When confronted with the paranormal, many people go through an internal process of questioning and reexamining of their perspectives on the world and themselves: questions such as whether or not they are going crazy, what prosaic answers there could be for the unusual experience or experiences, how people will view them if they dare to share their story, and other more existential quandaries. In his book, Holy Ghost, author Gary Jansen takes the reader though this process as he tells the story of how he came to believe his house was haunted and how he dealt with it.
Jansen is an editor and author specializing in books on religion and spirituality. Growing up in Long Island, his mother would occasionally talk about the ghost she believed haunted his childhood home. Jansen didn't think much of it until many years later when he and his wife purchased that very home.
After moving into the house, Jansen and his family began experiencing many strange occurrences which led him to suspect that perhaps his mother was right. Among other things, he felt strange electrical sensations in certain parts of the home, he saw shadows moving around the house, he and his wife heard weird sounds, and reminiscent of the movie Poltergeist, his son's toys would turn on and off on their own.
Jansen struggled with the preposterous idea that ghosts may actually exist, but as the supernatural experiences piled up, he also could not accept any conclusion to the contrary. He wondered, "Why was I resisting both belief and non-belief?" Often people who feel they have come face to face with the paranormal, especially those who didn't believe in its existence prior to their experience, describe similar feelings.
Another issue Jansen faced when he began seriously suspecting he was living with ghosts was whether or not as a Catholic he was supposed to believe in ghosts. Don't get the wrong impression; Jansen is not someone you would consider a "bible thumper," as indicated by the subtitle of his book, How a (Not-So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night. Instead Jansen comes across as a regular guy who takes his religion seriously, but like many, has to work at reconciling it with everyday life.
Jansen found that Catholicism does incorporate the belief in ghosts. In fact, his research began to open his eyes to the vast amount of supernatural material in the church's history and doctrine. He found that there are actually protocols developed by the church for dealing with paranormal phenomena.
In his journey for answers and solutions to his problem, Jansen was not afraid to push the limits of acceptable church methods. This included getting in contact with Mary Ann Winkowski, a consultant and one of the inspirations for the TV show Ghost Whisperer. Winkowski claims to be able to communicate with ghosts and help entities "cross over into the White Light." Although hesitant at first, Jansen was amazed by the information she shared, and appreciative of the help she gave him.
Jansen's experiences and the confusion he felt are common among those who come to believe they are living in a haunted house. He is just a rational regular guy, experiencing something so strange that it threatens to shove him, kicking and screaming, out of the comfortable pocket of societal normalcy.
Skeptics will be able to appreciate the way he approaches the anomalous phenomena and get some insight into how seemingly well-grounded people, in an attempt to be honest with themselves and others, end up believing in the paranormal. His experiences made him consider that perhaps his own skepticism served "as a mask to cynicism." And that "maybe we need extraordinary things to happen to us to shake us from the sleep of doubt?"