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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Giving Up the Ghost » Giving Up the Ghost

Giving Up the Ghost

David - September 1, 2008

The Christmas tree attacked Elder Evertsen.

I kid you not. There he was, Elder Evertsen kneeling in the living room in his underwear, saying his nightly prayers, when suddenly he heard a harsh shuka-shuka kind of rustling. Looking up, he watched in horror as his Christmas tree– heavily adorned with tinsel & bulbs– came whipping down, trying to assault him. The startled elder jumped backward and ran out of the room, stopping briefly in the hallway to look back at the maniacal faux Tannenbaum angrily shaking in its stand. Evertsen called his companion and they phoned their zone leaders and the local ward’s bishop, all who arrived at the apartment within minutes. After some discussion, the bishop blessed the house, ridding it of whatever was there, and thereafter they never had another disturbance.

I would have discounted this as a Mormon missionary legend had it not been that I was in the zone at the time and visited the elders in their apartment the next day. Yes, it’s true– I saw the tree.

About a year ago there was an article in the Living section of CNN.com: “What To Do When Your House is Haunted.” Its approach was very straightforward and practical, offering valuable advice on finding the right paranormal investigator (“if they ask for money, keep looking”) and being prepared to allow 5-6 people to roam all over your home and ask lots of personal questions like, Is there a picture of Spiro Agnew somewhere in the house?”

From a very young age I’ve loved ghost stories and over time have come to accept Stephen King’s (however undoctrinal) theory in his book, Danse Macabre, that sometimes a home or area becomes like dry cell battery and absorbs the strong emotional occurrences that took place there. Even after I joined the Church, I casually held onto this belief. After all, didn’t several of the Saints get violently ill in an abandoned cabin where they took shelter, afterwhich Joseph learned by revelation that it was a hideout for cutthroats?

I still like spooky stories, but being a priesthood holder kind of takes the fun out of it. Now I watch a haunted house movie and think, silly people, call your Mormon neighbor. Call a bishop. I was 13 when
The Exorcist came out, and after I bugged my good Catholic mom three days non-stop, she finally caved, walked me to the box office and told the kid at the counter (in her Seinfeld‘s Mrs. Castanza voice), “I’m buying my son’s ticket for that movie. I’m giving you my permission to let him watch it– But I’m not going in there!” Movie… Freaked… Me… Out. Had to sleep with the TV on and say my rosary every night for a week. But it was cool!

Except for the Joseph Smith incident, you don’t hear a lot of haunted house stories in Mormon culture, and that’s a real shame. As a missionary I visited a newlywed LDS couple who lived in an old house in a very remote, rural area. There was a vague thump above us and they grinned. “Oh, that’s George,” the wife said. “He’s our ghost.” “You’re kidding.” “No, it’s true. He’s always moving stuff back and forth up there.” “Well, did you tell the bishop?” “Um, no. We want to keep him.” To this day I haven’t decided if it was great faith I was witnessing, or incredible stupidity. Eddie Murphy, in one of his stand-up routines, said he doesn’t get white people and haunted houses. A white couple moves into an old house, and that night the toilet’s bleeding. They say, “Hm. That’s peculiar.” If it they were black he’d be all, “I love my house! I’m never leaving! This place is great!” {GET…OUT!!} “Honey get the kids– we movin’.”

Another story I heard firsthand was from a guileless Fundamentalist Christian family who lived in a remote trailer home off a desert highway in Death Valley. The home was given to them as managers of a restaurant outside Lone Pine, and one night when the parents had to go on a trip to get supplies, the kids– age 16 to 5– were left behind. They were very responsible, so it didn’t seem a chancy decision. Around 12:30 am, though, they started hearing scratching outside the trailer and then furious pounding on the walls. The kids all screamed, locked the door and huddled together. After what seemed like several minutes (but was probably around one), the oldest boy angrily burst open the door and screamed, “Who is it?!!” The pounding stopped and there was no one anywhere around. The parents later found the kids hunkered close together, hugging their Bibles. They later heard from old locals that the area was haunted by marauders who used to rob the miners.

I think it would be cool every once in a while to go to a testimony meeting and hear how someone cast a ghost out of their place.  A bowl of green jello tracing ominous messages on its Cool Whip surface, a  slumber party with a ouija board gone awry. Sorry to say, it just doesn’t happen.

Surely there are ghost stories in Mormon culture. Has anyone ever seen a book on the subject? If none exist, I think somebody should compile one. And if anyone out there has a spooky Mormon ghost story, please pass it on.

I mean, Halloween’s only 60 days away.

19 Comments »

  1. I just had to add this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZPTJcqM7QM

    Comment by EmWJ — September 1, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

  2. My seminary teacher had to cast out at least 3 evil spirits that had posessed a teenage girl and would tell us all about it every year on Halloween. True story, too! He never embellished it, and I heard it 4 years in a row. Scary stuff! The girl would literally throw herself against the walls, refuse to eat, etc. and after the “exorcism”, she slept for 3 days straight, only coming out once to use the bathroom.

