Monday, October 14, 2013

Things that go bump in the night! || Ghost Stories || The Mythology of Restless Spirits

Do you believe in ghosts?

Since man first drew breath, there has been the inevitability of death, which means stories about what happens to the spirit after death have probably been around for just as long. A discussion on the history and different types of ghost is interesting to say the least. Whether you enjoy a typical campfire story about ghosts or really get into paranormal research, you should find the following interesting.

Early Stories of Ghosts

One of the earliest written records of ghost stories comes to us from Pliny the Younger, a noted Roman author from the first century. In his famous letters, he describes a specter of an old man with a long beard and rattling chains who haunted his house in Athens.  As the story goes, anyone who passed the night in the house would be tormented by the sounds and visions of the haunting. Even after awaking from slumber, they would be plagued by terrible visions that had come to them the night before. Apparently the spirit would inspire nightmares and hallucinations.

Finally, it was decided the home was uninhabitable and condemned though some held out hope that a tenant could be found who would not mind the apparitions. Enter Arthenodorus, young philosopher visiting Athens and seeking a place to stay, at first, he was taken aback by the cheap price but once he learned the back-story he was actually looking forward to the opportunity.

His first night in the house he determined that he would not pay attention to noises or visions and would throw himself into his work to block it all out. As the night wore on the noise came closer and closer until the old man and his chains were standing close enough to touch, beckoning with one finger. Arthenodorus motioned to the ghost to wait just a moment and then followed the spirit. He was led the courtyard where the spirit promptly disappeared, so he marked the spot for examination the next day. When the area was excavated bones wrapped in chains were discovered, removed and given a proper burial. The ghost was now at rest and haunted the residence no longer.

Ghost Categories

Engraving of the Hammersmith Ghost, Kirby's Wonderful and Scientific Museum (1804)
There are many different types or categories and even more subcategories of ghosts. As a rule, however, most hauntings or ghosts will fall into one of the major categories, which include:

Intelligent- Contrary to popular belief this is considered a rare type of haunting. Intelligent ghosts are spirits of people who have departed this world and for whatever reason their spirit remained behind. There has been a lot of speculation about whether these spirits are dangerous or evil, and though there is that possibility they are not inherently so. Whatever character or personality the person had in life will translate to the type of spirit they leave behind.

Residual- This could best be described as a psychic impression or like a video loop. You might see what look like specters or ghosts going about their business or even experiencing a traumatic event, however rather than interacting with the living or making unpredictable movements, they will simply repeat the same scene over and over again.

Poltergeist- A haunting of this nature is what most people think of when it comes to ghosts. Flying dishes, banging doors and levitating furniture mark the spot of a poltergeist haunting. It is important to note that many experts in the field are beginning to believe poltergeist activity is less about spirits or ghosts and more of a psychic phenomenon where a living person in the residence is moving objects around via telekinesis.  If this is truly the case, it might be time to think up a new name for the “hauntings” as poltergeist is German in origin and literally means noisy ghost.

Demon Haunting- Whether you can group demonic activity and ghosts in the same category may be debatable in some circles, but when you look at their characteristics it is not a big leap. Even defining a demon becomes a matter for discussion as you have many myths, legends, folklore and religious references to them. For lack of a better explanation, demons are spirits that can affect the living. In the modern world, they are generally considered completely evil in nature and only have one goal in mind, which is the physical and or spiritual destruction of humankind.

*NOTE: In early times, demons were not necessarily seen as evil, but could be either good or evil. The word itself is defined in Homer’s works as “a power that accompanies man and hands out destiny”.

Pop Culture

One of the most popular television shows about ghosts today is Supernatural, and though the idea of ghost, ghoul and supernatural creature hunting is a bit far-fetched, they have depicted some interesting ideas about ghosts. Here are a few of the more memorable ghosts:
  • Lady in White- the spirit of a woman who has lost or been betrayed by her husband or fiancé. Legends about these ghosts appear around the world and she is often thought to be a harbinger of death.
  • Vengeful Spirit- this is the spirit of a person who suffered some major wrongdoing during their lifetime and have returned from the afterlife to exact revenge. The idea of a vengeful spirit is not unique to the television show; in fact, they are popular in many different cultures.
  • Specter- often hideous in appearance, these are ghosts that appear because their final resting place has been disturbed. Grave robbery, desecration and premature burial are good examples.

What's your favorite ghost story? Leave a comment!

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A Victoria Storm novella
#1 Loki's Wolves series
Genre:  Paranormal/urban fantasy
Published:March 17, 2013
Amazon ASBN B00CJ1D1BI
ISBN 9781301101122

Valkyrie Victoria Storm has werewolf hunters hell bent on revenge trying to kill her. She can barely keep her own downtrodden pack alive, let alone respond to the pleas of a murdered mother.  Can she set aside her differences and work with her sworn enemy to save a little boy from a Christmas nightmare?
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1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I love learning about spooky this time of year!