CREEPY CORNER: Why Do You Believe in Ghosts?

This is one of the basic questions we in the Creepy Corner have all asked ourselves — kinda how we all got here. Why not share your Creepy Corner "origin story"?
Publish date:
December 7, 2016
creepy corner, spooky stuff, ghost stories, beliefs, family

What brought you to believe in ghosts? Or, at the very least, have an interest in ghostly things?

I know not all of you in the Creepy Corner do, and that's a-OK with me. Not believing in ghosts, the supernatural, paranormal, unexplained, etc. doesn't mean you can't appreciate a good scary story (and doesn't mean that you don't hide under the covers).

Skeptics keep the Corner balanced. When I'm writing about something that lurks in the deep end of the spooky pool, keeping you resident skeptics in mind is what stops me from teetering all the way into "OH MY GREAT KITTEN IN THE SKY, EVERYTHING IS A SHADOW PERSON AND WE'RE ALL POSSESSED."

Because at my core, I believe in ghosts. ("Doy," says everyone in the Creepy Corner.)

For me, I think it's cultural more than anything else, at least it started that way. I cannot remember a time when the stories I was told as a little girl didn't involve spirits or ancestors reaching out from the past. Never was I told that there were "No such thing as ghosts." Rather I was told stories that explained to me, in a way I could understand, how the dead are a part of life.

I didn't have the sort of awareness or vocabulary to explain how I understood ghosts and our relationship with the dead, but never were the dead a simply scary thing. They were more complicated than that. Yes, ghosts could be scary and the dead could be frightening, but that didn't mean they only existed in those capacities.

My mom would tell me how her grandmother, the kindest woman she'd ever known, was a "good spirit" that she watched over me whether I could see her or not. I never knew my great-grandmother, but I've always felt a connection to her. Sometimes I forget that I've never met her, I feel like I have; take that as you will.

In a way, the lessons I was taught about ghosts parallel the lessons I was taught about people: Some spirits are good, some are not so good – just like people. You will encounter both in your life. But if you're thoughtful, smart, and respectful, you'll be OK. Simplified life lessons for a small child, but whether I'm dealing with shadows in the night or my next-door neighbors, they still apply.

Of course, beyond life lessons of "how to be nice to the living and the dead", ghosts were (and are) exciting.

My warmest memories were of the grown-ups sitting around a living room or dinner table and dishing on eerie happenings well into the night.

Like cats to tuna, the kids would slowly find their way into the hallway outside the kitchen or onto the floor of the living room to listen in on those stories. Always about some old friend or family member from "back in the day", those stories kept me up well past my bedtime. Not because I was necessarily scared (though I was often scared), but because for those few hours my family and culture was mysterious, better-than-TV, and despite the subject matter, alive.

Somewhere during those formative years spent perched on the hallway stairs with my cousins, listening to my mom and uncle punctuate the story of "how Auntie see's ghosts" or "Daai Gu Ma's haunted mansion" with sharp clicks of the tongue or PERFECTLY silent pauses, my safe place and my "creepy corner" became one and the same.

That's not to say that ghosts didn't frighten me, even if they felt like family. Like that intimidating relative who never talks, never smiles, and always makes you want to hide behind your dog, I wished I didn't have to know about some ghosts.

The first time I remember being gobsmacked in the face with the understanding that, "HOLY SHIT GHOSTS ARE DEAD PEOPLE WHO ARE STILL WALKING AROUND WITH US," was when I was a Very Young Louise staying at my Mar Mar's house.

I think I was around five, it was one of the summers that my family and I had gone back to Hong Kong. My Mar Mar's house was big, old, and but comfy. The blue velvet couch in the sitting room was faded from raising generations of children, as well as from decades of entertaining family and friends. Her house was the center of the Hung family, and she was the heart.

The house had wood floors buffed to a sheen by decades of relatives come and gone, and you could hear everybody walking around the house whether your door was open or not; my cousin coming and going from work, the domestic helpers cleaning, Mar Mar's distinct padded walk in her house slippers.

At night I'd hear people walking around too. Sometimes it was my dad staying up late chatting with his sisters or cousins – each of them moving in turn between the kitchen, sitting room, and liquor cabinet. I'd could hear the accompanying crinkle of plastic peanut bags or the clink of ice in glasses.

But once or twice I do remember waking up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep to hear the odd someone walking around. I'd hear my Mar Mar snoring and the peaceful sleep-breathing of my mom, but under that was the soft, reverberating thud of footsteps just beyond the bedroom door, in the sitting room.

Lying in the dark, looking at the driveway light that illuminated my Mar Mar's room, I wondered who was walking around so late. Were my cousins coming home late from wherever grown-ups went at night? Was my aunt getting a glass of water? Why could I only hear a few steps...then a few steps more?

Those first couple times I heard the footsteps, I felt relief. Relief that someone else was awake in the middle of the night, and that I wasn't quite alone. Those footsteps eased me back into sleep.

It didn't occur to me to mention the footsteps to anyone until a few days later when my mom remarked to my dad that she had heard his father (long deceased) walking around last night. They both chuckled, and my dad pressed her for details.

She just laughed and said she heard footsteps in the middle of the night in the house. Not totally following what they were talking about, I piped up that I too had heard footsteps.

My mom looked hard at me, ever so slightly squinting her eyes. It's a look I've come to know as the one she gives me when she can't decide whether to believe me or not.

"You have? When?" she asked.

"In the middle of the night."

"Aauuughh-ah," she made her noise. She rattled off something to my dad in Cantonese that roughly translated to, "Ai-yah, this one freaks me out!" before turning to me and saying, "You hear grandfather, he's checking on things at night!"

She must have seen the slow-motion progression of confusion then understanding then "What the holy Hell?!" come over my face, because she quickly added, "Or it was your cousin coming home. From partying." Then exasperated that my eyes were bugging out of my head, "Oh Louise! There's nothing to be scared of! It's just family."

And that's when the "reality" of ghosts, or my belief in them, really hit me. That's when I think I BELIEVED.

I'll admit that the exchange between my mom and me is not verbatim. I don't remember her words exactly, I only remember the very vivid and new feelings. While I'd always enjoyed ghosts and ghost stories and thoughtlessly accepted them as truth, that small moment with my mom, talking about my grandfather and what may-or-may-not have been his disembodied footsteps, made everything "click" for me.

The only other time I felt like that as a kid was the first time I fully comprehended what death was. Both times I could feel a little piece of childhood being shed; life came into focus a little more. My memories are markedly clearer, more detailed after each event.

Growing up is grand and horrible.

So that's why I believe in ghosts. It seems they've been swirling around me from day one.

I'm genuinely curious Creepy Corneristas, why do you believe in ghosts? What got you there? Was there an event that made you believe? Did something change your mind?

Or are you like me and were just born into it?

And if you're not sure what you believe, what keeps you on the fence?

This is one of the basic questions we in the Creepy Corner have all asked ourselves, kinda how we all got here. Why not share your Creepy Corner "origin story"?

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