A few months ago, Mom was returning through Idaho from a summer retreat. She was probably not traveling as fast as she used to-her lead foot having been lightened somewhat by time and traffic tickets-but still I'll wager pretty fast, when she approached a flock of baboon-like creatures gamboling on the highway. She leaned on the horn and flashed the headlights of her pearly beige Camry. The creatures ignored her, so what could she do but plow through them? Nothing! Creatures who act in defiance of Mom must be plowed through! Most scampered out of the way at the last moment, but though she didn't feel a bump she saw at least one of them flip up into the air, as if propelled by a rear wheel.
Mom didn't perceive a percentage in going back to evaluate the carnage, and when she finally did make a stop the car was entirely undamaged. She couldn't help wondering what the creatures were, however, what they were doing on a lonely Idaho highway at dawn, and why they didn't injure her Camry to the extent that she could buy something new, or to any extent at all for that matter. She ran an account of the experience past her sister, my benevolent Auntie Jan, who promptly diagnosed the creatures as figments of sleep deprivation. *
So she tried again with her spiritual advisor who told her there were lots of strange, mystical goings-on in Idaho, and that the baboon things were just one example. I tend to agree with the latter, being a fan of John Keel, In Search of…, (and oh my gosh, Crossing Over with John Edward, have you seen it?), and having visited the Adams in Idaho Falls. Baboon creatures? Sure sure. Couldn't be any worse than that orangutany feces flinger Empress @#$% I avoid every work day. And the idea that you can drive over them without fear of harm or reprisals makes them that much more appealing.
I have always been fascinated with/terrified of the supernatural, likely the result of an uneventful and cowardly childhood. A Saturday afternoon showing of Chariots of the Gods? was enough to throw me into a giddy panic, and those goat parts we saw on the side of a road in Mapleton, Utah chilled me for years. Now other aspects of Mapleton do, but still I have a fond corner in my heart where those parts reside (in memory, smart guy). And even though I'd like to think I'm a reasonably skeptical person, I'm not, simply not. I'll read and believe the explanations of the debunkers, and it's fun to hear how a fraud or illusion is accomplished in a Scooby-Do finale sort of way, but my sympathies lie with the mysteries.
Which is why I'm going to tell my personal ghost story (I have two, but they are so similar that to tell both would be redundant) straight before I give the skeptical rebut.
I was drowsing in bed one winter evening after work. Shut up. This is my right as a single, childless person. The room was dark except for the cold light of my television which had the volume down low. Sleep was my goal and my brain needed a minimum amount of distraction to confuse and discourage wakeful thoughts. A Friends rerun was just the thing to induce a nice little stupor, but then I felt the bed gently dip as if Pat had come in and sat on it. I knew that had to be wrong because Pat never gently sits on my bed when I am in a stupor-he bounces all over it hoping to provoke some weird, polite outburst. I've heard I'm mannerly when suddenly roused, but you'd have to verify it with somebody who's been there.
Anyway, Pat was supposed to be at work. I opened my eyes and gazed down the length of my face in the direction I felt the pressure, and though I could feel the quilt that covered me pulled tight over my leg and hand closest to it, I saw nobody. Then I heard a rhythmic shuffling of the papers which ringed my bed-footsteps. Every molecule in my body felt too heavy to lift or even move, and you can hold the wisecracks. I could still breathe, so I focused on my throat, forcing out a gurgle and eventually a word. The pressure lifted from my bed and the litter on the floor lay quiet.
After a few labored wiggles of the fingers and toes I could sit up. I a-hemed a few timed, then called Pat and told him what happened. "Terrific," he said. "You invited an entity into the house." A skeptic with no investment in being a sarcastic punk would say, "You had a hypnogogic hallucination." That's the psychiatric term for what I just described. It happens to people all the time, always with the same psychological and physiological responses and that's how skeptics know it's your mind acting up and not ghosts. I'll buy it whole. "Fascinating-I'm having a hypnogogic hallucination," is a far more comforting thought when it's happening than, "There is a Presence in my bedroom and it's crushing me."
But neither explanation satisfies. What would be the evolutionary advantage of your brain inflicting a series of cogent, convincing, and scary impressions upon your unwitting consciousness? Then again, why would a ghost? I might understand if I were constantly haunted, but absent that it seems like quite a meaningless extravagance. Enjoy the stories within and speculate amongst yourselves about their Rational Explanations, and if the mattress by your head is struck on either side by an invisible force (that's my other story), you can take comfort in them then.
*After this story was published, I learned I had made a few factual errors. First, Mom felt a bump after she passed through the flock of creatures, but didn't see an effect on their number. Second, after proposing sleep deprivation, my scintillating Auntie Jan (who is also sympathetic to the Unknown) believed the story utterly.