The definition of Supernatural is: The manifestations or events attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature. Another name for supernatural is Paranormal.
(NOTE THIS IS NOT A DISCUSSION ON IDEOLOGY VERSE THEOLOGY. It is not a discourse on scriptural analysis.)
What does the supernatural have to do with Christianity, everything. Without the supernatural there is no God, prayer, miracles, and the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament mean nothing. They are all fairy tales in a reality where there is no such thing as the supernatural.
If this is the case, then why are so many Christians afraid of stating that they believe? It’s like having a big, pink elephant in the middle of the room. You cherish it, care for it and when someone asks you about it, you say, what pink elephant? I don’t believe in pink elephants. That’s absurd!
I often come across people who claim to have never had an encounter of some kind with a supernatural event. I think this is sad as it tells me; they have never experienced the joy or healing of the spirit of God – the answer to a prayer. I have to wonder why these people pray in the first place if they don’t believe in supernatural events. Why go to church and sing songs, recite stanzas, and listen to someone preach about things that don’t exist?
Yet people do these things every Sunday and still say to me, there is no such thing as the paranormal. Many have judged me, dismissed me or were weary of me because I have no problem standing up and saying, yep, I know there are things out there I can’t fully explain, a reality I only see glimpses of, the God realm. To me, God is not dead and has never stopped talking or interacting with humans. Isn’t that the Christian way?
There is a difference in the way Protestant and Catholics handle some aspects of dealing with the supernatural. Specifically I am addressing the ideas of hauntings, possessions and poltergeists. The thoughts range from; all of this is demonic trickery, spirits visiting or lost in purgatory, to God’s allowing of souls to return to deliver messages of hope or visions to the living. Either way, do note, it’s all the supernatural. It all boils down to, God is so far above what we as humans can possibly comprehend, that anything is possible.
Therefore, in order to be a Christian, you have to believe in the supernatural, the unbelievable. (If you need Biblical verification, check below this article. I have put together all the passages I could find in the Bible demonstrating this very cornerstone of the faith. Change that, it is not the cornerstone, it is the entire building.)
According to U.S. Catholic magazine, belief in the invisible and the visible is necessary and sprits are a part of the tradition. This article entitled, Paranormal activity: Do Catholics believe in ghosts? By Tim Townsend, further states, “Ghosts confirm, rather than refute or disturb Catholic theology of the afterlife.” This is a quote from Boston philosophy professor Peter Kreeft.
If it makes you feel any better, according to recent polls over half the people in the United States believe in spirits and supernatural events. Those are the people willing to acknowledge the big, pink elephant in the middle of the room. The others have conversations like,
“Well of course I’m a Christian. Jesus died and was raised from the dead for my sins and salvation.”
Then you do believe in the supernatural?
“No, absolutely not. You don’t really believe in that stuff, do you?”
Why are people hiding their light under a bushel? Is it fear of retribution from society? It can’t be fear from God, because that completely goes against the stance of there is nothing supernatural out there. You can’t fear what does not exist. You can’t believe a man two thousand years ago died and came back to life if you don’t believe in the supernatural. It’s not rocket science.
The theologian, John Newton is stated as saying, when someone claims to have seen a ghost, “it is highly complex… I certainly see no good reason, all other factors being equal; to deny that someone who claims to have seen a ghost has not had a genuine experience of some sort. The question then is what sort of experience has occurred.” (from the article of Tim Townsend in U.S. Catholic)
Should Christians denounce and run from supernatural occurrences? If we did, there would be no more revivals, no being born again, no faith healing, no answers to prayers, no angels visiting, no visions or dreams from the almighty, no concepts of heaven or hell, no worries about demons, nothing to draw our attention toward the unknown, the magnificent yet unseen forces at work, no light of God in any form. In fact, if we ran, if we denied, are we like Peter and the rooster that crowed three times?
Stating a belief in the supernatural does not mean you understand what mechanisms are at work or the meaning behind such events. People have been arguing, fighting, maiming and committing horrible atrocities on each other over such questions. This group separates from that group and dogmas and doctrines are written. Each schism pushes the family of God further apart.
Do you believe in the supernatural? It’s that simple. Can we agree to disagree on the language used and philosophical bent pertaining to a society of ants trying to comprehend the nature of the shoe coming down upon us? If you really think about the fact that God created all and has the ability to form so perfectly the laws of nature, DNA, molecules, why would any of us be so arrogant as to assume we know the reasons why? We are not that dissimilar to the ant.
Do you believe in the supernatural? Can you grasp that the chair you are sitting in is nothing more than a complex array of billions of tiny atoms moving so fast you see them as a chair? Science can talk to us on the nature of a chair. What it can’t do, is take us back to the very essence of belief. Something started it all and that something is beyond their ability to understand in the laws of nature – it’s supernatural.
