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Ghosts: Reality Or Illusion


Real Ghosts By Daniel Cohen
When you hear the word "ghosts", you may think of something
in a white sheet with holes for eyes, or you may think of a
ragged figure dragging chains and moaning. One might also
conjure up an image of an invisible being that goes in and
out of rooms without needing to open doors. That is the way
ghosts are usually described in stories or shown in movies.
But real ghosts come in many different sizes and shapes.
Sometimes they are strange and frightening looking or
sometimes they look very ordinary and it is hard to tell
that they are ghosts at all. Often ghosts cannot be seen,
but are just heard and felt. This book is about real
ghosts. Are ghosts real? 
The book begins with several anecdotes of impossible
occurrences such as:
 "An airplane crashes at 3:25pm causing the death of the
pilot. At the same 
 time in another city, a lieutenant claims that he saw
and spoke with the 
 "A judge says that he had a conversation in his home
with a reporter at 
 1:30 the night before. But at 1:30 that night the
reporter had died of a heart 
 attack in his own bed." 
 "In an old mansion in England, a photographer actually
snaps a picture of a 
 shadowy figure on a staircase. It is the 'brown lady'
of Raynham Hall." 
Each of these people claims that he really saw a ghost. In
this book, the author (Daniel Cohen) investigates many
strange stories. Sometimes he uncovers a hoax, but other
stories leave puzzling questions. Do spirits really haunt
old houses? Can a human be transported back into the past?
Are ghosts real? Return from the dead? 
Another interesting story is told about a man named John
Thorne who lived near an old haunted house. In 1958 he had
an odd experience... He woke up in the middle of the night
to find a strange woman in his bedroom. It was dark, but he
could still see that she was wearing a long dress, the kind
people wore a hundred years ago. Thorne turned the lights
on, and the figure had disappeared. In 1961, Thorne's
brother, William, came for a visit. On the first night,
William heard footsteps outside the door. When he looked
out of the open door. He saw a woman in a long black dress
holding a handkerchief in her hand. Suddenly the room
became very cold. 
The Exorcists By William P. Blatty 
The Exorcist was an extremely popular book. It was about a
young girl who was "possessed" by the devil. It took a
ritual called "exorcism" to drive out the evil spirit. An
even more popular movie was made from the book. People
thought that the movie and the book were true. They were
not. The book was a piece of fiction written by William P.
Blatty, however, it was based on a real case. One of the
reasons that the book and the movie were so popular, is
that people thought that the story actually happened. Here
we have to be very careful. "based on" is not "the same
as". The writer and the movie producers made many changes
in order to make "the Exorcist" more dramatic and exciting
than the case that inspired it. In the book and the movie,
the "possessed" subject was a young girl. In the real case
it was a boy. And that was just one of the changes made.
There were many, many, many more. A large part of the
exorcist was not based on anything at all. It was just made
up. One reason is that we really don't know a great deal
about the real case as very few records were kept and most
were not even made public. Some of those involved in the
case have since died and many others just don't want to
talk about it anymore. 
Here is what we do know. The case began early in 1949. The
possessed subject was a fourteen year old boy who was
called Douglas Deen. He lived with his family in a suburb
of Washington D.C. The first thing the family noticed that
alerted them that something was not right, were strange
noises coming from the boy's room. At first they suspected
the noise was caused by mice. Exterminators were called
in, but they found nothing and the noises continued... The
disturbances became more violent and other happenings
occurred also such as; heavy furniture moved back and
fort;. a bowl fell off the top of the refrigerator for no
apparent reason; a picture seemed to jump off the wall. The
worst disturbances took place in the boy's bedroom. His bed
shook and trembled all night. The noise kept Douglas and
his parents awake night after night. The Deen's talked
about these events with their neighbors. The neighbors
laughed at first. But after they spent a night in the
Deen's house they stopped laughing. The neighbors also
began to believe that something very strange was going on.
But what? the Deen family then called in the minister of
their church, the Reverend Winston. The minister, too, was
sceptical, but he decided to investigate more closely. He
spent the entire night of February 17, 1949 in Douglas
Deen's bedroom. Later, the reverend Winston described what
happened that night at a meeting of the society of
parapsychologists in Washington. He told them what he heard
when he had been at the house. He said that first, the
boy's bed began to shake, and then there were scratching
and scrapings from the wall. The minister switched on the
lights but could see nothing that might be causing the
disturbances. The minister then asked the boy to sit in an
armchair. The chair began to move around the room slowly.
Then it started rocking back and forth. Finally, it tipped
over, throwing the boy on the floor. Reverend Winston
thought it would be best to get the boy off the furniture
that seemed to move. He told the boy to take his pillow and
blankets and sleep on the floor. While Reverend Winston
watched, the boy, the bedding began to slide across the
