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Ghosts & Hauntings

What Do We Fear When We Fear Ghosts?

What do we fear when we fear ghosts? Certainly, they evoke the possibility of elemental entities hidden in the world, at least mischievous and even malevolent.

Chillingly, the “Enfield poltergeist” remarked to an interrogator, “I like annoying you.” There is the terror too of the touch of a ghost, the paradoxical physical presence of the disembodied. Or sometimes, in the most ghastly tales, the horror that the ghost may drag us off to whatever alternative space they so drearily inhabit; that we might become like them. Yet, ultimately, the greatest fear must be that, due to some madness or mistake in perception, some hunger or lack, the ghost that dogs us comes from within.

In a 19th-century treatise, the Scottish physician Robert MacNish unravelled the “philosophy of sleep”. He describes a woman trapped in a stultifying marriage, who haunted herself. Beckoning from above, or glimpsed in further rooms, her own apparition, a kind of mirror, flitted and passed. Having lost herself in the process of living, she had doubled up as a kind of ghost, a split figure answering mysteriously to some otherwise unexpressed inner need.

On the evidence of this highly enjoyable (and disturbing) work, Roger Clarke proves impervious to such wimpy frights. Where others naturally flee ghosts, he pursues them. There turns out to be so many British ghosts that it starts to seem odd we all haven’t seen one. Yet sightings remain rare – and for all his assiduous pursuit, Clarke has never himself caught a glimpse. Bernard Shaw remarked to the more credulous Henry James: “No man who doesn’t believe in a ghost ever sees one.” I wonder if that is the case, and side more with the marquise du Deffand, who declared: “Do I believe in ghosts? No, but I am afraid of them.”

Ghosts certainly exist in the sense that people report experiences of them – but what, this book sets out to ask, are they? What do we talk about when we talk about ghosts?

I’ve never seen a ghost but I have, I sometimes suppose, heard one. Once, about 25 years ago, in a small hotel in Cork, I came back from an evening in town with my girlfriend. I had, I admit, already once been spooked, believing on the walk home that I had seen a figure peering down from a darkened upstairs window. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a coat hanging from a window frame. I had, as a sop to the sceptics, also drunk two or three beers. I was, I maintain, far from drunk.

Our hotel room had no lavatory, so I set off down the long, well-lit, carpeted corridor to the bathroom. It was perhaps around 40ft from our bedroom door to the far end. Halfway down, someone whispered into my ear my first name – sharply, urgently, unmistakably. I assumed my girlfriend had crept down the corridor after me, in an effort to spook me once again, and turned to her. There was, however, no one there. I sped back to my room, and would not venture out again to the bathroom all night. My girlfriend was doubting, and more courageous, but when she came back, seemed disturbed too and conceded that there was an odd feeling in the space outside. We both slept; we both had terrible nightmares; the next morning, we drove on.

That is my single ghost story. Very likely it was an auditory hallucination, a fracture in perception, an intimation of nothing but a brainwave. And yet, who knows? It has had no consequences; it came from nowhere, and led to nothing.

What does one do with the experience of encountering a ghost? It’s somehow an event extraneous to a life, odd and somewhat embarrassing, impossible to assimilate into the process of experience. The experience is private, perhaps merely individual; to share it is to invite scepticism. The ghost story is a form that depends on reticence, on what is not clearly seen, on what is not fully expressed. As stories, they have no clear place to end. The ghost appears, and appears again. Dark phenomena disturb us; they peak, or they subside. In early modern times, the ghost usually needed something – an inheritance delivered, a funeral rite observed. But the modern ghost seems free of such desires, unless it is the desire to annoy us. The ghost is truly that which resists categorisation, that which cannot be assimilated or understood. They have their own genre – the ghost story – but what in such stories the ghost definitively is, or wants, remains open and undetermined.

Faced with the open-endedness of such tales, Clarke nonetheless classifies his ghosts, from the returned dead to poltergeists, from the beguilingly beautiful time-slip stories to confrontations with phantasms of the living. His “ghosts” are spirits, or they are the residue of powerful experiences imprinted in space, or manifestations of pubertal rebellion; they are slippages in consciousness; they are, most recently, expressions of their own emotional disturbance. They are produced by failure to honour the wishes of the dead; they are produced (in the brain) by a low hum.

His approach is partly chronological, but also thematic, or rather taxonomic, dividing up his ghosts according to types. For those who might see the phenomenon of the ghost as embedded in shifting social concerns, this method is sometimes alien. However, he remains alert to the determining impact of the cultural (he writes especially interestingly on the London crowds that pursued the spectacle of a ghost in the Victorian era and on the gender politics of the séance). More vitally, his method is entirely apt for what his title already tells us is “a natural history” of the supernatural. He is a man looking for family resemblances in ghost stories across time and place. Yet the historical changes he presents are themselves suggestive with implications. It’s curious and telling, for instance, that in the early modern past the ghost was someone familiar to you, a friend or family member, while more recently, as society as urbanised and atomised, the ghost tends to be a random stranger, the unknown fellow tenant. It’s equally interesting and apt that, statistically speaking, the French don’t see ghosts.

