“A Ghost Story” originally published in the 811 Magazine as my column “Wise Words from the Valley Shamama”, (c) Licia Berry 2007

Here we are at that time of year again!  The kiddies are getting ready for Halloween, the days are shortening, and the veils between the worlds are thinning so that we are more able to feel the presence of ghosts.


Yep, ghosts.

I grew up in an extended family that relished the existence of non-physical beings and the possibility that they were interacting with us physical beings on a regular basis. My maternal grandparents lived in a beautiful, old, and very dark civil war era home on several rolling, wooded acres in North Carolina, and it wasn’t unusual to feel the presence of the history of battle on that land or to sense the presence of something we couldn’t see with our eyes. With great frequency during our visits there one of the many aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents would insist they had seen, heard, or felt the presence of “Christophe”, the family ghost.
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My grandfather was psychic, my grandmother empathic, and between the two of them they had the ability to tap in to subtle realms and retrieve information. This was, I assumed, how they knew the name of the ghost – whose presence over the years became accepted as a truth.


Christophe would make himself known by rattling windows, turning lights off, breaking dishes, playing the drum set on the balcony over the living room, or meeting you on the dark stairs with a cold touch on the back of the neck. Once he supposedly etched his likeness onto a glass door; my aunt frantically tried to scrub the image of his face away to no avail. Not so scary. Well, okay, maybe a little. When we visited there, I would lay awake for hours at night, terrified, without moving, believing that if I stayed still long enough he wouldn’t grab me in the night.

My relationship with non-physical beings

I had a love/hate relationship with Christophe, and all ghosts or non-physical beings for that matter. I was very intrigued by the whole spirit phenomenon; my grade school librarian knew to expect my requests for the latest books on “true” ghost stories, and if there weren’t any new ones, I would reread the old ones. I was hungry to validate my own experiences of sensing non-physical energy by reading the stories of others who had experienced it, too. At that age, I had already seen and felt non-physical beings around me – including a beautiful, smiling angel watching over me when I was four, and a great warm “hug” while I despaired over life in my sandbox at the age of two. Back then, it was a comfortable, sweet relationship.


At the same time, I couldn’t find in my own family a good model of respectful boundaries between humans and ghosts. I saw my elders give their power away to them, seduced by the invisibility and apparent magic of that realm either through fascination and even infatuation, or through condemnation and fear. Watching the adults give so much energy to these things made me feel unsafe; it was as if these adults believed the non-physical realm was more powerful than humans and that we were somehow at the mercy of it or felt they had to control it.

It puzzled me even then that the non-physical beings I encountered were kind and respectful, and yet those ones that others in my family encountered were naughty and frightening. Over time, I allowed their hysteria to infect my own experiences, and I became mistrustful of non-physical beings and shut my ability to sense them down.

Regaining my power

It took many years, well into my adult life, to correct the power imbalance I had learned from my family. I’ve learned that what I give my power away to has the ability to frighten me and have its way with my emotions, and that applies for both physical and non-physical realms. Yes, non-physical beings do exist; there are plenty in this land and yes, they do sometimes interact with us if we are open to it.

But the difference lies in how we respond to them, and to anything that frightens us. If we understand that we as human beings are more than our physical bodies and that we too will someday return to the non-physical realm, we can see the “ghosts” as just another part of life, like trees or clouds or prairie dogs, and then it’s not so frightening anymore. If we apply those principles to other scary things in our lives, what else we can we reclaim our own power from? What else can we open ourselves to for a more healthy, balanced relationship?


Giving ghosts a chance

And then, perhaps we can practice having compassion.  As cliche as it sounds, it’s true that ghosts are sometimes lost or confused, and they can use a kind ear.  Of course, you have to be a person that can get a hold of yourself if you are frightened of our non-physical friends.  But remember, we will all “give up the ghost” someday when we die, and wouldn’t it be nice to know that some kind soul will help us out if we are in need?

Indigenous & scientific views

Ghosts take on a whole new meaning when you consider the indigenous cultures’ understanding that we are surrounded by our Ancestors.  Living in a closed system of our planet, where everything is recycled — including the bodies of the dinosaurs running our cars, and the atoms of others’ bodies in our drinking water, etc. — we can’t eat an apple or smell a beautiful flower without giving thanks for those who came before us, giving their body back to the Earth to be composted into something useful, contributing to our welfare.

Recent neuroscience has shown that we carry our ancestors memories in our DNA, including their trauma.  Perhaps the ghosts that we feel around us are our blood kin, asking for us to resolve some ancient wrong or bring them freedom and resolution, and therefore peace?  This is my most deeply loved work, ancestral lineage healing.  I wrote about it extensively in my recent bestseller, I Am Her Daughter, and am so grateful and humbled to be able to be of assistance to those needing this support.

Are you a sensitive person?  Have you ever had experiences that might be ghostly?  Were you terrified, or did you actually try to understand what you were sensing?

Share your story below!

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