    Some friends of mine down the street had spooky and creepy apparitions appear to them in the form of 19th century-dressed women and their father had to command them to leave through the Priesthood. They never had a problem after that (I was around 10 years old when it happened).

    Ooh! I once went through the Haunted Forest up near Rigby, ID and I about wet my pants. Of course, that was all fabricated, so…you know…not really scary scary, you know?

    My husband’s great-uncle is a huge family historian, and his aunts have told us on numerous occasions about how whenever they stayed with Uncle J, they could feel the presence of lots of spirits. But good ones; and even though it was odd, it wasn’t creepy. As one aunt put it, “They were there to make sure Uncle J got their history right.”

    Comment by cheryl — September 1, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  3. You included a DR WHO video! I Love DR Who! That was cool and funny.[end of Fan-boy rant]

    Seriously, I tried to get Grant Wilson of Sci-Fi “Ghost Hunters” to answer a few questions in an e-mail about a year ago. Got no answers back. He is Mormon and I wanted to know what he thought of the intersection of the faith and ghosts. Mostly, I was curious about his comment that religious adherents were the least likely to accept or talk about hauntings.

    I am wondering what incident you are talking about with Joseph Smith. Is it the one with the Knight exorcism? I don’t recall the part about the cutthroats.

    As for my own story? The only one I have is when I slept over at a friend’s Rexburg house apartment. I saw a shadow at night, heard noises where no one was, and had the bathroom door slam on me. Mostly, however, I just felt uncomfortable at times. None of this really crossed my mind as “haunted” (I excused them as incidental or imagination) until my friend mentioned the house was haunted. I put the pieces together and decided it was a possibility.

    Comment by Jettboy — September 1, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  4. My mother-in-law says that she saw a young man standing in the hallway of her house while my husband (her only son who could have matched the age) was serving his mission. She’s convinced the house was haunted and that the only reason she never saw the spirit again is because my husband holds the priesthood and it wouldn’t come around while he was there.

    Comment by Naomi — September 2, 2008 @ 1:21 am

  5. Back in the day, there was a janitor assigned to several chapels in the far-flung regions of my stake. This janitor was in my own ward, so we knew her well. One particular chapel in Maryland caused her a bit of discomfort each time she had to go and clean it. She would clean during the week, when no one else was present. She never felt at peace there.

    Well, one morning, some being visited her there. When she got home, this same being showed up again, apparently having followed her. She had to call in the Priesthood.

    My best friend before my mission, a 26-year old convert, had been offered a house in an old section of town for a low, low price. Odd thing was, it was completely furnished. I mean, completely furnished. It had books on the shelves, china in the cabinets, even soap in the soap dish. It was as if someone just up and left it one day. Strange. Well, he took the offer, having just graduated from college and was looking to settle down in his new job. He didn’t change a thing about the house. A few years later, when I met him, the soap was still there, as were the books, the china, everything. The guy was a little strange.

    Well, there were more than just a few things off about that place. He heard noises in the attic. Things that he would put down in one place would end up in another place. His security motion-sensor would be triggered in the middle of the night. He finally had to switch it over to a heat-sensor. After he met the Elders and joined the church, he got his house blessed. The next morning, his phone was sitting, unplugged, right in front of his doorway. That was the last time he ever had any problems.

    Comment by SAM — September 2, 2008 @ 5:32 am

  6. I’ve never seen a Mormon ghost (although a missionary I knew told me that she saw an evil spirit sitting on her bed one night), but I published a post on ghosts at the Forest Farmhouse back in 2005 (here).

    Comment by Justin — September 2, 2008 @ 6:23 am

  7. In my mission there were apparently some missionaries who went swimming in Lake Atitlan (you know, the Waters of Mormon) and when one elder was jumping off the pier into the water his companion took his picture. Well, the one who jumped in never came back up. Drowned. The mission president had to come to the lake and command the evil spirit to release the missionary. Soon thereafter they found the elder’s body. And when the companion got his film back he looked at the photo (the one he took at the moment the elder jumped in the water) and guess what? There were hands coming up from the water grabbing his legs and pulling him under.

    A story that good HAS to be true.

    Comment by Rusty — September 2, 2008 @ 7:19 am

  8. Keep ‘em comin’!

    Comment by meems — September 2, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  9. EmWJ – Thank you for that perfect YouTube contribution! It brought feng shui to the post.

    Jettboy – No, I wasn’t talking about the Knight episode. This was a story I came across a couple of times about 20 years ago, but I must confess I haven’t been able to drum it up with Google searches. I’ll keep looking and maybe be able to provide a link shortly.

    Lovin’ the stories, guys!

