One of the more difficult aspects that I’ve encountered in my fledgling career as a paranormal investigator is my sense of empathy and concern for those poor lost spirits who seem to be trapped here, unable to make it to the other side.
It all started when I encountered the spirit of a young boy named Leonard Beck at the site of the Wellington avalanche disaster in Wellington, Washington. Young Leonard was just shy of his third birthday on March 1, 1910 when an avalanche swept his train down the mountainside, killing at least 96 people including Leonard, his two sisters and his parents.
While I’d encountered what I believed to be ghosts many times before, there was something about Leonard that changed everything for me. Previous experiences with ghosts had been almost an academic exercise. They were ghosts, and I never really understood on a deep level their inherent humanity. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the concept of ghosts as dead humans – but more that ghosts were a curiosity to be studied instead of a disembodied human being to be empathized with.
Leonard changed all of that in a big way for me. One could say that he opened my heart to the fact that ghosts were probably pretty much like us – just without bodies. After all, to know that the ghost of a young child roamed around in a dark snow shed on a mountain trail – to hear his voice, connect with his spirit and maybe even see him on film – it opened something up inside of me. Not only that, but he seemed to be still very much the young boy that he was on the day he died – not some wise, all-knowing soul who really understood what had happened to him. Leonard was a kid, plain and simple. He presented, communicated and interacted as a child who was much the same age emotionally and mentally that he was on the day he died.
From an academic standpoint, this raised all sorts of questions for me. Why, for instance, would a ghost or spirit not mature in the same way that an embodied human child would? Why would they remain a little child? And perhaps, more importantly, when encountering the spirit of a young child, what was my responsibility to him?
Look at it this way. Say I was hiking up in the woods when I was approached by a three-year old boy. A living breathing one. What if the boy was all alone – without any parents, guardians or older siblings in sight? Surely as a caring adult, I would do everything possible to assure the safety and well-being of that child. How could I not? My heart would go out to any child in that situation, and I certainly wouldn’t bend down, shake his tiny hand and say, “Well it was nice to meet you. Enjoy your hike all alone through the cougar-infested wilds.” If somehow I actually was calloused enough to walk away from that child in that situation, I know it would haunt me forever. I’d feel his helplessness and fear in that situation – I know I would.
Now, imagine that same encounter – only with one difference. Instead of flesh and blood, that same tiny boy who I met was a ghost. I’m a mom. I’ve always been drawn to children (I even went to school to become a teacher). I adore their purity and innocence. I can no more ignore a frightened or lost child than I could abandon my own child alone in the woods.
This, then, is the situation I found myself in with Leonard Beck. He was a little boy, lost in the woods.
This tortured me for a long time. I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about that little soul. To me, he was a child lost in the woods.
What responsibility do we have to the lost souls that we encounter? It is a question that I’ve been asked more than once by people interviewing me about my book, Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington in which I chronicle my experiences at the site of the Wellington avalanche and my encounters with Leonard. And over the past several months, I have come up with an answer that makes sense to me and fits into my overall philosophy of – well – everything.
We are all souls set upon a path. Whether it seems like it or not, I believe that there is purpose to the path that each soul takes, and that purpose is something that contributes to our highest spiritual good. It is not up to me to judge the path of a soul, because wherever they are and whatever they are encountering, then those things are occurring on a soul level for the learning and growth of that spirit. Everything I’ve experienced in my life – from the most terrible tragedies to the greatest joys – have contributed to my growth as a soul. If, after my death, the thing that would best contribute to my ongoing growth as a soul would be to hang out as a disembodied spirit, then that would be my path and there would be a reason for it.
I have encountered Leonard for a reason. He has encountered me for a reason. But if it was my job to help him find his way Home, then he would go Home. He hasn’t. Instead he is still there. So surely, he is there as part of my path and I am there as part of his. And the only way I can know the purpose of that is to continue as I have. It’s not my job to do anything more for Leonard than exactly what I do in each encounter.
I have come to love Leonard. I think of him often. When I can be at Wellington, I talk to him and bring him things that he might like. I also believe that Leonard can – and does – come see me here. When I sense his presence, I talk to him. For now, my role with Leonard, it seems, is to be his friend, and that I can do.
Just as I am sitting here in my living room typing this blog as part of my path, Leonard remains disembodied at Wellington as part of his path. And he will continue to do so until he no longer needs to. Then, in that precise moment, he will go Home. His way, his time. When he does, I will miss him.
Enjoy reading Karen’s blogs about Wellington? Her new book, Avalanche of Spirits: The Ghosts of Wellington> is now available. Click here to buy.