Witness: Jeff Belanger
Location: Paris, France
Date of Encounter: September 2003
Ghostvillage.com was launched 11 years ago today. It's fitting that this encounter you're reading right now is our 1000th encounter published in this section so far. People from all over the world have shared their experiences, photos, videos, and audio clips that have shaken the foundations of what they believe.
When I started the site more than a decade ago, my idea was to take an objective approach, to welcome all view points on the subject, and to explore all things ghostly. That's still the objective today, however, I've made a few observations along the way. This encounters section has offered many people comfort.
I've received hundreds of emails over the years with similar tones: "I thought I was the only person who experienced that…," or "I live in that town and know exactly where that building is — I also saw the ghost in the window." The Web site has offered a lot of validation for people — an unintended, but really cool side-effect of this haunted Web destination.
I started in this field as a journalist. I still strive to present all sides in my research, but I recognize now that pure objectivity isn't possible. You can't spend 15 years studying a phenomenon and not reach a conclusion. Either A.) This stuff is all bunk and made up stories; or B.) It's real-there's more to it than just ghost stories.
I reached the latter conclusion in September of 2003 on a trip to Paris, France. While walking through the Catacombs 30 meters below the city streets among six million human skeletons, I saw something I can't explain in any other term but: ghost.
While walking through a narrow hallway lined with skulls I witnessed a dark, shadowy figure the size of a man move from the right side of the tunnel, to the left, and back again. I froze in my tracks. Time stopped, and my brain began running through a checklist of possibilities: Did someone walk by me? No, impossible, the hallway was too narrow. Is there some side-tunnel or offshoot? I checked. No. Is there lighting on the floor so a tiny mouse could cast a huge shadow? No. The lighting was shoulder level aiming down. Am I of sound mind and body right now? Yes. It was around 11 in the morning, I was sober, and under the influence of nothing.
If I close my eyes right now I can relive that event. What was only two or three seconds of my life has changed everything. Since then I have had a few other experiences I can't explain. I live for those moments. I find them exhilarating. I want to see more. In short, I believe.
We can debate the rest of our lives as to what these things are, be they residual hauntings, angels, demons, lost souls, trans-dimensional beings, or what have you; but I can't debate that this stuff is here right now. I've placed my flag in the ground and have moved forward.
Thank you to the hundreds of other people who were brave enough to share their sometimes deeply personal stories with Ghostvillagers and with the world. I can't wait to read the next 1000!