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  • Writer's pictureEva

I Believe in Ghosts. Here's Why.

Updated: Apr 26

If you clicked on this post because you're thinking ... um what the hell ... I understand. I want to preface by saying I don't necessarily believe in ghosts we think of when we hear ghost, as in the incredibly spooky figures in the Conjuring that float around and constantly haunt you. Those are ghosts in the movies. I believe in aliens too but I don't think they have giant heads, skinny arms, and big black eyes... do you?


But I do believe that entities from previous lives exist among us-- ones that we cannot necessarily understand or see. Think about the amount of things that you can't see that really do exist. I can't see the spirits but I can feel them and I know a lot of other people (mostly women) who feel the exact same way.


I had my first supernatural experience when I was a child. When I was around 2 years old we lived in our second house in South Orange, New Jersey. I remember it from pictures that we kept in old photo albums. The house was a pale yellow, with large dark green shutters, and a cute little garden of flowers. Just outside the property was a park with a huge playground that my twin brother and I would frequent often. It was the perfect place to start a family– my parents thought.


A few months into living there I waddled into the kitchen where my mom was fixing up breakfast, "Mommy, I saw the man with the hat today!" She looked back at me, a little worried but mostly very confused. My twin brother chimed in, "I saw him too!" I added, "He comes into my room. Don't worry, he's very nice!" My mom suddenly went from confused to seriously freaked out. Was my brother just adding to the conversation? What did I really see? Maybe it wasn't just my imagination.


A few days later after this conversation, Eli and I were eating dinner in the kitchen peering out the giant glass window overlooking our garden in the backyard. I suddenly stood up on my high chair and pointed, "Mama! Mama! There he is!" I screamed, "There's the man with the hat!" Eli stood up too, jumping up and down, pointing and starring in the same direction. Now my mom was seriously wigging out.


My parents had bought the house from an elderly woman who lived here previously with her daughter. The woman was in her nineties when we bought the house and had lived pretty much her entire life in it. She ended up selling the house shortly after her husband passed away. So, in an attempt to learn about this "man with a hat" my mother called the woman on the phone. Her daughter answered the phone. After talking back and forth for a while my mom began to explain the things Eli and I had seen. Her daughter perked up. "That's so crazy you said that Ina. My father wore a top hat almost every day. Oh! And he loved to tend to his rose bush garden."


Every time my mom retells the story she gets goosebumps. But we were just kids. Only two years old! We never saw him again.


But that wouldn't be the only supernatural experience in my lifetime. Fast forward 20 years later and I would feel the presence of spirits again. This time, 471 miles away in Oberlin, Ohio.


Anyone who has been to Oberlin knows that it is totally and absolutely fucking haunted.


Every building has its own warped energy and it's own intense history. That's exactly how I felt when I moved into my first college dorm– Old Barrows. Old Barrows is a safe space co-op specifically for women & trans people. From the very first day setting foot in the building I knew there was an eeriness about the place. The floors would creek, doors would open when no one walked past them, the kitchen shelves were open and bare, dishes broke when no one was around, the house was always even when we put the heat on. It was a big house with very few people in it. The house needed a lot of love is all.



One day, I received an email from a friend of mine who lived on the third floor.



This was the first time that I knew someone else was feeling this strange presence beside me. Who was this grieving spirit? Why were they here?


At the time this email was sent, I decided to write a 10 page paper for my literary journalism class called "The Ghost of Old B." It required research and so I went straight to the Oberlin College Library archives. I spent four grueling hours all the way up on the fourth floor of Mudd (Oberlin's main library).


Yes I was researching into the possible ghost that was haunting Old B.

Yes I am probably crazy.


But none of those things mattered because I was determined to understand as much as I possibly could about the history of the dorm I was living in and who that sad ghost was that was still living within our walls. The librarian gave me a stack of old pictures from 1902. They were pictures of Old Barrows, which looked pretty much exactly same as it did back then but at the bottom of the frame was a little message that said "President of the College's Estate: John H. Barrows."


As I flipped through the pictures and found some newspaper clippings, but the most interesting was a tattered up folded banner that read in black ink, President Barrows Dies at 2:50 AM.



After four hours of shuffling through creepy photographs, newspaper articles, and old letters, I discovered that Old Barrows was built as a large home for Oberlin College President John Henry Barrows. In a letter written by an Oberlin student, it explained that Barrows had opened his window before going to sleep one night. A cool drift blew in which ultimately led him to become desperately ill and he passed away from pneumonia that night.



I couldn't help but think of the "sad spirit" my friend described in their email. What was he sad about? I thought long and hard. Maybe Barrows' spirit was just really fucking confused. Maybe in his white male brain he is wondering, "What in the hell are all these queer women & trans people doing in my house?" After all, this was the home that was built specifically for him and now served an entirely different purpose. No one knew about the history of Old Barrows anymore. No one knew or cared to know. Maybe by embracing the past, embracing the spirit, our house could finally feel like our own.


Like the man in the top hat, President Barrows wanted to be released. Maybe with our love, he could do so.


On November 13th my housemates and I held a little ritual to release his grieving spirit. We talked about the story of John Henry Barrows and burned sage throughout the house. We lit candles, we sang, we stood there and acknowledged him. We opened the window, like Barrows did in 1902 and I watched the sage escape through the cracks of the window screen. A weight lifted from the room. From the house. A presence permeated through the smoke as all fourteen of us gathered together hand-in-hand. Maybe, at last, Old Barrows was our home.



xox



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