Father Knows Best: Do you believe in ghosts?

Do you have a question about life, love, or faith? Submit it online, fill out the form below or email it to melfert@stjohns-cathedral.org.

Hey Rev!

Do you believe in ghosts? I ask because I think I may have one on my home. I’ve noticed little, harmless things here and there that make me think so. It’s clearly not a scary, violent Hollywood ghost. But it still freaks me out a bit. Anything you can say to put me at ease a bit?

- Orbs

Dear Orbs:

I don’t have any experience with ghosts. And, setting aside a handful of instances when some old fear has sent me scurrying out of a dark building, I don’t even know much about that strange sense of being watched from the shadows of which some folks speak.

That doesn’t make me a skeptic, however. The older that I have gotten, and the more that I have encountered the abiding mystery of this life, the more inclined I am to think that reflexive skepticism closes the door to a lot of empathy and to a lot of possibility. So, while I’m by no means a booster of wide-eyed credulity around the supernatural — if you see someone levitating, you should probably start looking for hidden wires — I find it plausible enough that there might be some souls who take longer to leave this world than others. Besides, Orbs, whether or not the ghost whom you have encountered meets someone’s test for being “real,” you aren’t any less freaked out.

I do have an idea or two how you might feel a little more at peace with whatever presence it is that you are experiencing right now. (For the sake of economy of words, let’s agree for now that this presence in your home is a ghost.) To begin, take a deep breath and focus on what you’ve told me: this ghost is harmless. It is neither scary nor violent. That is hugely reassuring.

That reassurance in hand, ask yourself this question: what does this ghost have to teach me? In my experience, approaching something difficult — or someone difficult — through the lens of that question can be really liberating. That’s because reflecting on what you might learn from a argumentative stranger on the bus, from a hard Bible passage, from a bizarre dream, or from a ghost allows you to move from a position of defensiveness to one of generous curiosity. It allows you to move from fear to wonder. It allows you to listen.

Begin that listening, Orbs, by remembering the many stories in which a ghost will depart once it has conveyed a message that is weighing it down. I don’t know if those stories’ authors get that one right. But it doesn’t hurt to find out. So pick a time of day when things aren’t too creepy — maybe mid-afternoon on a Tuesday — and ask the ghost what it wants to share with you. You never know: it just might tell you and leave.

Categories: Beliefs

Martin Elfert

Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.


  1. That’s nice, but there are no ghosts.
    The biblical view of ghosts is that they do not exist. Jesus’ own words in passages like Luke 16:19-31 and 23:43 show that after death, we go immediately to paradise or torment and cannot leave of our own volition. There are recorded instances of the dead coming back to earth. Samuel returned, albeit reluctantly (1 Samuel 28:15); and Moses and Elijah conferred with Jesus in Matthew 17:1-8. But these were very specific situations that fulfilled God’s plan.

    If the souls of the dead cannot return to earth, what causes the supernatural events that many people experience? There are two supernatural forces at work among us—angels and demons. Angels are bound by God’s direction, and work only for His purpose. Demons prowl about, seeking those they can devour (1 Peter 5:8). If they can cause more harm by pretending to be the spirits of the dead, they will.

    Read more: http://www.compellingtruth.org/ghosts-hauntings.html#ixzz2qRfj7Igz

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