By KATHERINA DEITER
People are mesmerized by the unknown. The cryptic reasons behind the disturbing noises that echo in empty halls in our houses at night and the brush of a hand on the back of our necks frighten us, and at the same time, intrigue us as curious beings. Science says people are probably experiencing a range of phenomenon, such as pareidolia in which the person “seeing” a ghost is simply recognizing a face-like image.
However, it is hard to shake the shadows we catch in our peripheral vision and the sense of something lurking behind the shower curtain. Various kinds of supernatural beings present themselves in folklore and ghost stories, namely shadow people and spirits.
To get a better understanding of ever-elusive ghosts and creepy things, I spoke to Seth Browder, a Reiki master and medium who has a vast knowledge of the supernatural. Browder described “ninety nine percent” of ghosts as “actually harmless” beings who will communicate openly if they know how to.
Browder explained ghosts as either a residual energy of spirits that chose to stay earth bound, or if a suicide they are stuck, replaying all they know over and over.
“I’ve grown up around accepting spirits, the supernatural and all that,” said Browder. “My family also has medium gifts so it was always the norm for me.”
For reference, mediums are people who can purportedly mediate conversation between the living and the dead, have been around since biblical times.
Furthermore, there are many who are not self-described mediums but claim to see spirits and supernatural entities. Some of these beings come to them in dreams while others seem to show up when the person is experiencing a certain emotion. Why these beings choose to show themselves to some but not others remains a mystery, but these individuals were brave enough to share their experiences.
Tricksters and Playful Spirits
IAIA student Emily Peck was the first to approach me with her stories.
“I’m from England, which is an old country,” Peck said. “Our family house that we have owned for almost fourteen years is over seven hundred years old. The house has a lot of history and stories that we inherited! I had an imaginary friend named Sarah when I first moved into the house when I was six.
Later on in her life, Sarah simply vanished.
“I learnt that a little girl named Sarah died on our land She fell down a well that still exists!”
Peck added that she has also had a run-in with shadow people.
During a family vacation in Orlando, Florida, she described staying in a small villa where “weird stuff began to happen.”
“Our cameras went missing,” she said. “There was a visitor’s book on the coffee table. Every person has entered things like ”˜Our camera went missing,’ or ”˜We couldn’t find our car keys.”
According to Peck, the housing plot was built on a Native American burial site. The shadow people would take the cameras because they didn’t like their photos being taken!”
Shadow people are described by Browder as “the bitches of the spirit world.” They are a very common occurrence in homes and structures that have had a traumatic past. This includes domestic violence or death, to Browder’s knowledge of them
A well-known shadow person is a phenomenon across the globe. “The Man in the Hat” takes the form of a tall man in a top hat. He is described as sometimes having glowing eyes, and other times, no facial features at all. He is known to choke people, which is when the victim usually then wakes up and sees him.
Shadow people such as The Man in the Hat are said to be one of two things: A person who has been dead for so long that they have lost their identity, or the scarier alternative, a demon.
“Shadow people feed and grow off of fear and energy of the living, be it humans or animals,” Browder said. “They cause havoc and health issues. They prey on all that is innocent. They don’t like being seen by us mediums because we can send them away”
IAIA student Alyssa Williams recalled an especially traumatic experience with shadow people.
“I remember when I was about twelve, and we had a lot of issues going on in the home. I fell asleep one night and awoke experiencing sleep paralysis. On top of that, I was screaming. I guess the screaming was in my head because my dad didn’t hear it from the next room over.”
Williams described feeling fear but not being able to move.
“There was a shadow of a man in the corner where my door was,” she said. “I awoke because I felt someone opening my door.”
Williams tried to move and yell to wake herself up, but she was confused because it felt like she was awake but her body wouldn’t respond.
This led Williams to believe she was awakened by a shadow or spirit that “just watched me and stood there until I started to calm down and managed to wake myself up.”
Williams experienced another run-in with the spirit world recently.
“I fell asleep, but again the same presence of fear arose and this time the shadow was short like maybe only four feet tall. It was at my closet door and then suddenly appeared right next to the bed. Once again, I tried to wake myself up from this ”˜dream’ or whatever it was.”
Williams noted that when things in her life “become a bit dim” or when there are times of high emotional stress, the spirits tend to pay her a visit.
“I think it’s the dark or negative energies visiting me,” she said.
A Lifetime of Ghosts
The final person interviewed for this piece is Santa Monica College student, Hazel Moon. I went to high school with her and she contacted me when she heard I was doing a blog about spirits. Moon’s ghosts have followed her throughout her life. Even as a small child, Moon describes not feeling alone most of the time and being able to feel things following her and even being able to see them.
The forms they come in can vary, she explained.
“Sometimes there’s nothing to see, just things moving with nothing to explain what’s actually moving them, or it can just look like energy moving, and other times they can take on full forms, meaning you can see full people.”
However, Moon only started seeing full ghosts when she was in high school.
“Idyllwild is where I began to see them consistently,” she said. “Once I ran into the ghost of an old lady on Husch path. There was a girl in the darkroom who I’d see occasionally, others lingered on the edge of campus.”
Moon described her biggest supernatural “hoorah” as an attached entity that could partially control her for six years of her life.
As for shadow people, Moon described them as feeling “a lot like ghosts except that they don’t seem to be.”
“All I know is that when there’s one around, it feels a lot darker, heavier. When I’ve had a shadow person following me, it can often throw me into a depression. It’s like in a cartoon when there’s a single raincloud following one person.”
A Way to Cope Or a Visit from the Dead?
Accounts of the supernatural span the globe with frightening similarity that can baffle even the most skeptical among us. Shadow people and spirits wind up in family stories and books, even religious ones.
But are these beings real? This is a question that has haunted the mind of humans since they became aware of their own mortality. Perhaps they are a way of coping with the thought of life after death or maybe, that thing that goes “bump” in the night is just a relative letting you feel their presence.
Some entities, as we saw in the story above, might not have ever been human, but are dark spirits that hover above us like rainclouds when we go through tough times. No one can know for sure unless they have experienced contact with these beings, but it never hurts to keep an open mind and a smudge stick!
(Featured Image: Other Side Photo Credit by Matteo Rigosa)