It's late November. We're at the crux of the darkening quarter. While climatic winter is yet ahead - you have that still to look forward to - in astronomical terms the year is only going to get darker. We're in the runaway train of lengthening nights, not only longer than the days, but also still stretching. Maybe there's that aspect of life even in natural senses; by the time it really feels like winter the change has already begun. I thought it only worked like that with relationships. Once you start to value what you've got, it's started drawing away...
For now, though, people have the social brightness of the holidays ahead. The SAD - seasonal affective disorder - isn't going to hit till January and February. All of this is a rueful joke, though. I love to ski, and I love to go inward. And I always think that there is tremendous inspiration in the sheer negativity of the natural environment around us. As nature slows and goes inward, so can we, and this is a great opportunity for thinkers and writers.
Halloween and Christmas are a lot closer together than anyone thinks. Both are connected to astronomical points, Christmas being basically a solstice and Halloween a cross-quarter point (between equinox and solstice). Both have been highly supernaturalized.
You might expect Halloween to be the high time for ghost-sightings. To be honest, I don’t notice any late-October increase in ghost-reports in my part of New York State. More reports may surface, of course, around the Halloween season, since the general public is thinking and talking about all related subjects. To the ratio of 365 to one, I’d estimate, the events they report to me took place at other times of the year.
Ghostlore shows patterns in physical place, of course. Ghost stories and reports have always gathered around sites, one of the few constants we have in the subject. But I detect few seasonal profiles to the subject. If I notice any pattern at all, I’d have to confess that it clusters about Christmas. Some of the Western New York communities I’ve studied really come to life in this sense around the second half of December.
In past years the very haunted East Aurora was the standout, especially the Roycroft Campus. Christmas was a special time to Roycroft founder Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915). Even though he was outwardly agnostic, there was a sure sense of the holy about him, as we see in the sacred structures of his Campus. He scheduled many of his major events – like “the Philistine Conventions” for this time of year. Even the traditional Roycroft colors – red and green – are those of Christmas (and also those of magic in Celtic societies). I’ve gotten so used to at least one story surfacing every year about this time from somewhere in East Aurora, usually the Campus, that I’m let down if I don’t hear something new. I seldom hear about it until after the New Year, though, so I’m still waiting for something from 2006.
Ironically, Orchard Park – six miles west of East Aurora and not generally thought to be very haunted - seems to have taken the South-Towns’ prize from the season of the Yule 2006, and the report comes from my late mother’s home in Orchard Park. It’s not exactly a ghost story, but it’s potentially a supernatural one.
Psychic phenomena had been reported before in that house, mostly in the six months preceding my mother’s transition into Spirit. I’ve written about it in several episodes:
- phantom footsteps in an upstairs hallway at regular times of night
- spontaneously opening garage doors, again suspiciously timed
- dreams and visions in which my mother encountered friends and family on the other side
I’ve rented this house to a family of dear friends, who moved into an environment with about forty years of family karma still in place, including furniture and possessions a century and a half older.
One of these oddities was an old-fashioned desk whose writing-table folded back up and over the interior of the desk and locked in place. This was my dad’s home work-desk, and it’s been locked since his death in 1992. We had the key, but I’d never been able to open the old thing after his passing. The key just “didn’t catch.” I could have called a locksmith, but I kept thinking it was just some trick of a beat-up old key and a well-worn lock. Besides, I didn’t think there was any hurry or anything really important in it. Old bills, letters…
My friend Randy Murphy – living in the house – had been fiddling with the lock and key of the old desk for most of the month on and off to no better effect. One afternoon he gave it a try on the way out to an early dinner with his family and it popped right open “like a Swiss watch,” he said. He closed it back up and hasn’t been able to open it since.
They told the tale as a simple, “How bout that?” They made no special notice of the date. Only when they reflected back could they confirm it as late afternoon on December 16 – the day and rough hour that, fourteen years before, my dad had suffered his fatal heart attack. Make of this what you will. It could, of course, be completely coincidental.