In the spirit of Halloween

Throughout history people have claimed to see the unexplained and the mysterious.  Some things have been explained by science.  Where superstition has filled the gaps we now can test and come to concrete answers.  With the dawn of the scientific age, knowledge is no longer hidden in the shadows.  Not only has science blown the lid off superstitions but it has provided better medicine and knowledge of biology, the earth, and universe.  Science has become such a powerful tool of discovery that some proclaim all mysteries will one day become answered through this process.  However, this powerful tool has made some become arrogant.

Some assume things like ghosts, angels, and demons are nothing more than silly superstitions.  The things that people see that they cannot explain are their imagination, illusions, or hallucinations.  I find this to be incredibly arrogant.  It lacks nuance, and is frankly dishonest with some of the evidence presented.  Now, I do acknowledge that some cases, maybe most, can be explained by natural phenomenon.  An unknown breeze, alcohol, or drugs are all possibilities.  The easiest way to not think is to completely dismiss or believe all these stories.  Those who claim it is all nonsense fail to take into consideration there are many spiritual encounters that have incredible consistency.  For example, those terrorized by demons often exhibit claw marks of three in places they cannot reach or are terrorized at 3:00 AM.  That of course isn’t hardened scientific proof, I do acknowledge that. However, mass hallucinations do not exist, and if multiple people report the same thing with detailed accounts, I believe they should be considered.

Speaking from experience, those who have encounters with the supernatural often feel isolated, that we cannot talk to anyone or they will think we are crazy or superstitious nuts.  I’m one who is knowledgeable of science, what the mind is capable of and the tricks it can play, and look for other explanations before jumping to conclusions.  However, in this world there is evil and sometimes that evil defies naturalism. In spirit of the holiday, if there is someone you know that shares a paranormal encounter, listen.  You can choose what to do with the information, but at least listen.  Maybe just maybe they aren’t crazy and there is a reason you are hearing this story.

Shadows and Fire


They say a lot of things about this place. Things only the irrational and superstitious would believe. It is a forest, and forests often conjure fear in the uneducated, or so I thought. It is easy to dismiss other people’s experiences with the unknown when you haven’t seen what they have. Until now, I never believed in anything I couldn’t see or touch. I thought everything that exists would one day become knowable, that it was only a matter of time. I used to not believe in true good or evil. They were mere constructs of human cultures, and ultimately the human mind. There is an evil here. The first thing I saw, as many others have reported, was a dark shadowy mass.
Knowing the brain is very capable of conjuring phantoms that aren’t real, I ignored it and continued along the hiking trail. Tall spruce and white pines grew beside me, and the nearly-full moon shone, adding to the eerie, Halloween-like atmosphere. Yet, it was Spring and All Hallows Eve wasn’t even close. Since things were feeling spooky, when I saw the shadow-mass run across the trail, I told myself it wasn’t real. The mood of the evening was playing tricks on my mind, tapping into the primal fear that still remains in all of us.

I decided it was late and probably time to make a fire for warmth, and I hoped to eventually fall asleep next to it. The forest grew colder by the minute, and goosebumps ran down my body. I grabbed some tinder and kindling, along with a few small logs, and piled them up to make a fire. Once the fire was lit, I held my hands over the flames. I felt as if thousands of unfriendly eyes were watching me, but there was nothing there. Again, I told myself I was being paranoid and silly as I stirred the fire some more. The flames started dying down more than I liked, so I got up to gather some more wood. Armed with a hatchet, I set out. My heart raced as I hastily searched the nearby woods for something dry and large enough to keep the hungry flames fed for a while. There were a few big branches on the ground that looked like they would suffice, and after several hits, the wood was in short enough chunks for my fire.

Beside me there was a rush and leaves crushing beneath something. Thinking it was probably a deer or something, I paid it no mind, but then whatever it was let out a terrible gurgling growl. I tripped over my feet, gazing into the wilderness. I didn’t see anything, so I gathered my wood and ran back to my fire. The flames came to life upon receiving the parched logs. I threw in a handful of leaves for fun, but as the fire grew, more shadows began to dash back and forth overhead, no longer bothering to conceal themselves. Terrible screeching and hissing echoed around me. I felt surrounded and unsure of myself. Should I run? Should I stay by the fire? Either decision was really no decision at all, so I stayed and waited, hoping the shadows of fear would pass. Instead they multiplied, blacking out the stars and moon in the sky. Hideous low-pitched laughter came from some, while others vocalized animalistic sounds. It was strange and terrifying at the same time, mostly because I didn’t know what these shadows were or what they wanted.

I kept my head angled upward, huddled as close to the fire as I safely could, watching those things. Then, I saw an army of them amassing before me, taking vague shapes of people while still retaining their black, non-corporeal appearance. I knew that was time to leave. Not bothering to douse the fire, I grabbed my hatchet and flew through the forest as quickly as I could. To my left there was a loud “snap,” and a tree toppled over. Distant laugher echoed, sending chills down my spine. Indescribable sounds were everywhere. I kept running, not even sure where, because I had already lost my way, but that didn’t matter in the moment. Getting away from those things that haunted the woods was the only thing I cared about. It was around the time that I realized I was lost that I also remembered the campfire I made was still burning. I slowed enough to safely check behind me. The faint light in the distance told me the fire was still contained, and for a moment I was torn between putting out the flames and continuing to run. My internal debate didn’t last long. I don’t know how long I ran, but the forest thinned, and I saw a town in the distance: my town. The ghastly beings that tormented me were gone and the forest was still and silent. Then the wind returned, and the soothing chirping of crickets made me wonder if anything I just experienced was real, but I know that it was, despite what I wanted to believe.

Mystery Fuels Fantasy


I have written before that the fantasy genre is not just an escape from reality, but in truth, if it is done well, it addresses real world issues in a down-to-earth manner. I fully stand by the idea that this is one of the primary reasons people read fantasy. There are many reasons why people my lean toward that genre, including nastaglia and personal preference. However, I think the mysteries of the real world are a huge draw to fantasy. 

Often, the fantasy genre includes real world things that are mysterious and unknown, such as ghosts and other spiritual beings. There are mysterious objects that invoke the imagination such as the Baghdad battery and the Book of Soyga that are so strange they look like they belong in a fantasy novel instead of the real world. Now I’m not saying readers should take everything at face value and assume all mysteries are real or do not have alternative explanations. Some things will forever remain mysteries. Some cannot be tested in the lab and will never have empirical evidence to support their existence, and that is what makes them so fascinating. The unknown is what fuels speculative fiction. The human imagination fills in the gaps with “what ifs” and begins constructing entirely new worlds.

Humanity has a desire for knowledge and growth and for information about the unknown so that it becomes familiar. This is the heart and soul of fantasy because there are unlimited ways to explore these possibilities through human imagination. The best fiction has a grain of truth in it, and this makes the genre more relatable. Would ghosts, angels, and demons interest as many people if millions hadn’t claimed to encounter them? I personally doubt it. If everything happened in the world as people expected it to, would fantasy then be as relatable? Probably not. It is because life has unexplained mysteries that we are open to looking at life through a different lens to try to explain what we experience, and this can draw people to fantasy.