The Haunted Bathroom
I don’t know whether anyone has died here. It’s a 90-year-old house, so it’s not entirely unlikely, I suppose, but I have always wondered why ghosts seem so attached to houses. You never hear about them haunting the deodorant aisle at Walgreen’s or levitating the pen on a chain at the bank.
People don’t generally die in these places, of course, but I don’t think that’s the real reason. Houses are simply spookier to begin with. The fluorescent lighting in a drugstore and the sterile cubicles at a bank just aren’t all that creepy.
The only places that are believed to be haunted are those that have the right atmosphere to begin with. Funny how that works.
We also spend a lot of time in our houses, particularly at night, when, as everyone knows, ghosts like to party. So I wasn’t surprised by our first ghostly encounter, although it didn’t fit the usual M.O. of footsteps, slamming doors, or glimpses of figures. No, our ghost apparently goes around terrifying everyone by (I hope you’re not reading this in a house alone) . . .
flushing the toilet.
Yep. We apparently have a ghost with irritable bowel syndrome.
But I don’t believe in ghosts, primarily because after thousands of years of people dying, you’d think we’d have some shred of irrefutable evidence. In fact, we should have mounds of evidence. People die all the time!
Instead, all we have is anecdote: people describing their own experiences and interpreting them according to their beliefs—beliefs that include ghosts. This is called confirmation bias, and we all do it, no matter how skeptical we are. We tend to interpret the world around us according to what we believe to be true.
To give a simple example, if you think your friend is angry with you, and that friend doesn’t call or text for a while, you are likely to interpret the silence as confirmation of your belief, even if the real explanation is that she’s busy, or sick, or drove off after forgetting her phone on the roof of her car. (Not that this has ever happened to me. Totally hypothetical.)
Anyway, this is but one reason why anecdotal evidence is not reliable for determining whether something is true, yet this is the most common evidence cited for belief in ghosts—personal experience. A good starting point for investigating further, but never a good stopping point for drawing a conclusion.
Still, I can relate to people who believe in ghosts. Even after I stopped believing in God, I believed in ghosts for a long time. I think this was primarily because I wanted to, which may sound weird. Why would I want to believe in something that scared me?
Because the existence of ghosts meant that we lived beyond this life. I no longer believed in heaven or hell, but I desperately wanted to believe in some kind of afterlife. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want the people I loved to die. The idea of death being the end—nothing more, we’re gone—was a concept I struggled with for years. I still struggle with it at times. I think most of us do.
But wanting something to be true isn’t a reason to believe it is.
It turns out that our ghost is really just old, quirky plumbing. Not as exciting as having a spirit living with us, but it’s nice to be able to stay in the house alone at night without fear. And we really don’t need another person sharing the bathroom.