Not just Halloween Half an hour early, I watched the ghost hunting team set up their presentation about spirits they’d discovered and recorded in historical Carter’s Tavern on River Road near South Boston, Virginia. Again and again, a recording made at that 200 year old site was being played to set sound levels. Thanks to Halloween, ghost busters and ordinary members of the Historical Society were gathered together in the pews of one of our city’s oldest (former) churches. In that venue, with its stiff antique chairs on its unadorned wooden altar, spirits seemed to lurk then jump off the unfurled screen.
As soon as the event began, a narrator from the Society made clear its role in the presentation. Slides and histories of the area and its many well-preserved homes and taverns provided a perspective. “This is the Meriwether House,” she began.
What followed was a replay of what I’d heard earlier along with a detailed explanation of how the investigators had become involved with Carter’s Tavern. Although the Carter spirit’s incantations were impossible to ignore, another recording at a less historic site was much more impressive.
And spooky. In the dark church, I was reminded of scary stories told around campfires and my real life adventure at a place called The Monroe Institute.
Due to a tragedy, the stabbing death of their almost twenty-year old nephew, a couple had asked the spirit investigators to try to detect the presence of their nephew’s spirit. Moments after the scratchy recording began, spoken words were clearly audible. “Anybody home?” said a disconnected voice.
“I didn’t know the significance of that,” said the investigator. “But the couple told me that was not only the voice of their nephew, but it was also what they had heard him say each time he entered their home because he always entered without knocking.”
I listened again; I imagined the nephew. His voice sounded kind and inoffensive; his murder happened little more than a year ago. I shuddered; each year at Passover, Jewish children are taught to open the door for the spirit Elijah. Suddenly, I wondered whether Elijah had ever really made his presence known.
Although I didn’t mention Elijah, I asked whether people might have been more sensitive to receiving waves on which spirits’ voices travel before we were inundated with those of radio and television. Because of what I just heard, that had become something to consider.
“There are members of our group who are sensitive to spirits,” answered one of the presenters.
“Are any of them here?” I asked.
“Yes,” came the answer after a moment’s hesitation.
“Would they be willing to speak?”
With that, there was a nod to the woman sitting in front of me. “She can. Would you mind speaking?”
“No,” she answered. She rose and explained that she’d been aware of her ability since she was fourteen. “I’m twenty-eight now,” she said.
For a few minutes, she spoke. The room grew quiet; there were no more questions. Lights were turned on. People started to exit.
I didn’t. “I’d like to join your group,” I said to Michelle, the woman who sensed spirits.
“Let’s talk,” she said, as she slipped from her pew and walked around to mine. “Tell me about your experiences.”
“It started at The Monroe Institute,” I began. “Monroe was famous for his work with learning about and teaching how to have out-of-body experiences. I enrolled in his week long course at his place in the mountains near Lynchburg, VA.”
One of the presenters interrupted us. He needed to speak to Michelle. “Be there in a minute,” she said. In a kind way, she let me know that was all the time I had.
“Each of us had our own room,” I said. “In it, we listened to tapes Monroe had created. I practiced as he instructed and had a slight out of body experience. The next day, while in a trance like state, I looked up at the ceiling in my room and saw the image of a woman there. She was looking down at me, smiling. I recognized her as one of the other people in our group.”
“Were you projecting?” Michelle asked in a way that seemed to suggest I was seeing what I’d wanted to see.
“That’s what I thought,” I said, “so I dismissed my sighting as my imagination at work.” I paused and noticed she was staring at me, as if eager for me to finish. So I did.
“I left my room and went to the cafeteria. All of us met there after our private meditative sessions. Listening to the speaker, I sat without expecting the tap on my shoulder. Surprised by that, I quickly turned and saw the woman I had seen near my ceiling.” I stopped and looked in Michelle’s eyes.
She was listening intently.
I continued. “She told me that she had come to visit me and asked whether I had seen her.”
Michelle smiled as she slipped away. She understood what had happened to me. At least it seemed that way.
I’ll know when I’m made a member of the club.
B. Koplen 10/25/12
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