David Pitkin, whose ancestors were early settlers of Connecticut, has been fascinated with the afterlife and the unconscious mind since 1968, when he heard a ghost walking through a barn in New York’s northern Oneida County. Over the years, he has collected more than 800 tales of hauntings and apparitions, which he has published in several books. One of his recent titles, New England Ghosts (Aurora Publications; afterworld.info), features 135 stories he’s collected over the past decade. A retired history teacher now living in upstate New York, he lectures on death, parapsychology, and the metaphysical. Here are some excerpts from Yankee‘s interview with him.
“I see myself as a historian with an odd side. I see a ghost as part of someone who isn’t done yet. I’m not interested in cheap thrills. I want to know how the system works, what goes on after death, and how ghosts fit into that. The state of being a ghost is a waystation between what we call living and what we call passed on. There’s this other way of being, this other reality, if you will. [Ghosts] are definitely not living in the normal, physical sense. Neither are they just drifting clouds of ectoplasm. They have consciousness; they have personalities …
“I’m ‘sensitive,’ but I think that everyone has some psychic ability. You never know what form it will take. Some people have just the ability to smell or hear. For sensitive people, the best thing is to have a place to yourself. Ghosts have a very faint energy compared to the energy we have, because they don’t have to power a physical body. I sit, quietly, with my eyes closed, and get meditative. I telepathically say, ‘Is anyone here? Does anyone want to talk?’ And sometimes there’s a response. How you see and hear telepathically, I don’t know how to describe. But I get impressions, as if they’re playing on some inner screen.
“One of the most important things is to keep a clear, open mind. Even so, things may not make sense to you. I was in a [19th-century] congressman’s home in Bath, New Hampshire. The house had been converted to a B&B where many guests had reported strange sights and sounds, but then it had closed. [It has since reopened as the Hibbard House Inn.] No one had lived there for some time. I had the house to myself. The dining room looked nice, so I sat down. I asked whether anyone was there. And I saw two women come running in, directly to me. The first one said, ‘Oh, I have to tell you, my portrait is hanging in the front room.’ That was it. I waited for more, but they just kind of vaporized. Why would a ghost hang around to say something that seemed so unimportant? I looked all over those walls, but I couldn’t find her in any of the portraits. Maybe she was older or younger, and I just couldn’t recognize her.
“Many ghosts are still working through the concerns they had in life, and those tend to be sort of humdrum. In this case, I was in a house that was once the showplace of that village. Maybe the energy I was putting out in admiring it connected to this woman, who wanted to help me appreciate it. For her, that picture was a point of pride, perhaps. It meant more to her than I was able to understand at the moment. Most contacts are pretty dull. I don’t think there are many times that Uncle Louie appears to point out the location of buried treasure …
“There’s this fascination with TV ghost programs. It looks like a genuine adventure, as though you can go and have a hell of a good time. If you invest a couple thousand dollars in gadgets, you can go in and get … what? You can pick up noise on your recorder, get a temperature spike on your thermometer. Probably get some orbs with your camera. Your EMF meter is going to pick up electrical fields. So when you’re done, you’ve got a bunch of readings. Well, I think you can go into any structure and come away with readings. But I’m not putting down the desire to have a transcendent experience. I share that.
“I’ve interviewed maybe 1,500 people, which has helped me gain some perspective. My books are trying to say, There’s no reason to be afraid of death. There’s no reason to be afraid of ghosts. Most of the ghosts people encounter are people they knew. Personally, I’m not afraid of dying. What bothers a lot of people when they die is that they didn’t expect to go and there’s still something they’re trying to tidy up and get done. I’m not worried at all about it. I’d like to be a helper over there.”
Read more about Autumn A to Z in the September/October issue of Yankee Magazine