There is an unseen entity, all knowing, all seeing who created all of reality, seen and unseen (God)
- Enoch did not die, but ascended to be with God, Genesis 5:19-24
- Noah’s flood, Genesis 7:9-12, 17-24
- Judgment of the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11:1, 5-9
- God speaks to Abraham
- Sarah’s conception of Isaac, Genesis 21: 1-8
- Angels blind the Sodomites Genesis 19:9-11
- Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Genesis 19: 15-29
- Lot’s wife turns to salt, Genesis 19:24-26
- Moses speaks to a burning bush and claims he is talking to God, Genesis 3:1-15
- Ten plagues of Egypt Genesis 7-13
- A pillar cloud led the Israelites by day and a fire by night Genesis 13: 21-22
- Parting of the Red Sea, Genesis 14: 21-29
- Manna from heaven, Genesis 16-17
- Moses speaks climbs Mt. Sinai and God gives him the Hebrew letters and the laws of God, Genesis 19-20
- Miriam is made leprous and is healed, Numbers 12:10-15
- Aaron’s rod blossoms, Numbers 17:8
- People are healed by looking at a brass serpent ,Numbers 21:6-9
- Balaam’s donkey speaks ,Numbers 22:21-35
- The Jordan river divides like the Red Sea Joshua 3:14-17
- The Arc of the Covenant and the fall of Jericho Joshua 6
- Angels appear, Judges 2:1-5, 3:8-11, 6:11-24
- Gideon’s fleece, Judges 6:11-40
- The story of Sampson ,Judges 14 -16
- The ghost of Samuel appears from the dead 1 Samuel 28:15-20
- Elijah is fed by ravens, 1 Kings 17:2-6
- Elijah raises a widow’s son from the dead ,1 Kings 17:17-24
- Elijah prays for rain and God sends it, 1 Kings 18:41-46
- Elijah parts the Jordan river, 2 Kings 2:13-14
- Elijah raises a child from the dead, 2 Kings 4: 32-37
- Elijah heals many, 2 Kings 4
- Elijah feeds hundreds with 20 loaves of bread and 20 ears of corn, 2 Kings 4:42-44
- Elijah does not die, but is carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire, 2 Kings 6
- Isaiah has visions, Isaiah 1-6
- Jonah story, Jonah 1-4
- Warnings to not contact the dead ,1 Samuel 28:3-20; 2 Chronicles 10:13, 14; Isaiah 8:19-22
- Angel appears to Zacharias, Luke 1:11-19
- Angel appears to Mary, Luke 1:26-38
- Angels appear to shepherds, Luke 2:9-15
- Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost Matthew, 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3: 21-23
- Temptation of Jesus and Angel ministry, Matthew 4:11, Mark 1:13
- Jesus turns water into wine, John 2:1-11
- Jesus performs miracles ,John 2:23
- Jesus heals the sick nobleman’s son, John 4:46-53
- Catching an over abundance of fish, Luke 5:6
- Casting out unclean spirits,Mark 1:23-25, 4:33-35
- Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law,Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:30-31, Luke 4:38-39
- Jesus heals the sick, Matthew 8:16, Mark 1:32-34, Luke 4:40
- Jesus heals and casts out demons, Matthew 4:23-24, Mark 1:39
- Jesus heals a leper, Matthew 8:2-3, 1:40-42, Mark 5:12-13
- Jesus heals a paralytic,Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:3-5, Luke 5:18-20
- Jesus tells the apostles to test all spirits that come to them, 1John 4:1
- Jesus heals an infirmed man, John 5:6-9
- Jesus heals a man’s hand, Matthew 12:9-13, 3:1-5, 6:6-10, Mark 3:1-5, Luke 6:6-10
- Jesus heals many people, Matthew 12:15, Mark 3:10
- Spirit wanders, lost, in his home and brings seven other spirits with him. Matthew 12:43-45
- Jesus heals the centurion’s servant,Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10
- Jesus raises a dead boy, Luke 7:11-15
- Jesus cast out demons, Matthew 12:22
- Jesus calms a storm, Matthew 8:23-26, Mark 4:35-39, Luke 8:22-24
- Peter things Jesus is a ghost, Mark 6:49
- Jesus cast out demons and puts them into swine, Matthew 8:28-32, Mark 5:6-13, Luke 8: 28-33
- Jesus raises a royal girl from the dead, Matthew 9:23-25, Mark 5:35-42, Luke 49-55
- Healing the woman with the blood issue, Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48
- Healing the blind ,Matthew 9:27-30
- Healing the sick, Mark 6:5
- Casting out demons from deaf mute, Matthew 9:32-33
- Healing the sick, Mathew 9:35, 14:14
- Jesus feeds 5000, Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, mark 9:10-17, John 6:5-13
- Jesus is transformed and confers with the spirits of Elijah and Moses, Luke 9:28-36
- Jesus walks on the sea, Matthew 14:25, Mark 6:48, John 6:19
- Healing of many Matthew 14:35-36, Mark 6:55-56
- Healing Canaanite woman’s daughter, Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30
- More healing, Matthew 15:30-38, Mark 8:1-8 and 22-25, Luke 18:35, Mark 11:12-14;20
- Voice from heaven John 12:28-29
- Jesus restores an ear, Luke 22:51
- Veil of the Temple is torn from top to bottom, Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45
- The dead rise, Matthew 27:52-53
- Jesus rises from the dead, Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-9
- An angel appears before the women Matthew 28:1-7
- Angel appears at the sepulcher, Matthew 28:5-8, Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:4-8
- Angels appear to Mary, John 20:11-13
- Risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:9, John 20:14-17
- Risen Jesus appears to the women , Matthew 28:9-10
- Risen Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus , Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-35
- Risen Jesus appears to apostles, Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:36-49, John 20:19-31, 21: 1-25
- Jesus eats food to prove he is not a ghost and tells them the difference between a ghost and him., Luke 24:35-40
- Risen Jesus helps with miraculous catch of fish, John 21:6
- Jesus ascends into heaven, Acts 1:6-9
- Angels appear to apostles, Acts 1:10-11
- Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost comes to apostles, Acts 2:1-4
- Speaking in tongues, Acts 3:1-11
- Peter heals the man, Acts 3:1-11
- Angels release apostles from prison, Acts 5:18-20
- Stehen sees apparition of Jesus, Acts 7:55-56
- Casting out of unclean spirits, Acts 8:7
- Philip teleports via Holy Spirit to another city, Acts 8:39-40
- Jesus apparition continues to appear, Acts 9:3-7, 9:10-16
- Saul gains his sight ,Acts 9:17-19
- Peter heals a cripple Aneneas, Acts 9:32-34
- A man, Dorcas, is raised from the dead, Acts 9:36-42
- Cornelius receives a vision, Acts 10:1-8
- Peter receives visions, Acts 10:9-16
- Angel gets Peter from prison, Acts 12:7-10
- An angel kills Herod , Acts 12:23
- Peter heals and casts out demons, Acts 14:8-10, Acts 16:16-18
- Apparition of Jesus, Acts 18:9-10
- Paul performs many unusual signs, Acts 19:11-12
- Eutychus is brought back from the dead, Acts 20:9-12
- Apparition of Jesus , Acts 23:11
- Prison doors mysteriously break open and Paul and Silas are freed Acts 16:25-26
- Apparition of Jesus to 500 people, and James Acts 15:6-7
- Paul has a vision of heaven 2 Corinthians 12:1-6
- The entire book of Revelations
Reference: Do Catholics believe in ghosts by Tim Townsend http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201309/paranormal-activity-do-catholics-believe-ghosts-27887
We had another oddity in our household last night. Maybe it was over active imaginations or we bumped into something paranormal in the night. In this house, it could be either or both.
