A number of years ago when I worked in industry one of my co-workers told me the following story.
He had grown up in rural North Dakota in a small farming community. He said that his small town was religious meaning that they believed in God and that all three denominations represented there got along very well. My friend was maybe two generations removed from his immigrant forefathers as was most of his community.
He said that once when he was a boy he attended a funeral in a person’s home (common in rural communities especially in the 1940s and 50s).
After the service while everyone was chatting there came a number of sharp raps on the door. The door was answered and no one was there. The night was very cold, but there was no wind.
The universal interpretation of the event was the rapping had been done by the recently departed. My friend shared the story in all sincerity knowing I was Bible student and wanting to know what I thought.
It is very difficult to diss someone’s personal experience meaning their interpretation of the event but I told him the following.
My mother also grew up in a rural area and she too was one generation removed from her Polish-German roots. My mother told me almost the same story that my work friend did.
I have not done extensive research on folklore but over the years have heard numerous variations on my friend’s and mom’s stories. It suggests European tradition within a culture or sub-culture that assigns to the dead the ability to say good-bye to loved ones and give them assurance that all is well.
I had to tell my friend that I could not argue with his experience but that the Bible gave no indication that the dead had that kind of ability. He shrugged and that was that.
On another occasion with another co-worker I heard the following.
We worked 3rd shift, also known as the graveyard shift. No pun intended.
My friend lived with his girlfriend and obviously third shift meant leaving her alone.
The day after the Easter weekend he told me that his girlfriend had been wakened in the middle of the night. On top of her was a short ugly being trying to strangle her.
She fought the hideous creature eventually knocking it off the bed and on to the floor where it knocked over a fan as it ran down the hallway.
Remarkably, she pursued the creature into the bathroom where it vanished into thin air.
When my friend came home that morning he found his girlfriend curled up in a ball clutching her 2nd grade Catholic Catechism.
He then related to me other phenomena that occurred in their apartment such as decorative plates being taken off stands and laid down and him feeling the presence of his father who had died in a horrible accident when he was a boy.
I offered to visit with him and his girlfriend in order to share the gospel. I had been sharing the gospel with my friend prior to this anyway and it seemed that whatever had happened to his girlfriend her greatest need was Jesus not an interpretation of what happened.
The twist on this story was that my friend seemed open to gospel. He interpreted his girlfriend’s experience to his being open to the gospel. His response was to back off our conversations and so declined my offer to visit with both of them.
My arguments to the contrary failed to convince him that Jesus was more powerful than anything he or his girlfriend may have experienced.
Shortly after that episode I had an experience that I cannot explain.
The place where we worked had a large store-room behind the work shop. To get there you had travel past another larger work area and pass through two heavy doors. The store-room was a two-floor cavern and was populated by huge shelves and bins where parts were stored. We had to take parts from time to time and place them in the proper bins and I was on such a mission when the experience occurred.
I entered the storeroom and had to depart from the main aisle to find the appropriate shelf. When I found the right bin I suddenly and distinctly heard whispering in both of my ears! The words, if you could them that were unintelligible, but it did sound like multiple voices have a bit of a chat!
I was quite alone! The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I sensed a panic attack setting in as I grasped in vain for a rational explanation. As if that was not bad enough I heard a part slide across the floor on the other side of the shelf in the main aisle where I had just been. I immediately departed the area glancing at the main aisle and sure enough a part was on the floor where none had been previously.
I ran back to our work area in the hopes I’d find my two co-workers in hysterical laughter at the joke they had pulled on me. No such luck. They were sober and one remarked that I looked like I had seen a ghost. I related the story and they both came to the conclusion that the place was haunted.
The one who had been in the department the longest told of the janitor who had been killed horribly by a fork lift truck as the driver made his rounds with the forks up-skewering the unfortunate janitor (a true story I discovered). The interpretation of my event was that the janitor haunted the place. This interpretation was confirmed by a 2nd shift co-worker who said in all sincerity that he had seen a monk like figure appear in the restroom. He connected the apparition to the deceased janitor.
The commonality in these three stories is the interpretation that the various people put on the experience.
In the first case an interpretation that the dead return to say good-bye and in the second case evil spirits will torment loved ones because someone becomes interested in Christ.
