The Thing About Ghosts

The Wild Word magazine
4 min readOct 31, 2018


Someone once told me they thought my mother’s spirit watched over me. It was meant to be comforting, I think, but I can’t imagine anything more horrifying. The idea of it haunted me; I had dreams for years that the ghost of my mother was outside my door but couldn’t communicate. It baffled me that someone would think this could be a positive situation.

Imagine — being trapped in a liminal state between life and death, watching the lives of those you love as they endure tragedy, but you’re completely impotent and unable to help. And what happens when they die? Do you move on, or are you still stuck, maybe watching generations of their children live and die, your connection to them more and more tenuous? Or, what if they had no descendants? Eventually, even if they did have descendants, you wouldn’t speak the same language as them. You wouldn’t understand their social customs. Everything that was familiar to you would change. That can happen, anyway, if you live long enough. Are you trapped in your old house, or following them around? Because that house surely wouldn’t exist for very long, a couple hundred years, tops, probably a lot less. Could you move with them if they moved? And what if there were multiple kids; would you have to pick one? Or, would you end up stuck in the house as it became whatever was built to replace it? What if you’re stuck haunting a Porta-Potty or the bottom of a lake, your descendants long gone?

If you weren’t tied to a place and could “move on” after whoever you were watching died, that would mean you’d end up in a place with, potentially, everyone who’d ever lived. Let’s call this heaven, though the religion itself doesn’t matter. There is a system of rules governing who could get in for most, if not all, religions, and how could we possibly say which is right? Just because we were taught one? That’s like saying “English” is right because that’s the first language I learned. For example, there’s an Egyptian myth that says that when you die, your heart would be weighed against a feather. If your heart weighed more, you went to “hell,” which sounds really poetic but means heaven would be full of psychopaths. For Christians, the rules are just as arbitrary. There are plenty of things that were considered sinful that aren’t now, like being left-handed or eating shellfish…

The Wild Word magazine