Why I Don’t Believe In Ghosts — or — How To Become A “Schizophrenic”, And How To Get Over It* (updated with important disclaimer)

This is a postcard I purchased on eBay. The words printed on the top of the card was the actual name of this “hospital” at one time.

One of my blogging friends recently read my post about my “miracle dog tag”.  (You can read that post HERE.) Then she told me, in a comment on her blog, that she believes my late cousin probably sent me that “miracle tag”, rather than God, as I believe.

I told her that my aunt, the mother of my deceased cousin, also believes this. However, although I believe in eternal life after death, I do not believe in ghosts. Here’s why:

My paternal grandfather died when I was thirteen. Later that same year, after I turned fourteen, my mother married my stepfather and we moved to a town closer to his work.

I soon became friends with a girl whose parents had given her a Ouija board for her birthday. She got a group of us together and we held seances with this thing. I was fascinated by the experience, especially when she told me that I could contact my dead grandfather through the Ouija. My granddad had really seemed to care about me, and I was starved for love.

Mike, a fifteen-year-old, joined our seances, hoping to contact the spirit of his mother who had died when he was a young child. Then another boy in our ninth grade class heard about our seances and loaned me a book that had detailed instructions on how to communicate with spirits by a technique called “autonomic handwriting”. This book also gave step by step instructions on how to put yourself into a self-hypnotic trance and contact the dead as a medium. I shared this book with my friend Mike, knowing how desperate he was to communicate with his deceased mom.

The year was 1967, more than five years before The Exorcist book and movie came out. While other kids from troubled homes were trying to escape their harsh lives through booze, drugs, sex, and rock and roll, my buddy Mike and I were escaping through spiritualism.

What happened next was, in many ways, even worse than the horrors that happen in The Exorcist. Before the school year was out, both Mike and I were put in the same state insane asylum. We both believed that we were haunted, you see… by terrifying, evil spirits that were nothing like his late mom or my late grandfather!

What did unloving, rejecting, narcissistic families do with their scapegoat children back in the 1960s, when they said they were being haunted by ghosts? They locked them up in huge human warehouses and threw away the key. This is what my abusive parents did, against my doctor’s advice, although my behavior was never the least bit threatening or out of control in any way.

While I was in that horrible place, a visiting social worker asked me why I was even there, when I seemed so “normal”. (I got that comment a lot, both from staff workers and from other patients.) I told her I was there because I had asked my mother for help in getting rid of some ghosts that were haunting me, only my mother had gotten rid of me, instead.

All of the other adults that I told this to, had immediately written me off as an atypical schizophrenic. But this caring social worker asked me a question that no one else had ever bothered to ask. She asked me to tell her, from the beginning, exactly how these ghosts had started haunting me in the first place.

So I told her about the Ouija board, the seances, and the book with instructions on how to put yourself into a trance so you could contact the dead.

“That’s it!” she exclaimed. “You hypnotized yourself, and then you gave yourself the hypnotic suggestion that you would contact spirits. Then your subconscious mind simply obeyed your hypnotic suggestion. Try this: put yourself into a trance again, and give yourself the hypnotic suggestion that the spirits are not real, and that when you wake up from your trance, you will never see spirits or hear ghostly voices again.”

I tried this, and IT WORKED!!!!! After two years of living in a hellish nightmare every waking moment, there were no more terrifying voices babbling in my head, and no more scary visions haunting me!

Were the haunting spirits ever real? Were they ghosts of dead people? Were they evil demonic entities? Were they caused by an organic, genetic mental illness, some kind of chemical imbalance, a product of a diseased brain? Were they caused by my extreme childhood traumas? Or…. were they simply a product of self-hypnosis?

The haunting spirits seemed very real to me at the time. And yet, self-hypnosis brought them, and self hypnosis made them go away. Two years of Thorazine, Stellazine, and other “anti-psychotic” drugs did not get rid of them. Psychotherapy had no effect on them. But a single session of self-hypnosis, which I did in 1969 when I was sixteen years old, immediately relieved me of all my “schizophrenia” symptoms. And today, almost half a century later, I remain completely free of spirits, visions, voices, or any other “supernatural” or “psychotic” symptoms.

After years as an agnostic, almost an atheist, today I am a Christian. Although I do not believe that the Bible we have now, after hundreds of years of being handcopied and translated and re-translated, is the perfect, inerrant — meaning “without error” — Word of God, I do believe that there is a great deal of God-inspired wisdom and truth in that great collection of ancient books. The Bible has several scriptures which strictly forbids ever trying to communicate with the dead in any way. After what I experienced as a young teenager, I wholeheartedly agree with those scriptures.

So, wherever my precious cousin is now, I do not try to talk to her, and I don’t want her to talk to me. I treasure the little metal tag that is engraved with her favorite poem, that a big dust storm blew into our yard exactly two years and two days after her tragic death. But… I prefer not to assume that my cousin actually sent me that tag.

PS: The mental institution, where I spent the longest two years of my life, was closed and torn down in the 1990s. Built in the 1800s in an imposing, Gothic style, State Hospital #3 in Nevada, Missouri, was the largest building in the state at the time of its construction, more than a mile in circumference. During my incarceration there, the wards were packed beyond capacity with lifeless, broken people.

My husband and I drove there two years ago. It was very strange to walk around the empty park-like grounds where I had been locked up, seemingly forever, all those years ago…

I wish I knew what happened to my school friend, Mike. I haven’t been able to locate him on social media. Shortly after I was put in that place, I asked the ward psychiatrist how soon I could go home. He coldly informed me that 97% of the people committed to that institution never left there alive. When he saw the look of shocked disbelief on my face, he told me to ask the other women on the ward how long they had been there, if I doubted him. I did, and the shortest answer I got was eight years, the average more than twenty.

That was why I started running away. After my third attempt, I was locked on maximum security, with the criminally insane. I witnessed a murder (and many more attempted murders), a suicide (and many more attempted suicides), while I was there.

Truly, it is a miracle that I made it out alive. But I am afraid that my sweet friend Mike was not so lucky.

*DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT a mental health professional, and I do not claim that hypnosis can cure schizophrenia. What worked for me, may or may not work for anyone else. Many therapists and medical doctors have told me over the years that I was probably misdiagnosed when I was a young teenager, because there is “nothing schizophrenic” about me. However, when I read up on schizophrenia, I realized that I did have all those symptoms, and then I got over it by self-hypnosis.

My forty-two year old daughter, who works as a life coach and a hypnotherapist, believes that I was probably “cured” of schizophrenia by hypnosis. But be careful, if you are going to try it — remember, hypnotizing myself is how I became “mentally ill” in the first place!

“I Am Free!” In Nevada, Missouri, on May 10, 2014, standing where the asylum used to be.

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Comments are closed while I finish my memoir. I think I am going to have to stop blogging for awhile, and stop reading and commenting on other blogs, because I need to focus my time on my memoir. I miss my blogging friends when I do that, though.

Thank you for stopping by, and God bless.