Once Assigned To Superstitious Dust Bin, 'Ghosts' May Be Souls In Need Of Prayer (Three Stories)
By Michael H. Brown
(What are we to think of spirits of the deceased? Do souls communicate with the living? We will discuss this today and tomorrow, hopefully shedding insight on a controversial, important, and potentially dangerous topic)
The other day there was an item in the news about the state capitol in North Carolina and how, allegedly, it's haunted. The story, carried by a major news organization, reported that staffers have heard floorboards creak with invisible footsteps, keys jangle, and doors squeak open and shut. There are also strange voices, or music (in this case, Gospel music). This is nothing rare: items about "ghosts" are constantly in the secular news. The most respectable programs -- the History Channel, Discovery -- now report them on a regular basis. They are no longer relegated to the dust bin of superstition. The week before Halloween there was a rundown of major haunted American hotels on network news and in England have been reports of a group of monks said to haunt a 13th-century abbey at Beaulieu. Their footsteps and chanting are now heard amid the ruins.
As I said, this is nothing new. Years ago, Walter Cronkite hosted a special called "The Stately Ghosts of England." But the difference now is that a majority of Americans believe that spirits occasionally haunt the living, and such have been reported by even august saints such as Padre Pio. He once saw the apparition of a deceased novitiate cleaning the old church at San Giovanni, and there were countless stories of other spirits visiting his monastery -- including a whole group of World War II soldiers asking for prayers. Padre Pio was not the only one to see them. Sometimes they came to thank him for their release. I have heard the same from Venezuelan mystic Maria Esperanza (whose husband described them as souls that are too attached to worldly things and are "stuck"; others say some of them are souls assigned their purgatory on earth).
Years ago, when I was a newspaper reporter, I investigated a number of such reports and will say that there were too many to write them all off (many, yes, but not all) to the imagination. I remember one editor who stayed overnight at a reputedly haunted fort near Niagara Falls. He was no nut. Years later, he won the Pulitzer Prize. He did this as a Halloween joke and ended up hurriedly leaving when he encountered what he insisted were strange footsteps as well as a soldier praying in a part of the fort that had been used as a dungeon.
Perhaps the best question to ask is why people who believe in religion -- in the supernatural, and especially in apparitions -- would consider the visitation of spirits nutty to begin with. The dust bin of superstition? This may all sound like nonsense, but rare is the person who doesn't know someone who has reported a strange encounter or who himself hasn't encountered something that seemed supernatural. We have entire books that relate the manifestation of purgatorial souls, revelations that in some instances are stamped with an official Church imprimatur. At Medjugorje the Blessed Mother -- who herself appears in apparition -- once said that "there are in purgatory souls who pray ardently to God, but for whom no relative or friend prays on earth. God makes them benefit from the prayers of other people. It happens that God permits them to manifest themselves in various ways, close to their relatives on earth, in order to remind men of the existence of purgatory and to solicit their prayers to come close to God."
The key here is the word "manifest": souls of the departed come to us in many ways, especially in dreams. They try to remind us. They seek our help -- and later they help us. But we have to be careful. We are not to initiate communication with the deceased. We will speak of this tomorrow. This is strictly forbidden. It is necromancy. Moreover, we have to be careful because demons can mimic the dead in order to gain entry. Many are the "haunted" homes that are actually plagued by evil.
Thus, if we have a manifestation, the first thing we should do is use Holy Water and Blessed Salt, and cast out any potential evil with fervent prayer. We do this not as an exorcism (which should only be handled by a priest), but as a deliverance -- and only in the Name of Christ. If that doesn't work, we should have a Mass said in the home, and especially for any deceased who may be connected with the disturbance. While we do not have the authority to cast out a purgatorial soul (as we do a demon), our praying for them often causes their release. There may indeed be souls who haunt places because they are trying to get prayers and also those who died traumatically or are obsessed with a former residence or some other aspect of material existence.
The month of November is set aside as the month to pray for the dead, and we urge this. We urge it especially for those who have died recently, or those who we have seen in dreams; for those who may have no one else to pray for them. If you do this you'll find joy and often release in your own life! And if there is a disturbance -- if there is such a thing -- it will come to a halt.
"Dear children, I call you to pray daily for the souls in purgatory," said one message from Medjugorje in 1986. "For every soul, prayer and grace is necessary to reach God and the love of God. By doing this, dear children, you obtain new intercessors who will help you in life to realize that all the earthly things are not important for you, that only Heaven is that for which it is necessary to strive."
