Of God and Ghosts

Searching for spiritual explanations for ghosts in America’s most haunted city

Rev. Ghost Buster
“Ghosts are humans that haven’t crossed over yet,” says Andrew Calder, founder and director of the Georgia Paranormal Research Team. Calder, an Episcopal priest, says that he disagrees with Christians who say ghosts can’t be the souls of deceased humans.

“We still have free will after death,” argues Calder. “We can choose to go to the light or we can choose to stay behind. Up until the End Times, we still have that choice.”

Calder, who has been a paranormal researcher for almost 15 years, says that when confronting ghosts he tells them that they are dead and need to move on because they are scaring people. Calder says it works about half the time. “It’s just like human beings—sometimes they listen; sometimes they don’t.”

The Father of All Lies
David Allire, one of several pastors at Savannah Christian Church, which boasts over 5,000 weekly worshipers, disagrees with Calder. Allire says when a person dies, they end their contact with the physical world. “The righteous are in one place and the unrighteous in another,” he says.

Consequently, Allire says there are two possibilities for ghosts: figments of a person’s imagination or spiritual entities—either heavenly or demonic. Allire theorizes that most ghosts are of demonic origin because of their unchristian behavior (scaring people). He argues that Satan and demons traffic in untruths and can appear as false spiritual entities intent on leading people astray from God. Allire warns against a fixation on ghosts.

Imam Maajid Faheem Ali of Masjid Jihad Mosque, a leader in the local Muslim community, agrees.

“There is a danger in opening oneself up to the ghost culture,” says Faheem. “It can take one away from the straight and narrow path of God.”

“Ghosts might exist within God’s creation, but it’s not God or an expression of God, any more than any aspect of creation is an expression of God.”

The realm of ghosts in Islam is a doubtful area, cautions Faheem. “The prophet Mohammad gave us clear guidance: leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.”

Ask the Rabbi
But Rabbi Arnold Belzar of Congregation Mickve Israel is not too worried about ghosts. “The Talmud [compilation of Jewish law and traditions] talks about ruins being inhabited by ghosts, but there is no categorical statement in Jewish literature that says ghosts exist,” he says.

Belzar, whose Gothic synagogue sits across the street from the allegedly haunted Mercer House of the bestselling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, says that from a Jewish perspective one shouldn’t confuse ghosts with anything godly. “Ghosts might exist within God’s creation, but it’s not God or an expression of God, any more than any aspect of creation is an expression of God.”

Buddhist Words of Wisdom
Yet Cindy Beach, leader of the Savannah Buddhist Sitting Group, believes in ghosts. Beach says that there is even an old, tall, 19th-century ghost named Charlie who sometimes joins her meditation group. Beach, a lay-ordained Soto Zen Buddhist, says she’s seen Charlie at least three times but has felt his presence hundreds of times. “Remember, seeing ghosts in Savannah is not atypical,” says Beach.

Beach says Buddhism doesn’t have a definitive answer for what ghosts are, but she believes they could be suffering from the Buddhist concept of attachment. Beach says ghosts or departed souls could be unable to let go of this earthly plane and move on—for example, obsessing over the particular location where they died.

Nevertheless, Beach says Buddhists believe that the moment you think you understand something—including the true nature of ghosts—you stop questioning and learning. She says being humble, open and continually searching is an important part of Buddhism. Beach says maybe it’s better, then, that we never find out what ghosts are.

[Some readers may wonder why Busted Halo®—which is sponsored by a Catholic organization—addresses various approaches to belief (or non-belief) and spirituality like the one above. Busted Halo® is an online magazine for the millions of spiritual seekers who already live in a competitive marketplace of ideas, philosophies and beliefs; our mission is to empower them to explore their own faith journeys through an open, honest discussion of their fellow seekers’ experiences. -Editor]