Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shadows of Deceased Ghosts

“They say that shadows of deceased ghosts
Do haunt the houses and the graves about,
Of such whose life's lamp went untimely out,
Delighting still in their forsaken hosts.”
-Joshua Sylvester

To many, ghost stories are campfire fodder, best told ironically in the bleary beam of a flashlight. However, to those who have experienced unexplained paranormal activities firsthand, these tales may be told without the requisite smirk.

But when does a rickety wine cabinet become a Dybbuk Box or the hushed voices in the apartment next door become EVP? When is it time to simply lay off the Fight Night double features or seriously gather loved ones for a séance?

Perhaps the most logical first step in determining whether or not you have a legitimate haunting is to identify some common hallmarks of paranormal activity. However, it should be noted that not all hauntings are alike and can vary from one specific phenomenon to a full-out scene from Poltergeist.

Some telltale signs that you may have a spiritual squatter include:

  • Unexplained noises (footsteps, knocking, banging, rapping, or scratching)
  • Lights turning on and off
  • DOP - Disappearing Object Phenomenon (items that vanish and then reappear)
  • Unexplained shadows     
  • Strange animal behavior    
  • Eerie sensations of being watched
  • Mild psychokinetic phenomena (including the unassisted opening or closing of doors, windows, cabinets, cupboards, etc.)
  • Sensations of being touched  
  • Disembodied cries and whispers    
  • Noticeable variances in temperature (spots can be cold or hot)   
  • Unexplained smells
  • Severe psychokinetic phenomena (such as moving or levitating objects)
  • Physical assault (scratches that suddenly appear with no viable cause)
  • Physical traces such as hand or footprints or unexplained writing

If enough of these boxes have been checked to warrant alarm, how exactly does one go about dealing with these unwanted house guests? (And you thought having bedbugs was trying…)

There are some experts who claim that the physical destruction of the site being haunted is a surefire way to rid oneself of a ghost. However, this method may prove problematic in several ways.  One’s landlord may not take this as an acceptable excuse for the complete demolition of his tenement. Also, this technique does not always work. For example, when the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland (now New York City), Peter Stuyvesant’s mansion burned down in 1744, he simply moved his haunting ground to the Stuyvesant family mausoleum.

Other experts claim that the destruction or removal of the physical remains of the body in question is the only way to quiet a disgruntled spirit. When the body of successful Irish entrepreneur A.T. Stewart was moved from near St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery to the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, his ghost eventually gave up the search.

Another popular method in dealing with visitors from the Underworld is a séance, which is an encounter or meeting during which a spiritualist or a medium attempts to communicate with the spirits of the dead. The word “séance” comes from the French word for “seat,” “session” or “sitting” and from the Old French word seoir, “to sit.” One famous ghost gabber, Hans Holzer, would speak with the spook via a medium to try and decipher the gripes of the restless. If Holzer was successful and the spirit was appeased, then the supernatural activities would come to an end.

For particularly disruptive ghosts who set their sights on people, an exorcism may be the only solution. From the Latin word exorcismus, and from the Greek word exorkizein (to abjure), exorcism is the practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place that they are believed to have possessed. An exorcist is the person called upon to perform this ceremony through prayer, ritual, formula, or through other means such as an angel or an amulet. One such exorcist, Dr. Joseph Green Cogswell, held a secular exorcism at the Astor Library, where he served as Director, after he encountered Austin Sands, a wealthy insurance executive (or what was left of him).

While the previously mentioned solutions are admittedly somewhat time consuming and involved, there are also some simpler techniques that might get the job done.

  • Solving the problem that causes the ghost to haunt (For helpful tips, a viewing of any Scooby Doo episode may prove enlightening)
  • Simply informing the ghost that he or she is deceased! (HELLO! We have all seen The Sixth Sense by now!!
  • Suggesting to the ghost a better place to haunt (How about that really annoying neighbor down the hall?)
  • Simply asking the ghost to leave or stop haunting. (Pretty please??)
  • Perhaps welcome the ghost as a friend. (Ask Christina Ricci, sometimes Casper can turn out to be a real looker.)
  • Or if all else fails, simply move away from the haunted location. (When the New York Times moved its offices uptown in 1904, the newspaper left its resident ghost behind.)

We would like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended our ghost tour, and we can hardly wait until next year as it will be bigger and scarier than ever! In the meantime, please feel free to check out our other tour offerings. We hope to see all of you on Wall Street soon!