When I was a little girl we used to play a game we made up called, "I Hope the Ghost Comes Out Tonight!" It was a scary night time version of tag that we would play at dusk in the summertime. One kid would hide somewhere and then, after counting for a bit ala hide and seek, we would slowly walk across the yard chanting "I hope the ghost comes out tonight!" until the hidden child would leap out and chase us all. We all had to make it back to home base (the back porch steps) before being tagged by the "ghost". If you got tagged, you were the ghost. I was almost never the ghost. Somehow, it was much more scary to think you were being chased by a ghost, than by Kathy Kroeger or Jackie Kimbrell. I always think of that game whenever the topic of ghosts comes up.
Speaking of the dead, what do you recommend we do when our house is haunted? The house has been blessed. I've asked the ghosts to leave in a stern voice. Nothing. In fact, it made them more active. There are at least 3 of them in the house. They haven't done anything to hurt us but they are scary. You can't 'prepare' for it so I'm always caught off guard. They can be seen, heard, smelled (one smokes something that looks like a cigarette but smells like cigar). They make noise. Once, I was on the couch and it sounded like every pot & pan, every dish, everything I owned had crashed in the kitchen. When I ran to the room, nothing was out of place. The person I bought the home from sold it because she was afraid to live there. I thought she was crazy. It's a beautiful home. Too bright and sunny to be haunted. And when you die, you go to hell, purgatory or heaven. There is no 4th choice of hanging around and haunting a house. So what is going on? It doesn't seem evil or demonic.
The underlying question here is, what does the Catholic church have to say about ghosts?
Do we believe in the supernatural? Every day. Virtually everything we believe is supernatural. God, Jesus, resurrection, ascension, transubstantiation....if that's not supernatural, what is?
So I've been doing some research for you all on the topic. What does the Catechism say about ghosts? Not a word. But here's a good summation of the overall thought on the subject:
(a ghost is defined as) “a disembodied spirit. Christianity believes that God may, and sometimes does, permit a departed soul to appear in some visible form to people on earth. Allowing for legend and illusion, there is enough authentic evidence, for example in the lives of the saints, to indicate that such apparitions occur. Their purpose may be to teach or warn, or request some favor of the living” (Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, Modern Catholic Dictionary (Garden City, New York: John A. Hardon, ©1980) published by Doubleday and Co., p. 229).
The problem here is there is a huge difference between an apparition of a saint or a soul from purgatory and some guy who doesn't know he's dead or whatever and also still loves his cigars, even though he no longer has to breath air, with or without smoke in it.
So now we have to take a look at what the Church teaches about the occult which is this:
“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2117).
Where does that leave you and your haunted house? Not every priest would tell you the same thing, but I believe that the general consensus would be that these are not dead people who are stuck in time. We do believe that after death a person goes to one of three places, Heaven, Hell or Purgatory and no one is stuck here. If someone does get to pay us a visit after their death it is with God's permission, not to just hang around and puff on cigars and rattle the pans.
So the Church would say demons often don't look demonic. That's a big part of what makes them demonic and the entire reason you are not allowed to try and talk with them. You would be in over your head. Why do they hang around houses pretending to be Civil War veterans and dead damsels? Maybe because your belief in them would cause you to doubt the Church. Just a thought.
What to you do about it? I don't know. St. Benedict (who had a vision of his twin sister's soul rising to Heaven when she died) is the patron saint of exorcism. The prayers said during an exorcism are written in code on the back of his medal. If our readers would like to follow the discussion so far, go back to two posts ago and read the comments, where there has been more on "the haunting".