A ghost of a chance

First Posted: 4/24/2014

I’ve always wanted to believe in ghosts.

Sure, ghosts have that scary quality inherent in the unknown. If 24-hour cable news pundits have taught us anything, it is that the things we fear are usually the things we know the least about, and there are few things I can claim to know less about than something that might not even exist.

When I was a kid I watched the cartoon “Ghostbusters” religiously. My favorite character was Slimer, though I did find him to be somewhat of an enigma, because to me, ghosts were supposed to be dead people yet there was no explanation for who Slimer was in his life before death. The poor hygiene and bloodshot eyes probably indicate he spent his life as a newspaper reporter.

Sure, there are people who will claim that some ghosts are just born ghosts, as was the excuse given by the creators of Casper, who desperately didn’t want their young fans staying up at night with the disturbing thought that Casper was the phantom of a dead child — but for me, a ghost being a dead person was the most exciting part about being a ghost. It meant that I would have more to look forward to in the afterlife than castles made of clouds and reuniting with dead relatives — being a kid, I didn’t have many dead relatives, so you can see how a reunion with my Great Uncle Frank wasn’t that exciting to me.

If I were a ghost I could haunt my enemies and see girls naked, which at 12, remained a top priority when considering potential superpowers.

Today the existence of ghosts are more important to me than ever before. While I wanted ghosts to exist when I was a kid, so as to increase the possibility of me one day having cool supernatural superpowers, and of course, abusing said powers, today I want to believe because they remain one of the final true unexplained mysteries.

A few years ago I had one of those no-nonsense editors who never cracked a smile, describe in vivid detail to me how he and his wife lived in a haunted house. Here, an educated, credible source, was describing to me the night he watched a coffee cup slowly creep across his table as if being dragged by someone’s finger, before finally crashing to the floor. Unexplained noises in the night, angry voices, toilets flushing, and finding puddles of what appeared to be blood in the center of his kitchen. He said that his youngest son referred to the undead house guest by name, and his own research much later would prove his son’s guess at the ghost’s name correct. Before he and his wife had moved into the house, the previous owner, an alleged child molester, had committed suicide in their kitchen.

I begged my editor to let me visit his house so that I could have my own first-hand ghost story to share, but he said that after giving the ghost a good yelling at, neither he or his wife had seen any sign of it in months.

I think my curiosity with ghost stories is influenced by my being an agnostic. Being agnostic is the spiritual equivalent of straddling the fence. I know that there are a lot of things within organized religion that conflict, and plenty of things about an afterlife that just don’t sound credible, but at the same time I would badly like to believe that there is more to existence than existing. We know evolution rewards survival, it rewards those animals who have developed traits to live longer, to be better at breeding, better at killing, but we still don’t know why it seems so important to survive in the first place.

That is one of those unexplained mysteries that will probably keep me up at night for years to come, but fortunately, it is those very unexplained mysteries that make waking up in the first place so much fun.

Robeson County is no stranger to the unexplained and mysterious. For example, in between Maxton and Laurinburg, at the corner of Stewartsville Cemetery Road and Old Maxton Road, there is an area known as “Gravity Hill.” In this space, it is said, that if one leaves their car here in neutral at the bottom of the hill, the car will begin to gently roll up the hill, as if being pushed by some invisible force. Spooky.

Sure, we’ve all heard similar stories, and there are physicists who say that these Gravity Hills are merely optical illusions, which is OK — because there is a chance they aren’t.

And that chance is enough to give me the hope that one day I’ll be able to have cool ghost powers, and maybe even take time to have a beer with my Great Uncle Frank.

James Johnson may be reached at 910-272-6144 or on Twitter @JJohnsonRobeson.