Monday, 30 April 2012

I don't believe in ghosts...

When people learn I'm a skeptic about things like ghosts and such, they'll sometimes relate to me some horrifically spooky experience they had, and then challenge me with "How do you explain THAT?" as if something supernatural is the only plausible explanation. Well, I can't always, but then, I rarely have enough information about the anecdotal situation to make sense of it, especially since it's been retold to me from the perspective of someone who has already chosen to see it in supernatural terms. So I sometimes respond with the following experience of my own, which took place a few years ago.

It’s never so quiet as right after a heavy fall of fluffy snow. I had just been visiting my parents one dark evening, and was walking out to my car, aware of the unnatural absence of the usual background noise of even this quiet residential neighbourhood, and listening intently to the only sound, the squeaky crunch of my shoes in the snow.

They say the ear can play tricks on you in such silence, so I didn’t quite know what to make of it when I heard my wife’s voice, faintly calling my name, as if from far away. I stopped dead in my tracks for a moment, then shook my head and continued. No, I knew my wife was at home and well out of earshot. But then I thought I heard it again.

I stopped and listened. Could I really have heard my wife’s voice? No. Of course not. The silence was messing with my imagination. After a few more long seconds of silence, I continued, a little faster, towards my car, when suddenly I heard my son’s voice, calling “Daaaaad!”

At that I froze. Something about being a parent makes one acutely sensitive to the voice of one’s own child. It’s absolutely unmistakable, and that was no mere trick of the imagination. My son was definitely calling for me.  I hurried to the car, started it up and drove out onto the main street, resisting the urge to go too fast.

Now, I’m not superstitious, and I don’t believe in ghosts or premonitions or anything of the sort. Yet it was difficult to avoid thinking in such terms. I tried to convince myself that I had not heard both my wife and son calling for me in the impossible silence, but it had been just too vivid to deny. I couldn’t shake a feeling of dread for what I might find when I arrived home.

Anxiously I pulled the car into the garage, hit the remote button to close the garage door behind me, and hastened to the house. Twenty paces from the back door, my cell phone rang in my breast pocket.

My cell phone. I stopped again, for just as long as it took to breathe a sigh of relief. As I mounted the steps of the back porch, my wife opened the door with a smug grin and the handset, my giggling son next to her. Somehow, while pulling on my winter parka, I had bumped against the speed dial button for our house, and not heard her “Hello?” over my crunching footsteps. So I HAD heard their voices calling, but in my early days of cell phone ownership, I was not yet in the habit of knowing I had it with me.

I made sure my next one was a flip phone.


  1. The difficulty is that we all assume that our perceptions are perfect and that everything we perceive is exactly what's there. Meanwhile neurology is busy demonstrating what professional magicians have known for hundreds of years: our perceptions are easily fooled. Not only that, they're easily fooled by ourselves.

    Often times the explanation for someone's experience is that it was mostly in their head.

  2. Spooky! It's amazing how the holy ghost convinced your wife to call you at exactly the moment when thoughts of voices were able to distract you from answering your phone, causing you to drive quickly, thus avoiding whatever unknown fate that would have occurred if you had driven more slowly!

    Obviously your guardian angel was looking over your shoulder and he/she/it wanted a fast drive to break the monotony.