Who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!

picture taken from www.immediateregret.com

I fear no ghosts! When watching TV in the U.S., however, I might easily get an eerie feeling. TV shows like Ghost Adventures make us believe that we’re surrounded by ghosts and that paranormal activities happen anytime anywhere. Even History Channel reports matter-of-factly that aliens have evidently erected many of the world’s finest buildings such as the pyramids of Giza or Machu Pichu.

If these are proven facts (as TV makes us believe) why didn’t anyone in Germany tell me about it? It seems like Sir Simon and his peers have vacated medieval castles in Europe to settle in more modern American homes – and who can blame them. Apparently, Europeans spooked the ghosts, who then fled over the Atlantic. And Americans seem to welcome them with open arms. If the Otis Family isn’t scared – Zak Bagans “didn’t believe in ghosts until [he] came face to face with one.

But why are Americans more perceptible to hauntings, ghosts, and aliens? To me, there doesn’t seem to be an apparent reason why Americans should be more superstitious than Germans. In a poll executed by CBS in 2005, one in five Americans claims to have seen a ghost themselves and almost half of the people in the study admitted to be believers. According to FOX (2007) one third of Americans believes in ghosts and UFOs. These findings are supported by the large number of blogs that deal with the topic. In Germany, only about 10 % believe in paranormal activities.

What I found most striking though, is that according to CBS, the younger the people are, the more susceptible they are to these beliefs. This made me wonder how much influence the said TV shows like Ghost Adventures and the like have on the results of these polls. Halloween and the media obviously make paranormal appearances pop culture in the US, whereas you hardly have any mentioning of ghosts on German TV. To the uncritical viewer of American TV, it really may seem like ghosts, ghouls, and extra-terrestrials are among us. You may not even be aware of how close they actually might be –  the Missouri-based Kindred Moon Paranormal Society has recorded “something unexplained” in MU’s Ellis Library. Now this might be a good excuse for a missed research assignment.

If you want to watch the Ellis Library Episode, follow this link. Then select Kindred Moon Productions, click on Season 1, Episode 3 and you can start the video above.

What’s Lurking Beneath Moscow?

The cartoon above depicts Moscow Metro chief Dmitry Gayev putting up a sign in the subway that translates to, “Checked, no ghosts!”

Like most cities that have a subway system, Moscow’s Metro has its share of urban legends.

The ones about paranormal activity in the Moscow Metro appear to be so prevalent that Gayev had to publicly dispel these rumors. In this Russian news article, he says (roughly translated)

The Metro is a very boring organization… there are no ghosts here, or anything like that. I’ve worked in the subway for 18 years and I have not seen any… At night, I have shouted “Where are you, dear?” and nobody has been found.

As Halloween draws near, let’s take a look at some Moscow subway tales that have had the Russians so spooked. Which one is the most popular?

After briefly surveying Russian blog entries such as this translated post, the winner seems to be the Ghost Train. It’s centered around a completely empty train that appears once a month after midnight, driven by prisoners who died while working on the construction of the subway.

This translated post lists more stories, including the Preobrazhenskaya Square Station, which is “built on the bones of the dead” – a huge cemetery, and rumored to be haunted by priests that were killed by Bolsheviks.

The post also mentions a tribe that lives underground, of people who once descended into the ground and has since lived there in the darkness.”

Russian blogger Anastasia Carroll gives an overview of the history of the mystique of the Moscow underground in her post here.

The Moscow underground is one of the most mysterious areas of Russia. The labyrinth under Moscow was started in XV century in the reign of Ivan the Terrible. He dug Russia along and across. Some tunnels led to the neighbor principalities hiding in their bosom mysterious stories and unrevealed facts and maybe treasures of Russian ancestors.

She also mentions diggers, who have explored the underground and have found deep dungeons, neolithic caves and “pilot objects that the diggers don’t want to talk about because they don’t have enough information.” It seems like these diggers are similar to what Americans call urban explorers.

In the second post of this series, Carroll talks about legends that these diggers have brought back to the surface. One of them is mutants – giant rats, ducks with fish skin, and weird insects.

They have also have brought back a fair share of ghost stories.

While exploring the tunnels underneath the Sklif medical institute, diggers have claimed that they encountered a ghost of a woman that appeared from a concrete wall. In an attempt to escape, one digger hit his head badly and they took him upstairs to the hospital. While waiting for the doctor, they were shocked to see on a wheelbed the body of the woman whose ghost they had just seen. She had died 30 minutes ago when the diggers were still underground.

I’ve never heard of ghosts in the subway during my eight year stay in New York City, but there is a widespread urban legend of the Mole People, which echoes the Russian underground tribe I mentioned earlier. The 1993 book by Jennifer Toth, The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels underneath New York City depicts vivid and harrowing images of individuals and communities living underneath the NYC subway system. A debate has been raging on since. Here’s an article from The Straight Dope that gives a pretty fair account on both sides.

The article ends with,

Parts of Toth’s book are true, parts of it aren’t, and you take your chances deciding which are which.

There are also stories about about people being attacked by giant killer rats in the NYC subways. I have personally witnessed an abnormally sized rat the size of a cat scurrying across the subway tracks. Luckily, it ran away instead of savagely biting off a chunk of my arm, but it fit the physical description pretty well. So, yeah, it’s most likely that parts of the rumors are true, and parts of them aren’t.