Around a campfire under the midnight sky, we continue a tradition which reaches back in time to the stone age. We sit and tell our stories. They might be tales of warriors and kings, bawdy songs or jokes, or my favourite: ghost stories designed to scare us witless.
Despite goosebumps and knocking knees, I’m compelled to hear more from this last category. Everyone seems to have one; a strange story of something inexplicable that must be from spirit.
Sceptic or not, when we hear these stories we listen in awe, frozen to the spot in terror. Luckily, in the morning the sun’s comforting rays burn the fear away. In daylight it’s easy to dismiss the story as just that, a tale, or a moment of madness and brush it off like crumbs from a plate.
There is something interesting going on here, whether it has something to do with human psychology or the true nature of reality. No matter how advanced and superior we believe our understanding of the world is, especially compared to our superstitious ancestors, ghost stories or spiritual phenomena persist. It’s something some of us can feel.
The otherworld in my life
Speaking for myself, I’ve never seen a ghost but I know shared a house with one ten years ago. It would wheel the weighted, metal office chair up and down the patio in the still early hours, among other things…On those days that I oversleep, sometimes an invisible person pokes me awake. I’m usually so scared that I pretend to keep sleeping and hope whatever it is just goes away. And sometimes that invisible someone makes an awful lot of noise in my room or the sound of ticking clock comes from the roof. Next time, if I’m feeling particularly brave, I’m going ask them to be useful and clean it up Mary Poppins style if they insist on being so loud.
Then, there is the psychic side of these experiences; like my friend who knew I’d where I’d been going on holiday even though I’d kept the booking under wraps, and that her virgin friend interstate was pregnant. Or, those times when I feel something so vast its overwhelming. I’m so glad for Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love where it’s clear these things are shared experiences also happening to people I admire.
Ask the question
Men and women are asking questions about the universe. Their healthy curiosity is answered by the number of mystical shops opening up on the main roads, and clairvoyant events advertised on highways. It signals there is a spiritual renaissance going on, probably filling the space created when churches broke our trust.
Since we legitimise wars, take long weekends, pledge our word in court, or bind our life to another by calling on the name of supernatural being, then these otherworldly experiences that happen to us or our friends deserve to be looked at a little closer.
In our era, the campfire has largely given way to the internet. Stories about spirits and spirituality are likely to be shared with each other on a reddit thread with a good glass of red beside the keyboard. They are intriguing, exciting and can open up a different way of thinking about our position in the world. It feels like just beyond the surface there is another reality humans wish to explore.
If you have an interesting, true story about something otherworldly that happened to you, give us all a scare, and share it in the comments.