Monday, May 4, 2015


One of the concepts that turns up quite a bit in tales of the paranormal is that of the portal, an entryway between our world and the spirit world. Or maybe an entryway between two dimensions.

Portals are the places where ghosts can pass through onto our plane of existence, and all the different things that can be portals are the things that tend to freak me out at when I'm alone at night and the house is not behaving itself.

Mirrors - This is probably the most frequently mentioned portal, and anyone who has never been apprehensive at the thought of glancing in a mirror and seeing someone standing just behind deserves a hearty handshake. I can't tell you how many times I have been reluctant to raise my head from the bathroom sink after rinsing cleanser off my face to towel off in the mirror - simply because I had a feeling I might see someone else reflected in that mirror besides me. In the Victorian era, mirrors were covered when someone died in the house so that the soul would not get trapped there. I suppose the mentality was along the lines of "We love you, Aunt Lily, but we don't want you hanging around the house when you're already dead." Can't say I blame them. A reflection in the mirror was thought to be akin to seeing your own soul, so I suppose there is a logic to this. I think our current culture has incorporated the uneasiness associated with mirrors but forgotten the reasoning behind it. 

Quija Boards - When my kids were younger, I told them that one of my standing rules, without any kind of negotiation allowed, was no ouija boards in the house. EVER. This is not only related to The Exorcist, but also to my own creepy experience with one back when I was in sixth grade. The ouija board has been featured on some of my paranormal reality shows as a way that supernatural entities can gain entry to a house, so I always figure better safe than sorry. We might know how to let these things in: getting them to go away again is something entirely different.

Cameras/pictures - On some levels, I can understand why certain groups of indigenous people do not allow themselves to be photographed. For one thing, the first pictures back in the day were flat-out scary. (If you don't believe me, check out "Creepiest Pictures Ever" or search "Memento Mori". All related to my last post.) But for another, there is something kind of magical and other-worldly about capturing someone's likeness at a specific place and time. Also, there is always the chance that something else is going to show up in that picture. Even before photography was invented, formal painted portraits took on unsettling aspects. I figure there's a reason Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray. When I was a kid, there was a hall  of portraits in Chicago's Art Institute that always freaked me out. Probably because the last picture mounted on the far wall was one of Salome and John the Baptist's head on a platter. I don't know why that was included in this particular grouping, but there it was. Never failed to raise the hairs on the back of my neck, especially after walking past a hall lined with portraits of 16th and 17th century nobles and clergymen peering down at me. Yikes. It still makes me feel shivery.

Doorways/windows - No surprise that actual entry points into a house could also be entry points for something else. When my grandson was a baby, he had a thing about windows. I called what he was seeing "The Window People." He was all of five months? six months? when he developed a particular routine if we set him in his baby chair facing our picture window. First he would look out the window. Then he would laugh and clap and respond as if someone was playing with him. And then his face would crumple and he would start to cry -and not just a sad cry, but an all-out wailing like he had just been pinched. I would have said coincidence if it only happened twice or maybe three times. But it happened repeatedly for weeks. We stopped having him face out the window, and for a while, I stopped looking out the window myself. Who knows what the heck was standing out there, tormenting my little guy?

Actual Places - Up to this point, I've only talked about particular objects. But I also feel there are places on this planet where things can come and go. We always think of a house being haunted, or a structure. But what about places where nothing has been built, but people report seeing and feeling things? I believe there are places on this planet that are spiritually regenerating: the sites of beauty like the Atlantic coast in New England or the Pacific coast all along the western-most states, or maybe a beach in Hawaii at sunset, or my own beloved Door County. All of these places have a good feel to them, a peaceful and sometimes energizing atmosphere. But I have also run into places where I needed to leave, and immediately. A particular beach in one of the north suburbs of Chicago comes to mind. Sometimes a desolate road, or a section of woods that just feels "off." If there are healthy places on this earth, why wouldn't there be unhealthy ones?

As Aldous Huxley put it, "There are things known, and things unknown, and in between there are the doors of perception." Hmmm. I wonder what doors he wandered through to compel him to write that?

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