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I'm Afraid of No Ghost

August 2017

"I'm Afraid of No Ghost"

You may identify with that line from the song in the Ghostbusters movie, “I’m afraid of no ghost”. The movie itself portrayed apparitions or ghosts as really not that spooky (remember good old Slimer? Or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?)

Just over a week ago I was having a chat with someone about his lack of fear around horror movies, ghosts, or anything to do with the supernatural. I raised the hypothetical situation, “What if it were a knife-throwing ghost?” He pointed out that this would be no more frightening for him than a knife-throwing person. “But a ghost can disappear and move through walls!” I protested. He just shrugged and looked at me as if to say, “Seriously?”

I was one of those people who found The Sixth Sense movie terrifying, and I believe I must be in the minority after hearing countless others describe the same film as not freaky at all. I’ve experienced a fear of ghosts since I was a little girl, and it probably didn’t help that I was also fascinated by ghost stories and tales of real current-day places and buildings said to be haunted due to happenings from long ago. After having that recent conversation about ghosts, I realised that my fear of ghosts is something I never really consciously questioned as I moved into adulthood. 

Hallucinating Loved Ones After Death

In actual fact, many people who report seeing spirits don’t actually describe the experience as unpleasant or creepy. Even psychiatrists, who believe that the sight a loved one after death is a common hallucination (as opposed to the witnessing of an actual ghost), have spoken about the comfort and reassurance that can be achieved after such hallucinations.

Last month (July 2017) there was a Business Insider article by Simon McCarthy Jones, in which he states that, “… seeing, hearing or sensing the presence of a deceased loved one is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it is a perfectly normal and often helpful way of dealing with grief … Intriguingly, it has been found that those who talk to their dead spouse are more likely to be coping with widowhood than those who don’t.” And according to another article written by psychiatrist Ronald Pies, “‘visions of grief’ may help some bereaved loved ones cope with an otherwise unbearable loss.”

It made me wonder though … If hallucinating a loved one happens during the process of grieving, then it should only occur after finding out someone has died. And yet, there are many cases where people report seeing their loved ones before being told about their death.

For example, I attended a workshop a couple of months ago facilitated by a psychiatrist. We were speaking about cultural issues and different belief systems. One of the workshop participants said she had worked with a group of people from New Zealand who told her that it was common in their family and culture to see a relative appear prior to finding out about that relative’s death. The psychiatrist responded that “hallucinations are common after a loved one has died.” But being “visited” by a relative before hearing the news of their passing is not consistent with the idea that such an appearance is only a hallucination due to grief.

I’ve spoken to a few people who felt as though contact had been made by a loved one after their death. For each of those people, the experience was described as a one-off occasion, with no other similar incidents nor any symptoms of psychosis in their lifetime. 

One woman said that she heard her deceased husband’s voice tell her where to find a large sum of money that he had kept hidden in the house. She followed the instructions and found a bundle of cash she never suspected was there. She admitted to keeping this incident to herself, in case people thought she was mad. The other person said he saw his martial arts master seated in a chair across from his bed when he awoke one morning – he found out soon afterwards that his master had died that day.

In both these instances, what psychiatrists may call “hallucinations” could not be explained simply by grief. The widow found tangible proof that the instructions she heard were accurate, while the client who saw his master had not been grieving; not only was he not a close family member or friend, but he hadn’t even found out about his master’s death at the point when he saw him. Neither of these people thought that the experience was scary either.

Mediumship and an Unwilling Recipient

The popularity of receiving messages from a medium is another demonstration of how many people aren’t frightened about the thought of communicating with ghosts or spirits. In fact, this is often seen as a positive thing.

I never used to believe in mediumship as a kid. I certainly believed that our consciousness or soul would continue on after our physical death, but also that we would be reborn in another body shortly after dying, rather than floating around indefinitely as a spirit. But even if it were possible for a person to die and remain in the ether for a while, the idea of seeing or hearing ghosts was just not my cup of tea.

It was at a Mind Body Spirit (MBS) Festival where I first saw a psychic medium, Mitchell Coombs, perform live on stage. He would share details of someone “in spirit” who wanted to connect with a member of the audience, and the information he gave turned out to be quite specific as well as accurate according to the people it was directed to.

I’ve heard people suspect out loud that there are audience members who are actually “planted” there, and paid to act in order to make the medium look more credible. I couldn’t rule out this possibility, but from some of the emotional responses that could be seen, I concluded that either this medium was genuine, or the people involved were very good actors.

And then came an awkward moment when the person who the medium wanted to reach did not respond. He kept calling out to someone in the audience wearing blue and black, who was male, and then gave the name of this person's immediate relative.

I looked over at my partner in his blue jumper and black pants, aware that the name mentioned was that of his father. His arms were crossed and he showed no intention of raising his hand. After a few more plaintive attempts to have the right person answer him, the psychic medium gave up and moved on to the next message from another spirit.

