While religion may continue to hold sway in other countries, in Britain our Churches are largely empty and aside from those ethnic minorities that are more serious about religion, we British are no longer a nation of church-goers. If anything we are all athiests.
The old traditions of dressing up smartly to go to church on a Sunday are long gone, along with the old rituals and beliefs.
So what is left? Have we all become a nation of sceptics? Or do we still believe there is some continued existence in the hereafter? Is there life after death?
As we turn our backs on our old religions, ghost hunting has taken over as a form of 'religion-lite'. Is ghost hunting offering hope of an afterlife via the medium of personal exploration (on an all night ghost hunt) and even, light entertainment and thrills?
The ghost hunter is essentially seeking answers to the question on most of our minds, "Is there life after death?" but without the obligation to go through a whole load of custom and rigmarole, praying etc, mandated by the traditional religions.
It may be cold and damp going on a ghost hunt, but it is a lot more interesting than sitting in a church singing old hymns and falling asleep listening to sermons. Ghost hunting's popularity has developed as a form of alternative religion.
Might we experience something unexplained in a haunted location such as Craig y Nos Castle? For if we could speak to, or interact with, a person from the past, would that not suggest that the person we are supposedly in contact with, continued, in some form, to exist and have the capacity for thought and awareness?
One theory about many ghostly sightings is that ghosts are merely a reflection of someone from the past, their lives are reflected somehow within the building. In this case their 'presence' is thought to be merely a recording of some repetitive past act on the fabric of the building.
Thus an image or occurrence that is repeated, always the same, may indeed be a 'recorded event' rather than a person from the past actually choosing to repeat some act of the past over and over again, as of their own volition and for their personal enjoyment, or even, as some sort of penance.
However this theory does not fit situations where ghosts from the past have supposedly interacted and had conversations with living people in the present. This appears not uncommon. There are articles about people having conversations with relatives or friends they pass in the street, only for them to learn later that they had died recently beforehand. There are also stories of those nearing death having visions of and conversations with their long dead relatives.
We at Craig y Nos Castle have a couple of interesting ghost stories ourselves. One significant paranormal occurrence was when a musician had a conversation with Adelina Patti - who appeared as a lady in black sitting besides the fire in the Patti Bar. She asked if he sung and when he said he did not, she said that was a shame. This would suggest Adelina Patti is actually conscious and participating as an (inter)active spirit in the castle, albeit occasionally.
The experience Richard Felix of Most Haunted had in room 36 was probably more of the 'impression on the fabric of the building' category of ghost haunting. We know that there was a door where he saw the lady in black pass through, and the neighbouring room was the chapel. Just as the priest would have passed through the door opposite from the vestry (now the en-suite bathroom) into the chapel room (now the bridal suite), so might Patti have come into the former chapel through a door connecting the chapel with what is now room 36, entering through a door opposite that used by the priest.
Patti has indeed appeared on other occasions, though somewhat infrequently. One significant story concerns a girl who was preparing to sing on the stage in the opera house. Nervously waiting her turn on stage and worried about how her voice would perform, she was given friendly advice and reassurance by a lady in black standing in the wings of the stage. Later she went to thank her, but no one in the supporting cast could identify who she was.
Later it became apparent that there was no lady in black in the cast, and that she must have seen an apparition, possibly of Patti.
We are talking here of a pre-teenage girl with no knowledge or interest in ghost hunting, and her ghost story was not even recognised by her or talked about by her as such. Only when she relayed to others on the stage that day, the details of her meeting with a lady in black, who had assured her everything would be fine and told her she was 'going to sing her best', did others realise to whom she had been talking.
These and other contacts with spirit suggest ghosts are not merely a reflection or mirrored event resting on the fabric of an old building's walls for the sensitive to pick up; there may in some instances be actual interaction. So if we are to accept these two different types of ghost haunting, the passive ghost repeating the same actions without interaction, and the interactive ghost, it is apparent that the type of haunting we have at Craig y Nos, though clearly benign, is of the latter type. This means ghost hunters and even general B&B guests may find themselves having perfectly natural conversations with people who are 'not there'.
The room 36 incident has never occured since Richard Felix stayed. We moved the bed to the opposite wall to change the circumstances and since then, nothing has happened.
Are we truly interacting with the dead, often without being aware of it, or are we slipping into a waking dream state, and imagining things?
Is it possible the living participant has dozed off and dreamt the whole experience? Just as when we awake from sleep, and we find we have a fleeting memory of our dreams mixing contradictorily with what we know, as we come fully awake, to be our everyday reality, it takes us a moment to sort out the imagined reality of the dream from the actual reality of our waking life. At which point we can say, "Oh, that was obviously a dream."
