Unitarian-Universalist Ghost Stories

And now for something completely different.  Is your church haunted?  Do you ever encounter the apparitions of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, or Adlai Stevenson?

There’s a show on Sci-Fi Channel called Ghost Hunters, and in their first season they investigated a (former) Unitarian church that had been converted into a residential home.  Apparently the owners have seen strange figures and the church bell rings on its own.  Growing up UU, telling ghost stories was a common activity, especially at church lock-ins or on church camp retreats in the summertime.  Every time the heat kicked on and the church pipes started knocking in the sanctuary late at night, the kids would shriek.  Likewise the cemetery behind the church was a place of enticement, excitement, and low-level terror.

This ghost-hunting craze that has been growing in popularity is a modern-day descendant of the Spiritualist movement, which the Universalists were involved in big-time back in the 19th century.  Nowadays investigators use high-tech gadgetry unavailable to earlier ghost hunters: they’ve gone from table-rapping and seances to infra-red cameras and digital recorders.  But a lot of the same impulses seem to survive: the wish for confirmation of an afterlife, the desire for re-connection with lost loved ones, the thrill of the unknown, the amateur scientific search to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, as well as the fame and profit that can be built in such atmospheres.

Your intrepid blog-host is a skeptic who, despite having a massive trove of memorized childhood ghost stories stored up, has never been very impressed by the evidence for supposed spooks.  But perhaps you’ve had other experiences–scary, silly, touching, or just plain weird–that you’d like to share.  Or you’ve just got a doozy of a ghost story that you remember telling around the campfire.

So please feel free to post here ghost stories that you’ve been told or paranormal encounters that you’ve had, or, as often happens in these situations, that your cousin’s wife’s teacher’s aunt’s friend’s roommate’s brother’s daughter SWEARS happened to her at a time and place that no one can quite pin down.  Stories from Unitarian-Universalists are most sought because this is a field of research (UUs and the paranormal) that is virtually untapped from an academic standpoint (despite the presence of the UU Psi Symposium), but fellow travelers are welcome to share as well.

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6 Comments

Filed under Unitarian-Universalism

6 responses to “Unitarian-Universalist Ghost Stories

  1. Last Sunday I was chatting with the choir director during coffee hour and reached out for the last chocolate chip cookie. But before my hand had reached the plate – it was gone! How on earth???

    (sorry, couldn’t resist, feel free to delete)

  2. Clearly paranormal! If you care to leave the address of your church, I’ll notify the Ghost Hunters to send a team out there right away. . .

  3. The Beverly Unitarian Church in Chicago is well-known as a haunted church. The alleged spirit is supposed to be that of a girl who died of the flu back when the church (which is actually a castle!) was still the Chicago Female College. A church custodian unexpectedly encountered a young girl on the premises one day and chatted with her. Finding the conversation a bit odd, she returned and discovered the girl had vanished. Since then people have seen a candle-light being moved back and forth by the windows and floating up the stairs. At least two ministers have reported strange phenomena, from apparitions to phantom sounds.

    The Fourth Universalist Society in NYC is also allegedly haunted. A former custodian described finding the toilet paper and paper towels in a women’s room totally pulled out and strewn about everywhere, at a time when there was no one else in the church. And an events manager claimed to see a man in Civil War uniform disappear right through the wall on the second floor.

  4. Another UU-associated place with a supposed haunting is the Wayside Inn, in Sudbury, Mass. The inn was made famous by the Unitarian poet Longfellow, and has long served as the venue for the important Universalist (and later, Unitarian-Universalist) ministers’ group known as the Fraters of the Wayside Inn. The spirit of Jerusha Howe, who lived at the inn during Longfellow’s day and whose family ran the establishment, is said to haunt the inn. Male visitors say they can feel her lying next to her in bed (she never married), and people hear her piano playing and smell her perfume (a citrus scent). Some of the Howe’s were Unitarian, hardly an unusual thing among such an old New England family.

  5. Transient and Permanent

    Star Island, famous in UU circles, is going to be investigated on Ghost Hunters: http://www.uuplanet.tv/blog/2009/03/18/TONIGHT_Ghost_Hunters_go_to_STAR_ISLAND

  6. Transient and Permanent

    Rev. James Ford has posted a link to a YouTube video about hauntings at a UU church in Nantucket: http://monkeymindonline.blogspot.com/2009/03/nantuckets-haunted-church.html

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