Clarke appears to have been an infant prodigy when it comes to an interest in the supernatural, the William Hague of the ghost-hunters. I am in awe of his intrepidity, yet feel that the healthiest response to such occult phenomena is simply to leave them well alone. (The spectre of the morbid unwholesomeness of a preoccupation with “the night-side of nature” is there in the sudden insanity of Catherine Crowe, the mid-Victorian expert on spooks.) But I also understand his fascination. For all the technological apparatus of the modern ghost-hunter, the lure of the ghostly is a fevered, romantic desire. It belongs with Percy Bysshe Shelley trying to summon up spirits, a home counties adolescent Faust desperately “pursuing hopes of high talk with the departed dead” … the allure of the past in such stories, the yearning for something beyond.

Moreover, behind this fey longing, this wish to sup with horrors, there is – for all the fear of an actual ghost – something snug and domestic about them. This homeliness of the ghost story appears in its relation to Christmas, an intimation of darkness at the darkest time of year that entwines with festivity, rebirth and childhood memories – of the secure past and of familiar infant terrors. Clarke’s book conveys the cosy plenitude of British eccentricity that lies close to the local ghost story. True or not, his tales are great, and he tells them effectively and engagingly. But such stories cannot help but raise the question: are true?

How do you measure a spirit, or dissect a phantom? For many, ghosts are beyond the frontier of what science can interest itself in, one boundary for the discipline. For others, ghosts, being a phenomenon like any other, are equally open to objective study. Yet most interesting of all, the technologies and machines that define the modern world and would investigate the spectral themselves have seemed prone to being haunted.

The process, perhaps, began with the gloomy railways of Charles Dickens’s “The Signalman” or Arnold Ridley’s “The Ghost Train”. But soon it spread to demon-driven cars, to mezzotints, to haunted motorways, ghostly presences in lifts, or confined to a cursed submarine. Most intriguingly, the instruments that ghost hunters themselves would use have seemed spooked: the photograph that freezes a vanishing moment catching the recurring vanishing of a ghost; the tape-recorder left on in an empty room that picks up bodiless voices; the numerous tales of eerie messages on mobile phones or ghostly disturbances within computers. Like our photos, our recordings, our texts and our tweets, the ghost is a trace, linked to technology, detected within it, and somehow inhabiting it. When the familiarities of life are themselves revealed to be haunted and strange – when there are slight deviations from the customs that conceal our relation to death – we are closest to the anxious heart of the ghost story.

Ghosts & Hauntings

A Child Ghost Apparition Captured On School CCTV in Armenia

This footage was released by the security guard of the school in Armenia on February 2, 2020.

On hearing voices of children in a school that that should had been empty at this time as this was on a Sunday morning the guard called the police and shortly after the police made their investigation they rolled out a known object from the school. Could this have been a body?

Feeling that this incident would remain untold the security guard recorded and released this footage along with what he had witnessed. The footage was released with no sound and the exact location withheld for the guard’s protection and anonymity.

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Ghosts & Hauntings

The Mirror Lake Michigan Hauntings

Ideally, institutions of higher learning are environments where young people who are first stepping out on their own are encouraged to become independent thinkers and dynamic individuals.

In the face of so much newness, university and college culture often develops systems of ritual and ceremony which provide a contrast to this independence as well as comfort and structure to students as they transition into adulthood.

This week is, typically, when many students at The Ohio State University would be participating in one of it’s best known rituals: jumping into a freezing Mirror Lake prior to a football game with it’s biggest rival, The University of Michigan.

Why jump in an ice cold lake in support of your school football team? The tradition seems to have it’s origins in a turn of the century hazing practice where upperclassmen would assert their dominance by tossing freshmen into the lake.

This became a common occurrence during “May Week”, an annual demonstration of school spirit. As the rivalry between Ohio State And Michigan State grew, May Week activities slowly shifted to the increasingly popular “Beat Michigan Week” and the tradition of voluntarily throwing oneself into the lake was born.

The idea of young people being cast into a lake before an important event has been around for centuries. The Aztec, Mayan, Celt and early Nordic cultures all participated in this practice as an offering to their gods during significant times of the year, and although the young people they hurled into the water were victims of human sacrifice, the Mirror Lake Jump certainly invokes thoughts of these ancient rituals.

In fact, it was the tragic death of a 22 year old Dayton man during the 2015 jump that caused the University to put a stop to the practice once and for all. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family of this young man.

Mirror Lake

According to the campus rumor mill, this wasn’t the only time this type of tragedy has occurred. Stories persist of a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority that broke her neck during a Mirror Lake jump in the 1980s.

The legend states that her fellow sorority sisters carried the body back to the house and hid her to avoid the repercussions of underage drinking gone horribly wrong. Ever since, many have claimed to hear screaming and splashing in the waters of the lake only to see it’s surface mirror smooth when they turn to find the source of the commotion.