It is not unusual for me to get bolted awake about 2:30 – 3:00 in the morning on a regular base. Sometimes, it becomes annoying enough to stay awake past the 3:00 hour just to prevent the jolt. Tonight I’m staying awake to write this blog and straighten my office.
I think I have mentioned in the past that this house has some unusual things happening from time to time. Things that paranormal researchers would call residual haunting such as snippets of conversation in the same location between two people we can’t see.
Then there is what they call intelligent haunts. There is a woman that has whispered my name in my ear. On one occasion I was outside trimming bushes that same voice demanded I go back in the house. It startled the he—out of me. I went inside to find smoke spewing everywhere in my kitchen. Then there was the time my mother was visiting and awoke to find a woman sitting on the bottom of the bed. The woman smiled at her and vanished.
Three other oddities are seeing shadows of people darting around corners and this blue haze about four or so feet tall in a bedroom doorway. Our animals will also suddenly come to attention and studiously watch nothing (usually in the same location) and track it across the room and then resume their normal activities. We try to distract them without luck. Sometimes they growl or their hunches raise – there is nothing there. The third is that the smell of cigarette smoke will come out of nowhere (no one in the family is a smoker), linger around me, though others coming near me can smell it, and then disappear.
The last and the most prevalent thing, is what they call poltergeist activity. Things that move on their own and we can’t figure out why. The most common in this house has been closed doors opening and then slamming shut. The most bizarre to us was the night when the dining room chandelier started swinging, increasing its arc back and forth. The grandkids were seated at the dining room table quietly watching when one asked if it was going to fly off and hurt someone. Feeling ridiculous, I said, “Stop moving the chandelier.” It stopped without slowing down. Leaving two little girls asking their grandma a lot of questions she could not answer.
Last night the door that divides the downstairs from the upstairs opened. This door frequently is subject to erratic opening and shutting. We had company one night and the door quietly opened all the way. A moment or two went by and it quietly, slowly closed again. Everyone looked at me and I just said, Oh well.
We’ve tried experiments with air flow, windows open or shut and the air conditioners on or off without discovering the answer. We have learned that my cat has learned how to put her paw under this door and with persistence, pop it open so she can visit me in the office.
I bring all this craziness up because earlier that morning we were sitting in the dining room talking about the battle at Gettysburg and comparing it to the ones at Anteidem and Fredericksburg. Like typical, the talk eventually got back to the topic of ghosts, specifically ghosts and Gettysburg. Most specifically the books, TV specials and ghost tours compliments of author and researcher, Mark Nesbitt.
My one daughter tells me she is afraid to look out windows at night and almost refuses to take another ghost tour because a story Nesbitt documented on his tour. It’s called, The Story of Blue Boy. He is a phantom child who froze to death outside a dorm at Gettysburg College and continues to appear by looking in a second floor window. That’s a powerful ghost story.
I got to wondering how many fears result from experiencing the tale of the paranormal activity instead of actually having one. I started asking around and was a bit surprised at the answers. People who are afraid of mirrors, opening elevators, looking into binoculars, open closets, quija boards, cemeteries, sleeping alone, sleeping without covers, sleeping in the dark, looking out windows at night, answering the door at night, dolls, clowns and walking down the streets of Gettysburg or the battlefield at dusk or dawn to name a few. All because they heard, read or saw a reenactment of a ghost story not because they have had an experience.
What amazing power. I’ve seen people on ghost tours look increasingly uneasy as the tour progresses and I know people who have stayed awake all night with the lights on after reading a Steven King novel. Is it fear of the unknown, the out of control, potential lack of safety or the telling of a great tale?
According to the Center for Religious Studies, over 70% of Americans believe in something supernatural. Be it ghosts, angles, demons, miracles, curses, God, heaven, hell, Satan and so on. Are we taught to fear or mock and ridicule instead of embrace and explore? As quantum physics unfolds new theories of the cosmos that render credence to the ability for other dimensions and planes of existence to occur, will our fears lessen? Or as long as the story teller provides the right atmosphere and hits just the right nerve, we are forever in their grasps no matter what we believe?
Social scientists will tell you ghost stories are sweeter if the society that breeds and reads them is in a state of flux. Uncertainty in the world brings a need for understanding and demonstration of our fears of the unknown manifest in the ghost story. Or is it, the more upheaval, the more energy and the phenomenon manifests itself more readily making society more sensitive to the paranormal and the ghost story?
Wait a minute, I hear something odd. Okay, no problem, it’s just the door between the downstairs and upstairs. Damn cat. No wait, it just slammed shut. I don’t think she has that skill.
There is a rhythmic creaking of the stairs like someone heavy footed is slowly coming up the stairwell. Everyone should be asleep. Its 3:05 a.m. and even if someone is awake why would they be wearing heavy boots?
