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Episode 8: We Were Ghosting Before it Was Cool

Today, we’re talking about ghosts and types of ghosts.

I think something many people might be surprised to learn about me is that I’m very interested in ghosts, in both a general sense and a metaphorical sense. I talked briefly in a previous episode that my favorite movie as a kid was Beetlejuice, and then a little later Ghostbusters I and II got added to my rotation. Actually, my dad loves to tell this story of how one time, when I was about 2 or 3, my dad heard a noise downstairs at our house at time around 4 in the morning. He walked closer to the stairs and could hear some voices. He thought it might’ve been some people trying to break in or whatever, so he went downstairs to check it out. When he got down there, he just saw me, broken out of my crib, sitting in my bean bag chair, sucking my thumb, watching my man Beetlejuice bring the laughs. He says the original noise must’ve been me fumbling to get the tape in the VCR. A couple years later, probably around 5 or 6, Ghostbusters got added to the rotation, and now my dad won’t watch either of them because I killed them with my repeated watchings. I, on the other hand, still love them dearly and I love a lot of other ghost shit, too.

Brother, do you remember your first interaction with ghost-related media at all? What was it?

Fast forward through my later childhood, teen years, early adulthood…this fascination with ghosts didn’t really end. It just kind of evolved. Let me put it out there right now that to my knowledge, I’ve never seen a ghost. I desperately want to, I’ve always wanted to, but it just hasn’t happened. I’ve put myself in situations where the possibility of a ghost interaction is much higher than others. I’ve been in haunted houses and haunted hotels and haunted ballrooms and haunted forests throughout Florida (Key West and St. Augustine, especially), in New Orleans, in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania…I’ve even been to the supposed “ghost town” in Maggie Valley, NC. But…nothing. Some might say I should just stop believing they even exist in the first place, but a couple things on that. First, how could I say they don’t exist? It’s not just that we have so many stories about them, but ghosts play such a large role in so many cultures. It would be pretty fucked up of me to say “ghosts are bullshit,” so I’m just not going to do that. Second, I’ll admit…I’m just stubborn and I don’t want to give it up!! Ghosts are representative of a lot of things in our, which we’ll get into later but I also want to believe that something–maybe not heaven or hell or whatever–but SOMETHING exists beyond us. I have a lot of faith in humanity, unfortunately, as you know but it also feels good to think that potentially this isn’t it. Do I want to get stuck on this Earthly plane for eternity? Not necessarily…but who knows? It could be cool.

You’re from a spooky place, brother…Connecticut is full of phantoms. Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you have any ghost experiences??

OK, so let’s get down to business here. I’m breaking this into sections. And before we really get into it…I’ll just put it out there: Brendan and I aren’t Ed and Lorraine Warren. We’re just a couple of guys talking about what we know about ghosts. So, keep that in mind. Also, because this is a very broad topic and I’m a white person, I’m not going to talk about ghosts in the Indigenous spiritual realm or in the African cosmology realm. If someone who is Indigenous or from Ghana or another African country or the Caribbean would like to come on and talk to us about that, that’s another show entirely and we’d love to have that discussion with you. So, let us know!!

First Part: TYPES of ghosts

I don’t know if I can say that this is like OFFICIAL information because obviously the paranormal and supernatural aren’t recognized by capital S science as Real Things, but unofficially officially there are supposedly 5 distinct types of ghosts. And I think you’ll know ‘em when I start talking about them. I “fact checked” this as best I could by visiting various sites and websites but the one with the most accessible and easiest info was called Ghosts and Gravestones and to me…that sounds like they know what they’re talking about so we’re going with it. Also, I figured that because our listeners might want some frame of reference for these things, I’ll include a little media representation for the ones that have it.

The 5 types of ghost are: the Interactive Personality, the Ecto-plasm or Ecto-mist, the Poltergeist, orbs, and funnel ghosts.

Let’s describe each one:

  1. The Interactive Personality - this is described as the most common type of ghost people see. Generally, IPs (yes, I’m calling them IPs) appear to people they know, so an IP ghost is usually the ghost of someone you knew who died, but our understanding of them is kind of all over the place. Sometimes they’re people you knew, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they’re harmful and sometimes they aren’t. It all depends on who they were and what they want. IPs can appear to whoever they want, when they want, they can touch you and carry a scent, and they can even speak to you if they want. The Ghosts and Gravestones website says “experts say” that IPs usually retain whatever personality they had in their living lives, and they can actually feel emotions, which is interesting

There are lots of examples of IPs in media. In fact, aside from the ghosts that want to kill you, IPs are probably the most common types of ghosts we see in movies, TV shows, and books. Some IPs are genuinely scary like the ghost of the serial killer in the very underrated Michael J. Fox film The Frighteners or in The Amityville Horror…others are pretty chill like Barbara and Adam Maitland in Beetlejuice or Casper, the friendly ghost. In Literature, we also have Cathy from Wuthering Heights, which is one of my favorite IPs, obviously…

One thing about the IPs that lowercase s science can’t answer, though, is: can they fuck? And I just think that’s unfair to all of us.

