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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Do you believe in ghosts? Book Club Discussion #1

This is the first in a series of blogs for book clubs and discussion groups who are reading my book, A Thin Slice of Heaven. Weigh in below, or send me an email through my website letting me know the results of your book club or group discussion.

Discussion #1 : Do You Believe in Ghosts?

More people believe in ghosts than at any other time in recent history, according to a series of polls. In the United Kingdom, one poll showed that twice as many people believed in ghosts than believed in God. In another poll, 23% of people said they had actually seen or encountered a ghost. Some people refer to them as spirits; others as guardian angels; sometimes as vengeful or fallen angels. Some believe they are demonic while others believe they can do no harm except psychological.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

I have - many times. One of my earliest memories was lying in bed with my mother and siblings when a man appeared in the room. We all saw him. My mother began calling for my father and the moment he walked into the room, the man disappeared. Two days later, she received a call that the man we'd all seen had died at approximately the same time we witnessed his apparition.

In a more recent sighting, I was visiting a friend who was giving me a tour of her home. When we reached the master bedroom, I could clearly see a man sitting in the corner of the room, his head in his hands, moaning about how he could not stand the pain. When I asked my friend if she saw him, he rose from the chair and flew across the room, shouting, "You can see me? You can see me?" I am quite certain I have never moved so fast in my life. I don't believe my feet touched the floor in my efforts to get out of there. I learned later that my friend had purchased the house after the previous occupant had killed himself in that room, in that very chair in the corner. He had a fatal illness which left him in so much pain that even morphine could not help him. In a moment of great anguish, he shot and killed himself.

Do you know anyone who has ever seen a ghost?

There are a number of stories that abound in the town I live in.

Years ago in the area that is now a courtyard outside the public library, dances used to be held. Imagine women in long gowns and men in dapper suits; old-fashioned courting and live music. The dances were long ago suspended, the area redesigned as a courtyard, and the library expanded. Yet on summer nights around the witching hour, you can still see people dancing in that area as if it was the turn of the 20th century.

The historic theater also has stories about ghosts, including the Lady in White that I tell about in my suspense, Vicki's Key. She appears in the balcony and walks across it as though she was as real as you or I... and then she disappears into the opposite wall.

Have you ever felt as if a place was haunted?

There is a home in town that is rumored to be haunted. The lady who once lived there reported hearing children's footsteps and laughter on the second floor when she was in bed on the first floor. Yet each time she checked, the house was vacant except for herself.

In A Thin Slice of Heaven, a castle in Northern Ireland is haunted. I've heard it said that no self-respecting castle in Ireland would be without at least one ghost. This particular place, Castle Brackenridge, is haunted by Sean Bracken, the great-grandson of the original Laird. The dungeons are still haunted by former residents, and in one night in particular - Christmas Eve - a reenactment takes place - not by those who are living but by those who are dead.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is one of the most haunted areas in the United States. It is said that on some nights, one can hear the sound of battle, the shouts, the rifle fire, and the cannons... One can smell the acrid stench of gunsmoke, blood and death... And one can see Pickett's Charge as if it were happening right in front of their eyes. Soldiers weave in and out of tree lines, others lie moaning...

Some scientists believe that in times of intense emotion, residue remains behind, and it is this residual effect that causes people to see or hear what we know as apparitions.

Still others are coming to the conclusion that time is not linear and that parallel universes do exist. Some believe that parallel universes explain the concept of quantum physics, and in some instances it is believed that what we think of as ghosts are actually a glimpse into another, parallel universe. In the Theory of Many Interacting Worlds, universes exist not at extreme ends of the cosmos but in sheets, almost like placing several sheets of paper together but not quite touching.

I think of this in terms of my various aquariums. In one room, for example, I have a large aquarium housing half a dozen adult angelfish. To these angels, this is their universe. Their world begins and ends at the four pieces of glass. Yet in another room, I have another tank housing another half dozen angelfish. They have no knowledge of one another, yet they both exist - and in close proximity to each other.

Taking It Further

In A Thin Slice of Heaven, I chose to take the ghostly encounter one step further. Not only can Charleigh see Sean Bracken, who has been dead for a hundred and fifty years. And not only can she hear him. But she can feel him. She can touch him and he can touch her.

This is not a new concept but a very old one. In the legend of Merlin, he is conceived when a female human mates with a male apparition. One of the earliest stories comes from 2400 BC in Mesopotamia, in the legend of Gilgamesh. And even St. Augustine mentioned them in his papers, citing the presence of them too much to deny.

Some of the reports consider them demonic but in A Thin Slice of Heaven, Sean is the opposite. He appears just when Charleigh needs him the most; he tends to be a guardian angel at times and yet very human at other times. He was a man, flesh and blood, who is now a spirit who believes the castle in which he lived his life is his "thin slice of heaven".

You can purchase A Thin Slice of Heaven in any book store. It is also available in all major eBook formats. Find it here on amazon in paperback or in a Kindle version.