Another tale tells of a jogger that was killed near the lake during a mugging. This young man is said to be seen running by the lake, looking over his shoulder, before vanishing into thin air.

The most commonly spotted and well-established ghost of OSU goes by the name Lady of the Lake. Since the 1920s people have witnessed the apparition of a woman in turn of the century clothing glide across Mirror Lake on cold, wintry nights and mornings.

Some believe her to be a mysterious ice skater, but most know her as the wife of Frederick Converse Clarke.

Clarke was a professor of economics and sociology that lost all his money when he invested in a Georgia Gold Mine project that failed miserably. Aside from the obvious blow to his credentials as a professor of economics, the financial ruin left Clarke despondent and suicidal.

After airing his feelings to Dr. Oxley Thompson and getting no sympathy, the depressed professor took his own life on September 21st, 1903 in a garden overlooking Mirror Lake.

Clarke’s wife blamed the university’s insensitivity to her husband’s plight as the cause of his death and vowed to haunt the grounds after her passing.

In 1922 the university built Pomerene Hall on the site of Clarke’s suicide garden and it appears that the spirit of Mrs.Clarke decided it would be a fine building to inhabit when not gliding across the lake.

It is here that she is thought to be responsible for doors that lock and unlock of their own accord, the sound of footsteps across empty rooms and the manipulation of computer voice software, occasionally causing machines that aren’t even turned on to greet the living with a dull, electronic “hello”.

For reasons unknown she is most fond of room 213, where she is seen in a pink antebellum dress moving across to a window that overlooks the very lake that her husband last gazed upon before taking his life more than 100 years ago.

Today, Mirror Lake sits drained and fenced off awaiting a 6 million dollar renovation that will give it a “more natural appearance”. In an effort to end the tradition of the lake jump, the timing of this renovation was no accident, but some defiant students are vowing to leap into some body of water, even if it is the Olentangy River.

Source: Booze & Boos

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Ghosts & Hauntings

The German Navy’s Cursed and Haunted Submarine

From the time she was being constructed, in 1916, there was something sinister and evil about the German submarine UB-65.

Before she was even launched, an accident in the Hamburg shipyard occurred, where a steel girder broke from a crane, crushing a ship builder to death. A second worker was also badly injured.

Investigators could find no reason for the accident, and within a few months, the submarine had put to sea, undergoing trials. Three engineers, testing the ship’s batteries, were overcome with deadly fumes. Again, an inquiry was launched, but failed to determine the cause of their deaths.

Despite her early record of tragedy, the submarine was commissioned, and placed under the command of Kapitanleutenant Martin Schelle, a 29-year-old veteran of the Kaiser’s Navy.

She soon put to sea in an operational capacity, and found herself in the middle of a fierce storm. Captain Schelle used this opportunity to test his boat’s ability to surface in rough seas, and upon breaking the surface, a sailor was washed overboard to his death.

German U-boat

Unexplained Malfunctions Aboard UB-65

Soon after, ballast tanks sprung a leak, and the submarine plunged to the bottom of the sea. Seawater rushing inside caused the dry cell batteries to leak the same toxic fumes that had earlier killed the engineers.

This time, however, the crew was fortunate and suffered no fatalities. UB-65 remained on the bottom of the ocean for 12 long hours, before she was finally able to surface.

Returning to harbour, engineers could again find no explanation for the malfunctions. The crew were beginning to feel their ship was cursed, and many no longer wanted to serve on UB-65. She had soon earned the nickname “The Iron Coffin” within the U-boat fleet.

After leaving port, another tragedy occurred. An exploding torpedo killed the second officer, and wounded several others. Schelle returned to port, the officer was buried, and things started to get really eerie.

Ghost of the Second Officer Appears

While still docked, shortly after the funeral, a seaman claimed to watch the dead officer walk up the gangplank, towards the bow of the ship, and disappear before his very eyes.

More sightings were soon being reported. A lookout claimed to have seen the dead officer standing on the deck of the ship, in rough seas. At first, the commander dismissed the ghost stories, but then he reportedly came face to face with the dead man himself. Whether he admitted it or not, Captain Schelle was now a believer.

The high command finally agreed to have a priest bless the ship, a feat almost unheard of in the no nonsense German Navy. She docked in a port in Belgium, where the ritual was carried out.

After the ceremony was completed, the crew was broken up, and assigned to other ships in the fleet. A new crew was assigned to UB-65, and the captain demanded there was to be no further talk of ghosts.

The change of crew seemed to have no effect. The ghost of the officer was reported on several more occasions, once walking through a steel bulkhead. A torpedoman, terrified by the spirit, jumped to his death in the sea.

The Strange End to UB-65

In July of 1918, off the south coast of Ireland, a U.S. submarine sighted UB-65. Before the American crew could take any action, the German boat mysteriously exploded, seemingly on its own.

UB-65 took her entire crew to the bottom of the ocean, leaving only a patch of oil, some debris, and mystery behind.

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