Do you believe in ghosts? A mystery novel I'm working on has a ghost element in it, and my amateur sleuth works alongside a “Ghost Detective” (sometimes called a “ghosthunter”) to solve a murder and missing person mystery. As with my first two mystery novels, I’m interested in dealing with “mysteries” on a number of levels.
And since my college is sponsoring an event featuring real 'ghost hunters' later this month to coincide with Halloween, this is a good time to opine. Another good reason to offer a comment is that I've observed so many Catholics who do not know what the Scriptures really say about this subject and the afterlife in general, but seem to drift - like their secular peers - into talk-show superstitions about the unseen.
It should be noted from the get-go that we are right to be healthily uncertain one way or the other on this matter, as there are mysteries we cannot fully know this side of heaven. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” we hear in Hamlet – a famous ghost story. Christians in particular are right to exercise caution, reason and skepticism here, since so many people wander easily into occult practices and psychic hooey on this matter and it is easy to be deceived by what we know are unseen, malevolent personalities out there who are intent on fooling whoever they can in order to lure them away from the truth.
It’s quite understandable, isn’t it, that everyone would like to be assured that there is something else after death - especially for lost loved ones. This explains the popularity of certain TV Shows where mediums claim they can speak to the departed who survive in a spirit form on “the other side.” Moreover, popular films have shaped public perception about the subject, especially “The Sixth Sense” and its TV-spinoff, “The Ghost Whisperer.” But we need not be afraid to seek the truth of the matter, either, as there may be a natural explanation (that is, it is a phenomenon that is part of nature, part of Creation).
For example, poltergeist phenomena, in which objects are thrown around the house, are understood mainly as a kind of electrical disturbance peculiar to households where there are teenagers experiencing anger, angst, or trauma. I've observed this firsthand. It's weird, but not technically "supernatural."
As for "ghosts," there are 6 different categories which I will discuss another day. Suffice it to say in this brief introduction that while most uninformed people suppose them to be surviving spirits who cannot leave the earthly plane quite yet due to some unfinished business, and many Christians are too quick to think they are demons in disguise, the most common occurrences have a more "natural" explanation. My story will revolve around this sort of mystery while at the same time remaining Biblical in its understanding of the afterlife, which contains far more hope and wonder than any popularized idea about “ghosts” and a netherworldly “other side.”