Dear Mortellus: Where Are All The Dead?

Dear Mortellus: Where Are All The Dead? October 16, 2020


Dear Mortellus: Where Are All The Dead?
Dear Mortellus: Where Are All The Dead? Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili from Pexels

Anonymous Asks:Why is it that some people can see/experience ghosts in places that are ‘haunted,’ but not everywhere like you?”

That is a really good question, and one that has a whole bunch of answers, but I’ll do my best to take a crack at it. 

It’s not you, it’s me.

First things first, it’s really important that we realize that every person is different and we all have unique talents and skills which often take years to hone. When I’m in my kitchen making dinner, I try not to think too hard about Gordon Ramsey, because if I do, I’ll feel inadequate. 

I’m sure as hell not saying I’m the Gordon Ramsey of mediumship (though, I am just as ill-tempered) but I have been doing it for a long time. My ability to effortlessly connect with the dead comes from working with that skill every single day for 34 years. That said, I’m really awful at lots of completely ordinary witch things. I’m not a psychic, don’t understand astrology, and couldn’t properly meditate if my life depended on it. So maybe mediumship doesn’t come naturally to you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t spend time with it just like any other skill and eventually be awesome at it.

Amy Blackthorn, author of Blackthorns Botanical Brews, offered this advice for you:

“As someone who has been seeing the dead since before I knew that I could choose to turn it on and off, I think of it as a any other talent. (Most) everyone can throw a ball. That doesn’t guarantee that you can throw a curveball, or even throw hard enough to reach home plate.

It isn’t just “muscle.” It’s muscle+ talent+ desire. There are people who see the dead, and are so frightened by what they see, they self medicate with drugs and alcohol. They scroll on their phone, or watch tv. Escapism takes that anxiety away. Anyone can develop the skill, it just takes time and instruction doesn’t hurt.” 

As to why everyone sees things in some places

Manifesting takes work. Spirits need energy to manifest in loud ways, and it’s certainly easier some places than others. In my everyday work I purposefully give up and create energy around me for the dead to utilize, but some haunted places are effective because they have energy sources inherent to them. You might notice that a haunted location happens to have power lines overhead, are positioned on a ley line, or have a strong magnetic field in the area. These are the sorts of things that can help spirits manifest their presence in a way that anyone can see.  

But probably, spirits are around you more than you think.

Modern society spends a lot of time on autopilot. So in terms of experiences with the dead, are people actively looking for those experiences, or spending a lot of time working or exhausted from work, on the phone, on the internet, or watching television? It’s important to take time with the quiet of your own home to simply hear what it has to say to you. 

So try this. Turn off everything. YES. EVERYTHING. Unplug all your appliances (even the fridge – it’ll be fine for a few minutes). Sit in the pure quiet of your home, and simply listen. If you’d like to amplify the experience, you can prick your fingertip and allow a drop of blood to fall as a gift of energy for any spirits around you to utilize. I bet you walk away from the experience surprised by what’s around you all the time, that simply went unnoticed.

(Be certain to swab your finger with alcohol first, and use a clean diabetic lancet from the pharmacy. Properly dispose of any sharps and bio-hazardous material. We’re doing Necromancy, not spreading around disease and infection)

We hold ‘haunted’ places to a different standard

Generally speaking, when someone says a place is haunted, we take that at face value and don’t really critically analyze the statement. Nobody wants to be the one to walk into Eastern State Penitentiary and say, hmm… actually, I’m not really feeling it here. NPRs Laurel Dalrymple put it this way: “Perhaps hauntings are a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you want to have a haunted experience, your imagination just might make sure you do.” So it’s important to keep this in mind and ask yourself what you believe.

Between you and me, I’m likely to be very skeptical of “haunted” locations, and for a few reasons. First off, skepticism is really healthy, it’s important to be skeptical. If we’re not, we aren’t addressing our confirmation biases, and we need to be willing to challenge our ideas about things. Always. About everything.   

Secondly, people are mostly full of crap. Funny how hauntings always happen in really interesting places that make for great tourist destinations. It’s never somewhere completely boring like the Walmart near my hometown that is sitting on top of a cemetery they bulldozed. How about the pretty ordinary houses all over the world that nobody died in, but just attract things? Sometimes truly haunted places are really boring and full of life – and sometimes, really interesting places just don’t have any ghosts.

So with that, I’ll leave you with the very wise words of artisan, and skeptic Acacia Orris:

“I get it, skepticism is a bummer. That being said, there are important things to take into account when judging if what you are experiencing is a spirit or something a little more mundane, and ignoring the mundane can be dangerous. Aside from trying to rule out obvious alternate explanations (rattling pipes, hearing the neighbors talking through the walls, uneven cabinets opening because of gravity, etc) there are two main questions I ask myself when I start to experience what seems to be otherworldly phenomenon.

One, “Is my environment safe?” and two, “Am I taking care of myself?”

A lot of the uneasy, queasy, and eerie feelings a person might associate with a haunting can come from physical sources. Lumped together, these symptoms can be indicative of a phenomenon called “Sick Building Syndrome,” where noxious environmental factors present in a specific place to make people feel ill. One example is carbon monoxide poisoning, which has symptoms that mimic the feelings and some of the visual distortions commonly associated with the presence of ghosts. Acute carbon monoxide poisoning can also cause brain damage and death, so make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries around to stay safe.

Another pretty serious environmental factor that comes into mind are severe allergies. I cannot tell you how many ghost hunting shows I’ve seen stumble into old, water damaged, dusty buildings and have investigators report breathlessness and chest tightness as evidence of a haunting. This often leads to me screaming and throwing my albuterol inhaler at the TV. Allergic reactions to mold (and asthma) can be swift and severe, and if you start to experience anything that limits your breathing or causes severe chest tightness you need to call for emergency services. Be safe, be smart, and stay alive. After all, there’s little point in trying to interact with the dead if all you’re doing is going into anaphylactic shock.

As to taking care of myself, In the simplest terms this usually means running through a checklist of my basic needs with questions like: do I need to go to sleep, when did I last eat, and have I taken my medication today? It also means begs the question: could I be stressed out about something? This last one is a harder question to address, especially if you are grieving or in the middle of a big life change. So why bring it up? Chronic stress creates real, documentable changes to one’s body chemistry. It flips on that fight or flight response everyone likes to talk about and doesn’t turn it off, making you much more likely to perceive threats whether they’re actually there or not. Asking yourself  “Am I taking care of myself” may mean acknowledging your distress and stepping away from interacting with whatever dead may or may not be present until you feel grounded enough to reinvestigate.”

 A big thanks to Amy and Acacia for providing their time and expertise answering this reader question. For more of these fine folks, you can visit them at Blackthorns Botanicals, and Acacia at Lapidify.

I encourage you to consider both for your holiday shopping, and take a look at the newest release from Amy Blackthorn, Blackthorns Botanical Brews, available wherever fine books are sold.

But also seriously: Invest in a lancing device, some refills, a box of alcohol swabs, and a sharps container. Witchcraft can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be unsafe.

About Mortellus
Mortellus is a Gardnerian High Priestex, Mortician, and Necromantrix living in beautiful Western North Carolina. You can read more about the author here.

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