The title is from The Eagles’ “Hotel California.” I think this explains the ghost phenomenon fairly well. For whatever reason, ghosts are earthbound and can’t seem to leave whatever is haunts them behind.
As long as I can remember, I’ve loved all things Halloween, including ghost stories. I’m not sure what it is other than perhaps the adrenaline rush I get from being spooked. I love going to haunted houses. I always have a good time even though I get the tar scared out of me. My heart pounding in my chest, not knowing what’s around the next corner then letting out that gasp or even a slight scream, then after it all… laughing because it’s all in fun.
It’s the same way with a good ghost story. I love that feeling. As a kid, I always loved to watch Disney’s “Sleepy Hollow.” The story of the Headless Horseman always scared me but I loved to watch it. I’m not exactly sure what the appeal was to be perfectly honest; maybe it’s just the way the story is told. This is probably why I love the new rendition of Sleepy Hollow that’s on FOX. What they’ve done with the story is fascinating. I even enjoyed Tim Burton’s version of “Sleepy Hollow.” Again, because the story itself is what was so interesting. I don’t know about anyone else, but whenever I’ve gone camping, I love a good ghost story told around the campfire. It can’t be camping without at least one. A good fire, smores and a ghost story – yep that’s a good camping trip. Of course, the down side to liking a good ghost story is then it’s difficult to get to sleep. My mind begins to play tricks on me and the shadows seem to move. I’m silly like that. I know it. Despite the fact it gets difficult to get to sleep, I still love it. I can’t help myself.
The love of a good story is probably why my interest in ghost stories have changed a bit. I suppose it may have started a little bit with my own parents and their experiences. I haven’t ever had any of my own and that’s fine by me. Going to a fake haunted house is one thing, but going to a place that’s allegedly really haunted, no thank you. My mom had an eerie experience as a young woman. My grandparents, love them both, but they lived in a spookiest town, Rawlins, Wyo., and that doesn’t even include the fact that the old Wyoming Frontier Prison is right inside town and only minutes from my grandparents’ house. That place is spooky as hell. The gothic architecture is one reason it’s creepy looking, but the fact they have a gallows and a gas chamber doesn’t help.
There’s lots about their own house that was spooky including that it used to be an old train depot. Who knows what kind of history it holds. I definitely used to get creeped out there but to be fair, it was probably more about me than the house. Anyway, I remember a story my mom told when she had recently returned to Rawlins and one night she was reading “The Exorcist” in my uncle Randy’s room after everyone had gone to bed. It was a bit of a peculiar night as there wasn’t any wind. For Wyoming… that’s unusual, especially for Rawlins. It was late and as she read the book, suddenly it sounded like someone was turning the doorknob or at least playing with it. She opened the door, looked around but no one was around. It was odd, but she went back to reading. It happened again. Again, she looked around but still the house was quiet and everyone was sound asleep. It was then she decided to put the book down, go to bed. She never finished reading it. I don’t blame her. Even if it could be explained by something non-paranormal, it’s spooky. I think it was then I started to change my mind about my grandparents’ house, even if it did turn out to be only in my head.
My dad had a really interesting experience also. I remember him telling me and my cousins about a time when he and some friends went down to a beach one night to hang out, play some music – you know, sort of like hippies but not. My dad grew up in San Jose so going to the beach is not so unusual. As I recall, there had been an incident with a woman and her children along this road to get to a secluded beach. Some sort of accident meant the children died, though it didn’t seem to be the mother’s fault, though she was guilt ridden. My dad, his girlfriend and some friends heard about the story of a weeping ghost woman but hadn’t really thought much of it as they headed out that night to that beach. Going to the beach was fine, it was heading home they had an experience.
They hung out and had a grand time but it was time to head home. They all got into my dad’s VW bus and headed back up the road. They came to the alleged spot where the accident occurred and without cause, the bus stopped. The engine died. All the electrical also seemed to be out unexplained. Then, just as unexpected, it started again. At that moment, it felt as though another passenger got into the car, though that wasn’t possible. My dad said he started driving again and as he looked in the rearview mirror, he could see a shadowy figure, outside the van, peering inside. He said he could faintly make out what looked like long hair and tears. Then suddenly, the weight was gone and so was the mystery lady. It freaked everyone out apparently.
Keep in mind I’m retelling someone else’s stories so it may not be exact and these stories were told to me a long time ago. Memory has a funny way of changing over time. I don’t know that their experiences were absolutely paranormal and yet, I have no reason to think otherwise. It turns out my mom’s had more “spiritual” experiences occurring in her dreams. Pretty interesting also but I’ll save that for another time. As with my dad’s experience, it really got me thinking about the ghost’s story, not ghost story; I was suddenly thinking about the fact ghosts may have their own story to tell and that’s why they hang around. It was like in “Casper,” the dad had a theory that it’s about unfinished business. It seemed to make sense to me.
Since then, I find myself drawn to shows like “Ghost Hunters” or “Ghost Mine” on SyFy. I also have really come to like watching “Celebrity Ghost Stories” and “The Haunting of…” on Lifetime. In fact, I was up late last night watching. It’s pretty amazing some of these stories. I like the idea of being to learn about the stories behind the alleged hauntings because even if there is no ghost, there’s an incredible story to learn. The history of those stories are usually pretty fascinating. It’s always the history that never makes the history books but these people had lives and their stories need to be told. If they do hang around as apparitions, it’s because they feel they still have something to say, or so I suppose. That’s what I love about a good ghost story… now and then. It’s about the story. The scary part is just the icing on the cake. Do you believe in ghosts?
I’ll leave you with a “haunting” tale told by The Eagles. “Hotel California” is just so Stephen King, don’t you think?