I like to keep an open mind. But frankly, I'm not very good at it. The last few weeks in my lodgings in Tokyo, several of my housemates started talking about a ghost. Apparently, we had a ghost. Strange sounds were heard, and some people got quite scared. I didn't much believe in the ghost in the first place, and when I heard who was the origin of the tales, I believed it even less. One of our residential Aussies is renowned for being full of crap - in a good way - but nevertheless. I confronted him, and normally I'd expect to find him caving to me demanding the truth relatively quickly. But this time he seemed serious. Serious about there being strange sounds.
To me, there is always a rational explanation. We might not know what it is. We might never find out. But that in itself isn't enough to assume that there is a supernatural reason why spirit boards move, why "white ladies" appear in empty houses or why strange sounds are heard in a shared house with 17 people with most varying rhythms and habits. Just sayin' - there are no strange sounds in that environment...
What amazed me more than the fact that people failed to see this connection, however, was that so many of them accepted the paranormal explanation. Normal, rational people - but most of them would readily believe in ghosts. And before you knew it, the house was swarming of stories of walking killer brides, grandmothers that just would not rest in peace, and other scary things. All of a sudden I became something of a misfit in the house, as I was one of the few that insisted that all of this probably had a natural explanation. I was - shockingly - accused of being too logical!
Maybe I am. Maybe I need to open my mind and accept that there are things out there we cannot explain, and that instead of being a sign of human limitations, that is a sign of supernaturalism. Maybe. I had a reminder the other day, though, that I wasn't always this logical.
Being back in my hometown after months abroad always makes me look around to see if there are any major changes. This time there was one. The "haunted house" of my childhood was gone. It's just a house, like any other. But it's been standing empty for decades, and no one has been taking care of it. Gradually, without the proper maintenance, it's been turning into a mere shell of the grand house it once was.
When I was younger, it used to be such a thrill for my friends and me to dare each other to enter the garden. We never even contemplated entering the house. It was haunted, after all. We were convinced.
One friend and I managed to scare ourselves witless one night. Or "night" - it was probably not very late (as we were eleven-ish, we clearly had a curfew). We were out in the garden, it was dark (even with the curfew, Norway gets dark at night in winter-time, and I know it was winter because there was snow). For some reason we decided to make a snowman. But no ordinary snowman, of course. A corpse-snowman...
We made what looked a lot like a female figure, lying down on the ground in the haunted garden. We thought of a story for her - a jealous lover, of course. A tragic death. Burial in the garden (a garden we imagined much like the one from The Secret Garden, by the way - even though it of course was nothing like it). The tale we spun became so vivid to us, that we almost started believing in it. Before we knew it, we thought we saw the murderer on the balcony of the house. We fled the garden in haste, not returning for days.
When we finally returned, the snow had almost melted. Our snowman corpse should have been all gone. But where she had been, the snow had shaped a figure much like the one we made - but much more life-like - out of the rotten grass and leaves underneath it. This time it really looked like a corpse was lying there in the haunted garden.
The stories we had made up came back to us, more scary than ever. And suddenly we were convinced it was a curse - that we were now cursed for having seen the corpse, and that a ghost would then haunt us for the rest of our days!
I haven't seen or heard from this ghost since. Maybe it finally caught up with me in Tokyo. It must have disappointed it greatly to find that I no longer believed in it. By now I am more concerned that the old house the ghost came from finally was torn down. I guess the house could not be saved - in its current condition any renovation would have been futile. But I'm not too keen on what is likely going to be the alternative - some apartment complex, I'm guessing. And I'm a little sorry for future generations of kids who will not get to exercise their imagination in our good, old haunted house.