Today's Reading

Let me tell you what's bullshit about every supernatural horror movie. Whenever the monster or angry ghost lady turns up, everyone is skeptical for at least the first third of the running time. It's usually between forty and fifty minutes in that the protagonists begrudgingly admit that the ominous Latin chants emanating from the walls aren't a plumbing issue. In real life, the very second Mom sees something red oozing from the ceiling, she thinks "blood" not "water from a rusty old pipe." I wish people were as skeptical as they are in the movies.

This town, the name of which will remain undisclosed for privacy reasons, has been called the Bermuda Triangle of the Midwest. Or at least, I think I heard somebody call it that. I actually wish that was true, too, because there's nothing to the Bermuda Triangle—just a bunch of routine maritime disasters that grew in the telling. A cargo ship never arrives at port and the headlines coyly say it "disappeared." It didn't "disappear," guys—it sank. It's a boat, in the ocean. Shit happens. What goes on in [undisclosed] is... different.

My point is, it's hard to sort out the real stuff from the superstition. So, because I'm sick of getting your e-mails asking for advice, let me just quickly run through it:

1. If Your Home Has a Poltergeist

We got a ton of these calls after that movie Paranormal Activity came out, panicked people saying they had rocking chairs rocking by themselves, untouched drinking glasses scooting off a table, clocks running backward, etc. If you're in this situation, you can combat it using a technique known as "Getting the Fuck Over It." You're telling me you've got angry spirits of old murder victims or something floating around and they're causing less of a disruption to your life than an unruly house cat? Why not worry about your high blood pressure, or take a moment to see if your smoke detector batteries are up to date? Those things are way more likely to kill you than whatever is knocking over salt shakers in your kitchen at night.

2. If You Have Seen a Ghost

If you've seen, say, a translucent old woman in a long flowing gown drifting down your hall at night, that's almost definitely a hallucination or just a regular ol' dream. Think about it: why would a ghost be translucent? Smoke and fog look like they do because they're made of tiny particles suspended in the air. Are you suggesting the soul is made of tiny particles?

In reality, your whole idea of what a ghost looks like comes from Victorian era photos, when long-exposure cameras required the subject to sit still for several minutes due to the primitive technology. If the subject left halfway through, you'd get that ghostly image instead. Fun fact: this is also the reason nobody is smiling in those old pictures—try holding a smile for seven straight minutes. If you've actually seen a ghost—and I assure you that you probably have, within the last month—it would have just looked like any real, solid person. It's likely nobody saw that person but you and no, you can't photograph them. You're not seeing them with your eyes.

3. If an Evil Spirit or Demon Has Confronted You

If said entity appeared before you and started speaking, the good news is you're not losing your mind. Contrary to what TV and movies have told you, it's nearly impossible to have a hallucination that you can both see and hear—the mentally ill either just hear voices, or just see things, due to how the brain is wired. If you can both hear and see it, you're either just having a dream, or you have an actual demon in your home.

If it's the latter, you shouldn't bother listening too closely to what it has to say. It may sound really important—prophecies of future doom, that sort of thing—but I assure you, it's just toying with you. If you ignore it, it'll eventually get bored. The odds are it's not strong enough to possess you, kill you, or do serious damage to your property. If it tries, feel free to pray or put up lots of crosses in its field of vision; I've seen that work before. You don't have to go with Christian symbolism, but not all religions work (for reference, at the end of this book I have included an index of which religions are true and which are false—there are some real surprises). Also, try playing lots of 1980s era power ballads, they hate that. I think because it's the closest earthly approximation of the music they play in Heaven. I don't know, we're just guessing here. Conversely ...

4. If an Angel Appears and Speaks to You

Here, the risks are different—if a messenger from the Almighty actually bothers to contact you, it's probably not the best idea to just ignore it. So, obviously, the first step is to make sure it's an actual entity and not a dream you're having, which is surprisingly simple: just ask the angel a question that you yourself don't know the answer to but that you can verify later (like, "What's the square root of 123,456,789?" or "What will be the final score of every football game this Sunday?"). If their information is good, well, then you know you weren't dreaming and whatever prophecies or advice they gave you could indeed be valid. Of course they, too, could be imposters, so if they ask you to do something morally questionable—like stab your own child or something—you'll need to use your own judgment. Let's face it: if there is a god and he's the type to think it's unreasonable to refuse such a request, we're all screwed anyway.

This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition.

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