Saturday, June 14, 2014

I can still hear the echoes...

A couple months ago an article was published about a tattoo shop in Grand Rapids newly residing in a former hotel that is thought to be a Prohibition-era drop off point. Before the article dropped I had a behind-the-scenes look because my brother-in-law's girlfriend, Stephanie, tattoos at the shop and they were renovating the space together. After finding a secret room filled with vintage-y items they knew this new space was special, but beyond that, having been there mostly by themselves they had to confront a more grim reality about the space: that it's haunted. Strange sounds, smells, temperature changes, and even visions of other-worldly residents have been frequent. Stephanie has at times even felt a sense of dread, like the presence in the room wanted to harm her. Both she and my in-law are reasonable skeptics, neither of whom carry faiths that guide them toward or away from believing in after-lifes, purgatorys, or spiritual limbos. They're not bullshitters. They have no agendas. They're just trying to explain their experiences. Which is why hearing their first-hand accounts is all the more potent.

Last month we visited the shop to see all the renovations. Upon entering, three of the four of us said they felt "something." I felt nothing. After foolishly voicing this I was challenged to spend some time in the basement by myself, which I quickly declined. Though I don't really believe in supernatural things like this, the experiences of others can be quite convincing. I'm open to the possibility of the supernatural, but I'm more amazed by the vibrancy of my imagination and am fully aware it is filled with all sorts of terrible things extracted from fictional and non-fictional outlets. (It was late college before I was able to not look over my shoulder for Michael Myers while climbing the stairs of the parsonage.) Would I have experienced something in the basement? I was too chicken to put it to the test.

I can still hear the echos..."the greatest trick the devil can play is to convince us he doesn't exist."

In the last ten years I've pretty much whittled away the idea of a literal Devil. Every day people hurt people in such ways that it's easy to feel like there must be some divine-being orchestrating the terror. It's the only way to make sense of the pain we're capable of causing each other, especially when the pain is so heinous that it's beyond reason. The idea that my seemingly rational deduction, that humans are the lone culprits in the world's suffering, could be the magnum-opus lie of a master-deceiver chills me to my bones. This seed was planted in such a way that it's grown stems beyond it's purpose. It's the seed of doubt, of myself.

In my early teens my dad recounted an evening in which he came home late, and upon entering the bedroom he felt the presence of evil in the corner of the room. My mom sleeping in the bed while this presence awaited him, he conjured his nerve and with 'the power of Christ compelling,' shooed it away. Sounds like he could've been on the cusp of some real Exorcist shit. I imagine an experience like that wouldn't change in his mind over time, but memories are funny. I called him the other night to see if he remembered it, or if his understanding of it changed in any significant way. It hadn't. He remembers it just fine, but hadn't thought of it until I brought it up.

The movie, The Sixth Sense, touches on childrens' ability to sense the supernatural better than adults can. Once in a while I'll catch our precious baby girl talking to someone who isn't there. Most times it's obvious she's just talking to talk. I know imaginary friends are a thing, hell, we even watch Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends with her here and there. I feel confident I can tell when she's just being silly or kid-ly, but there are a handful of times since she's been talking, when it's felt different. Like the one time she was yelling, "NO! You go away!", at the corner of our bedroom. It was probably just Buzz, the cat, whom she was yelling at and I couldn't see, but my imagination coupled with the fact that a former owner died here in the house doesn't help. Of course I automatically rationalize that it must've been the cat. It's always the cat in horror movies, at least in the false-scare scenes.

I was talking with a coworker the other day who was quite open about being a paranoid guy. I tried to talk him into using the word "prepare-anoid" to better describe himself. He wasn't having it. He doesn't believe the boogey-man is out to get him, or even the man neccesarily, but he fears the possibility of these things and potential harm in general. He said he doesn't believe in the supernatural, ghosts, what-have-you, but still said, "I'm definitely not going out of my way to mess with that stuff." Part of me thinks it would be bad-ass to go all Leiutenant Dan on it all: "It's time for a showdown! You and Me! I'm right here!" But I learned humility, thankfully. And I listened to Operation Ivy years ago and the words "All I know is that I don't know nothin'" still rattle around a good bit.

Since I've entered my thirties I've made a concerted effort not to fret about things that are outside of my control or don't directly affect me. I can't tell if it's wisdom acquired or futility realized. I've just wasted so much energy getting wrapped up in what others are doing, saying, thinking, or feeling. See The Reformer for thoughts on this. But perhaps this effort is why these witnesses peak my imagination and inspire piloerection (sounds dirty...but it's not...), but do not ultimately affect the way I live or think about about things I can't explain. All I can do is listen to the haunted tattoo slingers, Christ compelling Fathers, and precious-little-baby-cakes-of-wheat-who-yell-at-corners of the world and live and let live...and hope that Michael Myers is not actually behind me right now waiting to pin me to a wall with his big knife.