As I write this column, October is beginning to close and November is knocking on the door. Since I was born on Halloween and am a member of a paranormal research group, this time period is always busy.
For some reason, many people only think of the possibility of ghosts and spirits around this time of the year, as if this is the only time that they might come out. According to many legends and religions, the veil between the world of the living and the spirit world is thinner around All Hallows Eve but I know that the spirit world is never far from we, the living.
Because Halloween makes most people aware of the possibility of paranormal activity and ghosts, the group that I belong to hosts haunted tours during October. For a small fee (used to buy equipment) we take groups of people to some of the more active stops we have encountered on our travels. These places include a general store that is unused but not unoccupied (we know of several who haunt it), a tiny country store where the farmers (alive and dead) still like to hang out, an old country school that is currently used as a community center (and the dead of that community still like to go there), and several active cemeteries.
The Crawford County Illinois Ghost Hunters aims not only to learn as much as we can about purported hauntings but to also teach. Many people have a tendency to view the paranormal television shows or movies and think that this is how a true investigation is handled. The media has its purpose, but it also is designed for entertainment. So much of it is compacted into a short period of time with only exaggerated results. Those who have the honor of being paranormal investigators know that there may be “dry spells” where there is little happening or sudden “storms” of activity. But all in all, the work can be backbreaking, boring and eye-crossing as you set up and tear down equipment, listen to numerous recording sessions and view hours of video in the hopes of catching some evidence.
During our tours, we teach mini lessons in the use of equipment, tell the history of the different places we visit, and remind everyone of the etiquette of conducting investigations and dealing with those in spirit. Respect should be shown to the areas and those we are dealing with, whether alive or dead. By far, the most popular places we go on the tour are the cemeteries. I am sure some attendees are looking for scares or thrills, but there are some who come to see if there is any evidence that something of us lingers after our bodies die.
The other night, on our last tour stop, I had a bit of a revelation. This cemetery is a very old one that is set deep in the woods at the end of a long lane. The inhabitants of this cemetery all have their stories and one that is probably the most famous (or infamous, considering her history) is a woman whose grave lies next to her husband’s final resting place. By the way, she was hung for poisoning him. She, as well as others, seem to linger here in this quiet, tree lined area. It is no wonder that this small plot of land doesn’t always seem too peaceful.
As we walked through this graveyard I noticed how huge the trees were. I have heard from several of the area historians that some of them were saplings when the clearing was consecrated as a burial place, well before the civil war. It feels as if they shelter and protect those who lie there. This night the humidity was high so the grass was very wet but there have been times I visited that the dust was heavy in the air as I tramped the grounds.
Suddenly an old song from my young adult years came to mind. DUST IN THE WIND was written by Kerry Livgren and the version that I always loved the most was recorded by the group Kansas.
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.
It occurred to me that those mighty oaks had their roots deep in the dust of several centuries. As the scriptures say, dust to dust. So the bodies of those who rested in the grounds of that same cemetery might live on around the roots of those giants.
Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.
Life’s too short brothers and sisters. Dust, all we are is dust in the wind.
While it is true that death is inevitable, some part of us lingers, I believe. We have had some evidence of that in the recordings that we do. In this cemetery, the alleged murderess has answered a question from us with “I’m innocent.” She obviously felt the need to hang on to this area so she could proclaim that she did not, in fact, murder her husband. Our roles as investigators is to discover why, if it is truly paranormal, do some people feel the need to linger after their bodies have become mere dust.
I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment’s gone.
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity, dust in the wind.
Perhaps those who purportedly haunt the area did not get to fulfill their dreams. By continuing to stay on this side of the veil they may feel that there is some chance of completing what they hoped to accomplish in life or at least ask those who visit them to “help me” as they try to explain what they want. Of course, there can be the grumpy ones (such as the one we encountered recently) who’s only wish was that we “get out.”
And all your money won’t another minute buy.
Dust, all we are is dust in the wind.
Death is the great leveler. No matter your wealth (or your lack of it), your age, your gender, your title… we all will finally lose the battle and take our last breath. Looking over all the graves in this tiny cemetery I saw some that held people of importance and many more of the more humble. There were way too many children’s graves and some of them very old. Death often takes a person by surprise and even when it doesn’t, often there are regrets for things we have not done with our lives, people we haven’t shown enough love to, dreams that went unfulfilled. As in life, so it is in death. We may live with our regrets and we may die with them also…another possible reason for lingering.
When will we learn, that all we are is dust in the wind.
Time for healing to begin, everything is dust in the wind.
You know, I almost always give homework at the end of my columns. While you can, please learn the lessons of a cemetery and a song. We are all eventually going to be dust in the wind. Our memories will continue as long as there is earth and sky but our legacy should not be a lingering regret that steals our peace. The time of healing should begin. Be kind to all and most especially to those we care about.
Perhaps we will have fewer ghostly spirits to deal with if we all lived in that manner. Kindness and compassion can heal much, whether you are dealing with the living or those in spirit. Thank you all for allowing me to share my thoughts once again.