John Bradshaw - Are Ghosts Real?
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. You might not have heard of Snodgrass Hill. It's an unassuming sort of mound. Standing at 896 feet, there are 885 summits in the state of Tennessee higher than Snodgrass Hill. But it's a significant landmark for a number of reasons. It's located in the Chickamauga National Battlefield, nine miles or so from downtown Chattanooga.
The Battle of Gettysburg saw by far the most casualties of any Civil War skirmish, but second was the Battle of Chickamauga, which took place in September of 1863: 34,500 casualties, 4,000 dead, 25,000 injured, and more than 6,000 captured or missing. There was a lot of death and hurt. And Snodgrass Hill saw plenty of it in the northwest of what is now the Chickamauga National Military Park. One of the most significant things related to Snodgrass Hill is not a "what" but a "who". Or a "what," or maybe a "who". I guess it depends on who you ask. There's a story told about a certain soldier. No one seems to know his name. But in this story, the soldier who fought in the bloody Battle of Chickamauga lost his head, literally.
The story goes that a cannonball took his head off, and that ever since, he's been roaming the battlefield at night searching for his body. The story began circulating shortly after the battle was over, but what seems to have given the story credence is an account given by a man who at one time was the chief ranger of the battlefield. He claimed to have encountered "Old Green Eyes," as the ghost is known. He said he was walking in the battlefield one morning around four o'clock, walking along a road, when "an apparition came at me". He said it was wearing something like a long trench coat, and it turned and looked at him. He said the hair on his neck just stood up. He told a Chattanooga news channel, "I know people don't believe in ghosts, but I know what I saw, and it wasn't human".
So what's up with Old Green Eyes? Does he exist? Is he real? And for that matter, are ghosts real? Do ghosts exist? The answers to these questions are important when it comes to matters of faith. The Bible speaks a lot to the subject in a very specific way, and many people aren't aware of what the Bible plainly says. Ghost stories have been told for...years and years. And there are some famous ghosts and some famous ghost stories. The ghost of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of British king Henry VIII, is said to haunt the Tower of London, as well as her childhood home, 25 miles southeast of the tower, in Kent. It's claimed that some have seen the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States.
In fact, it's said that the statue of Franklin in front of the American Philosophical Society building in Philadelphia comes to life and has been seen dancing in the street. A young Robert E. Lee has been seen, apparently, at his childhood home in Alexandria, Virginia, and has been known to ring the doorbell and rearrange objects in the house. People say they've heard the 4-year-old Lee giggling in the hallways. Aaron Burr, the man who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, is said to break dishes and move furniture at a restaurant in New York City, while the spirit of Hamilton haunts the area near his burial site in Manhattan. Or so they say. Similar stories are told about George Washington, Betsy Ross, Abraham Lincoln.
Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of the 16th president of the United States, claimed that she heard President Andrew Jackson stomping and swearing in the Rose Room in the White House, of course, long after he had died. Although it's interesting that it's said Mary Todd Lincoln was a spiritualist, who attended séances even in the White House and believed in the occult. It's said that she even believed that Willie, the Lincolns' son who died at the age of 11, would visit her at night and stand at the end of her bed. So what do we make of these stories? Does a soldier decapitated in the Civil War roam the Chickamauga Battlefield? Does Anne Boleyn, who incidentally also lost her head, still hang around the Tower of London almost 500 years after she was executed? We're going to answer some questions: Are ghosts real? If they are, what are they? And what does the Bible say about ghosts? What does God say? How do we look at this from a biblical perspective?
There are some famous so-called haunted houses all over the world. In the United States there's the house in Fall River, Massachusetts, in which Lizzie Borden, at the age of 32, may or may not have killed her father and stepmother with an ax. She was acquitted of the murders. The home in which the Bordens died is said to be haunted. Northwest of Nashville, Tennessee, is the Bell Witch Cave. While it's not a home, it's on the property where John Bell and his family lived in the early 1800s. They started seeing strange things and hearing strange noises and even spoke with whatever it was roaming around the place, a deceased neighbor apparently. There's the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, the Winchester House in San Jose, California, and a home in Amityville on Long Island, New York, in which several people were murdered, where the haunting got so bad that the new owners of the home moved out only a month after they moved in. But what does the Bible say? Should you believe in ghosts? Should you be scared by ghosts? We're going to find out in just a moment.
Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Ghosts, they're everywhere, apparently. There are stories of apparitions and hauntings and haunted houses. And then there's Halloween, which sees people every year decorate, if that's the right word, decorate their homes with, with faux cobwebs and fake grave markers and with witches and, and skulls and all kinds of depictions of death and horror. Harmless fun, right? Ghosts, the spirit world, even demons and sorcery, have become part of the fabric of society.
There have been popular movies about ghosts. One of them told the story, fictional, of course, of a young man who was murdered and then briefly reunited with his living girlfriend. It was the most popular movie in North America that year, earning half a billion dollars at the box office and winning two Academy Awards. Back in the '80s, if anyone asked you, "Who you gonna call"? well, the answer was, "Ghostbusters". Harmless fun, right? There have been TV series about ghosts. Now, you might ask if there was anything harmful about "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," which aired way back in the '60s. Well, stay with me and you'll see. More than 250 episodes of "Bewitched" were made in the 1960s. The star character described herself in the show as "a real house-haunting, broom-riding, cauldron-stirring witch".
