306. Ghost Stories

I don’t like Halloween.

Well, to be fair, it isn’t just Halloween. I’m a cynical grump when it comes to most holidays. I hate how they’re commercialized, I dislike the cutesy decorations, and I abhor how celebrations I cherish are overshadowed by twee nonsense.

Thanksgiving, the day we celebrate our blessings, is followed immediately by Black Friday, the day we celebrate our greed. The Christmas season has become two months of corporations clamoring for our attention, capitalizing on our nostalgia, and taking our money.

Halloween used to be the prelude to All Saints’ Day: a celebration of some of the most courageous men and women of the past two millennia. It’s now the time of year for bloody horror films, cheap candy, and decorations of the same blinding shade of orange as marine rescue equipment. No one remembers All Saints’ Day.

It makes me sad.

A horrible, horrible pumpkin

Stop grinning at me, you maniac! You’re horrible, cheap, and orange. Why on God’s green earth are you so happy about it?!

All the same, there are good things to be said for Halloween. I’m fascinated by scary stuff, and I like pumpkin spice-flavored everything. (This is odd, considering pumpkin spice exists only to make pumpkin taste less awful.) I’m also interested by ghost stories, notwithstanding my firm belief they’re pretty much all false.

(Yes, I believe in God and angels and the supernatural, but faith is not superstition. There is evidence for these things, but hardly any to back up tales of haunted houses or the Slenderman.)

A couple of coworkers and I shared ghost stories the other day. As we talked, I mentioned the most frightening moment of my life.

I once walked into my parents’ living room at night and saw what appeared to be a man hanged from the ceiling—I clearly saw the silhouette of legs against the pale light of the streetlamps outside. The hanged man turned out to be a pair of pants hung to dry, but it was still quite a shock.

I told one other story. It’s a tale of pale apparitions floating in the darkness, and it’s absolutely true.

There was once a student studying in a seminary on the coast of Ecuador. I don’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Socrates. This man arose from sleep one night to get a drink or use the bathroom in his dormitory. As he stumbled down the hall, fumbling in the dark, he was stunned by the sight of a ghostly thing floating toward him.

The apparition was the size of a small dinner plate and shaped vaguely like a half moon. It seemed to float about three feet above the ground. No sooner had Socrates registered this phenomenon than another came out of the darkness.

It was a smile.

Gleaming in the dark, a broad white smile appeared like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. It hung a couple of feet above the half moon. The two ghostly phenomena moved together along the hall. As they neared Socrates, he realized what they were.

The pale apparitions belonged to a very black man in a pair of very white underpants, smiling in greeting as he passed Socrates and returned to his bedroom in the dormitory.

I don’t expect to see any ghostly phenomena this October, but I shall certainly see hideous holiday decorations, and that will be quite bad enough.

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