Do ghosts who reside on earth or in technical terms are “earthbound” exist in a freewheeling manner or do they follow a calendar for their actions— good, evil, or neutral? The daily lives of earthbound ghosts are not generally governed by a fixed calendar except in the case of anniversaries or other special occasions. For example, if you happen to be on a first journey to Yamunotri, the Himalayan source of the Yamuna river on 22 October, just beyond Purola you’ll come across injured, wailing men and women near a culvert, seeking help. Their bus, they’ll tell you agitatedly, rolled down into the khud or ravine and they’ve somehow managed to scramble their way up to the road.

Others are still trapped in the bus. You pack as many of the passengers, as you can, some of them in an apparently precarious condition, into your vehicle and drive on, hoping fervently there’ll be a police chowki or outpost not too far down the road.  To your great relief your hopes are fulfilled and you soon reach a police outpost, but lo, the wails and cries of pains have ceased and there are no passengers in your vehicle. Not a spot of blood anywhere either inside the interior of your vehicle. How could they have vanished without any trace? Old timers at the police outpost reveal that this sequence is replicated every year on 22 October, the day a bus did indeed roll into a khud long years ago, killing all the occupants. If you drive back to the culvert, you’ll find the ghostly passengers just like you did earlier. Anniversaries of events, particularly tragic ones, appear to have a special significance for ghosts.

However, for ghost visitors to earth, there seems to be a fixed calendar. For instance, the month long season of hungry ghosts visiting earth or the Chinese/ Buddhist ghost month when restless spirits are said to roam the earth has already begun. It will end on 9 September when the hungry ghosts, satiated with offerings from loved ones and others, will return to their abodes in Heaven or Hell. The hungry ghost festival is celebrated annually in the seventh lunar month. In India too, the lunar calendar governs the Pitri Paksh, the fortnight when one’s ancestors and other loved ones and spirits visit earth for a fortnight, this year’s dates being from 24 September to 8 October. During these periods ghost visitors are said to mingle with helpful earthbound ghosts who seek news of other ghosts who have left earth. Significantly, ghost visitors to earth are usually positive unless provoked or angered in some way by humans, which is why most families take great care to pay special attention to them and honour them in traditional ways.

In the case of resident ghosts, if a ghost is miserable, it will do its best to make those around or people it encounters miserable as well. But many of the ghosts who reside on earth are helpful and actively protect people. Over the years, I have received help in so many different ways, big and small, from ghosts. At Allahabad, I slipped on moss covered steps leading down to the river and would surely have broken quite a few bones but to my amazement and that of onlookers who had been horrified initially, something broke my fall and made me stand erect after I’d fallen just a few steps. That “something” was invisible, but I felt the arms as they held me safely and made me stand on my feet, I felt the gentle hand of blessing on my head.

Amanda Linette Meder, well known for her interest in the paranormal, writes, “I have seen ghosts walking women to their cars in late night parking lots, almost as safety escorts. I have also seen ghosts in vacant vacation homes in my area, seemingly keeping robbers at bay – by scaring anyone who comes near. I have also seen ghosts scream in the faces of children, to prevent them from running across the road and otherwise being in harm’s way. And finally, I have seen ghosts help husbands at grocery stores make sure they pick up the right ingredients for dinner. They are not always causing problems, though the media would like to have you believe this.”

In Japan, there is Baku, the Dream Eater, with a diet consisting solely of bad dreams—just one of many helpful, friendly spirits known as yōkai. The baku devours the bad dreams of people living in its vicinity and is considered to be a bringer of luck, health, and general good fortune. Ill-meaning spirits stay clear of the baku, partly because of its weird appearance:  the baku’s head is that of an elephant, it has a tiger’s legs and its tail is of an ox.

The Ghosts of Senate House site, which invites and documents accounts of uncanny experiences, explains that the Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of “a Magical Library for the 21st Century” an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011. Here’s one of the accounts posted by Chris Josiffe, “I was working late until 6.30 earlier this year and had to fetch from the Stack… I approached the relevant section; suddenly I felt the temperature drop and I began to feel uneasy. I thought maybe I was imagining it, but when I looked up the book I saw that the book in question was about ghost stories. I decided to take the book and leave as quickly as possible. As I was leaving, I glanced through the lift door and noticed that a light had come on near to the section where I had been. The lights are motion sensitive and there had been no one else up there…”

Obviously, not all ghosts residing on earth or visiting it have evil intentions. Why not use this year’s ongoing ghost season when unseen by us resident ghosts and visiting ghosts are intermingling, to establish a positive link with invisible yet powerful energies? How? By thinking kindly of ghosts, by giving spirits the appropriate amount of appreciation and attention, by honouring them, by making them tremendously happy by leaving sweet treats for them. The forms will be invisible most times, the hands helping you in who knows what ways will be invisible most times but the benefits will be substantial all times.

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