room. Reverend Winston was then convinced that something
very odd was going on. He didn't know what! He felt that
these events were beyond his understanding and control. The
boy was taken to Georgetown hospital for both physical and
mental tests. The tests turned up nothing. Visits to the
psychiatrists did not make the disturbances that centered
around the fourteen year old, disappear. The Deen family
became desperate. They finally decided on a drastic cure.
They called in a priest to perform an "exorcism", a very
old ritual. Its purpose is to drive out demons. It is not
used very often in the modern world. Many people do not
approve of using it at all. But the family didn't know
where else to turn. They believed that exorcism was their
last hope. The priest who performed the exorcism remained
with the boy for over two months. During the period he
performed the long exorcism rite thirty times. While the
ritual was going on, the boy would tremble violently.
Sometimes he would begin to scream. Then the voice was not
at all like his normal voice. In May 1949, the priest went
through the entire ritual again. The boy did not react
violently as he usually did. The priest assumed that the
demon had been driven out. After that the boy was no longer
troubled by shaking beds or moving furniture. 
What does all of this have to do with ghosts? Perhaps a
great deal. Psychical researchers found the details of this
case very familiar. The unexplained noises, the shaking
furniture, and the rest of the things that happened to the
Deen's boy had troubled many others. Usually these
disturbances were not blamed on demons. They were said to
be due to activities of a "poltergeist. " poltergeist is a
German word, which means "noisy ghost" or "noisy spirit. "
but in a poltergeist case, people don't usually see any
figures at all. What happens is just what happened in the
Deen's case. There are all sorts of unexplained
disturbances in a house. Often these disturbances are
blamed on a unseen spirit, a poltergeist. Hundreds of
poltergeist cases can be found in the records of different
psychical research organizations. Reports of such
experiences go back to the ancient times. New ones are
reported every year. Usually psychical researchers hear
about the case after it is over, that is, after the
disturbances have stopped. But occasionally they are able
to investigate while the disturbances are still going on.
That happened in 1958. 
We like to think of ghosts or spirits haunting crumbling
castles or ancients houses. This ghost began causing
trouble in a modern ranch house. The house was located in
the very ordinary suburban community of Seaford, Long
Island. In the house lived Mr.and Mrs. James Hermann and
their two children. The children were a girl Lucille,
thirteen, and a boy Jimmy, twelve. Most of the disturbances
seemed to center around the boy. When he was around, things
began to happen. The disturbances began on February 3.
First, the family heard what sounded like popping bottles.
When they went to see what was wrong, they found bottles in
several parts of the house that had been mysteriously
opened and spilled. A few small objects had also been
broken. Strange noises and bottle openings continued for
three days. The family became very concerned. They called
the police. Patrolman j. Hughes came to the house. He too
heard some noise. He looked in the bathroom and found that
some medicine and shampoo had been open and spilled. He
could not explain how it happened. No one had been in the
bathroom. Some of the hermann's relatives also had strange
experiences. A cousin of mr. Hermann saw a statue move
around a table. Then it flew two feet in the air and landed
on the rug. Some of the bottles were taken to the police
laboratory. The electric company checked the house to see
if anything was wrong with the electricity. Building
inspectors and the fire departments also examined the
house. Everything about it seemed normal. They could not
find nothing to account for the disturbances. The Hermann's
family was very upset by these goingons. The appealed to
the public for help. Naturally the appeal got into the
newspapers. The Long Island poltergeist became famous. News
of the poltergeist reached Dr. J. G. Pratt in north
Carolina. Dr. Pratt is one of America's leading researchers
on the subject of haunting, ghosts, and other unexplained
events. He came up to Long Island to investigate the case
in person. He interviewed everyone connected with the case.
He checked over the house, and examined all the objects
that had been disturbed. By the time dr. Pratt arrived, the
disturbances had died down considerably. He didn't see any
objects fly across the room. He did hear a few strange
thumps coming from jimmy's room. He was not able to come up
with any explanation for the case. He just left as puzzled
as he was when he came. The case has never been solved.

About the Author: Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen is the author of over a hundred books for both
young readers and adults, and he is a former managing
editor of science digest magazine. His titles include
supermonsters, real ghosts, ghostly terrors, science
fictions greatest monsters, the world's most famous ghosts
and monsters you never even knew existed. All of these are
available in archway paperback editions. Mr. Cohen was born
in Chicago and has a degree in journalism from the
University of Illinois. He appears frequently on radio and
television and has lectured at colleges and universities
throughout the country. He lives with his wife, young
daughter, one dog and four cats in Port Jervis, New York. 


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