The hair on my neck tingles and I shudder at the chill in the air. It’s a nice night; there shouldn’t be a sudden chill from anywhere. My heart races and my hands sweat.
There is another creak outside my office door. I get up from my desk and reach out to take hold of the knob, but hesitate. Do I really want to know what or who is on the other side? It can’t be anything harmful, can it? I’ve never been harmed by these things before, but what if this is different? I take hold of the glass, door knob and slowly turn.
What makes a good ghost story? Is it the retelling of personal events in order to find others with similar experiences? Is it evidence in a world where we know so much, that there is so much more we don’t understand? Or is it all the above and then some?
The door opens; the air is thick and oddly sweet and my hair is still on end. I’m all alone or am I?
We hadn’t seen each other all summer. For the past two years we’d taken a writing workshop at a place called Write from the Heart run by Melissa Green. It’s designed to encourage writers to put behind the critics of the past and learn to listen to their inner, creative voices.
On a whim, I asked my friend to check out an Irish Pub in Lancaster and she agreed. We got lost, driving literally in circles for over an hour saying things like, “Didn’t we pass that pizza place before?” Yes, we have.
Out of the blue, my friend says, “You know, there is some reason we’re supposed to be going in this circle. There is something or someone in the center of this circle that’s going to become very important to us. Isn’t that exciting? I wonder what it will be.”
A day later, both of us have talked to and signed up with Melissa Green’s Write from the Heart. Her place is located smack center of the circle we forged the night before. This event is not surprising to my friend and intriguing to me.
Melissa’s studio is an hour from us and I quickly find that the conversations to and from are not only affirming but spiritually awakening. My friend and I have had near death experiences and are on the same wave-length. Together what blossoms are beyond what either of us could ever accomplish alone.
Life happened and each of us had to stop attending the workshop for various reasons. That was the beginning of the summer. Although both of us stated we felt spirit was taking us in new directions, to build on the journey we started with Write from the Heart’s wonderful experience, it was saddening.
The summer for me was plagued with death, multiple surgeries for my daughter, trying to run a new business and learning to live minus one income. Every week when time came for our normal rendezvous for class, I could feel my heart and soul ache. Yes I missed the class, my writing buddies and Melissa. But what I really missed were the conversations on the drive to and fro.
It hit me, this was ridiculous. Call the woman and get together. We don’t need to drive to Lancaster to have spiritual conversations and enlightenment. We can go someplace else and talk. Gettysburg pops into my mind but I dismiss it. I want someplace spiritual, not historical. I think The Grotto.
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine to Saint Elizabeth Seton. It’s a fabulous place to relax, pray, meditate or just enjoy the mosaic art works and mountain environment. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. This is one of the places I normally hit in times when I need to clear my head.
I gave her a call and find out she’d been experiencing the same longing. So we eagerly set a date, her house for dinner with her family then a drive to The Grotto.
Just as I’m getting in my car, a horrendous storm hits but I keep going. The main road leading from my house to my friends surges with rising flood water. Cars stall, truck-made waves wash over entire vehicles. I pull into a parking lot, pull out my cell phone and call her. There is no way I am continuing. It’s too dangerous.
She tells me she is only a couple miles ahead of me on her own way home. She is looking at blue sky. I look out into the distance and see a small patch of blue. Okay, I’ll keep coming but I tell her The Grotto is no longer an option. She says, “Let’s wait and see which way spirit takes us.” I agree and head out into the flooding street.
By the time I get to her house, the sky is blue, the rain gone and the roads just wet. We have a great chicken potpie dinner with her family and she says, “Well, what do you want to do?”
“I want to go to The Grotto,” I tell her. I’m looking out her kitchen window at the soggy ground. I don’t even know if The Grotto is open at seven o’clock on a Thursday evening. What the hell? “Let’s do it.”
We get in the car and drive the half hour to The Grotto while catching up on our summers. It’s a quick drive to the Catoctain Mountains. We climb the narrow road up the mountain and stop short. There is a gate across the road. The Grotto, situated at the top of the mountain, is closed.
“Now what do you want to do?” She asks me. “Where do you think spirit is leading us?”
Gettysburg pops back in my head. I am reluctant to say anything because I feel like I’m obsessed with Gettysburg Battlefield. But the feeling is strong enough to speak. “I keep thinking Gettysburg.”
“Oh my gosh! I’ve been thinking about Gettysburg all day! When you called I thought, Gettysburg! We need to go to Gettysburg. That is why The Grotto is closed!” This, in an odd kind of way, makes sense to me. I turn the car around and head to Gettysburg.
There are several exits into the borough and town of Gettysburg from US 15. She didn’t care which one we took. She says, “Clear your mind and head in the direction you think we are supposed to go.” I took the Taneytown exit and wound up on the battlefield.
It’s now 6:45 pm. As we enter a main thoroughfare of the National Park grounds my friend says, “Whenever I come out here, I get this feeling that says stop. There is something about that location that I’m supposed to experience.”
“Okay, well, if you get that feeling, tell me and I’ll stop.”
“Stop.” She immediately states so I pull over. We are about one hundred feet from the old Cyclorama overlooking the high water mark of Picket’s Charge. “Did you see him?” She asks me.
The park is surprisingly busy for a Thursday night in September. The series of bad storms rolling across the county would have fettered any daytime visit. It looks like a lot of out-of-town guests are taking advantage of the evening’s clear weather. Among all the cars and people wondering in and around canons sits an older man with a very large, Irish Wolfhound. Yes, I’d seen him. He and the dog were hard to miss.
We get out of the car and wander over and say hello. The dog’s name is Tanner. He stands seven foot four inches on his hind legs and weights two hundred and forty pounds. He is without a leash and his owner informs us it’s not necessary.
