Book of Days: October 31, Investigation Journal

The number of myths and legends, and even just basic stories, speculating on what happens to us when we die had always intrigued him. He was the kid who took all those “real” ghost story books out of the library, even the real gory ones they probably shouldn’t have had in the kids’ section, and no one blinked at it. He’d kept reading as he grew older, shifting from “real” to real, and finding out just how difficult it was to draw that line.

With the grifters and the charlatans, it was easier. The act itself gave them away, for people who wanted to see it. Understanding this made him think true believers should never be the ones looking into that sort of thing, but as time went on, he tempered his opinion. Every Arthur Conan Doyle needed a Harry Houdini, he thought, and if you had one without the other, it was bound to fail, as both sides saw only what they wanted.

But you put a true believer out there, and the grifters would be drawn to them like hornets, and they’d be so taken in by the con succeeding so well, they’d ignore or brush off the skeptic. There was an arrogance to acts like that, a belief they could talk themselves out of anything, and they always, always, thought the believer would take their word over the skeptic’s. But if you had the right match, it’s be the other way around. The believer was the honeypot, and the grifter was the mark, and it all worked out as it should.

The other way around was trickier, because it was so rare. If, he acknowledged, it had ever happened at all. There were a few cases, ones he’d stumbled across not in those sensationalize books but in quiet little stories told by families, and he found they frequently had the dynamic he thought required, but it worked in the other way.

Not that the skeptics were a honeypot. Maybe for true believers in the families who had experienced such things, who were bound and determined to show the world what was out there, but more often than not, they were just an invitation. Because the James Randi’s of the world put out lures designed for the charlatans, but tempting enough for those who had a real story and not much else in the world. That sort of offer was what it took for someone with a family ghost to admit it in the wide world, to get over the fear of being thought a fool or worse, and invite people to come and see what they otherwise would not show.

Once there, it was the believer who put them at ease. The one who sat with them and asked for their story, and gave for all the world the impression they had nothing to fear because they would be believed, and who then showed them it wasn’t an illusion but the truth. This was the vital point, and it worked.

The problem, of course, was that the ones who had a ghost and the ones who merely believed they had a ghost were indistinguishable. The grifters knew they were lying, but these folks, they weren’t. They were telling the truth as they knew it, even when the explanations turned out to be the mundane sort of extraordinary. They usually responded well to those revelations, but some of them crumbled, and that was always the hardest to handle. After all, they’d probably had to adjust their entire worldview to accept what they thought was happening, and to find out they’d made all those changes for nothing, well.

And you couldn’t tell, not until you looked into it all and crossed out everything else. That was the tricky part, and he had never once, in his own little believer and skeptic team, come across anyone who had a real ghost, who had something unexplained.

Except, perhaps, the case of Mrs. Arlena Feerst. 

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by | Oct 31, 2021