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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Scariest Ghost Story

I remember when October was fun.

It was a time to plop down on the couch and watch ABC Family's "Scariest Places on Earth" (not realizing that my future travels would eventually bring me to a town and a college featured on the program), Travel Channel's haunted specials or even The Brady Bunch's Halloween special (look, I know that the ghost was just Greg using a microphone to scare off potential home-buyers but STILL: that was freaking creepy). Come Halloween night, I would rush along the block dressed to the thirteens and grab as much candy as I needed. Then I would retreat right back to my cavern and watch a Sci-fi special about UFOs or another show about Jack the Ripper while stuffing my face full of Milky Ways and Tootsie Rolls. I did this every year at Halloween. And every year, I would go to bed scared shitless.

But now I am a college student. And like my buddy Mick Jagger was said: "What a drag it is getting old." I hear you, brother.

Case in point: this Monday. One of America's premier "Ghost Hunters" Lorraine Warren and her nephew were in town to talk to a hall of anxious college students about their profession. I thought about going but that notion was crushed immediately when I remembered I had class from 7:00-9:30 (I know: what was I thinking?) So I dutifully shuffled off to Bentley Hall and sat down at my desk, waiting for my brain to be filled with knowledge. And I was perfectly content to do just that until my girlfriend began sending me texts telling me that the presentation was in fact, creepy as hell. By the time she gushed about all the disturbing photos she was being shown, I had to pack up my belongings and discreetly leave the classroom.

Some people meet old childhood friends to reconnect with their early self, some open up old yearbooks and some even take up a new hobby...I attempt to scare myself half to death. That is what I hoped to accomplish in attending this "Ghost Hunters's" presentation. I found a seat in the back with my girlfriend and company but not before trampling on twelve people's feet and settled in to watch.

I knew something was wrong from the beginning. As pictures scrolled by on a slideshow and Warren's nephew droned on in monotones, a tiny voice started to speak in the back of my head, a voice that I didn't know existed, the voice of "Mr. Skeptic". Mr. Skeptic found fault with everything these people had to show him...I mean,

"That isn't a lost soul; it is smoke on the lens."
"Those aren't ghostly specters of children; it is an awkward glare and shadow, exacerbated by an archaic camera."
"Those marks aren't the demonic claw-slashes of an incubus; there are some kind of lesion and that poor screaming woman should go to a hospital."

Nothing impressed this voice, nothing at all; even when we were shown the most compelling and disturbing "evidence" of the supernatural I believe I have ever seen. Warren and her cronies warned us that they were about to play a video of the exorcism of a farmer (or something like that). Their set-up was described in brilliant detail: the things that we were about to see and the psychic consequences of those events. About 1/10 of the audience "walked" to the exits as fast as I have ever seen a mob of people "walk." I was tempted to do so myself, such was the stark yet eloquent set-up of this video.

And the people who left were probably glad they did, this video delivered. It showed a man in the throes of an epic battle for his soul, the subsequent pain he endured and then the shadow of evil on his features and darkness overtook him. At least that was my first impression...and then Mr. Skeptic kicked in. I started to think that this man wasn't suffering but demonic possession at all but an extreme psychosomatic illness. As the priest performed the exorcism I began to think: I hope they ditched the holy man and brought this poor guy to a doctor at some point. But, of course, this man was displaying no signs of any mental or physical illness that I was aware of; certainly nothing that made one saw words in Latin backwards. And so the one word crept into my mind that I had never wanted to creep in:


The video was bullshit. And it wasn't because the acting was noticeable, or you could see a boom-mike hanging over someone's shoulder, or the upside down cross was drawn in magic marker on the man's back. The video was well made and betrayed no sign of inauthenticity. But it was bullshit because it had to be. Nothing like that could ever happen or could ever happen.

It was then that I realized that I had become a responsible adult and upright citizen, and it was then that I realized I hated myself. Had someone shown that full video to my ten year old self, I would be a degenerate living on a street corner, clutching a Bible for dear life and taking speed every night so I wouldn't fall sleep and be exposed to the most vivid, awful nightmares anyone has ever endured. But I would be happy. Because to be truly terrified of supernatural phenomena is to connect with one's inner child. At least that is the way I think.

Alas, I am a grown-up now. And being a grown-up means having to become a skeptical, rational being.

But my God, do I wish it didn't.


Cassie The Venomous said...

I think growing up is, indeed, among the scariest things one can experience.


Melis said...

I didn't hear no skeptic, just you.

Woozie said...

If it helps the word "bullshit" has dominated my thoughts for as long as I can remember.