The Occult Bookstore

This image is of Ray’s Occult Books, the rundown fictional NYC bookstore opened by Ghostbuster Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd). In the time between Ghostbusters I and II,.

Ray had problems dealing with life then. The city of New York had a restraining order on them for the property damage incurred while they saved the city from Gozer in the first Ghostbusters film. Those were hard years following the collapse of the Ghostbusters. He opened a store that specialized in bizarre, strange, and hard-to-find books. Ray tells someone that his books cover alchemy, astrology, apparitions, Bundu Magic Men, demon intercession, U.F.O. Abductions, psychic surgery, stigmata, modern miracles, pixie sightings, golden geese, geists, and ghosts. Peter Venkman was a frequent customer. We know that in 1989, Peter ordered a book a copy of Magical Paths to Fortune and Power.

Discovering this little piece of movie trivia, I immediately remembered an occult bookstore I had gone to with my friends Karen and Bob. Ray’s store exteriors were filmed at 33 St. Mark’s Place, but the store was supposed to be in the cooler part of Greenwich Village. The store I went to was also in the Village back in the 1970s but I don’t remember the location. We always called it “the occult bookstore” and I’m not sure what was its official name – if it had one.

It was as odd as Ray’s and equally odd were the staffers and customers. You could get into some interesting conversations there with people.

I bought a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead there and some incense on one visit. The book is for the living to prepare yourself or others who are dying for liberation and the passage between worlds in the bardo.

I’ve thought about that store and that book, especially when Bob passed from this world and I wondered if he was somewhere in that intermediary place between life and death and the next step.

I know Ghostbusters is played for laughs but I have been haunted my whole life by the idea of ghosts (only once by a ghost) and wondering if there is an afterlife.

Ray’s store shows up in Ghostbusters II, and the third film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and in the comic book series and board and video games.

The Hungry Ghost Full Moon of July

The moon was but a chin of gold
A night or two ago,
And now she turns her perfect face
Upon the world below

– Emily Dickinson

July 2022’s Full Moon will rise on Wednesday, July 13, reaching peak illumination at 2:38 P.M. Eastern Time. Of course, it will be below the horizon then, so look to the southeast after sunset to watch it rise. It probably looks quite full already tonight.

In Chinese traditions, this is the time of the Hungry Ghost Moon. It was a time when spirits could move freely from this world into the Otherworld or the Eternal world. This is the time when the veil separating the worlds was “thin.” Though we often think of ghosts are frightening things, the Chinese believed that some spirits would return to where they were happiest. That makes this a time when you might see or feel the presence of ancestors, loved ones, and friends who have passed on.

It is also a time when mischievous spirits can make trouble and people can be more susceptible to bad energy from the spirit world. That aspect makes it similar to the ancient Irish observation of Samhain which was a feast marking the beginning of the Irish Winter. It is also celebrated on October 31st as Halloween in North America.

This month’s Moon is usually called the Buck Moon because the antlers of male deer (bucks) are in full-growth mode at this time. Bucks shed and regrow their antlers each year, producing a larger and more impressive set as the years go by.

Deer aren’t the only animals that figure into the Full Moon at this time of year. Feather Moulting Moon was used by the Cree in our July or sometimes in August, and Salmon Moon was used by the Tlingit people since this was when those fish returned to the area and were caught in large numbers.

Yes, this Full Moon orbits closer to Earth than any other full Moon this year, so it is the biggest and brightest supermoon of the year. I just don’t get very excited about the “supermoon” label since the Moon doesn’t really look bigger to us. Technically it is bigger and brighter than a regular Full Moon, but at 7% larger it is pretty much imperceptible to the human eye.

The Southern Hemisphere is marking a Wolf Moon, Old Moon, or Ice Moon. How strange that still seems to me.

A Dark Carol for Christmas

            First edition of A Christmas Carol with Illustrations by John Leech

December 19, 1843, was when Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published. The full title is A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas

Dickens wrote the novella in a time when the British were re-evaluating past Christmas traditions such as carols. The holiday was becoming more secular and newer customs such as Christmas cards and Christmas trees were becoming part of what was being seen as a family holiday.

A year earlier, he had visited Cornwall to see for himself the horrible conditions of child workers in the mines there. He also visited the Field Lane Ragged School which was a place for London’s many homeless “street children.” It made him so angry that he decided to write a book exposing the terrible situation of children in poverty, and publish it at his own expense.

His previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit had been a flop, and he was strapped for cash. Since the last book had been satirical and pessimistic, he ultimately decided to go for a heartwarming tale with a holiday theme. The book didn’t cause great social change in England but it is actually quite dark for most of its pages. What it did change was the way the Christmas season would be celebrated.

The story skirts the edges of being a religious story in a number of ways. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself certainly touches on many religions. The reconsideration of carols (a religious folk song or popular hymn, particularly one associated with Christmas) probably played a part in the book’s title, but Dickens treats Scrooge’s transformation without religious connotations. The book has long been seen as both a secular story and a Christian allegory.

Scrooge visited by Marley’s ghost

Many people know the story even if they never read the book from the many film and TV versions. Ebenezer Scrooge is an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and three spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. These experiences all take place on Christmas Eve and change him into a kinder, gentler man.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

As a child, I saw the classic 1951 film version with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. I was still a Santa believer and I know the ghosts scared me in the same way that the witches scared me in The Wizard of Oz. Now, that film version and some of the more contemporary ones seem to me to be almost film noir. I find it interesting that many holiday films, even fluffy ones such as A Christmas Story Elf or Home Alone, but also classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, have dark elements. As someone who has very mixed memories of Christmas seasons in my past both happy and sad, that seems right.

Yet to Come
The last ghost – Yet to Come

The final spirit to visit in this ghost story represents the future Yet to Come. It is silent and dark and the scariest of the spirits. Scrooge is concerned about whether or not the future is set or whether it can still be changed for the better. In Dickens’ version of this ghostly time travel, the future is not set.

“No space of regret can make amends
for one life’s opportunity misused”

The happiest spirit to visit represent Christmas Present. It’s ironic to Scrooge because he sees his employee Bob and his family, including the ill son Tim, being very happy on Christmas Eve even though he feels he has almost nothing to be happy about – and he knows he is partially responsible for their poverty.

“Reflect upon your present blessings
– of which every man has many –
not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Christmas present

As I said, when the book was originally published the way Christmas was represented was somewhat controversial. Puritans in England and America argued that Christmas was a holiday from the days when pagans celebrated the winter solstice and many Christians felt that the extravagance of Christmas was an insult to the story of Christ.

But A Christmas Carol won out and was a huge best-seller in both England and the United States. It certainly set a different tone for modern Christmas that has numerous nods to a Dickens Christmas with figgy pudding.

I am not against seasonal generosity, gifting, feasting, and merriment but it does seem that something important has been lost in the holiday and our celebration. As I wrote last weekend about the Santa aspect of the holiday, the holiday seems much changed even from the Christmas I remember in the 1950s.

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

A Ghost in the House


I had a dream this past week where a ghost was in my house. I don’t think it had anything to do with Halloween approaching. I was fascinated by the meanings and interpretations of dreams starting in my teens. I’ve been keeping dream journals since my teen years and still look at dreams as a way to understand my waking life.

I happened upon an article on ghost dreams the day after my own ghost dream. Synchronicity?

According to the article, this is what a dream where a ghost is in your home means:

This dream about ghosts signifies internal conflict. You do not feel happy in yourself. Our homes are where we are supposed to feel safe and secure. So to dream about a ghost in our private space is unsettling. Something is out of whack. This dream is asking you to go deep into your psyche and work out what is troubling you. This indicates low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in your abilities.

I don’t think anything is really bothering me lately. I also don’t currently suffer from low self-esteem or confidence.  But in my dream, the ghost spoke to me and that has its own interpretation.

Ghosts represent the past and regret. They are symbolic of unresolved issues. If the ghost spoke to you in your dream, it means you have regrets about someone in your past. It indicates sorrow for a failed relationship, or a longing to reconnect with an old friend.

This comes closer to my own interpretation. I was thinking about a good friend who died last year and I regret that I did not visit him at the end of his life.  His wife didn’t seem to want me to see him, perhaps so that my final memories of him would be the person I knew years ago. The ghost was a man, not particularly clear or looking like my friend, but he spoke to me like a living person – as if all was well.