After the show, my partner went up to Mitchell and introduced himself. He looked at him and said, “Oh you’re Frank” and proceeded to pass on a message from Frank’s grandfather. It was relevant to what was going on in his life at that time (and involved details that I hadn’t even been aware of), and he finished off by saying, “Your grandfather didn’t believe any of this when he was alive, but he was with me and up there on stage!” Frank said it was weird because he had just been thinking about his grandfather that morning, and how they used to play cards together.

Months later at another MBS Festival, I heard that Frank once again avoided drawing attention to himself at a different psychic medium show, after the details described clearly related to him. Although I wasn’t there, he told me that he did the same thing and presented himself to the medium after the show. She sounded understandably frustrated and asked, “Well why didn’t you put your hand up instead of making me look like a “d**k head out there?” Nevertheless, she passed on the message that he needed to hear.

Still Spooky? 

After concluding that mediumship was indeed possible after some of the events I’d witnessed, I decided that it was nonetheless something I wanted no involvement with. It still seemed a little spooky.

Part of the training I did to become a professional intuitive involved learning about mediumship and what can happen during readings. I questioned Erin (our trainer) about whether it would be ok to just leave out mediumship in my own practice, or whether it was important to use it. She explained that, “You probably are a medium but you don’t have to develop it if you don’t want to”.

Ironically, the very first reading I did after coming home from completing the professional intuitive training in the U.S. involved what seemed to be a deceased loved one coming through. It was tricky, because this reading was for a relative, so when I sensed the presence of her father come through I had to make sure I wasn’t making things up based on details I already knew or had been told about previously. But what repeatedly came through was an odd-sounding nickname that I hadn’t heard before, and she agreed that her father was the only one who used to call her by that name. After this was confirmed, an answer came through related to something she’d been curious about from years before.

A Persistent Spirit

I sometimes experience what might best be described as a ‘ping’ above my head when I feel that there’s a message to pass on, or if someone is about to ask for a reading before they book one.

I received this ‘ping’ for my partner, Frank, months after I gave the first reading described above. He agreed to sit down for a reading. I expected his guides to come through but there was a presence instead that described itself as Frank’s grandfather.

I spent a bit of time trying to confirm whether the information I received about his death was accurate. Frank kept shaking his head, so when I eventually asked him to explain what actually happened, he said he didn’t know the exact cause of death so was unable to confirm either way. 

Frank’s grandfather (assuming it was the spirit of his grandfather) wasted no time and proceeded to show me a scene in which he was handing over a bunch of flowers to a woman, but it didn’t appear romantic. It felt like the flowers were not for her even though they were being passed to her. I couldn’t work out how to interpret this so I just told Frank what I was seeing. He said that his grandfather used to own a business selling flowers outside on the street – this would explain why the flowers appeared to be handed over without any romance or intention of gift-giving, as it was simply a business exchange.

With the assumption that we would now be ready to speak about whatever message needed to be passed on, I got another vision which simply showed an image of the sun. I told Frank, “I see the sun but it’s not like the real sun, it doesn’t even look like a photo of the sun. It’s more like an artwork but not quite a proper realistic painting either”. Frank said he thought he knew what this meant … that he and his grandfather used to play Italian card games, and that there was an illustration of the sun on some of the cards.

Only then did the message for Frank come through. Maybe his grandfather figured that he needed to provide validation first, and that his flower-selling business might not have been enough. Even though Frank hadn’t told me about his grandfather’s business, we might have both questioned whether or not I had somehow heard about this from one of his other relatives. What I definitely didn’t know, however, was that he used to play with his grandfather using a deck of cards showing an image of the sun!

Not That Scary

The funny thing is that during these experiences involving what I assume was actually mediumship, I felt no fear. On the contrary, as each presence came through I was hit unexpectedly with a wave of emotion and began to cry, even though I felt no personal connection or any sadness. I was never very close to the relative who came through in the first reading, and I didn’t even know Frank’s grandfather who passed away years beforehand. It was more a sense of love and caring than anything upsetting, and the intensity of the emotion moved me to tears (having said that, most mediums probably don’t cry at the start of a reading!)

So, having thought all this through, it seems that maybe I shouldn’t be so scared of ghosts after all. If I’m not scared of spirit guides or other spiritual presences, why be scared of spirits just because they were once in a physical body? 

I still maintain that mediumship is not my specialty. However, I think I’m more willing now to open myself up to this ability and not dismiss it if it comes up. Purposefully cutting off or ignoring an aspect of my intuitive ability doesn’t really make much sense, particularly if my intention is to pass on whatever information will most help a person during a reading … in order to do that, I need to be open to wherever that information may come from. 

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