like EMF readers, and may have psychics go with them to see if they can detect ghostly presence.
One of my girlfriends used to be a ghost hunter, and took me with her on one of her investigations of a haunted house near Denver. We were looking around a haystack, and both of us heard a voice calling, "Nicole, Nicole." It sounded like a little boy. (coincidentally - my friend and I are both named Nicole) There was no one else close by to us, much less a little boy.
It was a strange experience, I felt like there was a presence following me, but there was nothing to see, and no readings from the EMF. So, we don't know for sure the source of the strange voice.
There are also television shows that feature ghost hunters, so you can watch their investigations and see for yourself what the results are.
CNN interviewed ghost hunters Dave Schrader and Tim Dennis, and they have these tips when it comes to the paranormal:
Tip 1: People are strange
Tip 2: A ghost won’t kill you, but this will (the dangers of walking in the dark)
Tip 3: Don’t play with Ouija boards
Tip 4: Don’t taunt dead people
Tip 5: Don’t be too proud to run
They advise that there may be dangerous or mentally ill people hiding in abandoned buildings, so you have to be careful. Old buildings can have other hazards as well, so it is important to be aware of tripping and falling. Some old buildings may not be safe to enter.
And a personal tip - never go looking for the paranormal alone. No matter if you encounter a ghost, a scary individual, or fall in a strange place, it is better to have someone with you who can go for help if needed. Most ghost hunters go in groups, so there is safety in numbers.
If you are interested in the paranormal, you can even join a paranormal investigations team as well. Then, perhaps, you can be a part of discovering if the world's haunted history is real.