Of Gods, Ghosts, and Gaps

Part of a ghost hunting kit.
I used to hunt ghosts. Something about the stories I grew up with in the south fascinated me to no end. I loved a good scary (or romantic) ghost story. Stories of phantom lights darting among Spanish moss draped oaks or ghost doctors whistling on the stairs of an old mansion south of Broad were my preferred way to spend a rainy afternoon. I idolized many of our southern folklorists who collected and passed along these stories. I was particularly fond of Mrs. Nancy Roberts who is the grande dame of traditional ghost stories.

Later in life I began to wonder if there was more to all this than just a good story. In junior high we did a section on folklore and history. As my project I tracked down information on a famous story from where I grew up: The Hound of Goshen. My mother drove me around with a little cassette recorder and notebook in hand while I talked to people in the area who had claimed to have seen the "Happy Dog" at one time or another. One thing I learned is that the folks I talked to were quite enamored with their ghost dog. That seemed strange because my icon, Nancy Roberts, told frightening tales of people being chased and scared witless by the hound. It was the first time I noticed that ghosts and stories could be changed in order to sell a product. I was all of twelve.

Fast forward thirty some odd years and I became interested in the "scientific" pursuit of ghosts. I joined a group of people who belonged to the esteemed TAPS family of ghost hunting groups and set to work trying to discover if ghosts existed and if so what exactly they might be. Honestly, I wasn't convinced of the whole "soul with unfinished business" stuff.