Being “Out There”, with a Ghost

Being “Out There”, with a Ghost

Ghost stories.  Not the spooky tales from Halloween.  Not the summer camp anecdotes heard while roasting marshmallows.  No.  I mean actual stories of actual ghosts.

Yes.  I believe in ghosts.  How can I assert this controversial position with such certainty?  Easy.  I grew up with a ghost in our house.  He was not terribly scary, but he certainly was no Casper the Friendly Ghost.  At one point in my younger days, I can recall thinking that everyone probably has a ghost living with them as it was the “normal’ to me.  Our ghost became that much of the fabric of our household.

I understand how it may strike some that I state so definitively that ghosts exist and I knew one.  The point was even open for debate in our own family.  My father and sister occupied the “You are crazy.  There are no such things as ghosts” camp.  My mother and I remained true believers.  I think that dynamic contributed to me being Mom’s favorite.

Please note, I appreciate that many others do not, and will never, believe in spooks.  I respect other views.  I try to convert no one to the camp of the believers.  I search for no other ghosts.  I do not go ghost hunting.  This story merely recounts my own experiences. 

Here is how our ghost manifested himself to us — at least to those that believed in him.  You could hear the ghost walking in our house.  At discrete points, the floors and stairs creaked.  Most noticeably, both the second and third step leading to the second floor possessed a distinctive creaking sound.  By high school, I learned to jump over these steps when getting home too late to avoid waking up my parents with the noise.  If the ghost went upstairs, the second step would creak, followed by the third step.  Going down, the order reversed even though no one appeared present in the stairway.

Lights would be turned on or off, especially in the kitchen and dining room.  I never got used to that action when I was home supposedly all by myself.  It felt as though the ghost wanted you to know he was there too.

Some of the most disturbing conduct involved the back door on the house.  After hearing footsteps on the three steps leading to the back door off the kitchen, the back door might open or be slammed shut, again with no one apparently near the door.  This door included a deadbolt lock which the family never used principally because we had no key for it (query why my parents never removed the deadbolt).  Again, after hearing the three footsteps leading to the door, quite often, the deadbolt would be locked despite no family member ever using this lock.

Less tangible than these physical actions, but just as real to us true believers, would be the feeling or sense when the ghost was present with or around us.  In ghost movies, the temperature drops precipitously in the room with the arrival of the spirit.  Not quite so in our house, but the feeling in the room definitively changed if the ghost entered.  The best way to describe it would be that the room became tense or stiff as when you feel if someone is staring at you.

Mostly, the ghost would just go about his ghost business, whatever that may be, and generally ignored us.  However, at times, the ghost would watch us from the doorway of a room.  You always felt you could see something out of the corner of your eye, but nothing would be present when you snapped your head to look at the doorway.  At these times, having a spirit looking at you, the creepiness factor would increase dramatically.  

That is when I learned about communication with the ghost.  In high school, perhaps I would be studying for a test when the ghost was in his observation mode.  I would sternly state that I needed to be left alone so I could focus on studying.  I even once told the ghost to get lost if he was not going to bother to help with chemistry homework.  Those admonitions usually and surprisingly worked.  

Years later, long after my mother sold the house without listing the ghost in the disclosure statements, she confided in me some of her own experiences with our spirit.  Apparently, the ghost became much more active when my mother found herself living “alone” in the house post-divorce and post-kids.

When she returned home in the evening, the dining room lights would be turned on and off with the ghost announcing his presence.  When she would go to check the dining room, she could hear the back door deadbolt locking or noise at the front door.  My mother attributed the enhanced spiritual activity to the changed circumstances of the family having left the house which, she felt, the ghost did not like.  At one point with lights blinking, my mother reported that she stood in the dining room and yelled at the ghost that he was scaring her; and he could stay but the scaring had to cease.  Thereafter, the unexplained disturbances became as regular and routine as before.  My mother independently found her own way to communicate with the ghost.

Why would a ghost be in our house?  The houses in the neighborhood were built in the late 1940s and not built over some ancient burial ground.  I could never locate any reported deaths or murders at the property.  The best lead came from our elderly next door neighbor who claimed that during the 1950s, a guy with ties to the underworld lived in the house with comings and goings of visitors at odd hours.  Imagine that, a Mafia guy lived in a suburban New Jersey house.  What are the odds?  In any event, no further explanation could be discovered.  Yet, we survived.

Why would I share my very own ghost story?  There exists little upside in reporting as fact what so many believe to be fancy.  There may be some who respond that the account is pure fiction made up to justify another blog article.  There may be some who question the judgment of someone who shares such controversial experiences.

The short answer is that I need to practice what I preach.  Whether in a social relationship or even mediation, I challenge others to put themselves out there.  Without doubt, this story places me “out there.”

In social relationships, or at least potential relationships, this concept of placing oneself “out there” is routinely in play in today’s society.  Social dating internet sites appear premised on self-disclosures.  Full disclosure: I have never been on any such site and have no plans to research this point.  As such, I may be way off using this illustrative point.  I imagine that candid and complete disclosures are encouraged on such sites in order to better ensure potential compatible companions.

Take for example the person listing jogging, theater and travel as interests but fails to include the details that travel really means attending Renaissance Fairs all over the region and theater really means actually dressing up in period costumes for the fairs.  A more robust disclosure and placing oneself “out there” regarding Renaissance culture could only assist in securing a match with one also into reenacting The Canterbury Tales.  Without the disclosures, the potential internet soul mate may pass over the profile in the search for the true historic mate.

In the context of mediation or settlement discussions, refusal to share information, positions, or stories limits the opportunities for success.  I appreciate that lawyers have been well-trained to limit disclosures.  The thinking is that if a client’s hand is shown, then little leverage remains for future negotiations if settlement is not accepted on those terms.  The focus and emphasis remains on the risks associated with sharing information.  

Ahh.  Lawyers.  We generally are not at the front of the line among risk takers when representing clients’ interests.  Fair enough.  Nonetheless, by putting yourself and your positions “out there”, unanticipated opportunities may develop.  At a minimum, the other side will more clearly understand your position and better be equipped to work toward a solution.  

For example, a party may disclose that settlement is required at this time or in this amount because that party is launching a new business.  Settlement discussions then turn toward creative financing alternatives or potential joint business ventures in lieu of a simple monetary resolution.  If that information remains guarded and never gets “out there”, these alternatives would never receive consideration.  

Remember that protections remain in place.  Mediations and settlement conferences are confidential proceedings.  Information cannot be used beyond the four corners of the proceedings.  Further, participants can always say “no” in settlement discussions if the response to disclosure veers in the wrong direction.  Despite lawyers inclinations and training, there remains little actual risk in placing genuine settlement positions and reasons “out there” for consideration.  Indeed, a healthy degree of upside may well come into play.

An actual ghost story is now “out there”.  Even if ridiculed by a few, I am fairly certain that I will survive and so will my practice.  Perhaps some will respond with stories of their own close encounters with a new kinship then developing between us.  At least now when I recommend others to place themselves “out there”, I can do so with confidence and conviction of one who has done it himself.  And, if you plan to buy a house in West Orange, New Jersey, contact me and we can chat about one house to avoid, unless you want company.  Good luck with your own ghosts, ghouls and spirits as you are “out there”.

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