Now, not a ghost exactly, but very similar stuff. There have been oodles of TV series about people who had, apparently, the ability to communicate with ghosts. A few years ago there was an absolute infatuation with vampires, which run on a very similar concept to ghosts. Harmless fun, right? It extends to music. Johnny Cash sang about cattle running across the sky being chased by the spirits of dead cowboys. A popular song in the 1970s was based on a Native American legend about a ghost horse.
So you have people singing about ghosts without even realizing it. Harmless fun, right? Well, no, not harmless fun, and you'll see why. What all this does is it normalizes belief in ghosts. No, not everyone is going to become a ghost enthusiast, but all this talk, all this entertainment, all the "fun" surrounding ghosts lowers barriers. It suggests that ghosts are okay; therefore, the paranormal is okay for entertainment and fun and is not harmful. Which couldn't be further from the truth. Think about cartoons. Casper was "the Friendly Ghost," appealing to children. There have been comic book ghost heroes. One of them gave his soul to the devil, and his head would become a flaming skull. We're no longer talking about harmless fun.
There's a prominent ghost story in the Bible. In 1 Samuel, we find King Saul in a very low place. The Bible tells us that the prophet Samuel was dead by now and that the Philistines, the enemy of Israel, had massed together only a few miles away. Saul could see them in the distance. First Samuel 28:5 says, "When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly". So what was his response? He was Israel's king. We know what he should have done.
When Jehoshaphat was confronted by the Moabites and the Edomites, he prayed that stirring prayer, calling out to God and saying, "O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?... We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You".
You read that in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. That was faith. "We have no power against this [enemy]... but our eyes are upon You". But not Saul. It says that "Saul said to his servants, 'Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.' And his servants said to him, 'In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.'" That's 1 Samuel 28, verse 7. He wanted to consult a medium, one who communicated with the dead. His servants found her living in a cave, hiding out from authorities. Just a few verses earlier, the Bible says that "Saul had put the mediums and... spiritists out of the land". God said in Exodus 22 in verse 18: "You shall not permit a sorceress to live".
God had expressly forbidden communicating with the dead, and here's why: because no one can communicate with the dead, for the simple fact that the dead are dead. These, these necromancers, people who claim to be able to communicate with the dead, that's not grandma and grandpa they're communicating with. It's the devil. It's evil spirits. And God doesn't want that happening. Now, this woman that you read about in 1 Samuel chapter 28, she's commonly referred to as the "witch of En Dor". It says in verse 8 that "Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, 'Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.'" You got that right. This was a séance. It was nothing that God would approve of.
People get confused by this and think that Saul was communicating with the actual prophet Samuel. Well, he certainly wasn't. He said to the witch, "Bring me up Samuel". Verse 12 says, "When the woman saw Samuel", okay, but read on, in verse 13, she says, "I saw gods ascending out of the earth". Or, "I [saw] a god," or, "a divine being [come] up out of the earth". She didn't say that she saw Samuel. And Samuel certainly wasn't a god or a divine being. One translation says, "I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth". Saul asks what it looks like, and she says, "It's an old man wearing a robe". And the Bible says that Saul perceived, or Saul figured, that it was Samuel.
Now, the "Samuel" entity asks, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up"? That is, from the realm of the dead. Now, notice, Saul didn't see this apparition. The woman saw it, and she was a witch. This was not someone who brought a message from heaven. You might think, "Well, whoever it was, it told Saul that he was going to be killed. Surely that's evidence that this was from God". Quite the opposite. This is evidence that Satan was toying with Saul, taunting him, causing him to suffer even more than he was already suffering. That's how the devil works.
In fact, if you read in 1 Chronicles, chapter 10, it says that Saul died, in part, because he went to see the witch. You believe that this is the ghost of Samuel if you believe in ghosts, and people believe in ghosts because they're conditioned to by the devil through movies and TV and books and music and cartoons and all of that. The devil invents the idea of people coming back from the dead, and then he sells it to us in an entertaining way that looks like fun. Fun? That's the last thing this is. So how do we explain noises in the attic and tapping on the windows and, and, and dancing Ben Franklin statues? Well, they're absolutely not people who have come back from the dead. I'll show you that from the Bible in just a moment.
A Harris Poll in 2013 showed that 43 percent of all Americans believe in ghosts. A British survey revealed that more Britons believe in ghosts than believe in a Creator. The idea is that after they die, the dead remain with us in spirit. When they're gone, they hang around. For what, I'm not 100-percent sure. But since before Shakespeare wrote "Macbeth," with its witches and with the ghost of Banquo coming back to haunt Macbeth himself, people have clung to this idea that ghosts are real.
