Spirits are not always as sinister as they seem

Illustration by Amy Czachowski

I grew up always liking Halloween, but as time went on, and my siblings and I grew older, we began celebrating it with less and less emphasis. I was raised to have an open mind and to enjoy the experiences life brings me. It was not until recently that I had my first paranormal experience.

Believing in cryptids, like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, was something my brothers and I shared a passion for. I knew the probability of those cryptids being real was low, but having something to believe in made the world feel less intimidating.

Since high school, I had stopped believing in cryptids and monsters, much like losing the belief in Santa as a child. I had lost hope that there was even a single thing in this world that evaded explanation. Reading extensive fantasy and sci-fi novels as a child, I was fascinated by the unknown and always wanted something to believe in. I learned to come to terms with the fact that life on Earth would always just be normal.

The very first time I saw a ghost was the first day of this semester. It was near 10 or 11 p.m., and I was waiting for my boyfriend to get off work so we could video chat.

As I sat in bed waiting, I watched outside my window. I live in Hilltop Townhomes, and the view from our townhome is of Citizens Cemetery. I can only describe what I saw as paranormal.

The spirit first appeared to me as a light. I figured the light source was the glare of headlights from a passing car. It was not unusual for cars to pass by our townhome in the cemetery.

As I watched longer, the light grew and stretched until it formed the shape of a person. Rather than resembling the likeness of a person, this spirit had the form of a person with no facial features or hands. It was like a flickering flame morphed into human form that began to move. The spirit’s form twisted and moved until it was dancing around a rugged gravestone like a private ceremony.

At this point in my experience, I began to feel a panic attack brewing. I always wanted to have a paranormal experience, but I was not ready for it. I was in such denial of it happening. I even timed its movements to make sure it wasn’t students pulling a prank or projecting an image. The spirit was definitely occupying space and illuminating light.

Shadows danced along with the figure across multiple gravestones and crypts. The experience was like witnessing a car crash while driving. As disturbing as it was, it was hard to look away. Eventually, the spirit faded and dissipated back into the ground.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I cried to my boyfriend over the phone, but I could not articulate why I felt so afraid. I even spoke with my dad about it, because he had seen a ghost of a man working when he worked at a famous hotel.

He never liked to talk about it, but I knew he had a supernatural experience. As weeks went on and I reflected more on my experience, I arrived at the realization that I only felt fear because I had never seen anything like that before.

The uneasiness I felt that night came from the feeling that I was viewing a private moment not meant for human sight. Where I once felt dread, I now feel lucky to have experienced something as rare as I did.

Movies and the rest of pop culture tend to portray ghosts and spirits as evil and scary. I believe the paranormal is not necessarily evil. There definitely are different experiences and opinions, but my encounter taught me to be respectful of the unknown.

Although a resident of Hilltop died in the townhomes last year, it does not mean this ghost was of evil descent or origin. After this night as I told my friends, I learned several other people had their first supernatural sightings in Flagstaff.

I intend to use my experience to teach others that there are things in life that can’t always be explained and that there is nothing wrong with believing in something, even if it may be rare or unnatural.

Halloween is a time for spooks and scares, but all participation does not have to be chilling. Casper was a friendly ghost, after all.