The name of Tanner’s owner is not reveled to us. This is okay because we are also nameless. We spend a short amount of time exchanging niceties. He lives in Gettysburg and routinely walks his dog around the battlefield looking to meet interesting people and soak in the spiritual nature of the location. Normally, he states, he sits on Little Round Top but tonight he was called to sit where we found him.
The conversation takes a turn. The man has had a near death experience that changed his life. We haven’t told him we share this trait and my friend shoots me a look of, see I knew there was a reason we were supposed to stop here. For about an hour we talk about crossing over, God, the universe, life as we know it and this place called Gettysburg. The whole time we are talking, I keep looking over at several cannons and ammunition wagons positioned where original cannonades resonated across the field.
Tanner’s owner has not experienced anything he would call paranormal on the battlefield but definitely has at his home. He sees the battlefield as alive, as spiritual and it calls him here. My friend shoots me another affirming look.
I have experienced things on the battlefield and I tell him so. This prompts him to talk about a friend of his who writes books on ghosts in Gettysburg. He’s questioning some of the stories his friend has written which I think is funny considering he just told us several personal, paranormal stories. I start telling him about my experiences with unexpected things in photos, voices and sounds I’ve heard, odd smells and apparent apparitions on or around the battlefield.
It’s nearly, completely dark. Tanner’s owner looks over at the cannons I’ve been eyeing off and on and says, “Don’t they look lonely? I often think of them as animated. They spend all day being touched, having their pictures taken with people, telling their story. But by night, they are lonely sentinels on this sacred ground.”
This hits me, really hits me and I take a photograph of with my cell phone and send myself a message that reads, lonely cannons. It’s profound in my mind, but I don’t know why.
The conversation comes to a natural conclusion and we get in my car. Tanner and his owner get in theirs. We beep goodbyes and go our separate ways never having exchanged names. We are just three people drawn to a place in time for an unexpected conversation.
My friend has never been on the battlefield after dark. It’s a profoundly sobering time to visit. There is a minimal amount of visitors. The place is quiet, shadows deep and the mind can better attempt to sink in what happened on those three horrific days in history. It’s incomprehensible. No matter how many times I visit in an attempt to understand it won’t sink in.
I deviate from the Auto-tour route to show her several of my favorite monuments and end up beside the area known as The Wheatfield. Our car windows are down. The air is different here. I’ve been here many times and I’ve never experienced this feeling. It’s a tingling on our skin like static electricity, our throats feel tight making it hard to swallow and my friend feels a bit queasy.
I have no intention of stopping the car. We round the bend and the feelings stop – for both of us. I pull the car over and we try to process what happened. It was damn odd and not pleasant. Both of us have experienced heightened energy before. Times when the air is charged where there are high magnetic fields, standing near large electrical towers or during lightening storms. That’s what this felt like.
I pull the car back onto the road and we drive through the woods and end up at Devil’s Den. To my surprise there is only one other car here. Usually, at night, I find this is the most popular place to find other visitors.
I stop the car and we get out. Using the light from my phone as a flashlight, we wander past the granite megaliths known as Devil’s Den and walk up the road around to the back of the rocks. In the not-to-far distance we hear the sound of a rumbling explosion and stop.
“Thunder?” She asks.
“Too low,” I reply and we stand quiet waiting to hear it again. We don’t and I tease, “Its cannon fire.” Then add, “Maybe there is a reenactment nearby.” We shrug it off and return to walking up the darkened hill.
At the top of the hill, directly behind Devil’s Den is a very tall, lone tree. It stands very close to the location where my hubby captured a white form of what looks like an apparition of a soldier. My friend identifies the tree as a place where she and a cousin spent several hours sitting and soaking in warm, positive energy.
Devils Den is made of granite. This entire area is granite and quartz heavy. I know both stones hold and radiate energy. That’s why we use them in computers, watches and why they don’t want you to use granite as a counter top. It emits radon. I’m not surprised she feels energy here.
I get several feet from the tree and get a sensation of disorientation. I can barely keep my balance. Before I can say anything, my friend tells me she feels odd, her stomach is turning over and she smells something metallic. I don’t smell it but I immediately think of blood. I unfortunately know very intimately the smell and taste of large amounts of spilled blood. It’s metallic. I don’t tell her this. I don’t think she’d understand but I could be wrong.
She reaches over and places her hands on the tree. I don’t want to go near the tree. Every time I get too close the equilibrium problem hits again. She says, “Take a picture here, how about here?” I do this and nothing shows up but darkness, a shot of her with the tree and one that has some fog.
I really feel like the world is spinning one way and me in another. “We need to leave,” I tell her.
We start heading down the hill and she grabs me. Both of us are having a hard time keeping balanced. I think this is nuts and tell her I want to do an experiment.
I walk away from the tree until I feel normal again. Then I turn around and walk till I start to feel ill. I do it several times. I have her do it. It makes no sense. I wish there was some meter or devise we could use to measure any static electricity or high magnetic current. Prove one way or another that what we are feeling is nothing more than being in near-darkness on uneven ground with over-active imaginations and low blood sugar. We don’t have anything like that so we head back to the car with more questions than answers.
We get in the car and head up to Little Round Top. Normally, I love to look out over LRT. The view is stunning and it‘s a favorite place for many people to lay on the large granite rocks and sunbath. Sunsets from this point are beautiful no matter what the season. This time, I slowed down but decided not to stop. Something didn’t feel right and besides, it’s dark, what was there to see?
My friend sighs and says, “I’m glad we didn’t stop, I don’t feel well.” Another oddity? I think one of us really has an over-active imagination, ESP or something. We stop at the stop sign and continue across the road.
