Ask Dr. Eldritch

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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
Ghostly Spinster About a year ago, I was a retired small-town schoolteacher in my late seventies, living alone in a large house that has been in my family for generations. Apparently there were rumors in town that I had a fortune hidden away, although I have no idea how anyone thought I could accumulate wealth on a teacher's salary! Unfortunately, some boys took these stories seriously, and broke into my house on Halloween. Well, perhaps, "broke into" is a bit strong, as I never locked my doors. They just walked in and were poking about. I heard them sneaking around downstairs, and was going to give them a stern talking-to, but I ran headlong into one of the boys at the top of the stairs. I admit, I shrieked, as I was a tad startled, not really frightened, but he hollered and bolted down the stairs as if the Devil himself was after him. Somehow we tripped each other up, and he stumbled all the way down, but I fell and my neck was broken.

Well, they weren't bad boys, just a bit foolish, so they did tell their parents and an ambulance soon arrived, along with every police officer in town (it's really a nice little town, and they have so little to do, I'm sure this was the most exciting thing that's happened for them all year). I tried to tell them I was fine, but nobody paid any attention to me and I eventually realized that the person they were all clustered around WAS me, or my physical body, at least. Somehow my consciousness had become separated from my person, and I am now unable to leave this house, even after they took my body away in their van. I don't really feel like a ghost, but I suppose that is what I have become.

Since then, several families have moved in, as it is a very pleasant house, but they don't stay very long. I admit that when the first family arrived, I attempted to communicate, but I'm afraid I only terrified them. By the third family, I tried to stay in hiding so as to not frighten them as well, but you cannot imagine how boring it is to be undead! I like sitting in my rocking chair at night, but it takes only one encounter with a family member heading for a midnight snack to bring out the "For Sale" sign.

I thought retirement was tedious, but at least I could make myself a nice cup of tea and reread "Pride and Prejudice." Am I doomed to wander the halls of this house forever? Am I supposed to wreak terrible vengeance on those who wronged me? I dare say my heart's not really in it. Thank goodness for the Internet, or I would have no communication with the outside world at all. I do hope you can help me…

-- Ms. Emma C., retired.

Dear Ms. Emma,

I believe that should be "expired," not "retired!" Ha ha ha! Sorry, I shouldn't joke. Please accept my condolences for your accidental demise and subsequent haunting! It must be difficult. You do seem to be taking it well.

Most letters I get are from people trying to AVOID becoming dead, so most of my advice won't apply. If you'll allow me to "school the teacher" for a moment, I'll cover the basics, so we're all on the same page:

Most people successfully shuffle off the mortal coil and settle in to push up daisies, join the Heavenly Choir, carouse in Valhalla, or whatever it is that happens to them. A few, yourself included, only make a partial transition, and are stuck between this world and the next. This transitory state, as you've noticed, is even less interesting than a day in a bus station, even if they both seem eternal. At least in a bus station one COULD touch things and interact with the other people there, even though you would rather not.

Academics debate whether people achieve a "living impaired" state because they have unfinished business, or merely because they've passed away before their time, usually by violence or accident. Either way, you're not doomed. Sure, you're a restless spirit walking the Earth, but it doesn't have to be Purgatory. There are even a few positive things about your situation: You don't need to eat or sleep, being sedentary poses no health risks, and you have absolutely no social obligations. Of course, being dead will teach you patience, even if you didn't want to learn.

Since you don't seem bent on revenge, that's probably not your ticket out. You're more likely destined to find a living person who can help you complete what is unfinished in your life. I don't know what it is; that's for you to figure out. Don't worry; while you've frightened the living people you've encountered so far, not everyone is scared of the differently metabolically-abled.

The good news is that you have other options for filling your time than rattling chains and moaning. The Internet wasn't created with the metaphysically handicapped in mind, but it's your window to the world. While most people who incessantly post to Internet news groups have no life, only about 1% of them are technically not living any more. Like most sub-groups, these online After-Death Netizens have their own lingo, and prefer to call themselves "revenants" rather than "ghosts." Find a revenant news group that matches your style and temperament, and you will have a community to keep you company for the millennia. You'll either find your purpose or eventually go gently into that good night. Have a good Afterlife!

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-- Dr. Eldritch

(DISCLAIMER: Anyone intelligent enough to be reading this should understand 1) Satire, and 2) That following the advice given may result in physical, mental, or spiritual harm to beings living, dead, or undead. The author does not suggest that anyone other that the originator of any given letter follow his advice, and cannot be held liable if anyone else does.
If you need more, read this Advanced Disclaimer!) All content © 2006 Evan M. Nichols