Seriously, they are.
Think about it: Are you more creeped out by the ghost of an adult woman or a little girl? No-brainer. Hollywood knows that little kids, whether they’ve got imaginary friends that say “Redrum,” whether they wake up and sit in front of a TV that has spontaneously turned itself on, whether they emerge from a video you watched seven days ago–they’re the crystallization of horror, wrapped in an innocent Damian package.
I know that I particularly enjoy ghost stories that involve children. Kids, with their openness to various explanations of the working of the world (“And then the Tooth Fairy squeezes out of Sue the T-Rex’s front incisor and teleports to your room”) are supposedly more “open” to seeing things that may objectively exist, but that adults may deny. Or they’re just making that stuff up.
I don’t know, though. I had a very active imagination as a child, and I never literally saw things that weren’t there, nor did I confuse make-believe with reality, except for when I had just woken up from a particularly plausible dream. People dismiss the testimonies of children because of their ability to imagine, when it seems to me that maybe they should listen more closely because of it.
What I’m getting at actually does not have anything directly to do with ghosts. I just read a book called “Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives.” It’s a good thing my friend Alex only pretends to read this blog, because he would immediately scoff, but as someone who did study her share of science, the book is very candid about the methods of research Dr. Ian Stevenson, who compiled over 2500 case studies of children who claimed to remember past lives during his career, and who dutifully investigated their claims against empirical data (the lives and deaths of the people they claimed to be, the accuracy of their claims, any connection between the families or possibility of being subconsciously assisted by people who wished for the reincarnation to be true).
I appreciate that the author, Tom Shroder, who has edited The Washington Post Magazine, with contributions that earned the publication two Pulitzers, does not tell the reader what to believe at the end of the book. He lays out his own skepticism, his own resistance to belief, at the same time as he admits that there is evidence that he sees no feasible way of explaining away. I thought, when I took the book out, that it would be much more New Agey than it was; I actually recommend it for people who want to know about so-called “fringe” science and to see for themselves what researchers are coming up with, even if they do so just to debunk. There is certainly no incontrovertible proof for the idea of reincarnation, but…
But. But there are some pretty great stories, at the very least.
It got me wondering–because when I started really getting interested in ghost stories, I started to ask the people I know if they’d ever seen a ghost, and I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with the number of responses to the affirmative–if anyone I know has any weird stories about children in their lives talking about things that don’t make sense for them to talk about. “When I lived on the farm,” for example, or “My old mommy and daddy.”
As much of an old soul as I may be, I don’t remember ever believing I had been someone other than little old Laura, although I certainly couldn’t wait to be a grown-up in that I wanted to have the opportunities and freedoms of an adult. Similarly, unless you count what may well have been a hallucination late one night at a sleepover, I’ve never seen a ghost, no matter how much I always wanted to. If these phenomena are just wishful thinking, I’d think there would be some kind of example in my life, since I was the girl who read every book in the library about the paranormal and then immersed myself in fantasy and sci-fi.
So, faithful readers, tell me your stories. Any weird kids in your lives? Any little boys staring at blank spaces on the wall, or little girls who suddenly play with dolls they’ve named after your long-deceased aunt? Any toddlers who have looked you in the eyes and said, “You’re not my real brother?” Share, share!
Oh, and on that subject: Todd, you’re not my real brother.
No past lives involved, we just got you from a dumpster. For true.