Guest Column: Response to Paula Hendrickson on Ghost Hunters

In regard to Paula Hendrickson’s piece on the programs Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted—these types of shows are so bogus and over-dramatized that they make your hair hurt. Sure, they might be fun to watch with the lights out, but don’t look for any unadorned enlightenment here. In all fairness, at least the Sci-Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters makes some attempt at being truthful; they try to steer clear of so-called “spirit psychics” who walk around saying things like: “Yes, it happened right here at this very window.” And when the team’s investigations turn up nothing, they come out and admit it.

Not so with the Travel Channel’s Most Haunted. Incredibly, these phony, windblown Hollywood-ized Brits seem to find irked phantoms every time they turn their cameras on. Tables rattle and shake, portraits fly off the wall, and one of the group always screams out on cue and then runs away in the blackness. Every single time, every location they visit. Amazing.

Now, I myself happen to be a big believer in things that sometimes go bump in the night. Always have been. If you believe in the human soul, then be association you should believe in ghosts. Because that’s all they are, lingering traces of people who were once alive. The essence of some dead someone-or-other’s soul, caught in time and cascading to and fro like ripples on a still pond. I grew up reading ghost story accounts and watching such programs, and have so for 40 years. I even put together my own collection of spooky lore from around the stateline area, Ghost Whispers: Tales From Haunted Midway, because of my interest in the subject.

We all know what real ghosts are. They are the glimpse of a departed loved one from the corner of our eye, there and then gone an instant later. They are noises in the dark at the top of the stairs, the whisper of a stilled voice in your ear trying to tell you of undelivered messages, of unresolved wrongs. That breath-stopping moment when a trinket tumbles from its shelf onto the carpet, reminding us of events long forgotten. A brief stirring of perfume maybe, or the curiously familiar touch of something—of someone taken from this world too soon, perhaps—brushing your neck like silken spiderwebs when no one is there.

They are wisps dissipating in the rain and running through your fingers as you watch, not objects whirling through the air like inside little Carol Anne’s bedroom in Poltergeist. And certainly not some pretentious “reality” nitwit flinging themselves about on the floor and shrieking how unseen spirits are biting them all over, and make them stop, make them stop, oh, please won’t somebody make them stop. Give me a break. Fun is fun, but it also detracts from what authentic paranormal truth-seekers have been trying to unlock for centuries now: the mystery of what really lies beyond this fleeting life.

Sometimes the dead do come back, but only in little bits at a time. And not nearly often enough. This I have learned.

Bill Gorman is a lifelong Rockford resident who has researched ghost stories in this area. His book, Ghost Whispers, was published in 2005.

From the Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2006, issue

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