Church Forbids Consulting Mediums And Speaking With Dead Because Of 'Dangers'
There it was in Tuesday's New York Post. "Medium as the message," said a column by writer Linda Stasi -- who then went on to recount a recent "sitting" with John Edward, the famous spirit medium, whom you may have seen on TV. He has a popular show in which he talks with the "dead."
It was amazing, recounted Stasi: Edward really did have information no one could have known. He even got the correct name a grandpa named "Aloisius." "I mean, it's kind of hard to be skeptical when the guy comes up with 'Aloisius' and, no, we didn't discuss it in the audience before the show," wrote the columnist.
It's interesting how secular columnists will believe a psychic who sees the "dead" -- at the same time that they (and even many Catholics) scoff at the Blessed Mother's apparitions.
But back to our point: this is serious business -- speaking with the deceased -- and, yes, it often is supernatural. Information arrives that cannot be explained. As I said yesterday, I investigated such things myself in the 1970s when I was in the news business.
The problem is whence the supernatural information is coming. Too often, it's the dark side: deceptive spirits gaining a foothold into our lives, into our psyches, by imitating the dead.
It's a cruel trick but then the devil's very nature is cruelty and this is exactly why the Bible forbids us to partake. Praying for the intercession of the deceased, or conveying a message through Christ, is one thing. But directly trying to communicate -- initiating a conversation -- is called "necromancy," and as it says in Scripture [Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuternonomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3; Isaiah 8:19], "Do not turn to mediums or spiritists. Do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God. As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person" [Leviticus 19:31].
That's a strong warning -- but, then, the Bible, including the New Testament, considers spiritism, witchcraft, necromancy, and wizardry (are you with us, Harry Potter fans?) to be an "abomination."
I remember one fellow. He was a school teacher who was known for many psychic abilities, and I have to admit, he was baffling. So inexplicable was some of what he could do that we had him studied by a prominent physicist at Kent State University. In retrospect, I know that even investigating him was wrong, and I regret ever getting anywhere near this stuff. It is pure danger. I didn't realize that danger because I never heard any warnings about the occult at Sunday Mass or during religious instruction.
Such is rarely preached from the pulpit and the reason seems to be because priests -- who are no longer taught mystical theology in the seminaries -- think of it all as harmless nonsense (when it is precisely the opposite).
If the average minister or priest or skeptic could have spent one week doing the research I did back in the Seventies, that skeptic or minister or seminarian -- or "theologian" -- would not only shed his mocking outlook but would likewise preach on the dangers.
This stuff can cause virtually any kind of problem. Many are those who involve themselves with the occult and then find themselves with a proclivity towards alcoholism, drugs, promiscuity, depression, anxiety attacks, "hauntings," or marital problems. You name it.
When we come close to evil spirits, there is always the chance that something will rub off -- that a piece of their darkness, and sometimes more than just a bit, will contaminate. Once we open ourselves to spirits, they are allowed a certain part of our psycho-spiritual territory.
If you study mediums or those who follow psychics close enough long enough, you'll eventually find emotional, spiritual, or physical disturbances. You'll find unhappiness. You'll even find illness.
These spirits are not deceiving for the fun of it; they are deceiving so as to gain entry; they are deceiving to cause actual damage.
Things That Go Bump In The Night: Are Ghosts And Hauntings The Real Thing?
Are there such things as ghosts? Can a person or place really be 'haunted'?
We think of B movies, Casper, and kids scaring themselves silly over a campfire.
According to a Gallup poll in 2001, more than 40 percent of Americans believe that a place can be haunted -- up from about 29 percent ten years earlier. Meanwhile, Hollywood is about to produce a major film on long-rumored ghosts in the White House (Abraham Lincoln was a believer in this, and at least once participated in a seance) and many saints believed in visitations from the dead -- most notably the recently-canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who asserted that he saw numerous spirits of deceased souls seeking his intercession.
At the famous apparition site of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which is still under review by Rome, the Blessed Mother allegedly said that souls in purgatory are sometimes allowed to manifest in order to remind us of the need to pray for them.
That sounds like "ghosts," and the concept goes right to the top of Western culture. And its government. Lincoln himself is said to return to the White House when the security of the country is at risk, striding up and down the second floor hallway. A bodyguard to President Harrison was kept awake many nights trying to protect the president from mysterious footsteps he heard in the hall. Abigail Adam's ghost, it is said, was seen drifting through the closed doors of the East Room. A gardener claimed to have spoken to the ghost of Dolly Madison (who reproved him for trying to remove the rose bushes she had planted over a hundred years ago).
