Things that go bump in the night May 30, 2018

For the past few months I’ve been living in a somewhat crowded house.  It wasn’t crowded in the sense that too many people lived in it, it was crowded in the sense that its previous and long deceased inhabitants also lived there (and quite noisily at times).

The house is built in a location which since the 1800s, and like so many historical sites in Sydney, has seen a fair share of tragedy and death; an Aboriginal massacre, a terrible farmhouse fire in which a mother and her two children perished (and after which her husband, deeply grieving, committed suicide), the death of an Inghams factory worker and the death of the previous home owner.

While I’m no stranger to ‘things that go bump in the night’, I was somewhat taken aback by the persistent nature of the phenomena; doors opening and closing by themselves, lights switching on and off, the continual sound of objects, or of someone, moving around in the kitchen, the sound of children’s footsteps running down the hallway, and knocking and tapping sounds.  There was also a strong sense of presence of children, and toward the end of my stay, their mother.

During this time I developed a rapport with someone I affectionately named ‘Mr Smith’.  I don’t know who Mr Smith was in his previous embodied life, or whether or not it bothered him that I didn’t know his real name. I do know that he was sad to see me go and that he was upset at the circumstances which led up to that, having been a silent witness to all that had occurred while I was there.

I felt ‘safe’ with Mr Smith, who appeared to have a fatherly affection for me, and who had in his own way watched over me during many times of distress.  My great grandmother who was a trance medium in her day, used to say that when we experience such things the dead are simply ‘passing through’ and that there is nothing to fear.  I must admit though that I did jump once or twice, especially on one occasion when I suddenly woke from a deep and dreamless sleep acutely aware of a presence standing outside my bedroom door, which then suddenly opened toward me.  Apart from that, and for most of the time, the non-material inhabitants of the household, and their goings-on, were largely benign.

These tales always make for fascinating reading and experiences such as these, which occur when material and non-material realities intersect, prompt us not only to ponder on our own mortality, but the afterlife in general.  I had the sense that these disembodied beings were somehow ‘anchored’ to the location, perhaps because they had a sense of belonging, for whatever reason, to it.  But they were ‘dead’, why were they there?

I thought a lot about this during my time in the house and often asked myself whether I wanted to be a Mr Smith, or a child running up and down a hallway who occasionally touches the living (I was poked and prodded a few times as well with a wee little finger), or a brooding presence loitering in a kitchen corner?  Do I want to exist in the narrow intersection of two realities, where these events are situated, or do I want to move beyond that, both while I’m living and after my death?

Life taught me long ago that there is a vastness beyond this place where the dead and the living intersect with one another.  When my death comes, which is the putting off of the physical body, do I want to be ‘anchored’ to a material location, interacting with the living, or perhaps being bothered by them, or do I want to explore the limitless expanse of the world in which I would now exist?   Well, anyone who reads these posts would know the answer to that question, as I did, within a millisecond.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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