Thursday, July 21, 2011

Living with Ghosts

I like a good ghost story. Not a gory tale of zombies and slashers, but an old fashioned ghost story passed down through generations of storytellers. Chicago has her share of resident ghosts, the Lady in White, The Italian Bride, the Devil Baby and back in the late 90's Chicago ghosts were popular due to the publication of Chicago Haunts: Ghostlore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski. I saw Ms. Bielski speak at a few Chicago libraries back then around Halloween and learned a few ghost stories I hadn't heard before. Many of the stories she has in her book are well known to Chicagoans and always fun to revisit.

In 1995 a friend and I spent a night or 2 exploring one of the most haunted (supposedly) locations in the country, Bachelors Grove Cemetery. This small hard to find abandoned cemetery has been the subject of more than a few TV spots on hauntings, included in many books on ghosts and paranormal activity and regularly included on people's creepiest destinations list. Now in 1995 there were no websites about hauntings or Google maps directions to the cemetery. We didn't have cell phones connected to the Internet or tiny cameras in our pockets. You could only find the cemetery if you had heard about it and went with someone who could find it. So we went, I didn't see any ghosts or feel anything brush by my shoulder. But it was a strange place. Now there is so much online about the cemetery, videos, supposed ghost pictures etc, you really don't even need to venture out of the house to find out more about it.

I couldn't sleep 1 night this week so I got up, made myself a cup of tea and turned on the TV to watch the news. Instead I found one of those ghost hunting shows and watched for awhile until I realized how scripted it was and turned it off. It got me to thinking though. Not so much about ghosts (which I fully believe in by the way), but about what people leave behind when they leave a place. Is there an energy a person leaves behind in a location where they loved deeply or met a tragic end? And what about when someone just leaves, what is left behind?

When you've left a place, you leave your routine, your things might remain in your former residence, and then...what happens to the person you left behind? I imagine it like Miss Havisham, the tragic jilted bride from Charles Dickens Great Expectations. After being left on her wedding day, she stops all the clocks, never removes her wedding dress and retreats into her mansion. She lives with the ghosts of memories. I suppose that when a relationship ends either through a breakup or a death something is always left behind. If someone remains in the home, with the personal possessions and the routine, and still visits the same restaurants and takes the same vacations, it's like living with ghosts.

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