Standard Deviations: A few ghost stories among Facebook friends
People to invite to your Halloween party: Doctors, lawyers, teachers, bus drivers, retail sales associates, construction workers, food-service employees, accountants, stay-at-home parents, homeless people, unemployed dolphin trainers, Donald Trump, just about anyone else on the planet.
People not to invite to your Halloween party: Scientists.
It pains me to say this, because I find scientists to be some of the most interesting folk on the planet, but they sure can be a buzzkill when it comes to Halloween.
I recently asked friends on Facebook if they believed in ghosts, and if they had any personal ghost stories they’d be willing to share. While several people offered up tales that ranged from the spiritual to the hair-raising, Weber State University physics professor John Armstrong just had to be the one to throw the wet blanket of reason on our fun.
“No,” Armstrong wrote of his belief in ghosts, “because they aren’t real.”
He then posted, “Or let me clarify: no one has ever detected one. Or captured one. Sorry, ghostbusters!”
When someone asked Armstrong if he’d never felt the presence of a departed loved one, he explained: “I think there is a difference between what you feel and what is real. Doesn’t make what you feel less valuable, but you can’t empirically measure the existence of ghosts, therefore they don’t ‘exist.'”
He then added, “But Mark Saal probably didn’t want a physicist answering his question in the first place.”
Michelle Hirschi, of Washington Terrace, says she’s had several experiences with the ghost of her father. A couple of days after her father passed away in 2002, Hirschi was at her parents’ home.
“I was sitting in my dad’s chair, missing him, and he walked in the front door and walked right by me and went down the hall,” she said.
A few weeks later, she was at her own house, sitting on the back stairs because she’d let her dog out and was waiting for him to come back in.
“I felt, like, a presence around me,” she recalls. “All of a sudden I was standing in my kitchen and my dad was there. He was bright, almost glowing, and he put his arms around me and gave me a hug. Then it was dark again and I was sitting back on the stairs. But I could still feel it — you know, where when somebody hugs you and for a little bit you can still feel the hug? It felt like that.”
Kelly White, of Lehi, says she was visiting friends and saw an elderly man standing in their window — who then disappeared. It freaked her out.
“I swear I could feel something/someone standing next to me like a presence,” White says. “I wasn’t scared, but it was a presence and I just said, ‘I seriously think your guys’ house is haunted.’ They didn’t believe me, but I got out of there because I felt weird.”
And the kicker to that story?
“Then, weeks later my friend came up to me and said he and his roommates had started experiencing stuff,” White says. “So they moved out.”
White shares a fun second-hand story, too: “My friend Becky also bought an old house and renovated it. But the first weeks she moved in, she began having dreams about the man who used to live there who had passed away. They were recurring dreams, and he kept asking her to put his name on the (Mormon) temple (prayer) roll.
“She is not even practicing LDS and hasn’t been active for years but kept having this dream! So she called the Bountiful Temple and put his name on the temple roll, and he left her alone.”
A few other believers among Facebook friends:
• “I so so believe in ghosts. I had a virtually non-verbal student who talked with them.” — Carol Gardiner
• “Totally believe … seen a few … felt a few …” — Narlene Allen Story
• “You bet! Had an interesting time with one in an apartment. We even researched her in the SE morgue. She killed herself there during the ’30s. She appeared any time a man was there … because she killed herself after a bad romance.” — Sylvia Carter
• “I believe in ghosts. There’s one that lives in my house who takes care of my house plants.” — Alicia Harris
• “Oh, if this is a ghost story, Mark, here is what happened one year. The students asked me about rumors (at Highland Junior High), specifically one classroom, was haunted. I had heard those rumors, so I went to the teacher who’d taught there for 30 years. He gruffly told me he wouldn’t talk about it, but he knew what he’d seen.” — Lisa Vipperman
• “I’ve come to the conclusion I scare ghosts away.” — Michael Johnson
Now, if we’re being completely honest here, I personally feel the same way professor Armstrong does. I’ve never seen a ghost. Never felt a ghost. Never had a single experience that would lead me to believe ghosts actually exist. But just because I don’t happen to believe in ghosts doesn’t mean I don’t believe in ghost stories. Especially at Halloween.
Oh, and just as a heads up: You’re probably not going to want to invite a scientist to your Christmas party, either.
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.