So let's look at something in the Bible that shows us definitively that the dead don't return to haunt houses or visit the living after they have died. In Job chapter 7, Job speaks and says, "The eye of him who sees me will see me no more; while your eyes are upon me, I shall no longer be. As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore". That's Job 7, verses 8 through 10. I've been told all kinds of stories by people who were convinced that their family members came back to see them after they were gone. A lady told me about Uncle Larry seeing out his last days in her spare bedroom, and how after he died, whenever she entered into that room, music would start playing.
So where did that music come from? It sure wasn't Uncle Larry. And how do we know that? Because the Bible says that the dead don't come back up. Now, of course, that doesn't refer to the resurrection. But the Bible says the dead don't come back up and they don't return to their house. "But I saw my dad". "My mother used to visit me every night". "I'm sure I saw a vision of my grandmother". Well, sorry, no, that was not your grandmother you saw. Of course, people can just see things; that happens. But there's something else that I want you to see. Let me show you this.
In Revelation chapter 16, you read about the seven last plagues, judgments of God upon an unrepentant world in the last days of earth's history. When the sixth plague is poured out, John writes, "I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty".
See what the devil's going to do before this thing is over? Miracles of a spiritualistic nature, purposely designed to deceive the whole world, for the purpose of gathering them to be forever lost. So imagine, you've spent your life watching TV shows that assume the reality of ghosts. You've watched scary movies and zombie movies, zombies, vampire shows. So, of course you're inclined to believe in ghosts. But in reality, haunted houses are not haunted by people who have returned from the dead. I know, people claim that they've actually died and then they've come back, but the Bible says, plainly, otherwise. So who is haunting houses? Who's causing the noise in your attic? Well, could be the wind, or squirrels. Or the devil. He'll do anything he can to convince you that people come back from the dead. Because, as we just saw Revelation say, before Jesus returns to this earth, there will be massive deception of a spiritualistic nature.
If you believe people come back from the dead, you've got no defense against a deception like that. Do you think the devil wants people to know that ghosts are not departed people? No, he does not. What happens to, let's say, voodoo and other false religious systems if people understand that there are no spirits? Gone. And the devil doesn't want that. Séances don't connect people with dead relatives. Numerous individuals would be exposed as frauds if this became known. The devil doesn't want that. And what about mediums? No, they're not contacting your dead relatives. Oh, I know that they can impress people, and it seems sometimes that they can get things right, but those who aren't just making it up or getting lucky are getting their insights from...Satan himself.
What we know is that there's a massive, elaborate system of deception being perpetrated by the devil, and he wants us to be led away from the truth and set up to be utterly swept away by deception. The Bible is your defense against deception. So, do things happen? Do unexplainable things occur? Sure they do. Now, in the case of Old Green Eyes, who I mentioned earlier, many times people have simply been confused by the headlights of vehicles. Harry Houdini and others have exposed spiritist mediums as frauds. Some people who see ghosts just see...something. Or they think they do.
Of course, if you want to believe in ghosts or the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot, and if you're predisposed to believing that based on your upbringing or your culture or whatever, nothing's going to stop you. Except maybe the Bible, that tells us we are living in a spiritual war, and that an angry devil is doing all he can to draw people away from the Bible as their guide. Let your faith rest on the Word of God, and you won't be deceived. So why do things...happen? Well, that's because the devil is at work. Can the devil cause people to see weird stuff? Yes, he can. Can he confuse people? Yes again, and he does. And he's programming the world right now to believe a massive deception, that the dead come back to visit us, for the sole purpose that we would be deceived and lost.
The Bible tells us again and again that death is a sleep. "The living...die," and, according to Solomon, "know nothing". Ecclesiastes 9, verse 5. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep". He wrote to the Thessalonians and said, "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope". That's why the Bible says that this king died "and slept with his fathers". Death is a sleep, and no one sleeping the sleep of death is going to go sleepwalking around a battlefield or along a street in Philadelphia, or in your attic. The dead sleep until the resurrection. They don't come back as ghosts.
I want to encourage you to rest your faith on the Bible. Trust the Word of God. Lean on Jesus, the One who died for you. God wants to grow your understanding of Himself and His Word in preparation for eternity. And how's that going for you? How's your walk with God? Are you surrendering your life to Him each day, asking Him to lead you and fill you with His presence? Are you praying and reading the Bible daily? There are evil spirits in this world, and they're active, and they often present themselves as harmless fun. But deception isn't fun. Be guided by the right spirit, the Holy Spirit. Center your life on Him today. Invite Him into your heart. Let Him be your Guide and your strength. And watch God grow you and bless your life. Let's pray together now:
Our Father in heaven, I thank You that You do not want us to be deceived, that You provide very clear explanations in Your Word as to the truth behind these supernatural things that have deceived and caused fear in so many people. Lord, guide us in Your Word. Teach us Your way. Defend us from the evil one, who seeks to deceive everybody, that none might be saved. We thank You for salvation in Jesus, the Lamb of God, the mighty Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Thank You that He today is our defense and our strength and that He would guide us in Your path and keep us close to Your heart. We offer our hearts to You. Thank You for taking our lives and making them Yours. And we pray in Jesus' name, amen.