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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Bones for a new day

'For a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have' (Luke 24:39)

My wife and I recently traveled to Ocracoke Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, returning to the site of our honeymoon. The island is home to a variety of ghost stories about pirates, shipwrecks and other lost souls. Many claim Blackbeard still prowls the coves and alleys of Ocracoke.

Travel down the coast several hundred miles to Pawleys Island, S.C., and you might find the famous Gray Man, a misty apparition who appears before storms to warn residents of approaching bad weather. My own city of Columbia is said to have its share of specters and spirits, and ghost tours are held regularly after dark, for a small fee, on the South Carolina State House grounds.

We are fascinated with the shadowy netherworld between earth and heaven—deceased folk who roam the Earth trying to complete unfinished business. One of the most popular movies of the last 20 years is The Sixth Sense, a tale about a precocious little boy who notices tormented souls all around him. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll never forget the boy’s confession to his counselor—“I see dead people.”

The film was popular because it dealt cleverly with a question we all ask but can’t answer with any certainty: “What happens to people just after they die?” Fiction, cinema and TV all deal with this question on a fairly regular basis. I remain rather agnostic about the presence of ghosts, but parishioners have told me over the years of their certainty in seeing one or more. My mother still swears she saw a ghost years ago in a childhood friend’s home.


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