Almost immediately, I feel like I’m going to vomit. My chest hurts like its being crushed (I actually know what this feels like) and it’s hard to breath. I get a sharp pain in my eye and a vicious headache making my eye water. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was having a physical flashback of the car accident where I was partially crushed in my car, medevaced and endured medical torture before I died of shock. The flashbacks come on that fast and are horrifically painful. Only I never damaged my eye and I have not experienced anything in the past couple minutes to suddenly throw me into a flashback.
I drive the van forward several hundred feet and slowly, the feelings subside leaving me with a mild headache, a watering eye and some mild agitation. My friend tells me her stomach is very upset and wants to leave. So do I.
The road ends up across from the old Cyclorama where we had met Tanner and his owner. I look over one more time at the lonely cannons and am glad they are not as animated as Tanner’s owner imagined. They look tragic, lost, shocked and filled with pain, fear and disbelief. They remind me of the me no one sees during the day and only a select few have seen at night. They remind me of my PTSD and my seaming lifetime of struggle to survive and thrive.
Those cannons are sentinels to the souls of thousands of men never identified, buried and forgotten, witnesses of horrific screams of agony and death. They are the watchers of a history we should never forget but continue to repeat. They are the lonely watchers of the ghosts of Gettysburg surviving through time, telling their story.
As we leave the battlefield I am reminded, there are some things that can’t be explained. Other things even if I could explain very few people would understand. But I’m not alone. Like my friend, like Tanner’s owner, we are a regiment of people having experienced something on the fringe and yearn for understanding. For this reason, we come to Gettysburg.
My uncle is terminally ill in a Florida hospital with a do not resuscitate order. He is a father figure to me so this is very important. I live 900 miles from Florida’s sunny gulf coast. This plays horribly with my mind.
9:00 am: I get the phone call telling me to expect the inevitable at anytime. Notify the rest of the family on Facebook, keep my phone charged and with me, Mom says.
I’m sitting with my daughter, who is in her second week recovery from spine surgery. We are home, finishing breakfast and morning showers when the call comes in. Immediately, I realize the problematic nature of the timing of everything. I feel I need and want to be in Florida. My daughter needs me home. She can’t do this on her own. Not yet.
Fourteen years ago, my parents, brother and several aunts and uncles heard the calling of the snow bird at the retirement capital of the country – Ocala, Florida. They sold their homes, packed their things, bought RVs and waved goodbye. Ending what was a very close knit extended family system with all the trimmings. This left me with my own little family.
It’s been difficult to maintain close relationships across the miles. Responsibilities, expenses and health have all played havoc. But we have succeeded with only moderate feelings of loss on my part, especially during the holidays. This is not a holiday, but like a holiday, I feel the pangs of not being in the same location as the rest of the family and it’s taking its toll.
I’ve spent most of my day trying to figure a way to juggle taking care of my daughter and her cats and still fly to Florida. I realize I not only want to be near family, I need to be there for me to nurture them and for them to nurture me. I want another chance to say goodbye to a man who will always be my other father.
It’s 5:00 pm and my phone rings. It’s my mother. I ask her if my dad can pick me up at the airport if I figure out the logistical nightmare.
She hems and haws and says, “Let us go to the hospital and see what’s what. Then we’ll have a talk and call you back between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight.”
Not a problem, I have class in an hour and I still have not figured things out, so this gives me more time. I take care of dinner for my family, take the dog out another time, another glass of ice water and an ice pack for my daughter and leave for class with my assignment left behind on the table. I have my fully charged cell phone in my hand in case the call telling me it’s over happens.
Class ends and I get back in plenty of time for the mom’s call. The phone does not ring and this is where insanity set in and never looked back.
By 11:00 I’m concerned. My daughter asks if there is any news – no. 11:30, I get this odd feeling of relief.
Enter crazy thought #1. He’s passed away, no longer suffering and this is the relief I feel.
I tell all this to daughter who says, “Why do you think they didn’t call? Why don’t we call down there to see what’s going on?”
Enter crazy thought #2. They are so busy with Uncle’s death; there is no time to call, too distraught to call. Who the hell am I to call them during this horrible, intensively challenging time? I’m not a part of the family anymore anyway. I live 900 miles away! They had a family portrait taken several months ago, of all of them – without me. I’m really abandoned and on my own.
Enter crazy thought #3. I flash back to my sister’s death when I was seven. I didn’t get to say goodbye then either. She died; they whisked me off to Grandmas while things settled. When I returned, all my sister’s things and pictures were gone. We weren’t to talk about her, it was too painful. As an adult, I get this. As a child, I did not. Sitting in my room alone waiting for a call that was not coming, perhaps the adult is not too far removed from the child.
Enter crazy thought #4. They are doing this again. Arranging everything with me out of the picture because they don’t think I can handle it. Just like, I couldn’t handle my sister’s death back in 1968. I was seven years old then! I tell my daughter all this.
She wobbles over, gingerly sits down on the side of my bed and puts her arm around me. Our roles have reversed. She tells me things I would have told her in a reverse situation. The leaves don’t fall far from the tree.
12:00 midnight. Enter crazy thought #5. I tell my daughter, “Well, if I can’t be there to say goodbye, I’ll be expecting a visit from his spirit. At this point, he can probably get to me easier then I can get to him.”
She looks at me to verify I’m serious. I am. I’ve heard of many people having death-bed visits from loved ones. Family finding out someone died before the police or hospital called to tell them. Why not have my uncle come to me to say goodbye?
1:00 am. My daughter is back in her room leaving me and my over active imagination to run amok. I’m writing the next chapter of a manuscript while sitting on my bed. Behind me is a double window that overlooks a second story balcony. There I have a rocking chair where I drink my early morning coffee. The windows are open. I have my I-pod on a speaker stand set to shuffle. The music is anything from tribal to Bach, Incubus to Frank Sinatra.
