Day 15: That’s just a fact

“Ghosts in the Hall” by Rachel Titiriga, via Flickr

For about three months after I started my job at Mercer, I commuted from Decatur to Macon. Leila had committed to staying at her Ticket Alternative job for that period, and we wanted time to find the right house.

Since I was in Macon most days and she was 80 miles away, it was up to me to be on the lookout for potential homes. Leila had one request: ask the real estate agent whether the house has any ghosts. Any rumors of such would disqualify that property immediately.

I refused and rolled my eyes every time she brought it up.

Living in Macon, with historic homes to rival Savannah and Charleston, I can’t escape ghost stories. I try not to roll my eyes, especially when they are told by friends. I’m basically an empirical rationalist. If I can’t both experience a thing (assuming it is something nearby in time and space) and explain it rationally, I’m going to tend to discount the thing.

Years ago, while Leila and I were still living in Decatur, we went on a ghost tour of our city. Friends had just been on a Savannah ghost tour, and they thought it would be fun to see our hometown that way. They were fellow skeptics but loved ghost stories. We knew we’d learn something new about Decatur.

The tour guide was a nice lady, on the upper end of middle-aged. She had an annoying habit of constantly inserting an “okay” that was just one “m” removed from Mr. Mackey’s “mmkay.”

We learned how Decatur supposedly turned down the offer to become Atlanta — the “terminus” of coming rail lines. She provided the history of some of the older structures in town. And, of course, we heard of the kinds of misdeeds and tragedies you’d expect on a ghost tour.

When we got to the first residence, the guide told us about a young lady’s murder. Then she added, “In fact, she’s up there on the porch right now, pacing back and forth.” Apparently, we couldn’t see her because we weren’t attuned. This continued throughout the tour. At times, the guide was kind enough to relay what the ghosts were saying.

Even the least skeptical couldn’t stop the eye-rolling.

Then we got to the city cemetery. As we passed under a large oak-tree canopy, she asked if we noticed how some areas were noticeably cooler than others. Sure, we said. That’s because ghosts are drawn to the life force of the trees, she explained. The ghosts then absorb the energy and the heat in that area. She concluded the lesson with, “That’s just a fact. Science has proven that.”

To this day, “that’s just a fact” remains our favorite way to call BS on something.

Little did we know at the time that people feeling entitled to their own facts would become so in vogue.