Elisabeth Strillacci: Are ghosts real?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 19, 2024

By Elisabeth Strillacci

I don’t know how you feel about things that go bump in the night. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to believe in the ghosts that Hollywood has created, that are designed to scare the pants off of us and make us jump at every creak. Or worse, keep us from taking a shower for weeks. After “Psycho,” I know a lot of folks who switched to baths for a while.

But what about the idea that energy, once created, cannot be destroyed? And what are we if not energy?

So when our physical bodies are done, what happens to the energy of our spirit?

I don’t know, and I won’t pretend to. But I also readily acknowledge it’s a question I consider often.

I am a fan of a lot of the ghost shows on television, though I am also not sure there is a single one that’s completely genuine. After all, if you have a television show and a crew spends nights on end shooting video and sound and you get absolutely nothing, that’s not going to bring the ratings. But they are entertainment only.

And yet, I wonder about the times when I have my own very light experiences.

There was the night I was driving back to the beach from Lexington, and it was late and I was taking an unfamiliar route. I was alone in the car, and there were no street lights, and my normally confident mode was askew.

Suddenly the car was filled with the scent my Dad used to wear, Pims powder. No one else I know has ever smelled like him. Yet Dad had passed away.

But I was not anxious anymore. It was as if Dad was riding shotgun with me, and I was calm.

A few nights after I lost one of my dearest friends, I was having a terrible nightmare. Her death not only brought grief, but her family, who had been absent during her long illness, was not kind to me. I was dreaming about being at the wake and people being cruel, making it painfully clear I was not welcome.

And I turned around into the arms of my beloved Grandfather, who was my strength, my champion and my biggest fan.

I could feel the wool of his suit jacket under my fingers, and his blue eyes and dark curly hair were vivid. For the first time since his death many years before, I could hear his voice, crystal clear and I felt him hug me. You can tell me my mind just gave me what I needed, but I have always chosen to believe that he came to me himself in that dream, knowing how much I needed him in that moment.

There are times when I hear my grandmother’s laughter, light, almost fairly-like in its soft tinkling.

There are often moments when I can feel one of my dogs lying by my side, nestled in next to me as he always did in life. I can even hear what we called his “nuffing,” a funny little snuffling noise he used to make.

There are more than these, but they are all subtle, light.

I have always thought that heaven wouldn’t be heaven if those in residence have to spend all their time worrying about things down here on earth. What kind of relief or happiness would that bring?

But somehow I still think there is a connection, and when we need extra reassurance, a bit of faith, some reminders that things are OK, maybe they can cross the veil ever so lightly just to be there.

I also think there is something to energy being left behind. I don’t buy into the whole scary haunting, evil or demonic stuff. Lord knows we humans can be mean and scary enough. But I do think that spaces absorb the energy contained within them, and if there has been a lot of trauma, that energy can be residual. And it can affect us.

We lived once in a large old farmhouse in Connecticut, and I loved that house. But I also know I never had a really restful night’s sleep there. It was more than 100 years old and had likely seen its share of hard times. That energy remained, a sort of restless, vibrating energy that made it hard to relax.

And I will say this much — mom’s house has someone or something that smokes. No neighbors do, no one in the house does, but there have been nights when I have been woken up out of a sound sleep by the strong smell of cigarettes. One night several years ago, I actually called the police to come and make sure someone had not gotten into the house and into the attic. They didn’t find anyone, but the officer confirmed he could smell the smoke.

I have no explanation for that at all.

I will say that I want nothing to do with things like Ouija boards or seances. Maybe they are innocent, but if there is any possibility they could open a door that I don’t know how to close, count me out.

So. Where do you fall on the scale? Do you think it’s all nonsense? My husband is a solid skeptic. I am in the middle, thinking maybe there is something there but not sure what. I have friends who are full believers that ghosts exist, and one or two friends who believe demonic entities are real.

For now, I continue to believe that in moments when I need them the most, I have family members who love me enough to give me little signs that all is well, and I will see them again one day.

Elisabeth Strillacci is former editor of the Salisbury Post.