Why are we afraid of ghosts

The fear and the ghosts

by Doris Joachim-Storch, advisor for divine service, Center for Annunciation

“You have to come quickly. Now they are all really crazy. ”We are at confirmation time. The girl who calls me is usually pretty brash and not that easy to shake. On the way she tells me what happened. Some girls have reportedly seen a ghostly hand burned a cross on the door of their room. And she is also sure that something was there. Somehow.

In any case, she spontaneously took hairspray and made the cross disappear again. The spook is over. But the girls are still in a panic. And even the boys think it's possible that ghosts were at work.

I cannot get the youngsters down with reasonable arguments. I tell them about imagination, mass suggestion, a psychological state of emergency in the group and so on. In between, I hit her pretty rough. That helps a little. Because then her anger with me is greater than her fear. And then someone says: "If you believe that there is a God, then there can just as easily be spirits." "That is something completely different," I say immediately. But I notice: I can't really explain it. How does belief in God differ from belief in spirits?

I'll try another argument and say that I'm entrusting my life to God, but not to any strange spirits. But that's why they could still exist, the young people counter immediately. Do I believe in angels? Yes, but they don't make such cheap hocus-pocus. Ultimately, I don't find a convincing argument against the existence of ghosts who paint crosses on doors. Fear cannot be overcome with rational arguments. And I am seriously considering whether there might be other forces between heaven and earth than those that we are scientifically researching. But what are ghosts for, except to frighten confirmands at night and to rob me of sleep?

I'll stick to it: I consider the burning cross to be a collective imagination. But I like the way that one girl courageously intervened with the hairspray. I tell you that. And it even has a famous predecessor. It is said of Martin Luther that he threw an inkwell at the devil. And when the fear was really bad, he'd show the devil his bare bottom. The confectioners have to laugh. Laughter is a great remedy for fear. And also: defending yourself and not being helpless are good remedies against fear. Whether there are ghosts or not. However, I can think of a better means than hairspray or an inkwell: namely, trust in God. It is definitely stronger than ghosts, if they exist.