Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Truth about Ghost Stories by Jacqueline Seewald

It seems as though ghost stories have been haunting us forever. Whether in a Medieval castle with turrets or the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, stories of ghosts continue as part of literature. The fact is, I’ve written quite a few myself, both in short stories and novels.

Why the continued interest? Sarah Begley in her TIME article appropriately published in the October 31, 2016 issue, discusses GHOSTLAND: An American History in Haunted Places. Author Colin Dickey, is quoted as stating in this nonfiction book that ghost stories reveal “the contours of our anxieties” and “the nature of our collective fears and desires.”

Why are we inclined to want to believe that ghosts or spirits exist beyond death? There’s an old spiritual that says: “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” We would like to believe that we do in fact have souls and the possibility of an afterlife.

The popular 1986 motion picture, Ghostbusters, set off a virtual mania regarding ghost hunting. It was followed by an animated cartoon series which pursued the same theme for children and also met with enthusiasm. And now we have a recent updated adult film with a female cast.

But truth is stranger than fiction. Ghost hunting has become an avid though admittedly unusual hobby for many people. These individuals are joining groups or organizations that hunt for spirits of the dead. Groups are proliferating that attempt to use scientific methods to locate ghosts. In fact, it’s a hobby that many people enjoy throughout the world. These organizations research, photograph, document, and, in some instances, seek to remove those ghosts that have proved inconvenient.

Groups have sprung up across America in such diverse states as: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. From the number of ghost-hunting organizations with websites, there appear to be hundreds of groups with thousands of members worldwide.

International organizations exist everywhere. Their purpose is to find scientific evidence of ghosts and an afterlife. Organizations exist in such places as the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, and Sweden. There have been ghost sightings in Asia, in such far flung locations as Singapore--and in short, the entire world.

Today’s ghost hunting organizations take pride in using the most modern technology possible. A variety of recording and measuring technology are used by ghost hunters who visit haunted houses, graveyards and other eerie locations, attempting to capture empirical evidence of paranormal beings. These ghost hunters utilize the latest in sound, video and still-image recording, as well as sensors that detect changes in temperature, electromagnetic fields and radiation.

Every state, every country, has its own unexplained paranormal spirit phenomena. Many ghost hobby organizations make the distinction that they are not hunting ghosts so much as investigating paranormal phenomena. They even offer to examine private dwellings and businesses for free. One reason these groups shy away from the term ghost hunting is because the term “hunting” suggests the sport or hobby of pursuing something with intent of killing it. The groups merely intend to investigate, carrying out a detailed examination or inquiry, especially with documentation with intent of finding truth, reason, and cause. For the most part, they are ordinary people, curious and fascinated with the paranormal.

The groups take several initial steps when starting an investigation. They use video cameras, digital recorders, heat sensors, and motion and electric magnetic field detectors to record whatever may be happening at a particular site. Clairvoyants also provide their impressions. Psychic mediums serve as a channel between the living and the dead. Eventually, the groups puts together a report and discuss findings with the owner. Group members are known to specialize in electronic voice phenomenon, commonly called EVP; these are voices that supposedly do not come from a human source. Special software is used to determine whether a voice is in human or paranormal range. Findings are then authenticated by experts with a group called Haunted Voices.

The groups consist of volunteers, people with regular jobs who have a serious interest in ghosts. Members range in age from young adults to retirees, and include secretaries, cooks, office workers, crossing guards, a lawyer and computer programmers.  They take investigations seriously, but also have fun together. They are not glory-hunters. In fact, they are conscientious about maintaining client confidentiality when investigating a potential haunting. They do not disclose exact locations.

Supposedly, there is a difference between “spirits” who died in a normal way and can communicate and move around and ghosts whose souls do not know they’re dead. In the case of the ghosts, they are believed to have died tragically and are stuck in space and time and can’t move or go from place to place; they don’t understand their predicament and need help in order to move on. Unlike poltergeists, who are nasty, and know they’re dead, ghosts don’t harm the living.

Do average people really believe in “spooks”? It appears that worldwide interest in the paranormal will not soon abate. Many people would like to believe there is an afterlife, a beyond. Ghost researching continues to remain an enthusiastic leisure activity for hobbyists.

As for me, I’ve written about the legends of the Jersey Devil in my co-authored novel THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY.

My Gothic romance DARK MOON RISING involves a ghost story—two in fact.

Some of my short ghost stories have appeared in the anthologies:  BETWEEN THERE, VOL. 2, LIVING DEAD, and MISSOURI GHOST STORIES as well as such magazines as BLIGHT and HYPNOS.

If you are a writer, do you write ghost stories? Tell us something about your most recent work in the genre. As a reader are there any ghost stories you would recommend to fellow readers?



  1. I don't write ghost stories but, in a couple of my books, my characters have experiences that lead them to question the existence of ghosts.
    I've enjoyed your books, Jacquie, and, although I don't read a lot of ghost stories, by coincidence I'm reading one now. "Ghost Across the Water" by Dorothy Bodoin. I definitely recommend it!

    1. Pat,

      Thanks for the comment and the recommendation!

  2. Such great information, Jacquie
    Thanks for sharing!
    Good luck and God's blessings

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the information. I thought it might be interesting.

  4. You can add Virginia to the list of states with ghost-busters. Since we've been around from the beginning of American roots, we have a lonnnngggg history peppered with ghosts and spirits of every stripe. Nice post!

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yes, those of us who live in the original 13 colonies have ghost legends that go way back to Colonial times. I have a wonderful book called WEIRD NJ that's loaded with fascinating ghost stories.

  5. I used to live in a haunted house.


  6. Jacquie, I LOVE ghost stories! I do write a few, and have a popular Christmas story available now titled "Holly, Hemlock & Mistletoe." I love the tradition of telling ghost stories around the holidays. I can't even say that I believe in ghosts, but there's something about that kind of story that touches me like almost no other genre of fiction. After moving into my 1930s house, I started making notes for a ghosty novel, but it's slow going so far.

    1. Hi Bobbi,

      Christmas stories make for great ghost stories. I have one too entitled "Spirit" just published in the Fall issue of NEW ZENITH MAGAZINE. They do affect out emotions.