Believing is seeing

Do you believe in ghosts?

Today is Halloween — the annual peak of everything ghostly and paranormal is in full swing.

I suppose I see myself as someone who wants to believe in the supernatural.It’s certainly fun to suspend my doubts and believe the classic stories of spirits, especially around Halloween.

That said, the only paranormal experience I’ve had occurred when I was a young child.I was sleeping in an old house which always gave me the chills, when I was suddenly awoken in the middle of the night to the door opening and a fog rolling into the room.

I’m quite certain it can be explained by an overactive childhood imagination and delirium from the flu I woke up with the next morning. Regardless, it’s significantly more exciting to believe it was something much less explainable than a fever.

It doesn’t take too much wandering around Kingston to find buildings that could easily pass as a setting for a horror film. Whether exploring campus, strolling down Princess St. or anywhere in between, you’re bound to see historic buildings filled with eerie stories.

It’s no wonder the Haunted Walk of Kingston is so popular around this time of year.

It was a chilly night with a slight breeze when I headed to take part in the walk — perfect conditions for a ghost tour. The sold-out crowd was buzzing with anticipation as we gathered in Market Square, preparing for departure.

We strolled through the downtown streets, listening to stories of areas formerly used for hangings and burial grounds. The creepy stories ranged from vengeful prisoners sentenced to death to apparitions of small children.

Everyone was hooked. The crowd eagerly followed our cloaked guide to different landmarks as we learned about their importance in Kingston’s illustrious and often eerie history.

Another student on the tour, Laura Morales, is a believer in ghosts.

“Having not had an actual encounter with a ghost myself, I know of several people who have,” Morales, Sci ’16, said.

Although Morales enjoyed herself on the Haunted Walk, she was hoping it would be a little spookier.

“My only problem with it was that it wasn’t as scary as it is advertised to be,” Morales said.

“I did get to learn a lot about Kingston’s past which is definitely interesting. I never knew there were so many buildings around campus and downtown that were haunted.” We even learned of an undisclosed, haunted house in the University District, which certainly piqued my interest. The former residents of the house reported numerous strange happenings that suggested supernatural activity.

For example, blood-like stains would reappear on the carpet, even after being thoroughly cleaned.

There was even an incident where the resident of the house felt as though she was struck, resulting in a noticeable mark, despite being alone in the room.

It was unnerving hearing stories of a haunted house that could very well be occupied by classmates or even me. I’m quite optimistic that my home is ghost-free, though.

Waldron Tower, otherwise known as Wally, was built in 1968 for the nursing students of Kingston General Hospital but has been owned by Queen’s since 1988.

A relatively young building by Queen’s standards, Wally is allegedly home to Queen’s most famous ghost — Nurse Betty a former resident who jumped to her death from the top of the spiral staircase on the 11th floor.

Waldron Tower resident Maria Chaplick has heard a few odd stories of occurrences taking place in the residence.

“A don had a motion-activated candy dispenser that she turned off but in the middle of the night it turned on and candy came out,” said Chaplick, ConEd ’15.

“Also, someone had their TV off, went to the bathroom, then when she came back it was on.” These supernatural rumours of the ghosts have certainly found their way into residence lore. The strange happenings aren’t limited to a small group of students, either.

Many residents have either experienced or heard stories of supernatural phenomena.

Marnie Cornett, ArtSci ’17, said other students on her floor in Wally last year experienced strange occurrences throughout the year.

“One of my housemates talked about how she had her printer turn on in the middle of the night. She would have things move around her room at night, like cups and pop cans,” Cornett said.

Despite the experiences of her floormates, Cornett said she has her own theories to explain these strange occurences.

“I’m not a big believer in ghosts. I think it’s probably more due to some nervous first-years living on their own for the first time, being a little sleep deprived and stressed,” she said.

Queen’s sociology professor Vincent Sacco, who specializes in deviance and criminology, said it’s important to collect empirical evidence before forming a theory.

As a result of his value of empirical belief, Sacco is a skeptic on the paranormal.

“There is no sound evidence to indicate that any part of us survives physical death. Of course, lots of people don’t agree with this position and that’s the nature of belief,” Sacco told the Journal via email.

Sacco said debates on the topic are often being heavily influenced by personal biases. Stories from friends and family, or even pop culture, can heavily affect one’s belief on the topic.

“Arguments in support of the existence of ghosts are almost always personal and subjective rather than impersonal and objective,” Sacco said.

Such beliefs render the world meaningful and offer explanations for evil and misery, he added.

“Oftentimes the supernatural can be used to explain instances that would otherwise appear to be unexplainable,” he said.

“The problem is, however, that they work against the development of a more empirically-based understanding of how the world works.” It’s hard to avoid getting into the Halloween spirit around this time of the year. Between all the costume-themed parties, candy sales and horror movie specials, it’s easy to be swept up in the spooky times this season has to offer.

Enjoying the fun frights of Halloween can be just as worthwhile as a good ghost story, especially for someone who isn’t a fan of all the supernatural hype. You don’t have to be a believer to carve a pumpkin or enjoy a classic horror flick.

But if there’s any time of year that turns a skeptic into a believer, even temporarily, it’s now.

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