October 29th, 2010
03:59 PM ET
From CNN's John Blake:
Gary Jansen walked into his 3-year-old son Eddie’s bedroom one winter night and experienced a strange sensation.
Someone was standing behind him. The sensation was so strong that he jerked his head sideways to see who was there. He saw nothing except a night-light he'd installed in Eddie’s room.
Jansen shrugged it off, but when he grabbed the pair of socks he'd come for he felt something even more eerie.
“As I was walking to the doorway I experienced something quite out of the ordinary - sort of like an electric hand rubbing the length of my back,” he would write later.
That moment marked the beginning of one of the most terrifying years in Jansen’s life. He says he discovered that his Long Island house was haunted. The discovery, he says, deepened his Roman Catholic faith and ultimately led to him ridding his house of ghosts.
Jansen details his story in Holy Ghosts: How a (Not So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night, in which you can find out how he says he ultimately rid his house of ghosts.
An editor at Doubleday Religion, Jansen says he initially struggled to reconcile his experiences with his faith.
Jansen talked about his experiences with CNN:
How did your experience affect your faith?
Each faith believes, in one way or another, in an unseen world, a world of spirits, of angels, demons and ghosts.
Faith really can’t be measured the way you would measure the boiling point of a liquid. But there is a branch of science called microbiology that deals in part with something called bacteria and that’s unseen to the naked eye and influences us every day.
Yes, those things like germs can be observed and measured, but only within the last four hundred years did scientists develop the means to do so. Before that germs were matters of faith. So, I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility, after everything I’ve experienced, to believe that there may be an unseen world of spirits that exists and has some kind of influence in our lives.
Does the Roman Catholic Church takes ghosts and spirits seriously?
The Church definitely believes in a vibrant and very real spirit world. It’s a basic tenet of the faith, to believe in all that is seen and unseen. God is spirit. God has no form.
Ghosts, or what most people believed are disembodied spirits, aren’t acknowledged directly in the Catechism, but tradition holds that they do exist. The Church doesn’t really talk about ghosts per se too often, but there are a few people who have written about it in recent years including, a well-respected Catholic theologian and professor in Boston named Peter Kreeft.
There are many nice people out there with good intentions and fair minds who may misinterpret what they experience. Moreover, there’s been plenty of fraud surrounding supernatural experience throughout the centuries as well.
What have been some of your creepier experiences in your house?
In many ways what we went through was a classic haunting: strange physical sensations, odd noises like the sound of footsteps when there was no one around.
There were electrical anomalies and my son’s battery-powered toys would turn on by themselves a lot. We’d chalked it up for months to it being just coincidence or shorts in the wiring. We’d change the batteries in my son’s toys for instance, but it would keep happening. We’d throw a toy out and another one would start doing the same thing.
And then there were eerie shadows that started to appear in the house and there was no explanation for them. That freaked my wife out most of all.
How do you know you weren’t hallucinating?
I can’t convince anyone I wasn’t hallucinating. I mean, I don’t do drugs. I never smoked pot. I do enjoy a shot of Maker’s Mark from time to time but not too often. I wasn’t hallucinating - my wife and son were experiencing strange things as well - but it’s impossible to prove to another person that I wasn’t somehow imagining everything.
And that’s why I approached it from a spiritual avenue. At the heart of spiritual experience are things that can’t be empirically proven, at the heart of the spiritual experience is the unseen. For me, supernatural, or what many call paranormal experiences, are deeply spiritual in nature.
What kind of reaction have you received from people of faith who’ve read your book?
The reaction overall has been really positive. I think there are more people out there having supernatural experiences than you would expect.
But what I found to be really interesting is that many people came up to me when they found out I was writing this book and would say something like, “You know I don’t normally talk to people about this, but could I tell you about something weird that happened to me a few years ago?”
The whole point of the book was to tell my story with the hope that it might help people stop and evaluate what they truly believe in and what they may have been ignoring in their lives.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.