The writing is going well until I hear a noise. I shyly look up from the computer screen half expecting to see the materializing form of my uncle. I see nothing out of the ordinary. I continue writing, fighting back sorrow. I can’t believe this is finally the end.
The I-pod stops playing and I stop typing, startled by the sudden silence. A sign, I wonder. Cautiously, I turn to see what song is listed on the screen. Was it Edelweiss, the song we danced to at my wedding? No, it says D00045.
That is the code for a series of voice recordings I’ve made. One of which is a lengthy conversation with my uncle where he tells me about his childhood. I rummage through my computer to find the original clip convinced it is that recording (I-pod will not play it). It’s not. It’s notes about muses in the Peach Orchard in the Gettysburg battlefield. Not my uncle.
I laugh at myself and turn off the I-pod. The room grows still with the exception of the tip tapping of my fingers on the laptop keyboard. Behind me, I hear the sound of my rocking chair on the balcony moving. Is it the breeze? I don’t feel a breeze on my skin.
I want to turn and look but find myself griped in fear. What will my uncle look like? What if it’s not what I expect? I get up the courage to look but it’s too dark to make out the chair. Stealthily, I move closer to the screen, cupping my hands around my eyes to block out the ambient light.
Before my grandmother died, we got possession of her rocking chair and my father placed it in our clubbed-in basement. After she died, that chair rocked on his own for several minutes on many evenings. We always said it was grandma. Many a night, I would hear the creaking of the chair and sneak downstairs to watch it slowly move back and forth for just a few moments and then come to a stop.
The rocker on my back porch was empty. A swift breeze pushed back my hair and I sighed. It was the wind after all.
I return to my laptop. My nerves frayed and my mind on red-alert. The auto fan in the far window clicks on and the anxiety makes my skin feel it’s being peeled off my muscles. I push off the laptop, bound out bed and slam shut the windows, locking them and pulling the blinds shut.
If my uncle is going to visit, it’s not going to be through the window or in the rocker! He can visit but only on my terms. Whatever those are?
I go out to the bathroom in the hallway and return to my room, shutting the door behind me. I pick up the laptop and return to chapter three. Something outside my door bangs once, then twice. Everything goes silent except my heart.
I slid out of bed and mosey up to the door. I outstretch my hand to the glass door knob debating if I really want to see what is going on. I think, why in the hell would my uncle try to scare me like this? Followed quickly with the thought, maybe, he doesn’t have many options.
I’m the one that wanted to say goodbye and here I am cowering behind a door. I open it to find the empty hallway which does nothing to calm my nerves. Across the hall is my office.
I listen and notice the outside street sounds are louder than normal. I walk over and find the window open and several paperback books scattered on the floor. Lightning flashes and I assume the wind has knocked the books off an end table. I shut the window and return to my room thinking I’ve read too many Stephen King books and seen too many episodes of paranormal television programming.
3:30 a.m. and my stomach is growling. I need something to eat.
To get to my kitchen I have to go down the stairs and through the living room and dining room. The staircase is completely enclosed with a heavy wooden door at the bottom. I don’t like the staircase at night. In fact, I try to avoid it.
Tonight, my stomach says we’re moving forward through the darkness and down the stairs (there is no light on the stairs). I tell myself my apprehension is ridiculous. I reach the glass door knob and stop. On the other side of the door will be my living room partially lite by the porch light coming through the front windows.
In my living room is my late sister’s Chatty Cathy doll. It is my most prized possession. This doll is also a very special memento for my uncle and ties all of us together. I tell myself (enter another crazy thought) if he has any ability to communicate with me, it will be with this doll. Now I’m afraid to go into the living room for fear I will find the doll moved or moving, maybe talking. It is Chatty Cathy for goodness sake.
I chide myself again for thinking such crazy thoughts and bust through the door. Keeping my eyes firmly on my feet, I quickly work my way through the living room, dining room, slam on the kitchen light and sigh in relief. Everything is normal. Everything is going to be fine. Uncle is not going to pay me a middle of the night goodbye call. Mom and dad will call later when they are able. I’ll figure what to do at that time.
I pull out a plastic bowl, the box of Lucky Charms cereal and some milk. I wonder what the family is doing now. Are they still up like me? Are they making arrangements for Uncle’s cremation in the morning? Why haven’t they called me? Don’t they know I’m worried sick?
A dark shadow whips by my feet and returns prowling towards me. I scream, dropping the milk, tipping over the cereal filled bowl, spewing Lucky Charms all over the counter, down the cupboard and onto the floor.
I clench my heart in absolute terror, convinced the world is coming to an end when the dark, shadowed creature speaks to me – Meow.
My uncle’s spirit, if it could, did not visit me because he was still alive. My parents didn’t call because they thought it was too late. Never thinking I’d be up all night in grief then terror because someone I thought had died, hadn’t and was coming to visit me but wasn’t.
“Why didn’t you call?” They asked me. A good question and I don’t have an answer. I need to figure that one out.
If this isn’t an example of the power of our thoughts and what happens when we let them run amok, I don’t know what is. I need to ask myself some serious questions about my mental behaviors. I can throw in, yes, I was tired, I have PTSD, and I’m grief stricken and feel helpless. I think while all those things are factors, they don’t negate the fact; I let the whole thing run crazy. I didn’t reality check. I didn’t use the resources at hand to help myself.
It’s 11:30 pm and I’m sitting here on my bed typing this blog. My window is open and there is a slight breeze from the balcony brushing through the rocking chair slats. I wonder if my uncle will make it through another night. If he doesn’t, I wonder if he’ll come visit. Perhaps, I’ll sleep with the light on.
