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The Weiser Field Guide to ghosts
Apparition, Spirits, Special Lights, and Other Hauntings of History and Legend
By Raymond Buckland
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2009 Raymond Buckland
All rights reserved.
As the name implies, ancestral ghosts are the spirits of departed family members. There are various reasons for ghosts to haunt the living world. It may be that they are drawn to a particular area through a traumatic experience they had there (possibly the manner of their death) or through experiencing great happiness in that location. There can also be the need to contact the living, either to give a message or simply to let the survivors know that the spirit is still in existence, albeit on another plane. Many times the spirit is drawn back because of remorse for some actions or treatment of a relative or close friend.
Ancestral ghosts may watch over a new child and watch it grow and develop. They may be in attendance at weddings and other important events in the lives of surviving relatives. Deceased parents and grandparents have been seen in photographs of such events, materializing to be a part of them.
In the Japanese religion of Shintoism, deceased ancestors acquire the power of deities with supernatural attributes. Surviving relatives worship them by honoring their pictures, burning incense, and making offerings of food and drink. In this way, the ancestors are propitiated and will bring good luck to the family. They do have the potential for good or for evil, and their focus is on the same interests they held when alive. To the Japanese, the dead are no less than the living, taking part in the daily life of the family.
There are stories of ghosts of the ancestors materializing and remaining visible for years. For three days in July, there is the Festival of the Dead, at which time the deceased may return from the spirit world to look around at the country and to visit with the family. New mats are placed at all the family shrines, and fresh food is prepared and laid out ready for the ghosts' return. Some Shinto sects perform a rite in which a person is selected to be possessed by an ancestral spirit. It is believed that then, with the spirit acting through the living person, healings may be performed and prophecies made.
Traditional ghosts are the Yurei, which hang around after death mainly to seek vengeance for something that happened in life. Many of them are female. The name means "faint/dim/hazy spirit." The normal, non-vindictive spirit is the Reikon, which simply leaves the physical body and joins the other ancestors. Then there are the Yokai, or "bewitching apparitions." These always appear at dawn or dusk and include monsters and spirits like goblins. It's said that they sometimes steal small children. The Obake or Bakemono are general terms for preternatural beings of any sort and include the Yurei and Yokai but can also include anything strange and unusual.
In recent years, many ghosts have appeared in otherwise ordinary family photographs. These usually are seen as extra faces or—in a large number of cases—extra hands in the picture. There have also been sightings in Japanese videos. For example, an amateur video taken of a girl on a moving train, when slowed, showed a partially transparent figure of a girl outside the window. The sighting was at a section of track where more than one person had committed suicide by jumping from the train.
Shinrei Shashin is a phrase used to describe photos where ghosts or spirits decide to show all or part of themselves when a photo is taken. Shinrei Shashin is a popular subject on Japanese TV.
Ka (sometimes ba) is the name given to the ancient Egyptian spirit or soul or, more correctly, to a "double" of that soul, similar to an astral body. It has been referred to as an alter ego or guardian spirit. Not only humans but animals and even inanimate objects had kas. At the tomb of a deceased person, there would be built a "House of Ka"—a home for the double. The actual soul would make periodic visits to its counterpart at that house. The House of Ka is where offerings of food and drink would be left. If there was neglect, then the ka would be forced to leave that house and roam, as a ghost, eating and drinking whatever could be found. Such a ghost might be encountered by the living.
The word revenant is sometimes used interchangeably with ghost. Revenants may be human or animal. "Revenant" covers the whole gamut of ghosts, apparitions, specters, poltergeists, phantoms, and so on. The word is from the French revenir, meaning "to return."
Animals have spirits/souls, and they do go on to the afterlife, just as humans do. Consequently, it's not unusual for some of those spirits to return—again as with humans—in ghostly form. Animals of all types have been seen as ghosts in a wide variety of locations. Not all reports of animal ghosts are sightings, however; some are sounds, such as animal footsteps on a tile floor, or a cat's meow or a dog's bark. Deceased family pets show up in snapshots of family members, reuniting with their loved ones. For example, when Lady Hehir was photographed with her Irish wolfhound Tara, in 1926, there in the picture, behind Tara's rear end, was the face of Kathal, a Cairn terrier pet who had died six weeks before the photograph was taken. Kathal and Tara had been inseparable friends before the terrier's demise.
Similarly, a family photograph of two ladies and their maid at tea, taken in Tingewick, England, in 1916 shows a dark-colored dog standing beside one of the ladies. The photograph was taken by a retired CID (Secret Service) inspector. No one—photographer or sitters—saw anything of a dog there at the time. The dog is partially transparent in the photo.
