By John Sanidopoulos
"...around their graves shadowy phantoms of the departed are often seen."
- St. Gregory of Nyssa ("On the Soul and the Resurrection")
According to my own many experiences, ghosts are real and hauntings are real. As for what the nature of these ghosts and hauntings are, it is uncertain and I believe each must be examined on a case by case basis. It may be possible, and it would seem most likely, that a demonic entity is behind it. However some arguments also offer up the possibility that it could be the soul of a person who has passed, whether in tragedy or not. Yet, one must not forget to allow for some healthy skepticism, since such matters usually end up being the figment of ones imagination, or an unexplained natural occurrence. Keeping this in mind, I offer the following true personal experience, that can be corroborated outside of my own personal testimony.
In 1994 I was a camp counselor in beautiful New Hampshire for an Orthodox Christian youth camp. I was assigned to a cabin with two other counselors and six children between the ages of ten through twelve. Though over-staffed for such a small group, we had more than enough room in our cabin. The main counselor of the group was me, the second was a guy named Angelo who was about a year older than me, and the third was a 17 year old named Mike who was sort of irresponsible but training to be a counselor.
The layout of the cabin is very important for this story. When one entered the door, immediately on the left and the right against the wall to which the door was attached were two bunk beds. As one continued walking down the middle of the cabin, on either side were single beds lined up along the same line as the two bunk beds on the left and right. At the opposite end of the cabin was the bathroom and showers. My bed was the bottom bunk of the right-hand bunk bed. Angelo slept on the top bunk of the left-hand bunk bed. In the first single bed in front of him, was Mike's bed. Campers slept on the rest of the single beds.
On the first day, I noticed there was one camper with long hair and a t-shirt with a heavy metal band that was fascinated by demons and games like Dungeons & Dragons and the popular game at the time called Magic: the Gathering. Magic was a fantasy game using cards which included depictions of various creatures and demon-like figures common in the fantasy genre. Such games weren't allowed at this Christian camp, so I had asked him to put it away. I later found out that a few others brought their Magic cards, and they would secretly play and trade them.
Every night before bed we were supposed to have a spiritual discussion for 30-minutes, so we would sit in a circle on the floor and talk. I led the discussions, and because the interests of the kids were on topics of a darker nature, I used the opportunity to educate them on these matters. They were usually very fruitful, but it didn't really make an impact as far the kids putting away their Magic cards for the week to concentrate on more profitable spiritual matters.
One day a husband and wife couple came to the camp to talk about issues dealing with teenagers and the occult. I thought it was interesting that they came that particular week, since it had become the primary theme the kids in my cabin were interested in. One particular video they showed was a sensationalistic anti-rock and roll video, where they would play cool videos by bands like KISS and Led Zeppelin, and then shock the viewer with their "satanic" lyrics. The one metal-head in the entire camp, who was my camper, knew he was watching something very sensational and over-exaggerated, and they didn't even talk about any of the bands more current that he listened to. This couple therefore was not making the impact I was hoping for, but rather made my campers more head-strong in doing what they were doing.
It was decided by all the counselors one night to have a birthday party for one of the counselors after all the children went to bed, around midnight. One counselor was to stay with the younger children of each cabin, while the rest were free to attend. Angelo and I decided to go to the party first, and I told Mike that I would be back in thirty minutes to relieve him and he could stay as long as he wanted.
I attended the party, and had some cake. Fifteen minutes later, I noticed that both Angelo and Mike were at the party also. Knowing that Mike was a bit irresponsible, I didn't say anything as we looked at each other in the eye, and just went to the cabin to make sure the kids were alright. When I entered the cabin, it was pitch black and everyone was sleeping, so I changed and went to bed.
Around 3:30 A.M., as I was fast asleep with my head turned towards the door wall, I suddenly felt a presence standing behind me. Since it was pitch black, I couldn't see anything, but whoever was behind me came close to my ear. Frightened, I turned with a sudden jerk, grabbed my flashlight to see who it was was, and I saw that everyone, including the counselors, were sleeping. This spooked me for a bit, but somehow within fifteen minutes I was fast asleep again.
In the morning when we all woke up, I was still a bit troubled, but I brushed it off and said nothing. However, when Angelo woke up his first words were: "Dude, I just had the scariest night of my life." Curious, I asked him what happened. He then proceeded to tell everyone that while he was sleeping, at around 3:45 A.M., as his head was turned towards the wall of the door, he felt a presence climb his bunk bed and breathe over his ear. He said that he thought it was campers ready to play a prank on him, by dumping water or something, so he waited for them to do it so he could get up and take revenge. Instead, whoever (or whatever) stood over him did not move or do anything. This suddenly frightened him, so he grabbed his flashlight, shined it on everyone in the room, and saw that we were all sleeping.
As he said this, I was about drop-jawed. His story was exactly like mine. Then I proceeded to relate my similar experience, though I only said it to the counselors so as not to frighten the campers. When I finished, Mike also had a story from the night before.
Mike went on to tell us how the night before, as Angelo and I were at the birthday party, he was waiting anxiously in his bed to leave and go to the party. He was sitting upright in the dark while all the campers slept. Suddenly he heard footsteps outside and someone began opening the door of the cabin. It was a fairly tall outline of a man, who came into the cabin, stood in front of my bed, and sat down on my bed. Mike, thinking that it was me, since he could only see the outline of the figure in the pitch black darkness, called out to me: "John, John, is that you?" There was silence. He then asked again: "John, John, is that you? Can I go to the party now?" Again, silence. Thinking that I may be in a bad mood, or just tired, he got up from the bed and left for the party. When he got to the party, that is when we saw each other, and he told me that he had said to himself: "If John and Angelo are here, and the kids are sleeping, then who is in the cabin?" But not wanting to go back to the cabin in order to enjoy the party, he decided to not say anything and stayed.
After the three of us had these experiences that fit perfectly well together, we knew that something paranormal was going on. We decided to tell the camp director, who was also a priest. The camp director in turn told the other directors under him and the couple who were "occult experts". Convincing everyone that what we experienced was something genuine, for the safety of the children it was decided for a private exorcism to take place in the cabin, and not let anyone else know about it lest rumors circulate. In attendance were only the above-mentioned people, including us three counselors.
That night the entire camp had a camp fire. I told my campers who had the Magic cards that things were going on in the cabin, and we felt like they should help us to make sure nothing happens again that night. A bit frightened, they agreed. It wasn't because we thought the cards were the source of our troubles, but the atmosphere they helped bring to the camp was counterproductive to what we were trying to do. The kids decided that night that they would throw all their cards in the fire.
At the camp fire, one of the directors spoke briefly of my cabin to everyone there, and that after some negative experiences the kids of their own free will decided to burn their Magic cards. So they all got up, approached the fire, and threw the cards in. This drew applause from all, and they felt good about what they did.
No one in our cabin had a negative experience there again.