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When a person dies, he usually goes right to the Light and eventually an assigned destination.

Are there cases where the soul lingers? The Church is not clear on this point. Some believe the deceased can visit, hang around, or return -- manifesting as what Catholic mystical theology calls "revenants." [At left, a photo taken of the old "haunted" U.S. Senate chamber].

There were saints who reported experiences with the dead. There have been cardinals and bishops.

"The Old Testament indicates that Godís chosen people, the Israelites, had no difficulty in believing in the manifestation of deceased persons as living, even though the word 'ghost' wasnít part of their daily vocabulary," notes a well-known authority on deliverance, Father John Hampsch of California. "This belief is clear from the story about Maccabeusís otherworld visitors, Onias and Jeremiah (2 Maccabees 15:12-16); and Samuelís ghostly posthumous admonishment of Saul from the abode of the dead (1 Samuel 28). And in Sirach 46:20 Samuel prophesies from the grave. Other direct or indirect biblical allusions to 'ghosts': Job 4:15: 'A spirit glided by my face and the hair on my body stood on end.' This 'spirit' may have been an angel; but it does give us a hint of even a tactile human experience of meeting a spiritual entity."

Among those who believe in revenants, it seems, is a large group of nurses who imply that hospitals are especially prone to supernatural phenomena.

We say that because last time we checked, their website had 172 pages of blog entries from health-care workers reporting hospital spirits ("ghosts," angels, and demons).

If one accepts the prospect of those who pass revisiting earth, or even lingering, it only makes sense that a hospital would be a prime focal point, the place of great transition -- whether death or birth.

For most, death is glorious -- a great release. But there is an underside -- which is why we ask for the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to be there for us, along with our angels. Whatever the case, we are prohibited from evoking spirits.

Most such accounts are positive. But the nursing accounts emphasize that when we go to a hospital -- whether as a visitor or a patient -- we should always use Holy Water.

Most of the bloggers for this major website chose to remain anonymous or under screen names for obvious reasons.

"Every hospital I've ever worked in has at least one ghost," noted one nurse named Ruby back five years ago, when the blog first started. "I've never worked in a nursing home, but I hear from a friend who has that they have their ghosts as well. Years ago I worked at the old Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. We'd just moved into our brand new tower, and the old hospital was scheduled for demolition.

"Several coworkers wanted to walk through the old unit one last time. As we walked past what had once been the large men's ward, we saw a couple of figures in what should have been a completely empty ward. One of my coworkers peeked in to investigate and immediately backed out -- face as white as a blank order sheet. Of course I was then curious, so I looked in myself.

"All I saw was two older men sitting on an old bed, chatting. But my coworker explained that it was Billy and Larry (or whatever; I've forgotten the names). Both were royal 'pains' when they were alive -- which they weren't anymore. She said they'd been rumored to still be hanging around, but no one had actually seen them before!"

"We have a gentleman who we call the inspector," recalled another (most remained anonymous). "He appears at the end of the long hall and carries a clipboard in his hand. When he shows up a resident usually dies within the next couple days. We've also had residents ring and tell us that there was a man standing next to their roommate's bed and that we should tell him to leave (there are no men on nights). The roommate usually dies soon after.

Allegedly, in ways we can't explain, spirits manifest from time to time doing their purgatory on earth, reliving an event, trying to help the living, or looking for prayers.

"There's the children," said the nurse above. "Several lucid residents have reported children in the halls at night. There's a children's home behind us where children have been abused in the past."

Should chaplains bless hallways more regularly?

"I was looking at the monitor and there was a black mass moving across the hall, back and forth, between two rooms. I walked into the lobby and looked down the hall and of course nothing was there. One time my BFF saw a black mass in the shape of a man with a hat on at like three a.m. in the recreation area. Then there was the time that this obese woman -- who could not sit up on her own -- but sat up in the bed, got the single most evil look on her face, looks at my two nurse aides, and says, 'They are coming for you... they are gonna get'cha!' Freaked me out. Then two days later, my aides had me come in the same room, cause her room mate was literally being thrown in the chair -- I mean literally being picked up and thrown back in the chair. That was scary. Her doctor had me send her to a mental rehab center and said she needed an exorcism!"

"Years ago I worked nights on a LTC unit," was another blog entry. "No one ever used their call lights there. We always seemed to know when we would have a death, because the nurse-call system would go haywire. It would start bleeping, not even a real ring, like half bleeps. It didn't light up to a room. There was just the sound. 

"The call system was checked several times and we were always told it was fine. We would immediately make a round and sure enough someone would be gone. It almost seemed like someone just wanted to let us know someone had passed. It was so common it wasn't creepy after awhile. Also: on a couple of occasions a coworker and myself while sitting outside on a break saw a dark figure moving across the parking lot, almost like he was floating. On both occasions he got about halfway across the lot and then would vanish. We used to hear all kinds of stories of strange ghostly occurrences from some of the staff that had been there forever. After I left there I went to work in a rehab unit that was located in what used to be an old Catholic Hospital. We would often hear crying, laughing, footsteps, and so forth in the stairwells -- even on holidays when we were the only ones there. There was never anyone in those stairwells. I was often told it was an old nun who had roamed the halls for many years before passing in our unit."

It is curious how many nuns figure into these accounts -- perhaps because so many nuns cared for the sick.

"We closed room 12 in our MICU because just about every patient that has been there since Mary died complains of seeing a woman wearing a white habit rocking back and forth by their bedside," reported a nurse this year. "Apparently this nun never makes eye contact, just stares outside the window which happens to be on the patient's left side, over their head.

