Living on Clinch Avenue in a 100-year-old house convinces me of ghostly presences in our midst, and not just on Halloween. A weekend alone in a large house is a sure-fire recipe for goosebumps.
On more than one occasion, and with more than one witness, there have unquestionably been footsteps coming from inside the house. Upon investigation, nobody can be found. Also, on more than one occasion, our kitchen buzzer has gone off with nobody touching the stove all day. The most disturbing account happened when the house was empty of my roommates and I was shooting the breeze with a visiting friend during Christmas vacation. As we rounded my stairs and turned into the kitchen, the buzzer immediately began going off, as if our presence alone had turned it on.
My 21st century pals tell me paranoia explains my own psychological hallucinations. Perhaps science could explain the foosteps. But no one can coerce me into believing the timer was a figment of multiple imaginations; that is simply insufficient justification for the timely, or untimely, kitchen buzzer.
Ghosts have become a thing of the past, acceptable only as a symbol of Halloween. But their rich and vast history shows that, like me, others have tried to explain the unexplainable.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "ghost" once meant spirit or spiritus, which is the Greek word for breath. Ghost presumably got its sheer, white, airy qualities from cold breath that turns white outside the body, contributing to both the substance of a ghost and its attached spirit.
Homer's "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" both contain ghosts composed of glittering vapor. Homer did not seem afraid of them, but merely called upon them for prophetic vision.
R.C. Finucane, who wrote a book called "Ghosts," states that by the fifth century, classical Greek ghosts begin to show up as frightening spirits who did both good and evil work, lingering around the bodies of those they left.
During the Middle Ages ghosts fell under one of two categories: demons or souls of the dead. They could be distinguished between by the calling of Jesus Christ's name, as demons would be fearful of the sound and vanish, while souls of the dead would verbalize the purpose of their appearance.
By the late 18th century a new profession emerged. Mediums are people that are thought to be powerful enough to call upon the dead to communicate with the living.
Now, in our scientific era, a blame-shift has occurred that changes from pointing fingers at outside magical phenomenon to suggesting the explanation is all in our own heads.
Science and parents have comforted us with soothing words about the way things are, and how having a ghost in your house is impossible. Considering the number of historical accounts of "visited" citizens, we create our own culturally relevant explanations for things unbelievable.
My explanation for the buzzer in my kitchen is simple. It was a spirit. I don't think I'm silly or uneducated to believe so. Science tells me it's improbable while history and my own experience tells me it is within the bounds of reality. My house is old, and my mind is willing to believe.
In this way, magic has become a placebo — proving real only to those who are open to believe in it. Could our ancestors have seen ghosts and spirits simply because they believed in them? Do we miss out on these phantoms because science doesn't have room for them?
Halloween is around the corner. If you really want to freak yourself out, believe in ghosts. Maybe, as your mind opens to the possibility, you'll be graced by an other-worldly visitor.
Julie Mrozinski is a junior in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.