On many occasions I have awoken and realised the events I was living so realistically were actually part of a dream.
We could as well have imagined all our ghostly experiences and indeed, most experiences can be explained away as just part of our over-active imagination.
A group of people on a ghost hunt will experience things in the moment, as a group, that they would never experience individually, or during the daylight hours. On a group ghost tour it is the group dynamic which heightens the senses and raises everyone's edgy fears.
On one ghost tour a thick mist enveloped all the participants, and a halt had to be called to the tour. How did everyone have the same experience, how was it shared? Or did a suggestion by one participant that they could not see for the fog, create the same blindness by suggestion in everyone else? Or maybe a chimney blocked up somewhere, due to a freak of wind and weather, and sent smoke into one of the derelict rooms through the old fireplace vents?
In the Fireside chat with Patti the drummer was very much awake and indeed was observed speaking (albeit to an empty chair) by other members of the band when they returned from the bar area, with their round of drinks. They even asked who he was speaking to; "why the lady in the chair!" responded the drummer, but no one was there (and he felt awfully embarassed and has not talked about it since).
Even if many 'interactive' ghostly contacts could be shown to be received when in a dream state, might this not simply be a preferred method for spirits to make contact - when we are at our most receptive and 'open'? Many a prophet has claimed to have received enlightenment through visions in their dreams (how many religions are formed thus?).
As for the concept of life after death, have you ever thought life in the hear and now can sometimes be a bit boring? What if you literally had an eternity of consciousness in your afterlife, with nothing much to actually do other than watch everyone else living their lives? This might not be such a blessing after all.
But equally it is rather pointless, if, having lived a long and productive life, and learned a lot, we come to nothing when we die. Surely there should be some point to it all, some purpose? What of people cut down in the prime of life in world wars? Do they go on to something better?
Yet while each of us is the most important person on the planet, to ourselves at least, this alone does not require that our life and everything we do should be immortalised in some form of afterlife energy that can carry our consciousness.
If consciousness is a product of physical energy, powered by our cells and neurons, it follows when our cells and neurons can no longer convert food into energy, that the source of energy is gone and with it consciousness. On the other hand there may be enough energy around generally, like solar power, to provide enough energy for 'something' (our soul) to enable it to operate independently of the body.
And if we humans are to experience life after death, is it not logical that every living creature must do so as well? Yet we do not see many ghostly animals. Religions also do not seem to discuss this, presumably all the animal kingdom have no souls and no afterlife. Yet this is not logical, either every living creature has some sort of afterlife or none do.
If there is an afterlife, think of all the millions of long defunct species there will be floating around, from the earliest single celled organism to the most complex life form. How are these catered for? Do they expand their knowledge and continue learning in the afterlife till they reach some sort of higher plane? Or are they simply re-incarnated into ever higher life forms to gain more knowledge and experience ready for the afterlife?
And what about craetures on other planets? Do we get to meet aliens in the afterlife or are our souls kept in one specific locale?
Also what of less intelligent creatures such as snails and slugs, do they get an afterlife? What of babies who die when very young, or for that matter, babies who are not even born or who are aborted? Do they pass into the afterlife and then live out a full life into adulthood, so they get as fair a chance at enjoying the afterlife as the rest of us who live a full life?
Also, assuming there is an afterlife, would we really want it to continue into eternity, or is it more likely we'd wish to relinquish consciousness and awareness and just sort of disappear into some general bigger consciousness?
One possible answer to all these questions would be that we are all actually one being, split up into myriad different types of 'individuals' to live out our independent lives, before returning to and being absorbed by some superconciousness when we die, forever being reincarnated and separating into myriad billions of new life forms, each one being reabsorbed, so contributing ever more experiences to the superbeing we are all a part of. Well, it's one theory!
Maybe we retain our invidual consciousness after death for a while, losing it only when we choose to release ourselves back into this super-conciousness (or, as some might put it, God).
Not being religious myself, I have no dogma-induced beliefs, just the odd random rambling which is as meaningful as the wind.
As to the issue of dogs having an afterlife, my mother once had an elderly alsatian put down. She'd had two alsatians who were great companons, one older one later joined by a younger one. Shortly after the older alsatian died, the younger one barked excitedly and raced round and round the room looking up at the ceiling, wagging its tail.
It never did this before and never did it again. So maybe animals go their own separate way, just as we might.
As for ghosts, maybe some choose to hang around a while. Visit Craig y Nos and you might even meet a few, only you might not know it! (Just make sure who you are speaking to is really there.)
Go to Ghost Stories Pages.