Uncle died at 1:30 a.m. My daughter and I were in my office reminiscing through old photos of us with Uncle when it happened. The call from my parents came in directly after that. While there was no ghostly apparition, I still got to say my goodbyes in a much healthier way. Through all the fabulous years of memories that will last not only myself but my children as well. Thanks Uncle Joe, I’m missing you already.
The driveway to our house was a mile-long tunnel hand-cut by men long ago forgotten. During the day, sunshine danced through tree limbs like happy fairies eager to great us home. At night, the moon cast deep shadows that morphed into terrifying creatures rushing past the car. In the age before mandatory seat-belts and car seats, the floor of the ‘ 66 Chevy was the safest way to travel at night. I was five years old.
The first time I saw him, it was a balmy afternoon and I was wandering through the woods around my house. He was mowing a lawn I had never seen before. An old man wearing baggy, grey pants held up with suspenders over an off-white tee shirt. His hair was thin, grey and very short. His face was clean shaven. He pushed a single-blade lawn mower silently across the grass. I should have heard the sound of the mower wheels or at least some birds. I heard nothing. All I felt was an uncomfortable sensation in my body that tingled and the sudden dramatic cooling of the air near his location. There was something different about this man but I could not understand what.
Intrigued, I retuned many times over the summer to the same spot. Sometimes, all I would find were mounds of rocks, shrubs and trees. Other times, he would be there silently mowing a lawn that was not there the day before. Occasionally, I could hear the sounds of his world, distorted, as if coming down a long tunnel. On those days, a stone and clap-board, single-story house sat several hundred feet from my position.
I wanted this man to be my friend. We didn’t have any neighbors for me to play with. I decided that the next visit when I could hear the rhythmic screeching of the mower wheels rolling through the grass I was going to approach him. I didn’t have to wait long for my opportunity.
I arrived at the spot I now knew well. I could see and hear him pushing the lawn mower across the same stretch of grass he always mowed. I moved toward him, pushing my way through a very uncomfortable thickness in the air. My skin stung from static electricity but I kept going. I was determined to learn his name.
I tumbled forward, feet landing in the grass. He turned, stopped the mower and looked at me puzzled, then smiled. My head started to pound. My eyes watered and it was hard to breath. I fell backward into the woods. The man and his world were gone.
On the edge of my yard, before the woods enveloped my house, were a table and several multi-colored, metal, bouncy chairs. My swing-set, sand-box and the dog house were within throwing distance. I was riding my bike around the wrap-around porch waiting for my lunch when I saw him. He was sitting at the table in a bouncy chair. I rushed over and plopped down onto a bouncy chair beside him. The air was cold and tingly. I didn’t mind too much.
I invited him to have lunch with me. I told him all about my dog, who was howling and whining at us. He said nothing and stared straight ahead.
My mom came out with lunch and asked who I was talking too. I pointed to my friend but he wasn’t there anymore. So I ate my lunch alone.
If I was outside playing around the table, I could feel when he arrived. I’d rush over and take my place in my bouncy chair. He never looked at or talked to me which was upsetting. I decided the next time he visited I was going to make him look at me.
It was lunch time. I was seated at the table with my peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich with a glass of milk. My arms started to tingle. I looked at the other bouncy chair, the one he always sat in. He was there. I got up, ran in front of his face and acted like a jumping bean so he could see me. For some reason I either knew I could not touch him or I had no desire too.
It worked. He smiled and then faded away. I reached over and swished my hand around his seat thinking maybe he was still there and I couldn’t see him. I felt nothing.
Bummed, I left my lunch and wandered back into the house. My grandmother asked me what was wrong. I told her. She yelled for my mother, who came running.
“Tell your mother what you just told me,” Grandma said angrily.
I did. Just like I always did. I told them both about my friend, what he looked like, the lawn mower, the house and how he sometimes came to visit me for lunch.
My grandmother became very upset and called me a liar. She’d never done that before. She and my mother argued and I wanted to cry. Mom kept saying I had something called an imaginary friend.
My grandmother turned to me and said, “That man you described can’t be there because he died years before you were born. That house was torn down. There is nothing back there but rubble! I don’t know how you learned about him, but I don’t think this is very funny!”
Desperate to prove I wasn’t lying, I took my mother through the woods to the man’s house. It wasn’t there. I tried to explain things but the more I talked the more upset she got.
I was no longer allowed in the woods by myself. I never saw my friend again.
This should be the end of the story, but I have never forgotten this event. Long after the death of my grandmother and the deterioration of our old house, I returned with my mother and infant daughter. I wanted to find that yard, that house. I wanted, needed to verify that what I remembered all these years ago was real.
I couldn’t find anything but our house and the skeletal remains of my swing set and the dog-house. Vagrants had taken over our once beloved home. The windows in the house were broken or gone. Graffiti butchered the interior walls. It was heart wrenching. My mother was spooked by the derelict nature of the house and the vibes she said she felt. We left.
Years later I returned again. Only to my horror the entire area was now townhouses. I was able to find the remains of my swing-set and the dog-house deep in the woods behind the houses. I brought home a piece of rusted metal from the swing and a stone from our house foundation.
In my forties, I was still haunted by my experience. Although, I will never be able to truly prove what I experienced, I still needed to find some kind of information for my sanity. I needed a name for my friend from so long ago.
I searched property records to see what I could find. There it was. According to the historic records our house and the house of my friend were built in the 1870’s by a man named S. Disney (I know his full name but am keeping it and the location quiet). On a map, his house was located where I remembered seeing it in my youth. I searched in vain for a picture of him. Oh well.
Was I somehow able to reach and befriend a deceased S. Disney or did I simply have a very unusual imaginary friend? You can decide what you wish but remember sometimes life is odder then fiction.