A large portion of my teenage years were spent traversing the dusty street of a reconstructed pioneer village in Salt Lake City called This is the Place Heritage Park, where I worked as a blacksmith, a school teacher, a gold miner, and general tour guide of old buildings. TITP and I had a good run, and I learned a lot of valuable skills1 there which are all now listed under the “special skills” section of my resume.
I owe TITP many things: my love of history, my slightly whacked psychosis that results from doing a lot of growing up in a different century, and the legend of the last prince of Latvia, for starters. I also owe TITP my enduring fascination with and steadfast belief in ghosts2.
There are many things about this world that I do not understand, and have no desire to. I, like Sherlock Holmes, subscribe to the belief that life is infinitely stranger than the mind of man can invent. The existence of ghosts is one of those things that I will never understand, never have concrete proof for or answers about, and that’s okay – I don’t need to.
Last night, I went ghost hunting in Boston with a group of friends from the YSA. I think I was the only one among them who didn’t make fun of the whole thing. They all went to hear a few scary stories that they could then dismiss as Halloween-y nonsense. I went totally on board with all the stories about the hanging tree and the Boston strangler, and I left with a solid conviction never to set foot on the Boston Common after 2 am.
Boston, as I should have known, is lousy with not just ghosts, but also ridiculously creepy things, like a book made out of human skin and the largest collection of unmarked graves in the country. It has the world’s most haunted hotel3 and a huge cemetery where puritans and witches are buried. And the ghost stories are fantastic. There’s a banshee in the Common, a Red Coat in the T stop, a murdered French ambassador that creeps on girls in the crypt of King’s Chapel, and the old friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne who still hangs out in their old reading room and whose ghost caused Hawthorne to make the only joke of his long-winded career. Really, it’s gloriously spooky. The perfect setting for the days leading up to Halloween4.
I believe in ghosts because I want to. It doesn’t have to do with proof, or those pictures with orbs. I just enjoy believing that there are things in this world that cannot be understood, things that are fantastic and paranormal and downright creepy. And, in the end, like most beliefs, religious or otherwise, who cares if they’re true? I think that anything that gives people some sort of happiness or comfort or thrill, even if it doesn’t end up being true, should be indulged.
- Among them: Stilt walking, forge welding, candle making, pumpkin growing, and old-school laundry.
- I should explain. Most people, after working for an extended period of time in the historic houses here, had an encounter with something otherworldly. After listening to accounts from so many incredibly intelligent people who I have a great deal of respect for recount their own ghost stories with white faces, as well as a few of my own first-hand encounters, it really becomes impossible to believe that there isn’t something going on.
- It’s Stephen King’s favorite place to stay, which should tell you something about it
- It’s also worth noting that, prior to the ghost hunt, I finally got my bowl of New England clam chowder (so good) and saw the fantastic play War Horse. Yesterday was exceptionally good.