Saturday, November 10, 2012

Here thare be ghosts.

 I've never been superstitious. I was just not raised to see unreasonable explanations as reasonable. I recall when I realized that people were not all like that, I was nine or ten. A couple friends had come up to my uncle's farm for a week. This was the first time I had gone without my mother and sister. Big deal for me.

The farm was a huge, spooky old farm house. There were rooms I had never been in and I had gone there every Christmas and Summer since I was born. At Christmas it was just too cold to go to unused rooms (heated with wood and coal, no central heat) and in the summer I spent my time acting the fool on the 186 acres of land. Shooting guns, blowing things up, running, riding the pony, and the like.

So, here we are, Randy, Allan and myself, all sneaking around a huge, old, dark building all alone. My uncle worked nights and was gonna be gone until midnight or so. There are no streetlights on this dirt road and he had no TV so we were making bad choices.

The spooky atmosphere combined with the city boy mentality from my friends made us all creeped out. We spent out time trying to get each other worked up or really scared. Fun time for a young kid. Finally we heard the walking in the attic. Slow and deliberate. Quiet and sneaky. I had never been in the attic. There were pull down stairs in the ceiling which I was a little scared of and the attic was very spooky. We heard foot steps again. Sounded like somebody with a limp. Thump-drag thump-drag.

We got all worked up. we made our way to the attic stairs. Got the rope. Discussed it more. We knew there was no one here. What could it be? A ghost? A creature of some kind? I am not sure I had heard of the Jersey Devil or El Chupacabra at the time but that is the idea. We got each other very worked up.

Allan turned to me and almost had tears in his eyes and whispered in his most serious voice "I think it is the ghost of your grandmother and she's mad at us." Now, this is the sort of thing we had been doing to each other all night. But somehow this was different. He was really serious. I look over to Randy and see the same REAL serious expression of petrified fear. I realized that I was the one pushing for the attic. They were just too scared of looking like pussies to really object.

They really thought it was a ghost. Like really really. So I say, "What are you, stupid? There is no such thing as ghosts. It is probably a squirrel or rats. Old house like this it could be something waving in the wind. There are like a thousand things it could be before you end up with ghosts."

And, there are. Now, I cannot be absolutely sure there are no such things as ghosts. What I do know is there is no reliable proof that there are ghosts. Not in the last few thousand years that we have played with the concept. Not in the last hundred years where we have honed our understanding of reality to a fairly sharp edge. We can detect energies unimaginable a few hundred years ago. We can see into molecules and across the galaxy.  We understand how matter and energy work together and know where any flaws or complications are (dark matter, dark energy?).

We have scoured reality and found no ghosts. We found no magic, demons, angels, gods, or other supernatural beings. Perhaps these things all exist. But there is no reason to think that they do. So when I hear a noise in my uncle's attic I don't think ghost. I don't think specter or wraith. I think animal. On a farm out in the middle of nowhere animal is a good guess.

What did we find in my uncle's attic? Raccoon. As a city boy I did not even think of raccoons. Not a possessed one either. Just a nice normal one dragging something. I don't know what because he ran his ass off when we pulled down the ladder/stairs.

How is it that people in the 21st century, now, still leap to ghosts and goblins as opposed to old boiler pipes. Oh, yes, that is what got me thinking about this whole thing. I have a new house with old radiators for heat. They make weird noises. Hissing and banging and clanging.  I was joking that it might be ghosts or monsters. Then I remembered that there are people who would seriously jump to that conclusion. Then I was sad.