SUICIDE & GHOSTS – PERSPECTIVES FROM THE OCPRS, Toronto, Canada.

Posted on October 17, 2011

8


By: Demetrius (Co-Founder of the OCPRS)

            Among those who believe in ghosts, there are many theories attempting to explain why the spirits of the dead haunt or wander the world of the living. A violent and tragic death is often believed to lead a soul to become trapped or bound to the physical world. One such example that has become infamous is Aokigahara forest, located nearMount Fuji, Japan. The forest is said to be haunted by the ghosts of people who have killed themselves there. It is estimated that over five-hundred people have taken their lives at Aokigahara forest. Here, the violent and tragic cause for the existence of ghosts is thought to be suicide. Found in both ghost stories and across various cultural superstitions, suicide has been strongly associated as one of the more significant causes for restless spirits.

            In order to understand how suicide has a variety of consequences – physical, emotional, and spiritual – in regards to ghosts, it becomes necessary to understand the psychological, theological, and the non-Christian perspectives/superstitions. Suicide is a very real problem, and for this reason the article presented here does not wish to exploit such a sensitive subject. Although the issue of suicide deserves greater attention for the purpose of social awareness, the questions surrounding suicide and the paranormal are the primary focus here.

            The word suicide comes from the Latin, suicidium, meaning “to kill oneself.” There is no one single cause for people contemplating suicide, and the circumstances surrounding such an extreme desire to hurt oneself cannot be oversimplified. However, exploring the subject through psychology, there are certain circumstances known to lead to such desperate measures. For the sake of brevity only a few examples will be discussed here. Mental illness can and often does lead to social alienation. This aspect of mental illness can lead to a sense of hopelessness. Certain disorders – especially schizophrenia or bipolar depression – can even confuse rational perceptions and/or emotions. In such cases, suicidal thoughts can occur or be put into action. The same sense of hopelessness can occur through the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and mental disorders can be made worse through substance abuse. Although suicidal thoughts and acts of suicide are recognized to Mental Disorders and to alcohol and drug abuse, other circumstances can also lead to hopelessness. The death of a loved one, social or cultural oppression, etc., have all been associated to various cases of suicide. In all circumstances described here, hopelessness is a strong symptom. Hopelessness often leads to desperation and suicide is a most desperate act. The overwhelming sense of hopelessness which has been linked to the various problems leading to suicide has been acknowledged by the Church long before modern psychology examined the variety of circumstances involved. Interestingly, mental illness of one sort or another was known throughout the history of the Church, but such knowledge was very limited and not well understood.

            Today, suicide is a very complicated issue within the Church. The sanctity of life is recognized in the very act of creation. In both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, suicide is a mortal sin, and burial was denied to anyone who took their own life. In the writings of some of the Holy Church Fathers, suicide can prevent salvation (St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, etc.). The strict attitude towards suicide has been relaxed in some cases, but suicide remains a serious problem for the Church. However, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2283, it states: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” As can be observed here, suicide is not justified but it is examined through the mercy of God.

            Although there is no explicit prohibition for suicide, the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” provides a prohibition against the taking of life. Indeed, murder and suicide are both an act of terminating life. St. Augustine even notes: “…certainly he who kills himself is a homicide…” Apart from the prohibitions against suicide, St. John Chrysostom examined the case of Judas Iscariot who is described in the Holy Bible as having killed himself. An examination of some of his writings will help draw attention between modern day psychology and Church doctrines. St. John Chrysostom writes:

“Nothing is as strong a weapon to the devil as is desperation.”

Desperation, or despair, is to be without hope. It is another word for hopelessness. The devil is said to use hopelessness as one of his strongest weapons. Why? Elsewhere,St.John Chrysostom explains the reason:

“That is why the devil makes us feel desperate. It is to cut our hopes of God…”

In the case of suicide, it may be said that the overwhelming sense of hopelessness is the absence of hope. The hope in God provides faith and strength, but when this is weakened, the devil influences those who are troubled with desperation – with hopelessness. An example of this can be seen in St. John Chrysostom’s example of Judas.

“What then did the devil do in Judas’ case? Judas repented, as it is written: ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’ [Matthew 27:4]. The devil heard these words. He took notice that Judas had begun to progress towards the correct path of salvation and the demon feared this change […] What then did the devil do? He caused him to become disturbed. He darkened his soul by brining him great sorrow. He chased him. He expelled him. He drove him to the point of hanging himself. He removed the present life and he denied him the chance to repent.”

It is here in St. John Chrysostom’s writings that the sense of hopelessness is owed to both psychological and spiritual influences. Judas experienced great sorrow and was very remorseful for betraying Jesus Christ. In his act of remorse there was a change – repentance. Despite Judas’ shame and recognition of his betrayal, the devil pursued Judas to prevent his repentance, and the outcome was suicide. In the Gospel of Luke 22:3 it is known that the devil entered Judas. It is not known if the devil entered Judas prior to his suicide, but having compelled Judas to betray Christ, it is also possible that the devil compelled Judas to take his own life. What must be understood is that the devil is not the cause of suicide, but certainly serves as an influence.

            At the outset of this article, the Aokigahara forest in Japanwas introduced for a good reason. The forest and the belief that those who have committed suicide remain as restless spirits, is comparable to the Christian view concerning diabolic influences in cases of suicide. According to Japanese myth and demonology, Aokigahara forest is also inhabited by demons. Could there be a link between demonic activity moving people to commit suicide at Aokigahara forest? Precisely how these demons are tied to the suicides in Aokigahara forest is not clear. Most certainly, the Christian perspective between demonic influences and suicide is not exclusive to any one faith or culture. However, the Church does acknowledge that in some cases of suicide demonic influences may be present. In cases of demonic possession, suicide has been documented. There is even evidence of this in the Holy Bible. From the Gospel of Mark 9:22 there is one such example: “And often he [the demon] has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.” Here, in the Gospel of Mark a small boy who is a demoniac (demon possessed) is described as attempting to commit suicide.

