A/N: A comedy version of NPR's "This I Believe" essays for class.


You are out exploring an old asylum with some friends. They claim the place is haunted, but you don't believe them. You've done research, you know that silly EMF readers are easily fooled by electric wires and just because someone felt a little bit colder doesn't mean that a ghost is nearby. Besides, what are ghosts even made of that would create cold spots? Plasma, ice cubes, or maybe even lime smoothies? All the "proof" they had shown you could've been done with wires, and the "real footage" could be just a trick with green screen. After all, that's what they use in the movies. So many of the sounds people claim to hear could be completely natural, and the phrase it's only your imagination comes to mind. But now your friends have wandered off, you're all alone in this eerie cellar, and you hear an echoing laughter circling around you. The flashlight goes out and you can see the glowing figure in front of you, grinning at you. Do you believe in us now?

That's right. H. G. Blackthorn here, your resident ghost for the North Chicago suburbs, coming to you from the other side of the veil to give you the paranormal know-how. Back before the scientific revolution, nearly everyone believed in the spirit world. But then humanity faltered, and restoring that core belief became my unfinished business. Thankfully, I do not need to ensure accurate beliefs about our world, only ensure that there is a strong belief. Many of the things people attribute to ghost activity can be fake. Very rarely do any of us spirits communicate with the living through mediums, by knocking or blowing out candles as the movies often portray. Occasionally, younger poltergeists who have not been around very long will mess with mediums by drumming out the bass line to the popular song "Knock Three Times" by Orlando, Tony, and Daw; spelling out "Your mother was a belly-dancing whore" on a ouija board; or farting to blow out the candles. But that kind of behavior is discouraged. Even the no-good scientists are right about some things. EMF readers are easily thrown off by electrical lines, and in the spirit world we call those who use them Extreme Money-wasting Fools. The way they get excited over a little buzz is as pitiful as a vampire who has figured out a way to see her reflection after 200 years of people telling her she is more beautiful than a newborn soul.

But enough of these falsehoods, let me tell you what is really going on across the veil. Like I said earlier, I am the head of the North Chicago ghost chapter and representative to the Mid-West undead conference. The main mission of the chapter is to help lost spirits move on. Many are just lost, but some are stuck with unfinished business. This can range from whispering a last I love you to confronting their guilt about killing their shipmate, or even sneaking up on their younger brother and chasing them down the street while pelting them with glitter bombs and yelling I got you at last, you stupid butt-trumpet! Once a restless spirit passes on, we write down their name and celebrate them at our monthly meetings.

The regular members of our crew are those of us who have an eternal mission or simply enjoy their incorporeal existence much better than their previous life. Spirits such as those are sent on assignments to haunt the sinful and protect the innocent. These are the spiritual missionaries who we tell to linger for a photograph. Good image for the press, you know. It takes some special training to teach them to project their image in a semi-transparent state that we ghosts are known for. Our spirits tend to exist in either complete invisibility to the mortal world or not transparent at all. It takes hours upon hours of floating upside-down singing a low C sharp, the one almost at the end of the piano, for them to resonate with their natural frequency and gain control of their bodies. The transition becomes quicker over time, but it is this need to find the resonance that results in the rumors of moaning cries when someone sees a ghost.

Once our image is on the film or part of the file, it is impossible to remove. A guy in Los Angeles tried to edit a friendly spirit out of the home video of his first-born daughter's christening. He thought it was an evil spirit, but it was just his great-grandmother checking in. But after he tried to remove her, well, let's just say he was constantly looking over his shoulder, never lived in a house more than four months, and screamed at the sight of grape jello. Our chapter studied her methods quite extensively when planning our next outing. Our bi-monthly pub crawl that is. Long ago it was discovered that with enough concentration, ghosts could still consume alcoholic drinks. Therefore, we plan field trips to favorite bars in the area and switch off our invisibility to blend in with the other drinkers. The best part of the night is when we convince a group of people to visit a local "haunted house" with us. We then split ways and the fun begins. Already drunk, they are quick to get freaked out by the natural noises of the night like the spindly tree branches scraping across the old glass windows and the wind whipping through the broken screens and stirring up the dust caking the floor. Then we begin the mind games by tap dancing on the old wood floors beneath the ragged oriental carpeting, whispering secrets in their ears that they forgot they told us at the bar, flickering our image to make them question what they are seeing, and juggling knives while singing sweet old Irish love songs.

Despite all that hilarity my favorite part is reading the local headlines the next week. Holy Water Batman! in Gothenburg Times, 50 Shades of Transparency: Wife's Anniversary Surprise Spoiled by Hamlet's Father in Clay Today, and Mysterious Fortune Teller Cookies Warn Mother of Daughter's Secret Relationship in The Bakersfield Californian. Sadly, if the papers name ghosts, they stick with the same murderous outcasts: The Headless Horseman, The White Lady, and Spoons the Cat. The stories have been told so often every young child knows that they shouldn't say "Bloody Mary" three times in front of your bathroom mirror, but no one knows that her older sister, Wholesome Holly, is constantly chasing her and trying to save innocent, though very stupid, young girls at sleepover parties in Cinderella nightgowns.

While I may be only a lowly ghost made of the collective sorrows of humankind currently floating uncomfortably close to you in this cold, dark cellar, I hope I have rekindled the belief in the spirit world within your soul. I shall leave you to find your friends in this derelict house and make your way safely home. Please share what I have told you tonight. There is no need to be frightened so long as you keep your wits about you, always cook with a cast iron skillet, and carry a salt shaker to repel the Ghost of Christmas Oh-God-Don't-Remind-Me-of-That-One. Treat others with kindness and our kind will generally leave you alone. And please, for Casper's sake, do not attempt to summon the spirit of Kepler to help you with your physics homework.