    Comment by David T. — September 2, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  10. In my mission there were apparently some missionaries who went swimming in Lake Atitlan (you know, the Waters of Mormon) and when one elder was jumping off the pier into the water his companion took his picture. Well, the one who jumped in never came back up. Drowned. The mission president had to come to the lake and command the evil spirit to release the missionary. Soon thereafter they found the elder’s body. And when the companion got his film back he looked at the photo (the one he took at the moment the elder jumped in the water) and guess what? There were hands coming up from the water grabbing his legs and pulling him under.

    When did this event happen? I’ve read of a boat capsizing in that lake in 1990 with several missionaries aboard.

    Comment by Justin — September 2, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

  11. Justin,
    Yeah, I heard that one as well, it’s just not as spooky as this one. Plus, I think that one might actually be true. I don’t know when that supposedly happened, probably in the 80′s.

    Comment by Rusty — September 2, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  12. Great post David. I have enjoyed reading all the great spooky stories.

    I live in the south near a Civil War battle field I can tell you that there is some serious spooky stuff going on here.

    There are three kinds of spirits that visit/inhabit the earth. Angels that come to us with a purpose; spirits who are evil and are angry that we have bodies, the third kind are ghosts who made the wrong choice to not cross over to the other side. These ghost are usually harmless, but can be mischievous. Where did I hear this? On Oprah from a pair of paranormal psychologists. I think that there is a lot of validity to this viewpoint.

    Also on Art Bell ( I am not a regular listener) a psychic said that it is dangerous to do seances, weegie boards etc… because the analogy he used was that you don’t drive around in a bad part of town with your car door wide open. Someone might jump in. They might be harmless, but more likely they will be trouble.

    Comment by JA Benson — September 2, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  13. One of my investigators told us once while we were there that they were recently having problems with their couch being possessed. (no joking) Her young daughters were scared of it and it only seemed normal when we were there sitting on it.

    The only thing I could think of to do at the time was dedicate the house. I ran by our Ward Mission Leader’s to check if that was ok and how to do it then we went back and did the ordinance. After that they said they had no more problems with it. So, whatever was going on, faith in the power of the priesthood seemed to lend a hand:)

    Personally, I’ve never really believed most stories I hear whether good spirits or bad, but I don’t discount the possibility and have wondered for a long time why devils are not cast out anymore like they were back in the day. Or are they but we never hear about them because we feel discouraged towards telling them nowadays? I dunno.

    But don’t tell anyone about writing that book!! That’s MY idea I’ve had for 3 years+ and I’m going to do it hear soon enough. This blog is a great start!:)

    Comment by Bret — September 2, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  14. What I find interesting is that when people have experiences with the other side, say…while doing family history (like I mentioned above) or Temple work, it’s not “ghost stories” but “spiritual experiences”. But when the spirits are evil and it’s all-out creepy? It’s a ghost story.

    Ghost equates bad, right? Am I right? If so, than Holy Ghost is ironic. At least from a mortal perspective.

    Comment by cheryl — September 3, 2008 @ 8:14 am

  15. what about that story about some evil spirits trying to harm some apostles in England in the early days…remember?

    Comment by alex — September 3, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  16. alex,

    I don’t believe I’m familiar with that story. If you’re able to drum up the details, I’d like to hear it.

    cheryl,

    Don’t forget, there are “friendly” ghosts, too. :)

    Comment by David T. — September 3, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  17. President Wilford Woodruff at a Priesthood Meeting, held in Provo, March 3rd, 1889. Reported by Arthur Winter

    Some of you have read the history of the power of the devil in England, when the fallen angels that are upon the earth made war upon Brother Kimball, Brother Hyde, Brother Fielding and Brother Russell, who had all they could do to live in the midst of that kind of warfare. These evil spirits knocked down Brother Russell and Brother Hyde. They didn’t Brother Kimball; but that power fell upon him. His eyes were opened. He saw the spirits before him; he saw what kind of beings they were. They gnashed their teeth; they were mad; they wanted to destroy the lives of the brethren. These men held the Priesthood. Brother Kimball held the keys of the Priesthood, so far as England was concerned. These spirits had not, therefore, the power to destroy them.

    Brother Kimball, Brother George A. Smith and myself had a similar experience in London, at a house where we were stopping. It seemed as if there were legions of spirits there. They sought our destruction; and on one occasion, after Brother Kimball had left, these powers of darkness fell upon us to destroy our lives, and both Brother Smith and myself would have been killed, apparently, had not three holy messengers come into the room and filled the room with light. They were dressed in temple clothing. They laid their hands upon our heads and we were delivered, and that power was broken, so far as we were concerned.

    Comment by Howard — September 3, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  18. Wilford Woodruff – An Incident at St. George Temple

    I will here say that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.”

    These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives.

    I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others. I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.

    Comment by Howard — September 3, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  19. Cheryl #14 see my comment #12

    Comment by JA Benson — September 3, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

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