  1. The Ecto-plasm or Eco-mist - OK, this is actually a little confusing to me because on the Ghosts and Gravestones website, this is described as like a fog or mist that is swirling around in front of you in a peculiar way. It’s usually white, gray, or black and can be easily captured in photos when it appears. HOWEVER, there seems to be a little disagreement in what this actually is because OTHER sources say it’s more like a viscous liquid that can be dispelled from a medium’s body or can ooze out of other places on its own. I find the idea of ectoplasm particularly interesting because it’s like…goo. Just paranormal goo. So, it makes me think like what did you do in your life that’s so bad that you couldn’t come back as some other kind of ghost? I just think that whatever entity is in charge of ghosts in the first place has a very good sense of humor because some people come back as hair gel, basically, while others get to have their whole body and senses about them.

So, there’s two examples of ectoplasm that I can think of in popular media. Obviously, the first is Ghostbusters II…they have the river of slime that’s possessed by the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian. And then in the movie–you gotta know this one, brother–A Haunting in Connecticut, which is supposedly about the supposed actual haunting of the Snedecker family in eastern Connecticut…this was also an Ed and Lorraine Warren story/investigation/purging or whatever. We have the seance flashback scenes where the previous owners of the house use their young son as a medium and ectoplasm emits from his mouth.

  1. The Poltergeist - perhaps the second most well-known type of ghost. Poltergeists are interesting because according to some experts, poltergeists are “a mass form of energy that a living person is controlling unknowingly.” Generally, poltergeists do not appear as any person or formally living being…they are usually just a loud disturbance. I’m guessing, though I didn’t get any confirmation on this, that these disturbances are often confined to physical places like houses or hotels or schools or whatever. The word “poltergeist” actually means “noisy ghost”...which I love because it’s just a funny description. Like, this isn’t just any ghost…this bitch is loud as FUCK! Here’s some description of them: “Loud knocking sounds, lights turning on and off, doors slamming, even fires breaking out mysteriously have all been attributed to this type of a spiritual disturbance. Another frightening aspect of the poltergeist is that the event usually starts out slowly and mildly, then begins to intensify. And while many times poltergeist activity is harmless and ends quickly, they have been known to actually become dangerous.” Basically: these are the party trick ghosts…these are the ghosts who do the “neat” stuff.

Poltergeists and IPs are often mashed up in media because people don’t understand the

distinctions between them, which is kind of unfortunate. But obviously, in the movie Poltergeist, one of my favorite movies of all time, you see in the beginning that the ghosts are just like rearranging furniture and doing other things and the disturbances rapidly get worse and worse as the movie progresses.

  1. & 5 - Orbs and funnel ghosts - I’m not going to talk about these separately, because honestly, they’re not that interesting. Orbs are generally the most photographed type of ghost…which seems a little suspect if you ask me. Like, how can we be sure an orb is a ghost?? I mean, I guess it ultimately doesn’t matter but it’s just BORING. Orbs are usually little balls or rings of light that float around. “It is believed that orbs are the soul of a human or even an animal that has died and is traveling around from one place to another. The circular shape they take on makes it easier for them to move around and is often the first state they appear in before they become a full-bodied apparition.”

Funnel ghosts are just…a cold spot in a place. Again, these are boring. According to experts, “They usually take on the shape of a swirling funnel and most paranormal experts believe they are a loved one returning for a visit or even a former resident of the home. Appearing as a wisp of light or a swirling spiral of light, they are often caught in photographs or on video.”

Orbs usually appear in films or tv shows where they’re showing some flashback of like old-timey people doing old-timey ghost photography, and again, it’s just kind of boring. I’ll be honest…I think people think orbs are a bigger deal than they actually are, and it bums me out. I get it, it’s important to recognize the supernatural wherever it is but also…come on.

Second part: Ghosts in the world

So, according to a 2014 article on the BBC called “Psychology: the truth about the paranormal,” recent surveys say that as many as three quarters of Americans believe in the paranormal and nearly one in five claim to have seen a ghost themselves. ONE IN FIVE! Of course, this is from 2014, so I’m sure data has changed a little bit, but to be honest, I think people are more deranged now than they’ve ever been, so I’m sure the data has actually increased, not decreased.

What do you think is up with this?

Why are Americans so convinced the paranormal exists?

Do you think that many Americans have actually seen ghosts?

BIG QUESTION: What are ghosts actually representative of in our culture??

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