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How far back in history do haunted houses go?

Ghost up close or haunting hood-wink?

Ghost up close or haunting hood-wink?

Ghost stories: Nothing new under the sun

Displaced souls or mindful manipulation drive many to seek and even see what isn’t there.

Haunted houses and stories about them are nothing new. Even Pliny the Younger – eyewitness to ancient Pompeii’s obliteration by an exploding Mount Vesuvius in 79 (that’s A.D.) – dabbled in them, at least once.

The Ancient Standard translates the original Latin: “There was in Athens a house, large and spacious, which had a bad reputation as though it was filled with pestilence. In the dead of night, a noise was frequently heard resembling the clashing of iron which, if you listened carefully, sounded like the rattling of chains. The noise would seem to be a distance away, but it would start coming closer … and closer … and closer. Immediately after this, a specter would appear in the form of an old man, emaciated and squalid, with bristling hair and a long beard, and rattling the chains on his hands and feet as he moved.”

You get the idea. Visit the Ancient Standard if you want the full telling or, if you’re a Latin scholar, review the original text. Either way, Pliny’s account demonstrates that ghost stories are nothing new.

What is new is the latest ghost sighting coming out of the famed Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado (inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining”). The photograph below is posted for your examination:

Seeing ghosts? You decide

Seeing ghosts? You decide

According to the Huffington Post, “The Mausling family of Aurora, Colorado, participated in a ‘spirit tour’ at the 108-year-old Stanley Hotel in Estes Park last month. After returning home, they noticed a photo taken by John ‘Jay’ Mausling that seemed to show a young girl walking down the stairs.”

John Mausling and his wife, Jessica Martinez-Mausling, told HuffPost via email there were no young girls in their 11-member party or on the tour. But there’s more:

“The Mauslings said that at the time the photo was taken, there were just two people on the stairs: the tour guide and someone else on the tour with a cellphone. However, the image shows what could be a third figure, who appears to be walking up the stairs and away from the tour group!”

Who could it be? Depends on what you want to believe.

Manipulating people

Manipulation – Are you getting your fair share?

Getting poked and prodded to do what others want you to do is not limited to television commercials and the promise of a brownie if you finish your dinner. Suggestions are everywhere. The human capacity to choose what they would otherwise prefer – subliminal or dangled right out in the open – is often where suggestion stops and manipulation begins.

Merriam Webster describes the transitive verb “manipulate”:

1:to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner
manipulate a pencil
manipulate a machine

2a :to manage or utilize skillfully
quantify our data and manipulate it statistically
—S. L. Payne

b :to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage
being used and manipulated by the knowing men around him
—New Republic

3:to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose: Doctor
suspected that the police reports were manipulated

Whether one gets cast in the role of pencil, machine, or dupe, the idea of being manipulated is unappealing. But what if it’s for your own good? How about for the betterment of society? Is manipulation all right then?

Basketball net laundry hampers anyone?

Basketball net laundry hampers anyone?

Back in 1999, Amsterdam Airport authorities in Schnipol just wanted to cut the budget. Cleaning the facilities – the men’s room – was one very costly but necessary job. Signs telling men not to pee on the floor would likely get ignored or become graffiti receptacles.

The solution? Flies!

New Scientist recalls, “Economist Aad Kieboom had an idea: etch a picture of a fly into each urinal. When they tried it, the cleaning bill reportedly fell 80 percent.” The lure to take aim and shoot was irresistible.

Check out the video below for what the UK has done to manage their population:

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What do you think? No, that isn’t a trick question.

Mortician Caitlin Doughty eager to allay your fears

Mortician Caitlin Doughty eager to allay your fears

Fear of death or just creeped out?

Does the thought of death give you the willies? (Thank you Hollywood, as well as the death and dying industry. Dying is expensive in the United States!)

If you want to overcome your issues or just explore more of what gives you goose-bumps – a common seasonal for October – you may want to ask a mortician. And you don’t have to leave home or hang around after a funeral service to find one.

Bestselling author and mortician Caitlin Doughty (of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory” and “From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death” fame) has a viral YouTube channel. You won’t get a virus from watching, but Caitlin’s popular videos – laced with a heavy dose of humor – may just do the trick in helping folks accept death for what it is: part of life’s process that we’ll all have to deal with, creeped out or not.

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If you get the sense that Doughy is on a mission, you’re right. Her goal? Improve the funeral industry by involving families in the process of saying goodbye to their loved ones! Nobody should be forced, but family should not be locked out of what is – and historically has been – one of the most intimate customs that can aid, if understood, the bereavement process. Finding others of like mind, this compassion-driven mortician established a dedicated group whose focus is clearly noted on her website Order of the Good Death:

The Order is about making death a part of your life. That means committing to staring down your death fears- whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety and terror of modern culture are not.

Snowflakes come in all shapes and sizes by design. It’s time to leave off being manipulated – even by your own fears. But only if you want to!

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