Iâ€™m an ordained Protestant minister and, for eleven years, served full-time in the pastorate. It was a bittersweet time. Along the way, I encountered many strange and wonderful things â€“- things that no amount of training or education can prepare you for. Like the time a young couple approached me after church, and confessed they had a ghost in their house.
How exactly does one deal with a ghost. . . or, at least, people who supposedly saw one? After spending enough time with the couple to know they werenâ€™t pranksters, devil worshipers or bloominâ€™ mad, I went to the house. It was a normal house: no black cats, levitating beds or break dancing skeletons. However, they did show me the room in question. It was partly below ground, like a cellar. It had a window that, according to them, was one day entirely covered by horseflies. In this room, on several occasions, they had seen an apparition — a woman hovering on the ceiling.
I recalled this incident after reading about the WBâ€™s new Fall program, â€œSupernatural,â€ which airs this week. The introductory scene is that of a woman pinned to the ceiling, engulfed by hellfire.
It appears most Americans keep an ear to the ceiling.
Harris polls, like this, continually reveal America as one of the most religious countries in the world, with the majority having some belief in God, heaven and hell, and the devil. Fox News puts an interesting spin on this. For instance, far more men believe in UFO’s than women, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe in reincarnation, astrology and ghosts. One poll (by American Atheists, Inc!) finds that, one in five Americans claims to have been visited by an angel. The same poll, gives us this helpful statistical tidbit:
Income was another factor affecting responses. Eighty-three percent of those earning below $25,000 per year believed in angelic beings, while those earning over $80,000 were less likely (64%) to do so.
Guess that settles that. The wealthier you are, the less you need angels. But, we could drown in statistics. Suffice to say that, we are facinated by — if not downright favorable toward — the supernatural. UFO’s, psychic phenomenon, ghosts and angels, are an American staple.
Hollywood knows this. The fact that, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, grossed over 30 million dollars in its debut and was the number one film of last week, was not shocking. Americans dig this stuff. That’s why the Fall schedule is riddled with supernatural thriller-type shows. ABC issues, Invasion, as in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Surface on NBC and Threshold on CBS, also explore extra-terrestrial visitation, from different angles. On top of this is ABC’s Lost, in its second season. And I already mentioned, Supernatural, on the WB. The show draws heavily upon urban legends and has even launched a web site, allowing viewers to research such American myths as the Vanishing Hitchhiker, the Hook Man and Bloody Mary. Each episode will feature a different ghost from classic lore. And there’s many to choose from.
Some might say our facination with unseen forces, the paranormal and the supernatural, is evidence of ignorance. We are a hiccup in the evolutionary ascension of humanity, still clinging to superstitious beliefs in God, demons and angels (at least, those of us who earn less than 80K annually). I happen to believe, it’s because we are, by design, spiritual people. Not necessarily, religious, but that we have spiritual components to our make-up. The unseen realm resonates in us, because we are part of it. We cannot stand at a graveside, without asking where the departed went. And we can’t look to the skies, without asking if there’s anyone out there. Of course, people satisfy this impulse and answer these questions, in many ways — most of them inconsistent with Scripture. Nevertheless, it is this hunger that keeps Hollywood churning out supernatural thrillers.
By the way, I never did see the ghost-woman hovering in the room of that young couple. I did my best Father Merrin impersonation and, apparently, it stopped. I thanked God, sheathed my holy water, and have been keeping an ear to the ceiling ever since.