Another family group picture, taken at Clarens, Switzerland, in August 1925, is of a mother with her baby in a carriage and a young son standing beside the carriage holding a toy kitten. But also visible in the picture, peeking around the toy, is the head of a real white kitten—one that had belonged to the family but that had died some weeks earlier.
In Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places, Brad Steiger recounts the story of a ten-year-old boy whose pet dog had been run over and killed by a car, in late October 1971. Six or eight months later, the boy was playing a game of hide-and-seek with his friends, in a two-acre field of waist-high wild wheat. As he ran through the field, looking for his friends, the boy almost tripped over a dog. It was his deceased pet, Snoopy, who stood wagging his tail. The dog had very distinctive markings, and there was no mistaking him. The boy chased after the animal as it turned and trotted off through the wheat, disappearing from sight. The boy ran forward and suddenly came upon the cement block that he and his mother had placed in the field in lieu of a tombstone. It still bore the name Snoopy, together with the date of death, written in permanent marker by the boy's mother.
Ghosts of horses, ponies, cattle, wild cats, and other animals have been seen. The sounds of deceased animals—including the raucous voice of a long-dead parrot—have also been heard.
Also known as Black Shuck, or Old Shuck, the Galleytrot is a very large ghostly dog that appears in different parts of southern England as a harbinger of death. The dog's howls are usually heard before he is seen, and he is mostly seen prowling around graveyards or loping along lonely country roads. It is said that to meet or even catch a glimpse of the Galleytrot means that you or someone close to you will die within the year.
The Galleytrot is also known by such names as the Black Dog, Hellbeast, Churchyard Dog, and similar. In New England, especially in New Hampshire, there is a similar ghostly demon dog known as Ol' Doofus. Such "Hounds of the Devil" are also known in other parts of the world, and such a one was supposedly the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tale The Hound of the Baskervilles. Whole packs of such spectral beasts can be found in folklore, such as the hounds associated with the Wild Hunt in Norse and Teutonic mythology. (See also Whisht Hounds.)
Strange animal noises were heard in the farmhouse of James and Margaret Irving in September 1931. The farmhouse was known as Cashen's Gap and was located on the Isle of Man (in the middle of the Irish Sea) near the hamlet of Dalby. The noises came from the attic. The Irvings' thirteen-year-old daughter, Voirrey, soon discovered that the unseen animal could repeat words that she spoke. It later became a very fluent speaker. The animal told them that its name was Gef and that it came from New Delhi, India; it had been born there June 7, 1852. It did not say how it came to be in the attic of the farmhouse. It later earned the nickname "The Dalby Spook."
Supposedly, Gef spied on neighbors' activities and reported then to the Irving family. When word of this got around, the neighbors were very annoyed. James Irving kept diaries on all these activities from 1932 till 1935. These reports are presently in the Senate House Library, in the Harry Price archives.
Journalists gathered to try to catch a glimpse of Gef, but failed. Many said it was a ghost or phantom, or just a product of the Irvings' imaginations. There was some poltergeist activity that seemed to center around the daughter Voirrey. Both ghost hunter Harry Price and Dr. Nandor Fodor (International Institute for Psychical Research) investigated the episode but could find no evidence of fraud.
In 1937 the Irvings moved away, and ten years later the farmer who bought the land saw a strange creature and shot it. It turned out to be a mongoose.
The Pony Express was in existence between April 1860 and October 1861. This rapid mail service that operated between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. One of the old Pony Express stations still standing is Hollenberg Station in Kansas. Hollenberg's administrator, Duane Durst, has many times heard the sound of footsteps on the second floor and of furniture being moved, although he knows that the upper floor is completely empty. But he and others have also heard the sounds of horses whinnying and stamping. Late at night there has been heard the creaking of saddles and the pounding of hooves, as of ponies galloping past. "When the wind blows," says Durst, "you hear a lot of creaking and groaning, and the sounds of someone upstairs."
Seen in the southwest of England, in Devon and Cornwall, the Whisht Hounds are a ghostly pack of dogs associated with the old pagan deity Woden (Odin of Norse mythology). They are said to be black with red eyes, though at times they may appear headless. As a pack, they follow a figure on horseback who is supposedly the Devil, Woden, or even Sir Francis Drake, depending upon local legend. (Drake lived in the sevenhundred-year-old Buckland Abbey, Devon—itself a haunted building.) As with the Galleytrot, it is said that to sight the Whisht Hounds means death within the year. Many country folk, even today, claim that they have heard the baying of the hounds, usually "over in the next valley," and have hurried home very much afraid.
