I do, I do, I do, I do, I “do” believe in ghosts. Believe it or not. Even as a person of faith, I maintain a certain level of skepticism. Call it a weakness, or the result of growing up in a secularized, technologically advanced society. But when I hear tales of miracles or the supernatural, I have a little bit of Missouri in me. That was certainly true in the early days of my faith. I accepted the basics because, well, that’s what they said. But when it came to most things otherworldly, especially those said to happen in our day and age, I still tended to walk on the skeptical side, until something happened to me that broke through that veil of skepticism that can become its own faith walk. So just in time for this Halloween season, here’s how it happened.
It was in 1993, and it was just days after I was married. On our honeymoon, we stayed at Jekyll Island in Georgia. We lived in Clearwater, Fl, at the time, and it was the closest ‘resort’ outside of Florida we could get to with the time we had. Plus, it was knee-deep in history, my favorite subject. Among other things, we spent much of our time visiting and touring different historic sites.
One site was the ruins of Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. Unlike similar places, Fort Frederica is preserved more or less as an archaeological dig. There are no historical reenactments around a replica fortress or in replica houses. It’s simply the ruined foundations of buildings with signs describing what we believe the structures were and who lived in them.
We went there our third day. It was a chilly, overcast March morning. For a couple Florida residents, it was cool enough to warrant heavy clothing. There was a slight intermittent drizzle, so not many were at the fort that morning. My wife and I began our tour, pretty much by ourselves. I think there might have been one or two others in the entire center.
We went down what, centuries earlier, would have been the main street. On both sides were the ruined foundations of long lost structures. We would read the little sign that described the structure, then we would cross the street and read another. We went zigzag back and forth across the street as we slowly moved our way down toward the ruined magazine.
Suddenly, as we began to walk back to the other side of the street, from the southern side to the northern side, something happened. Have you ever been in a crowded place and just ‘felt’ the crowd pressing in on you? Not that anyone was touching you, but you felt the pressure of all the people around you? You sense the presence of others, feeling like the air is a little tighter and almost instinctively pull your arms and shoulders in to make way. That’s what I felt. It was as if – for only the briefest second – I felt pressed upon by a throng of people; like I was walking across a crowded thoroughfare, trying to make my way through a press of individuals. That was a bit strange, but then what struck me as I stopped to take it in was that my wife had stopped, too. Before I could say anything, she said the strangest thing had happened. She felt like she was suddenly walking through a crowd of people. I told her I felt the same thing. We looked around, almost to check if we were missing something. Nobody was anywhere near us. We were quite alone. Just the ruins, the moss draped trees, and us.
OK, we decided that was strange, but my skeptical self waved it off and figured it was nothing. Air pressure maybe. That Georgia air. We went on and continued our self-guided tour. We read the next sign, then crossed back to the south side of the street to the next ruin. Nothing. No strange sensations, no feeling of walking through crowds. We looked over the foundation’s description, then turned and went back again and then, once more, the same thing hit. Without either of us saying anything, we both stopped. We looked at each other and nodded.
At that point, we put our backs into it. Being a person who doesn’t like walking away from a paid admission, we scurried over to the remains of the fort proper at the abandoned magazine. It was a bit off-putting I admit. We discussed what we felt and both agreed on how we experienced it. Same feeling. Same sensation. And what was strangest of all, only when we were walking from the southern side of the street to the northern side.
We went all the way around the fort and then, mustering some courage, decided to go back to the scene of the crime. We went back to where we were when we first felt the strange occurrence and tried it again. This time nothing. We walked back and forth, up and down the area where we felt it earlier, but this time nothing. Not one way or the other. Nothing happened.
At the time, we were a little relieved, and slowed down to take in the scenery a little more while we were there. We went on with our tour, visited other places, and enjoyed the rest of our honeymoon. Nonetheless, we’ve never forgotten that. We went back with the boys a few years ago, mostly to show them where we took our first vacation together. We visited the fort. Still the same as it was. And yes, we went back to the spot we remembered. Nothing happened. We had hoped it might be the same feeling, same sensation. It was even a bit cloudy that day. But in the end, it was only that one moment, in March, 1993. And since then, I’ve never felt anything like it – at least anything I had no way of explaining.
I get that there could be explanations, or at least theories. But I’m always careful to remember that the presence of an unverifiable alternative explanation doesn’t explain anything. Just because something might be a reason doesn’t mean it is. I’m not saying this was ghosts or an out of body experience. I just know it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, at least without being able to come up with a reasonable explanation. I’ve actually had many ‘experiences’ over the years, as most probably do. Many of them might be considered by the faithful to be ‘supernatural’ or beyond normal explanations. With most of the times, however, I can at least come up with something logical to dismiss them away. Had my wife not experienced it at the same time, I’d think it was me. But both of us, for no discernible reason, expecting nothing to happen, at the same time and place, twice but twice only, and then never again. I never imagined that it equated to ghosts in sheets rattling chains. But it went a long way toward opening up the possibility that, as a person of faith, I could more easily admit that there are a few more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in my narrow little philosophies.