"This window overlooks the hospital cemetery where nuns that have died where buried. Mary was a nun that died of a car accident outside the hospital back in the Fifties. She was only about thirty years old and all patients describe her as a young woman. We thought that it was the 'sun-down syndrome.' Anyway, since then room 12 became our storage room where no one goes in by themselves unless it is absolutely critical."

Reported another nurse just last month: "When I was a nursing student I did a clinical placement at Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) located in Adelaide, Southern Australia, the largest and oldest teaching hospital in the state. The hospital dates from about 1850.

"Anyway, we had handover one evening to the nightshift, and one of the male nurses who had been on a few nights ago told us a story that creeped me out. An elderly man had died not long before night shift was ending (can't remember the diagnosis), and the doctor came and pronounced him dead. This nurse had been hurrying to get him washed, do the paperwork, etcetera, so the morning staff would not have to do it.

"Well he did what he could, and was sitting in the nurses' station, head bent down finishing his work, when he felt a sudden presence and cold air. He looked up to the door of the nursing station, and there was this patient, less than a foot away from him, standing there fully dressed, smiling broadly and waving to him. This nurse kind of blinked (he was very tired and trying to stay awake), and the patient was suddenly gone. Of course, he rushed into the room the patient was in and there was the dead man, still laid out and very much dead. When he told us what happened, everyone was silent and I said it sounded like the patient came in to say 'goodbye' and thank you for the care he had been given. The nurse said the dead man just looked happy and like he was ready to go when he was waving goodbye."

Most pass right to the Light of God -- frequently muttering before they die that deceased relatives are around them.

This is extremely common -- and comforting.

The majority move on.

But something keeps others tied to the physical realm.

Noted a nurse named Shirley: "I've been a hospice nurse for five years. I have been with hundreds of people at the time of their death and I can tell you first hand that if the patient is alert enough to speak, you'll hear them talking to loved ones who have already passed over. I had a patient last week that kept saying where did the precious baby go? His grown children were at his bedside and kept naming off grandchildren's names thinking he wanted to see them one more time. He kept telling them -- no, that wasn't the baby he was talking about. Finally one of the daughters asked him if it was 'Randall' he was talking about and his face face lit up and he said 'Yes, my precious baby. Your mother brought him here and now I don't see him.' Come to find out Randall was a child of his who only lived six hours after birth. It gives me a kind of peace knowing we are not going to be alone at the time of our 'transition.'"

Those on the wrong side of God are especially vulnerable when they are ill and so we see the importance too of the anointing of the sick. "A friend of mine who is also a nurse used to work in hospice," reports a caregiver. "She told me about a patient that she cared for that was a very mean individual who was hateful to her family as well as the nurses who cared for her. As this woman was dying, she became very afraid and started yelling that she was burning! She screamed and wailed about burning right up until she died."

Said another last June: "One time when I was working in the nursing home, I was watching a monitor at the nurses station. I could view the back hallway, recreation area, smoking area, and the lobby.

"A nurse who is a friend of mine told me about a patient she had that had been sick for a while and she had gone in the patients room to get her vital signs and the patient was lifted off the bed just a few inches and she said that there was a black shadow that covered the room and as the patient died it was like the shadow left the room and a very cold even spooky draft followed she says and I believe that you can tell a patient has either gone to Heaven or the devil himself has come to claim his soul. Nursing gives you a totally different look on death and the higher power."

So many nurses say this -- though doctors typically scoff at the accounts.

It's not exactly something taught in medical school (nor, for that matter, in seminaries).

Should it be?

Do we need to better prepare folks for death -- and spiritually cleanse various places?

"I was sitting in the dining room with the lights off, charting by the dimmed hall lights when I caught something out of the corner of my eye moving down the hall," said yet one more. "Thinking it was one of my 'wanderers,' I looked up and saw what to this day I still believe was a toddler on a tricycle.

"Let me tell you now, I lost it. The [admittance] book went flying and I skittered up the short hallway to the nurse's station. I relayed my story to the charge nurse and she just sort of chuckled at my expression and explained that one of the residents that had passed away years ago had a grandson that was killed by the back tires of her car. He was in the driveway and she didn't see him and backed right over him. The night the lady died, she was calling out 'Tyler, oh my baby Tyler. Nana's coming.' Then she passed."

For your discernment.

One more: "This isn't really a ghost story, but it definitely gave me chills. I was working in a critical care unit and there was a minister that was a patient. I can't really remember what was wrong with him but I do remember him saying that we better get his family because he would be 'going home soon.' In the course of the next hour, he was dead. I promise you, after that man died, he had a GLOW coming from his face and a smile that was so sweet. I have never seen anything like it. Nurses from all over the unit came to see this man's face and everyone that saw it, cried. To this day, I get tears in my eyes thinking of it. I can not think of any other word to describe it but 'heavenly.'"

"My first cousin was a young minister visiting the bedside of a sweet, saintly woman who was terminal with lung cancer," is a final account. "Her bed was cranked up somewhat so she could breathe a little easier. She was in and out, pretty heavily medicated. He was at her bedside holding her hand and praying. She raises herself up, looks at the wall in front of the bed, and says. 'Oh Jesus, it's so beautiful, so beautiful,' lays back down, and passes.

"Sure made an impression on my cousin who went on to have a wonderful ministry."

[resources: Razing hell by Father John Hampsch and Muldoon's Ghost]

[Announcing a retreat in Wisconsin: afterlife, prophecy, spiritual deliverance]

[Michael Brown is

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