Midsummer's Eve is the prime time for a sighting of the Whisht Hounds, though they may appear at any time of the year, usually in the dark of the moon. (See also Galleytrot.)
The Wild Hunt is the name given to the ghostly appearance of men, horses, and hounds that, on stormy nights, roam the countryside of southwestern England. It is also known generally across northern and western Europe, especially in northern Germany. The procession may be seen in particular at Samhain, or Hallowe'en. The leader of the hunt has been described as young, old, male, and female, by various observers, and has been named Herne the Hunter, Woden, Satan, Holda, Valdemar Atterdag, Bertha, and even Diana or Hecate.
Sometimes the hunt takes place across the sky, rather than on the ground, and may be attributed to violent thunderstorms. At various times, and in various places, it has been said that the purpose of the hunt is to seek out sinners or the unbaptized and to take them to Hell. If in danger of viewing the hunters, you should fall to the ground and cover your face. Some say that you also need to recite the Lord's Prayer. The hunt has been reported as seen in England as recently as the late twentieth century.
An apparition is a ghost sighting or sensing—the supernormal perception of the spirit of a deceased person or animal. Yet apparitions are of a wide variety of types. They may seem transparent or they may appear solid; they may be complete or only partially visible; they may seem to communicate vocally or be mute; they may be helpful or threatening. Some apparitions are no more than "memories" of the deceased, in effect replaying the events (of the person's death, perhaps) like the repeated playing of a DVD.
Some apparitions are of the living. They might be the astral body of someone alive but located elsewhere that has suddenly become visible to the observer. Some people with strong psychic ability are able to see astral bodies on occasion.
What are known as "crisis apparitions" are those astral bodies that appear to loved ones at a moment of crisis—just as they are being killed or are dying, for example. There have been countless examples of this, especially during wartime, with sons and daughters, husbands and wives, appearing to their loved ones at the moment of death. This is frequently the astral body being seen, which appears in the brief moments before the actual death and then becomes the true apparition as the death takes place. Such crisis apparitions generally appear in the viewer's everyday surroundings. Crisis apparitions may also appear as a warning to the observer, or to direct them to a particular locale.
A hotel was made out of the old World War II Officers' Mess at Bircham Newton Airfield, England. The hotel was for a construction industry training company, and one part of the building was for making training films. Behind the building, a double squash court was erected, and it soon became apparent that one of these squash courts was haunted by an airman. The ghost was spotted by two squash players who then set up a tape recorder where they had seen the apparition. When they played back the tape the following morning, they heard the sounds of a busy airfield—male and female voices, aircraft taking off and landing, machinery, unusual "pinging" noises, and what they described as "strange unearthly groaning noises."
Ghostly airmen were seen by a number of people; one of the apparitions was seen to walk through a brick wall that had not been there when the airfield was originally in use. A BBC reporter who spent a night there reported feelings of "intense cold," hearing doors banging, and the complete breakdown of previously flawless recording equipment.
According to Inuit folklore, if a child is deliberately killed by being left exposed in the snow, its ghost—known as an angiak—will repeatedly appear to the parents and other members of the tribe unless the tribe moves away from the site as soon as possible after the death. It is said that the baby's wailing cries can be heard, haunting the tribe.
This is Hindu and is considered to be an evil ghost, one that is usually associated with a suicide, someone who was executed, or someone who died by accident. It is said that bhuts have no shadows and that they never rest on the ground. To avoid meeting one, then, it is recommended to lie on the ground. A good way to protect yourself from encountering a bhut is to burn tumeric, which they detest.
Of unknown origin, the bourru is the apparition of a figure dressed as a monk. It is said to walk the streets of Paris, France, late at night. It will look in at the windows of timid people, often passing back and forth a number of times to do so. Unruly children are often told that the bourru will come to get them if they do not behave.
In India, the churel is the ghost of a woman who has died in childbirth, or in a state of ceremonial impurity. Originally it was the ghost of a person of low caste in India. The ghost is regarded as malignant. It has no mouth and shuffles along on feet that are reversed. Sometimes the churel appears in the form of a beautiful woman, to attract and trap young men and to then keep them in its power until they are old and gray. Many times a woman who dies in childbirth will be buried face down to prevent the spirit from becoming a churel.
Excerpted from The Weiser Field Guide to ghosts by Raymond Buckland. Copyright © 2009 Raymond Buckland. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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