In my case my co-wokers interpreted my experience to the ghost of a janitor who died horribly. That interpretation fits with the traditional interpretation that people who die in wars or other tragic circumstance sometimes wander between two planes of existence. Take a tour of Gettysburg and learn of the battle there and you will hear more than one story and some will even have videos.
My interpretation of my experience would have been an over active imagination combined with tiredness working at 3 a.m. in the morning had it not been for the part sliding across the floor and resting where there had been no part before.
Because of that I had to modify my interpretation to I cannot explain the experience in a rational, alternative way.
I can tell you what I did next though.
My friends saw my fear, a fear I readily admit. They knew I was a Bible student (very early in my education) and they expected me do something. I had the choice of cowering in our work area or I had the choice to return to the storage area. I knew I had to return to the storage area or lose all credibility with my two co-workers. I knew enough to not go unarmed. I went to the following passage in the Bible I kept in my toolbox:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)
I am not certain this was the best passage to go to but it is the one that came to mind, especially verse one and being strong in the Lord. I believed that and with the following verses understood that the Christian’s ultimate battle was against the unseen spiritual things or powers is the way Paul puts it.
I took a few minutes and studied the passage and prayed it best I knew how. I knew that if these things\experiences were real then God allowed them for his reasons. I also knew that the demonic cannot stand against Jesus. I didn’t know much at that time but with that I returned to the storage room.
I cannot explain it but upon entering it was just like any other visit to the store-room. No whispering, no hair standing up on the back of my neck although the part was still on the floor. I returned it to a bin. I came back to our work area and muttered something like, “whatever it was, it’s gone.”
These three stories came to mind as I posted the story that appeared on this blog yesterday-the story of the glass shattering caught on video and the comments debunking the incident as a fraud.
A few observations are perhaps in order here.
1. I think we live in a culture that is increasingly non-Christian (meaning non-gospel centered) but is still vaguely spiritual and as a result sometimes accepts frauds because it wants to believe in things hard to explain like the video I posted yesterday.
2. I do not see that necessarily as a bad thing as long as it leads to truth as found in Holy Scripture.
3. The Bible does teach the reality of demonic spirits if you take the texts at face value and I do. C.S. Lewis deals with it masterfully in his classic Screwtape Letters.
4. The gospel accounts illustrate the Lord Jesus dealing with the demonic on more than one occasions and the apostle Paul (as cited above in Ephesians) also thought the demonic was the real deal. That is more than good enough for me.
5. It is popular today in church circles, especially liberal ones to dismiss the devil as myth. When they do this they ignore or rewrite Scripture. I do believe there is a right way to interpret Scripture and about 100 wrong ways to interpret it.
6. The Bible condemns divination and the “inquiring of the dead” thus raising the possibility of it being a real occurrence with some sort of real results (King Saul had a witch call up Samuel the prophet\judge. This may be the one time God allowed the real deal, meaning Samuel, to appear, all others being demonic impersonations of the dead.) Anyway, here is the command to not do such things…
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer  or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,  for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ESV)
7. Whatever else we might say about these things Jesus spoke of a proper fear, in reality the only fear that matters in the end. This is what he said:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 ESV)
Jesus is speaking of God the Father and he is seeking to reassure the disciples that while persecution may take their lives (tradition holds that 11 of the 12 were martyred) their mission was still the gospel and their loyalty to it no matter what they may face.
8. There are plenty of things to fear, including spooky things, but it is the gospel that casts out fear because stronger is he that is in you (if you are a gospel-centered Christian) than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
9. I think many phenomena are not really phenomena but fraud. It’s good and right to be highly skeptical of such things.
10. Somethings are the result of cultural tradition and wishful thinking. I think there is also what is called syncretism. Syncretism in a Christian sense is the combining of Christianity with pagan ideas and beliefs. Just because Constantine declared the Roman Empire Christian does not mean everyone became a genuine Christian. Much tradition and pagan belief became part and parcel of average person Christianity. Halloween tied to Roman Catholic All Saints Day is one such obvious example where you have Celtic ghosts integrated into the overall holiday.
11. As I ponder these things I am forced to come back to my source of truth. I believe that the Word of God is truth when rightly divided (interpreted, 2 Tim. 2:15). Without a reliable source of truth we are left to imaginations, traditions and wishful thinking. Jesus is the truth, the living Word of God and if you believe that it seems critical to believe in what the Bible has to say about these things and not go beyond it in speculations.