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What book(s) led you to become interested in the paranormal or afterlife? By Madelaine Lawrence

Posted on 02 January 2015, 16:29

Most of us have posted reviews on books.  Comments might include reactions to the pace of the book, the dimensions of the character, the plot development.  Recently I was asked what book most influenced me to become the person I’ve become.  Since most of us have many aspects to our lives, I’ve narrowed that question to be, “What book led you to your interest in the paranormal or afterlife?”

I immediately knew for me it was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  I had no idea how much the book had influenced me, never thought about it before being asked.

I remember the Christmas when I was 10 receiving a child’s version of A Christmas Carol with an attached record.  I read it and reread it and reread it.  Even at age 10 a few things fell into place for me because of the content.  I attended a Catholic grammar school where the sister teaching that year had been talking about the immortal soul.  She mentioned it left the body when someone died to seek its rewards or punishments.  The soul, as sister explained, had no physical feelings like the body.  It was a spirit full of energy.  Its reward for a good life was to be with God.  Its punishment was a hell full of fire and devilish companions.

Even at 10, I saw the inconsistencies.  If the soul had no physical feelings, the fire would not do anything to it.  I decided to keep that insight to myself and not raise the issue in class.  Even at 10, I knew it would not be well received by sister.  For me, the question of what happens in the afterlife was still a mystery. Heaven sounded like a good place but whatever a punishment was for being bad was something I wanted to avoid.

Along comes Jacob Marley in the Christmas Carol, wearing the chains he forged in life!  It was an alternative theory to what happens after death to those who do not lead good lives.  Ghosts and spirits, ah ha!  As a 10 year old I figured if you are kind to those less fortunate, love your family, the afterlife turns out to be pretty good! 

The book also connected me with occurrences at the time of death.  One of my grandmothers died when I was four-years-old.  She was laid out in our house, the front room that once contained my crib and then bed.  My bed was moved and people came to pay their respects.  The tale that circulated throughout the family was three days before my grandmother died, there were three knocks on the door of my grandparents’ house.  When the door was answered no one was there.  As I read Dickens’ book, I wondered if my grandmother had three ghosts come visit her.

About this time, a classmate’s father died.  On my way home from the movies, I happened to pass the funeral home where his wake was being held.  At 10, I walked in, knelt in front of the casket, said a prayer and left.  I wasn’t afraid, just sorry for my classmate and probably a little curious.  I also looked around for signs of spirits.

One day, late afternoon, I stopped into church to make a visit.  It was not an unusual event for us Catholic school children to do.  The church was empty and quiet.  All of a sudden, a moving ball of light appeared in front of the altar.  It was bright white and yellow, full of swirling activity but staying in place in front of the altar.  I ran as fast as I could out of the church.  I never said a word to anyone about this light.  I searched and searched Dickens’ books but could not find information about this ball of light.  Later I learned it could have been a light orb which some believe indicates the presence of a ghost or spirit.  The light was located where the caskets were placed during a funeral service.  I wondered if it had been the spirit of my grandmother who was always full of energy!

Years later, I became a registered nurse.  During that time, I witnessed many deaths and also heard stories about the ghosts’ of the deceased appearing at night time in the hospital.  I kept hoping to see them but none appeared to me.  I furthered my education until finally enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Connecticut.  I was required to take two courses out of my major in a related field.  I had already taken two graduate psychology courses before entering the program that I wanted to count toward that requirement.  My major advisor thought I would like a course taught by this innovative psychology professor on death and dying.  Reluctantly, I took the course with Dr. Kenneth Ring.

Ken introduced me to out-of-body experiences and near-death experiences.  Between Charles Dickens and Ken Ring, I was hooked on studies of the paranormal and the afterlife.  I talked with people for years about their deathbed communications, near-death experiences (NDEs), out-of-body experiences, visions of the Grim Reaper, after effects of NDEs, seeing mist leave the body of the deceased, seeing hands come down to assist the dying and after death communications.  The first person who described seeing the Grim Reaper was a shock.  When two more people described him, I was more prepared.  Their descriptions reminded me of the spirit of Christmas yet to come.  All described a non-speaking, cloaked figure, with skeletal fingers. 

I still had no direct experiences with ghosts in an acute care hospital but through my research found pictures of ghosts in hospitals. One woman reported a story and a photo of a ghost being at an acute care hospital.  Entrance to the specific hospital area required a visitor to push a button causing a buzz at the nurses’ station.  A number of times, the buzz was heard but there was no one present at the gate.  During one of these episodes a woman, whose loved one was in this restricted hospital area, took a picture of the area.  Examination of the picture showed a ghost like figure near the entrance gate.

Every year I watch the Christmas Carol on television.  I know all the versions.  I drag my family to any play being produced of that story.  The book still encourages me.

Now it is your turn!  What story from what book has led you to your path in search of the afterlife or explanations of spiritual/paranormal occurrences?

The Death View Revolution: A Guide to Transpersonal Experiences Surrounding Death by Madelaine Lawrence, Ph.D. is published by White Crow Books

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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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