Historic buildings and houses have always fascinated me. Their walls have absorbed so many human emotions and interactions that each one could be its own library or book store if those stories could somehow be harvested. Paranormal groups spend time looking for folks who still occupy old structures, and sometimes they make some pretty interesting finds. Even when they score an apparition or a recording of a disembodied voice, though, they don’t know why someone cared enough to stick around in that particular place.
Since old buildings are so much fun, I recently launched a blog that details the history of the older, preserved buildings in our town. It’s been a great experience, so far. I’ve found natives and long-time residents who are more than willing to share their memories about particular buildings and events related to them. Then come deed searches and the hunt for old photographs showing the structure as it was in previous decades. Most people see research as a boring activity carried out by tweed-bound academics in dusty stacks of books or on rarely visited internet sites. Not even close.
Part of researching and documenting the history of a building is poking around taking pictures. That usually gives me time to listen to a building, too. Most are trying to tell their stories; they just need someone who can hear them. A couple of weeks ago, the blog featured a home built in 1875. I spent an hour or so studying the place and getting the photos I wanted. Only one family ever lived there, and if I had to describe its personality, I would say it’s quiet, content being what it is. Even so, it still stories to tell.
The three pictures of the fireplace were taken in the master bedroom, all from the same spot, all within a twenty or thirty second time frame. I wasn’t using a flash of any kind, and curtains were drawn over the windows, so I haven’t come up with a good explanation for that smear of light in the middle photo. Some folks have said it’s just some weird trick of the camera lens. Others have said it’s a ghost, maybe even a paranormal orb. It seems a lot of people spend years trying to capture an orb on film.
As I spent time trying to figure out what kind of trick my lens had pulled, I got to thinking about all the possible paranormal explanations. What if it is a ghost? Why was he or she there? Was it trying to tell me? Was it trying to warn me about something? Was it wondering what the hell I was doing in its bedroom and attempting to shoo me away? Was it curious about what I was doing? Then, I thought about the fact that we all will die, and maybe I’ll be a ghost, or a haint, or an orb one day.
Some folks are sure that we simply snuff out when our hearts stop beating. Others believe we go to a holding place like a spiritual warehouse and distribution center, waiting to be shipped out to our final destination. Some insist we all go immediately to heaven. Others say some go straight to heaven and some straight to hell. Reincarnation is a popular belief, starting over as something or someone else when we die. So what would it be like to be a ghost, or a manifested spirit of some type, waiting to start over or move on?
Do ethereal beings spend their days watching those of us who show up on their turf? Are our private moments really private? Are ghosts nothing more than spiritual voyeurs? That might be fun for a day or so, but a constant diet of live reality TV doesn’t give us much to aspire to. Maybe they stick around to get a final message to a loved one. If that’s the case, it must be frustrating floating around all the time, trying to communicate with someone who probably doesn’t even believe you exist. Maybe they’re lost, as some insist. I hope that’s not the case. I’ve been lost most of my life; I have no desire for my death to play out the same way.
Maybe one day we’ll know all the answers. My guess is that, at that point, we won’t care. But, while we’re here, how cool would it be to find a way for these ghosts, spirits, apparitions, or whatever to tell their stories? What truths could we learn about ourselves from their hindsight? How many regrets of our own could we avoid if we learned about theirs? Maybe they could even tell us how to mine the stories buried in the walls and floors and ceilings of the old buildings.
It’s nuts, I know, so go ahead and laugh. Just remember, people laughed at airplanes, spaceships, and cell phones, too.
If you enjoy history, the address for the historical blog is http://www.historicmckinney.wordpress.com. Stop in to visit.