The other dream scenarios mentioned in the article are:
A ghost haunting you
A ghost chasing you
A ghost tried to kill you, or you tried to kill a ghost
You befriended a ghost
You were a ghost
Your mother or father were ghosts in the dream

Why do ghosts appear in our dreams?  It might be because you are grieving the loss of a loved one (fairly obvious), have regrets about the past (ghosts representing the past), fear death (the most obvious interpretation), or have unfinished business (ghosts are sometimes thought to be people who won’t leave this realm because they have unfinished business here).


Is something true if it only happens once?

I have written before about Alan Lightman’s first novel, Einstein’s Dreams which was an international best seller and I book I really found intriguing. In that book, a fictional Albert Einstein is a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. In each of the book’s 30 chapters, we read about one particular dream about time that Einstein may have had during this period.

I also read Lightman’s book, The Diagnosis, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, but the book of his that caught my attention most recently is Ghost .

That is where he encounters his ghost. The experience changes all his relationships (estranged wife, girlfriend, mother) and he finds himself at the heart of a public controversy over the existence of the supernatural.

I have always wanted to see a ghost – even more than seeing an alien or UFO. An alien coming out of a spacecraft would prove life elsewhere in the universe, but the ghost would prove a life for us after this one.

Where do you stand on the physical world versus the spiritual world?

It’s a question the book asks. It also asks you to consider skepticism and faith, the natural and the supernatural, even science and religion.

When the novel opens, David says, “I saw something. I think I saw something impossible.” The ghost is just a “vapor” emanating from a corpse. It’s not a horror film terror or special effect.

And the novel ends with the question “Is something true if it happens only once?”

Alan Lightman’s site at M.I.T.

Ghost Ship

On this day, December 4, back in 1872, the ship Mary Celeste was found floating, unmanned and abandoned, in the Atlantic near Spain and Morocco. It was a ghost ship.

The ship was an American merchant ship that had been at sea for about a month. The sea was calm. She had no issues that would have made her unable to sail. When found, it had a 6 month store of food and supplies. There were no signs of violence or mutiny. No distress flag. No notes or log entries of any problems.

All passengers and crew had vanished.

Yes, the ship’s lifeboat was gone, so you would guess that they had abandoned ship. But if they did, why did they leave all their personal possessions and valuables? They must have been in a big hurry. Or they were taken (by pirates, spirits or UFOs?)

Who took the ship’s papers but left the logbook? It makes sense that the navigation equipment and two pumps if they were headed out in that lifeboat. But why did they leave in the first place?

The Mary Celeste has been fictionalized since then. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame, is one author who was intrigued by the possibly paranormal parameters the tale offered.

The ship was still under sail and heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar when found – as if ghosts were sailing her.

It is still one of the best maritime mysteries. So, what happened? There is no shortage of theories: alcoholic fumes, underwater “seaquakes”, waterspouts, and paranormal explanations involving extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects and sea monsters.

Piracy is one explanation. The crew was crew murdered and thrown overboard by Ottoman pirates known to operate in the area. But why no  signs of a struggle? Why take navigation equipment, pumps and a lifeboat and leave the cargo and personal possessions?

Here’s a complicated explanation. A seaquake erupted below the ship and jarred open nine barrels of alcohol (~450 gallons) which leaked into the bilge and some dislodged fuel for the stove on deck caused embers from the fire to drift into the rigging. Modern experts believe that the alcohol fumes that would have been easily ignited, and because alcohol burns at such a low temperature, even a large explosion could have left the ship and even the surrounding barrels undamaged. The crew abandoned ship, perhaps planning to return if all looked safe. But they were unable to catch the ship in their lifeboat (a sailing dinghy). They floundered at sea and all died.

The paranormal explanations are a lot more interesting.

There is no lack of books about the mysterious ship to read, and they cover the gamut of explanations. I checked out Ghost Ship by Brian Hicks which is an easy read and covers many theories, but also gives a nice background on the ship’s crew so that the story has a human feel. It reminds me a bit of the film Titanic‘s approach to that ship’s tale.

There are also plenty of websites, like, that will keep you busy if you want to follow the theories. That site pretty much sides with Charles Edey Fay’s book which settles on the alcohol theory.

You won’t find any sound evidence for the theory that aliens abducted the crew in a flash from the ship.  (Did the aliens need a lifeboat and pumps?) And when you think of “ghost ships”, you are more likely to be referring to is a supposedly haunted or ghostly vessels like the Flying Dutchman, but the term is also used for derelict ships found adrift with their entire crew either missing or dead, such as the Mary Celeste or the Baychimo.