            Having briefly examined the perspectives of the Church regarding suicide, it now becomes necessary to compare those views with non-Christian beliefs. After all, the belief that suicide is a cause for restless spirits is widely accepted by practitioners of occultism and adherents of New Age belief systems. The non-Christian philosophies and belief systems which accept and provide explanations for suicide and ghosts are many. One explanation is that suicide is a traumatic experience, and that the soul remains trapped in a state of trauma in the afterlife, thereby resulting in restless spirits. Other theories suggest that the act of suicide has no impact on the soul at all, and death in any form is simply a transition. In either case, the consequences of sin, heaven, and hell are excluded from most non-Christian views concerning suicide and ghosts.

            The mainstream view that suicide can reduce the soul to a restless spirit may not be a universal belief, but it does present itself in a variety of reports of ghosts and haunted locations (such as Aokigahara forest). If there is any truth to the belief concerning suicide and ghosts, such a belief can be investigated and tested. Here inToronto, the CPRS is aware of a few such locations with the unfortunate reputation for suicides. One place in particular still serves as a constant reminder of such tragic deaths – the Prince Edward Viaduct.

PRINCE EDWARD VIADUCT (Bloor Street Viaduct)

Background History:

The Prince Edward Viaduct – or Bloor Street Viaduct – was constructed from 1915 to 1918. Designed by architect, Edmund W. Burke, the bridge connectsBloor streetwithDanforth Ave.The bridge provides mass transit movement for automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians, and subway trains. Once a great accomplishment for the City ofToronto, the Prince Edward Viaduct soon took on a more infamous reputation. Ever since the completion of its construction up until 2003 there have been nearly 500 suicides at the bridge. The Prince Edward Viaduct gained notoriety as the “SuicideBridge.” With the ever increasing amounts of suicide taking place there, a decision was made to erect a suicide barrier that is now known as the “Luminous Veil.” Interestingly, there are no known reports identifying the Prince Edward Viaduct as having any sort of paranormal activity.

The Investigation:

            With so many suicides having taken place at the Prince Edward Viaduct, the OCPRS decided to use this location to examine the belief concerning suicide and ghosts. The investigation was conducted over the course of a one week period July 30 – August 5. The investigation was conducted during both the day and night. In addition to the one week investigation, the OCPRS returned periodically for additional tests. If there was any truth to the belief that suicide served as a cause for restless spirits, the Prince Edward Viaduct could possibly provide some evidence, especially since there have been up to 500 suicides committed there.

Daytime Investigations

            Prior to any investigation, the OCPRS prepares itself through prayer. In addition to the instruments used to investigate potential haunted locations, holy water and a crucifix were also brought along. Besides protection, these items could also be used as treatment, if it should become necessary. In addition to these reasons, the holy water and crucifix are also used by the OCPRS for the purpose of religious provocation when conducting tests.

            During the day, various tests were conducted on the massive structure. Both EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) and EMF (Electromagnetic Field) tests were used without any provocation. The daytime investigation also provided an opportunity to determine which locations along and beneath the bridge would be examined during the night. Photography was also used to document the tests, and with the hopes of perhaps capturing anything unusual on film.

            The EVP tests which were later examined yielded nothing. The EMF meter did not register anything along the bridge, but there was something detected far below. The source for the electromagnetic field which was detected came from power lines running beneath the east-side of the bridge. Nothing remotely unusual was observed at any point along or beneath the bridge. These tests conducted during the day were repeated throughout the week. In all days examined, there was nothing which could suggest any paranormal activity.

Night Investigations

            The EVP and EMF tests were used together with religious provocation. The religious provocation used during the night included using the name of Jesus Christ to compel any spirits – if any – to respond. Once again, the EVP was examined at a later period, but did not provide anything. The EMF detected the same levels of electromagnetic field energy found by the power lines beneath the east-side of the bridge. Photography provided nothing unusual. Furthermore, nothing unusual was observed. The night investigations conducted throughout the week did not yield anything which could suggest the bridge had any paranormal activity.

Conclusions

            The belief that suicide can cause a soul to become trapped or bound to the physical world was examined carefully at one ofToronto’s most tragic locations. There was nothing collected or observed which could support this superstition concerning suicide and ghosts. Although there was no evidence collected to support the belief, many questions concerning the spiritual relationship to suicide remained. For instance, why was the Prince Edward Viaduct so popular among those who went there to end their lives? The reason this question is asked is largely due to the fact that suicides are not typically reported. Therefore, if the suicides carried out at the Prince Edward Viaduct were not reported, how then did almost 500 people end their lives there? There are other bridges inToronto, and other methods of suicide, but somehow the Prince Edward Viaduct seemed to be the preferred method to a large number of distraught individuals. The OCPRS believes that there may have been something spiritually afflicting those suicides at the Prince Edward Viaduct. What if there was some sort of spiritual influence which caused people to go to this particular bridge? Despite what the OCPRS believes, the reality is that there was no evidence collected to support such theory. The only reason for even suggesting such a thing is due to the knowledge the Church provides about negative spiritual influences exerted by demons on those suffering from overwhelming hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.

Advertisements