Friday, October 11, 2013

The Singing Boyfriend

I'm at BYU and I'm dating a guy named Brad. A few weeks ago, he and I went to a fireside about family history and decided we’d research our ancestors together a couple times a week so that we wouldn't, you know, make out so much. So we started going to the Lee Library.

I have a lot of Mormon ancestors, so it was pretty easy to dig up my stuff. And I already knew who a few of them were, like the guy who was one of Joseph Smith’s bodyguards and on the Nauvoo police force. But Brad’s parents were converts to the Church and hadn’t done much family history yet, so he didn't know anything about his ancestors.

After a few weeks, he traced his dad's line back to Illinois around the early days of the Church. And that’s when the first weird thing happened. I remember him turning to me from the computer and telling me his ancestor’s name and when and where he had lived. The second he finished, this amazing anger came over me. I felt like jumping up and strangling him right there and then. I had to actively fight the feeling back, it was so strong.


It started when I was 13. I was lying in bed starting to drift off to sleep when I felt a tickle in my right hand. I scratched at it absently but it didn't go away, so I looked down thinking a bug was crawling on me. I turned on the light and shook out my blanket and sheets but they seemed to be clean. I scratched at the spot for a little while before I realized that whatever was bothering me didn't seem to be on my skin, but in it. Like an ant was squirming around inside a blood vessel.

Over the next few weeks the irritation got worse. More and more “ants” seemed to be moving into my hand. I had a hard time concentrating in school (or anywhere) and my handwriting started to deteriorate, kind of like that scene in Awakenings when the boy is scratching his name on a bench and his writing just sort of trails off in a squiggly line.

Eventually I told my parents about it and they brought me to the doctor. He thought it might be a circulation problem or something like restless leg syndrome and gave me a prescription, but it just kept getting worse. More and more of my hand had ants crawling inside it and my ability to use it steadily decreased. We went to a lot of doctors and my dad gave me blessings saying I'd be healed. But nothing seemed to help.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Companion

Gary, who I heard about through a mutual friend a few months ago, is a retired electrical engineer living in Montana. By luck, I happened to be passing through the town he lives in while moving and he agreed to have lunch with me. The following is a transcription of the relevant parts of our conversation (recorded on my phone), edited for readability. And, of course, names and details have been altered to protect identities. Gary has a folksy air, an easy laugh, and a modest demeanor. He was fun to talk with.

Me: So, your buddy tells me you once had a . . . well, what would you call it?

Gary: (Laughs) A parasite? I had one or two of those while I was down there, that’s for sure.

Me: You were in Guatemala, right?

Exploring Mormon Ghost Stories

One evening after watching an especially fun horror flick with my sister, we sat eating ice cream and talking about why so many good horror movies seem to involve a Roman Catholic worldview. We came to the conclusion that it was mostly because Catholicism has such a big head start as far as tradition goes. When you have 2000 years of history, plus the latitude to draw on Jewish culture and religion, you have a lot of material to work with. Catholicism has also developed a very interesting theology around the living and the dead, angels and demons, and how they cross over into each other’s worlds. Of course, many Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Shintoism also have quite a rich tradition.

My sister and I started to wonder what contributions Mormonism has made to the world of ghost stories. After all, Mormonism has quite a unique view of spirits and the afterlife.