Believers there are, and they are now in surprising quarters. Last month, officials at the Royal Navy dockyard in Devonport, UK, reviewed a study by psychic investigators who were looking into haunted reports there, especially in the hangman's cell. Generations of sailors have claimed to see ghosts of a small girl and a bearded mariner there!
In Shropshire, a man was "well and truly spooked" -- say other recent reports -- when he saw a ghostly image walking towards him as he photographed a county landmark.
The landmark was an abbey and what he claimed to see was a hooded figure -- a monk who appeared and headed toward the door of a sacristy!
Monks were once featured in a documentary of ghosts narrated by none other than Walter Cronkite. They were caught on film -- from the knees up. Later it was learned that at one point in history the monastery floor once had been a foot or two lower.
Last season Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Scott Williamson claimed to have seen the ghost of a man at the old Renaissance Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, ''dressed in a 1920s, 30's style, staring at me.''
There are books about ghosts in many parts of the United States. They hover especially in older regions such as New England and cities like Savanna. As we reported two weeks ago, many cities even have ghost tours -- which we discourage. In Scotland alone, at least 300 castles, palaces and stately homes are said to harbor spirits of the dead.
What are we to make of this?
First, great caution is in order. The Bible forbids us from contacting spirits. It's known as necromancy. Stay away from spirit mediums (including the currently famous one who appears on television and talks up the Rosary). The same is true of spiritualists and fortunetellers.
This is dangerous business. It can be that a place is not haunted by the departed but rather the forces of darkness. In too many cases evil spirits are at work and the ruckus they cause is mistakenly attributed to the dead. In certain instances a demon may even masquerade as a dead person. Especially, they mimic voices. This is common in the annals of demonology.
But there are also cases in which it appears the dead are bound to a home or other place. Sometimes, spirits hover in homes to which they were overly attached. In other cases, there are "hauntings" at scenes of murder. According to mystics like St. Pio and Maria Esperazna of Betania, Venezuela, there are souls who do their purgatory in our midst. A psychiatrist named Dr. George Ritchie reported a near-death experience in which he saw spirits bound to earth due to sinful or addictive behavior. In other cases, it could be a soul simply asking for prayer, trying to leave a sign, or even coming to assist the living.
But we must always be on guard. Take it from Rick Sims, who encountered a problem when he moved to Boca Raton, Florida.
"The very first night I was in bed, just about asleep and suddenly I felt paralyzed," he wrote us. "Someone or something landed on top of me pressing me into the mattress. I could not move at all, and was afraid to open my eyes. I tried to say Jesus but again everything was paralyzed. Over and over I tried to say Jesus but my voice was slurred, it sounded like something you see in the movies when a voice is in super slow motion. Finally I was able to say Jesus, and as soon as I did I was free. I opened my eyes and saw a light on in the room; nothing else was there.
"The next day I called my mom and told her the story. She advised me to say a prayer and ask the Blessed Mother to protect me. So of course I asked her to stay with me the next night, and wouldn't you know, I had one of the best nights sleep I can ever remember. I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and very thankful to Our Lady for watching over me.
"What happens next knocks my socks off!!! I go to make the bed. The room I slept in that night was very big. In the room was a chair that had arms attached to it. This chair sat across the room against a side wall about five feet away from the foot of the bed. As I pull the bedspread up to cover the pillows, I notice one of the pillows is missing. I look down by my feet no pillow. I crawl across the bed to look on the other side, no pillow. As I scan the rest of the room, I see this oversized pillow sitting perfectly between the seat and arms, hanging off each side of the chair, just as if someone placed it there!! I thought to myself there is absolutely no way I could have kicked or thrown the pillow five feet in the air. If by some crazy chance I did, there is no way it could have landed on the chair, pulled it's way through the arms rest itself on the seat with each end of the pillow extended out well beyond each arm of that chair. I tossed the pillow myself just to see if it could be done. Each time I did it landed on an angle, one side above one arm and the other resting below on the seat. Or both ends of the pillow on top of the arms laying straight across, never on the seat with each end of the pillow pulled through the arms of the chair (like putting a finger through your wedding ring, a perfect fit). No doubt in my mind the Blessed Mother was there with me that night watching over me.
"Every once in a while I feel the evil presence, however, I'm not afraid anymore. It seems to come around when I get closer to Our Lord through prayer. All I have to do is say Jesus and everything is fine."
The bottom line is that it is far more frequent than many realize. If something goes bump in your night, first seek to have the home delivered and blessed, in case the spirit is a deceiving one, and if it remains, have Mass said for the departed who may once have lived there.
Once free, the house quiets right down and the soul is eternally grateful.
[resources: Aterlife books]
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