I love a good ghost story.
Every family has them. Sometimes you need to sit around the family fireplace with the elders of the ‘clan’ to pick up the golden threads from the faded garments of history. Then you have to be able to discern truth from fable, especially if you’re family is Irish like mine and able to spin a good yarn.
But every now and then, the story is told in hushed tones, with a steely gaze which gives you a hint that the blarney has been left at the side of the road for a minute, and we are now heading on a different journey rooted in just the facts.
For the next two weeks we will look at these stories.
One night in 2000, I sat around a table with my father in law drinking a glass of port and talking story. He was talking about growing up in Douglas Park, NSW Australia, where his father was the local railway station master. He was one of six kids and his house was right next to the station, in the quaint little town Southwest of Campbelltown, surrounded by lush green rolling hills and at the time had a very small population.
This night was no different than any Friday night in the town in an era when young people didn’t have cars.
Mick and his friends met up earlier in the evening and then walked from the house next to the station to visit a friend a few kilometres away. It was a cold night, and the fog began to settle in as it does in early winter. The area is very similar to the southern highlands region of NSW. They could hear their footsteps echo as they walked along the rough road, framed by the blackness of the razorback ridge range that frames the area, which is to this day still a place where one finds wild pigs and deer herds running wild. Their laughter broke the stillness of the night. The smell of open fires permeated the air.
They arrived at their friend’s house and after small talk with his parents who went to bed early and cracking open some long necks of Resch’s Pilsner beer, the group settled into a game of cards that lasted a number of hours.
As a hand was being dealt, one of the lads looked over the shoulders of the others and in shock said “Who is that”?
The group turned around to see an old man sitting in a chair in the corner of the house. They didn’t recognise him. How did he get in the room? He looked at them for five seconds, before fading from sight in full view of everyone.
Pandemonium followed, and after the initial swearing and panicking they searched the house and yard to no avail. They discussed what they had seen, agreed it was supernatural in nature and then began the long walk home.
It was a rag tag bunch of young men who much more quietly made their way home, discussing all their theories on what had just happened. Micks house was the furthest away, and as the last friend bid him farewell, he began the fearful trudge home in the black foggy night.
When Mick had a heart attack in his early 30’s he had a near death experience in the front of his house - where he says he encountered a person who identified themselves as Jesus Christ and told him to return to his body as it was not yet his time. That left him with a sense of peace and a lifelong journey of faith in the Christian saviour who he met face to face.
And the old man – he exists in that realm which we have many questions about – who are these apparitions and why do they appear to humans. Are they the departed who cannot or will not leave for a reason, are they angels or are they demonic imposters? And if they are the latter, what purpose would it serve appearing to a group of young men? History and investigation tells us time and time again that this is a common experience for many. What we do know is that all the living will one day join the dead, and in some time and place in history come face to face with God, some to everlasting life, and some to separation from God. What I do know is that our choice to follow the only person to be resurrected from the dead – Jesus Christ – will impact our eternal future, and where we dwell in a new heaven and earth.
It is reported that other people have been raised from the dead, even in the new testament and even in modern history, but they all died again to face eternity. Jesus was evidence of the future ressurection of those who put their faith in Him.