Monday, October 19, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The paranormal, the mysteries of life and the things that go "bump" have been known to keep me up at night. I know I'm not the only one, and while during the daylight hours I always think I was being silly the night before, the wee hours of the morning, when I've had little sleep, have a way of amplifying my fear while suspending my logic.

I knew I would want to tackle this subject eventually, and I thought that with Halloween looming, this would be as good a time as any.

I was married in Salem, Massachusetts. And though the historic witch trials only took up fifteen months of the city's nearly 384-year history, you would think it was all that had ever happened there. (Actually, the trials took place in neighboring town of Danvers). Don't get me wrong, there are a few museums and landmarks in Salem not devoted to the trials, (The House of the Seven Gables, Maritime Center, Pirate Museum, Peabody-Essex Museum), the town seems to be dedicated to the dark spot on its resume.

We were married in Salem mostly because it's a beautiful, surprisingly friendly (given its proximity to Boston) and liberal town. A gay marriage ceremony in the town square did not bring protests, or even a batted eyelid. But the place is dotted with magic shops, witch museums, haunted houses, ghost walks, and a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery in the town square. There's even a museum dedicated to Lizzie Bordon, which is odd, since the infamous ax murders took place in Fall River, 70 miles to the South. But these are things that bring in the money. These tourist traps are what make Salem a Halloween Mecca and a trip to Salem a veritable Hajj for Wiccans and their ilk.

Why does this otherwise beautiful town need to focus on a piece of history that could be considered shameful and embarrassing? Again - money talks. And why does the the lure of the supernatural draw so many visitors?

I've had my fair share of odd experiences, unexplainable events. I'm a jinx around electronics. Recently my password to our reservations system at work was expiring every hour or so, for no good reason. I didn't think much about it at the time, but the same thing has happened to my email accounts at work, my voice mail, and even the desktop to my computer. Coupled with my experiences of what some in the old south call a "hagging" (though I never saw the thing, as it really just consisted of my being awake but unable to move, and have since read up on many reasonable explanations), dreams that seem to come true during the day in one form or another, (though always in hindsight, and anything is open to interpretation) and just general weirdness that seems to surround me, I tend to raise an eyebrow when anything out of the ordinary occurs. My life has always been full of odd coincidences, feelings of not being alone, (again scientifically explainable), and just about a weekly bout of serious deja vu. But I don't obsess over them. Obsessing over these things will not solve their collective mystery. I've never found a reason for any of these things, and I likely never will. I'm not worried about it in the slightest. I kind of like not knowing when it comes to these things, at least not concretely.

But it's still fun to ponder the unexplainable from time to time. Why?

It's widely known that during times of strife and unrest people flock to the movies more often. Television programs like Heroes, Lost and Smallville do very well. More interestingly, programs that more closely resemble our lives, (relatively speaking of course) like Desperate Housewives, House, Brothers & Sisters, etc.. do equally well, if not better. They require less effort to engage, less suspension of reality. They allow escapism to be easy, make light work of taking us to another universe, just one that doesn't happen to be populated by aliens or ghosts, unless they choose to "jump the shark." We can escape into others' lives, and not feel like we're watching fantasy - though we are.

Is this a healthy outlet? It could be that by allowing ourselves to become absorbed in these very-recognizable universes such as Wisteria Lane, we subconsciously find solutions to our own real-life problems, as they're extrapolated into a preposterous situation in our 42" worlds. We crave the catharsis, the reaching of a conclusion to an impossible situation in an hour. We can easily become addicted to that catharsis when in life we haven't reached those solutions ourselves.

Some likely think their lives are too boring, or more seriously may be afraid to examine their own lives more closely. Dangerously, television can fill that gap nicely, if you let it.

What does this have to do with the obsession by some in the paranormal? Absolutely everything.

By focusing on life's mysteries, we suspend our own realities. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, to some is what drinking is to others - holding the clutches of the real world at arm's length just long enough to get some sweet escapist relief. Eventually though, the movie ends and the lights come back on. You can buy another ticket and go back in for another feature, but the theater will have to eventually close.

This isn't always the case - there are countless aspiring Fox Mulders out in the world who really do wish to find the truth of these seemingly other-worldly events through observation, experimentation and analysis. Their motives may not be escapism, but then again, their motives may be no less than to reel their projected fantasy world into reality by using logic. Just a thought.

So why does all this hold my interest? Into which category to I belong? I think I need to know that there is more going on. This is by no means an uncommon need.

The incidents I mentioned in my life above, and maybe a little more, are enough to tell me that there is in fact much more to life than what we see. Maybe those bumps we hear in the night are knocks on our doors. Maybe if there are unknown intelligences 'out there,' our mere suspicion of their existence keeps some of us going through the darkest times of our lives.

I'm not going to delve into my personal belief system here, but when there are events in life that can't be explained, you can do one of three things: You can ignore and dismiss them, you can obsess over them and lose sleep over research, or you can simply go with your gut. The third option is where I fall. To me this makes the most sense - answer the questions of life's outer mysteries with your own inner ones. Isn't this why human intuition exists, to fill the gaps logic can't?

It's a pretty big world out there, and it's arrogance to believe we've done more than just begin to scratch the surface. Last week a mysterious ribbon of particles were discovered at the edge of our solar system, by the way, like the rest of the universe, is full of matter that we also can't explain or even identify ). We can't even fully explain gravity. We haven't yet begun.

Bumps in the night should not surprise us.

Maybe that bump in the night is a knock at the door. Maybe it's a knock that comes late at night, in the darkest hour before the sun illuminates the real world in the morning. Maybe you answer the knock, and nobody is there.

And maybe the one who knocked just wanted to know if you were paying attention.

Happy Halloween!


Will Shealy said...


emcalhany said...

Sometimes it's therapeutic to suspend your sense of reality and enjoy some sci-fi/spookiness. I am currently reading a novel, "The Sparrow," which was described to me as "spiritual science fiction" - two of my least favorite genres, but it is kind of refreshing to turn off the critical thinking part of my brain and just enjoy.

Sherry at EX Marks the Spot said...

I've had some odd experiences but I don't think there's a reality show out there that comes close to my life. Thank goodness. My life would never make it through a fullk season anyway.