A record number of people are paranormal enthusiasts. The twenty-first century has brought more options: podcasts, websites, social media posts and blogs like this. Of course, this is in addition to television shows, books, and personal visits to haunted sites. So, the question is:
Are we more obsessed with seeking out ghosts or is it simply a matter of more readily accessible choices? Are we more curious than our ancestors in what lies beyond?
In the town of Yarmouth (Cape Cod/Massachusetts), incorporated in 1793, you can still attend the Church of New Jerusalem. The church was founded on the philosophy of 18th century Christian mystic Emanuel Swendenborg who claimed to have the ability to commune with the dead. Swendenborg is said to be able to go into a trance and speak with angels, devils, Jesus, and departed human souls.
In 1830, Harvard graduate Caleb Reed, brought Swedenborg’s teachings to the Cape. Here, those who had lost loved ones during the Civil War adopted the idea that their loved ones lived in a different dimension but could still be communicated with through séances.
Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln, attempted to reach her young son Willie through séances. Willie died at the age of 12 in the White House. Abraham Lincoln is known to have attended one of these séances. Other notable believers in talking to the dead were poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and American writer Henry James. James is the author of The Turn of the Screw which delves into the evil actions of a pair of ghosts.
Illustrator and author Edward Gorey moved to a home in Yarmouth in 1979, his writings were often tied to the occult. He drew a number of ghostly figures and created the cover for Witches and Warlocks-Tales of Black Magic Old and New. Gorey talked about his own experiences with ghostly incidents. He mentioned to a visitor the strange disappearance of all the finials from his lamps along with his collection of tiny teddy bears. Gorey’s former home today is a museum and gift shop. Two women who were in what had been the children’s room suddenly got a chill that raised the hair on the back of their necks. Then they heard the creak of the floorboards as if an unseen someone just walked in. They believed it was the ghost of Edward Gorey checking on why they were in his house.
In the twenty-first century, Shelia Fitzgerald, co-owner of the Old Yarmouth Inn, has no doubt that the ghosts of two early occupants still inhabit the 1696 dwelling. And she has proof on security footage that one of the vengeful spirits opened a locked door and let her dogs out.
I believe we are innately curious creatures. We want an explanation for what our eyes think they just saw, for odd sounds, sudden drops in temperature, and feelings that we are not alone. If we are convinced that the dead just reached out to us, then relying on our instincts is the way to go. That “sixth sense” kicked in and we should embrace it. We are each our own psychic medium and our lives are richer for keeping in touch with the past.
To learn more about the ghosts of old Yarmouth, pick up a copy of THE HAUNTING OF CAPE COD AND THE ISLANDS. ENJOY and happy hunting.