Monday, April 11, 2016

Time Travel, Physics, Ghosts

I have been keeping an eye on Missing Persons since it launched last week, and was pleased and somewhat puzzled to find that the last time I checked, it ranked #228 in the category "Time Travel." Brief note: #228 might not sound like a very high ranking, but in view of all the millions of books Amazon lists, I'll take it! And so I was pleased.

But the category Time Travel? Really? I am trying to figure out how that happened with this particular book. I guess I could see that label applied more easily to Saving Jake (no spoilers - no additional details included in this post), but Missing Persons? Well. Maybe. If you read it and can find more than a very slight connection, please do write to me and let me know.

But the idea of time travel as it applies to the paranormal made me think of an episode I watched on PBS. I think it was on the Mystery series. But you know, it's been a while so I'm not exactly sure. At any event, this particular story was entitled "Miss Morrison's Ghosts" and was about two somewhat elderly schoolteachers who visited the palace Versailles in France some time in the early twentieth century. While they strolled through the gardens surrounding the palace, they passed a man working around the shrubbery. Since it was the height of summer, this would not be unusual, except that the man was wearing clothing more appropriate to the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, that could be explained as historically correct clothing required of the groundskeepers. Shortly after that, they passed a woman who could have been Marie Antoinette's twin sister sketching within the small gazebo just to the side of the path.

At that point, things grew a little fuzzy, and both women remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of dread, of disaster on the immediate horizon. They looked around themselves and suddenly heard the shouts of what sounded like a group of people -angry people- approaching. Alarmed, the two ladies, hid themselves from the mob that soon swarmed the path. 

I'm not clear on, and maybe they weren't either, exactly what happened next, except that the mob vanished as quickly as they had appeared and the two were again alone on the path in the garden. Both of them felt overwhelmed by what they had just experienced and retired from their visit to Versailles to rest up at their lodgings.

After extensive research, the younger of the two ladies inevitably came to the conclusion that they had somehow stepped back in time to the French Revolution and the moments just before the angry citizenry of Paris stormed Versailles and captured the royal family. Her companion wanted nothing to do with that explanation, and didn't choose to speak of what had happened again. But the woman who decided upon this somewhat extraordinary explanation for their experiences wrote the story down, which is why it was eventually turned into an episode of Mystery.

The point of this story is that it has caused me to sometimes wonder if some of the hauntings people experience aren't related, in some way, to a kind of time travel. Physics, if I remember correctly, has proven that time is relative to the person in a particular moment of that person's awareness. This posits that time is not linear, as most of us conceive of it, but something else. Some years back, there was a teacher at my community college who taught a class titled "Crazy Horse and Einstein Are Cousins." The teacher was Native American, and his intent was to show his students that his Nation did not see time as a linear construct: that is, they did not categorize events as past, present, and future. Instead, everything is happening in the moment. That is why events and injustices that will seem to be so long ago - centuries!- to the western mind, can seem like something that just happened this morning when a person is of another culture and perceives time differently.

Note: I think physics and the paranormal are closing in on each other pretty quickly and it's just a matter of time before all those "silly supernatural things" that can't be proved in a laboratory actually will be. After all, we couldn't prove the existence of molecules and bacteria and supernovas and quarks and other things of that ilk until technology caught up with the concepts. It's just a matter of time and research, I think.

That aside, I have a feeling that people who see some ghosts are actually seeing something from what we call the past. If the people in that past moment could see the witness who is observing their existence, those people might consider our twenty-first century observer to be a ghost herself. If they could all see each other.

I don't think this explains all hauntings, but I have read quite a few stories that involve someone seeing a person, or a scene, or an event, that would make quite a lot of sense if the person who is witness to this type of paranormal scene had accidentally stepped out of his own time for just a moment, and gone to the place where said historical person existed, or when that historical event happened. And there have been numerous stories: the woman at the college in Kansas who walked into a room at the library and found herself staring at another woman in turn-of-the-twentieth century (ie, 1899 to 1902 or thereabouts) apparel standing in front of an unfamiliar bookshelf, replacing a leather-bound volume; or the poor tourist who took the elevator at an historic fort down to the basement in search of the restrooms only to find himself in a Civil War surgery complete with blood covered physicians, wounded soldiers crying out in pain, and the expected sights and sounds of wounded battlefield survivors being treated; or the motorist north of London who somehow ran into the ancient queen Boudica and her horse drawn chariot, armed with her spear and a slew of other weapons; or those travelers who swear up and down that they have seen Lincoln's ghost train with its black bunting and the solitary coffin lying on an open car passing through the station.

Having something in the house that makes noise and moves things around is one thing. I tend to call that thing a ghost. 

But perhaps stumbling upon a person or a scene out of history could be another thing entirely?


  1. This idea has never occurred to me and is really interesting!

  2. I'm glad you like it. It's been suggested at various times and I've always thought it was pretty plausible. I don't know that I want to experience it, however.