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More than spooky stories and creepy creatures: As Halloween approaches, critical lessons are to be learned from the Church’s understanding of ghosts and demons

From the spirit of deceased monks lurking throughout the Abbey to spirits haunting the inhabitants of dorm rooms, Benedictine College hosts its share of ghost stories. Atchison Kan. and has been deemed as one of the most haunted towns in America. The discussion of the supernatural becomes ever more present as Halloween approaches, leaving the question: what does the Catholic Church teach about ghosts and spirits? 

Discussions concerning the haunted side of Benedictine flow freely throughout the year, but the month leading up to Halloween accentuates the supernatural conversations. For freshmen, such as Gabriel Jones, the newfound stories of ghosts and exorcisms come as an interesting surprise, provoking one to discern fact from fiction.  

“Hauntings on campus is something known, but not always talked about, the supernatural is always an interesting point of conversation,” Jones said. “It is a balancing act between finding truth and just telling stories.” 

Throughout the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the magisterium refrains from using the term ghosts and remain silent on the issue of the supernatural. Saints and theologians have addressed this issue of the supernatural drawing distinction between demons and spirits of deceased people.   

After purchasing a building in Atchison where previous owners conducted satanic rituals, Benedictine professor of Theology Dr. Mark Zia utilized his knowledge of the Catholic faith to determine how to rid his property of evil spirits, one of the supernatural distinctions that he draws.  

“There are demons, there are angels and then there are the souls of people who’ve died,” Zia said. “The way we sometimes use the word ghost, I think it could refer to a demon, but I think it could also refer to maybe the soul of a tormented person who’s dead.” 

Demons are fallen angels that seek to bring ruin to souls. The souls of the deceased are human souls trapped in Purgatory seeking to enter the Kingdom of God after a period of purification. These souls peacefully wander the earth causing slight disruptions to seek prayers petitioning for their release from Purgatory.  

For generations, American culture has glorified this supernatural culture encouraging contacting deceased or evil spirits through Ouija boards and other methods. The Catholic Church states that intentionally contacting deceased souls or evil spirits is a sin, the sin of necromancy.  

The Catholic Church very clearly and forcefully teaches that instances of contacting evil spirits or deceased souls are all violations against the love that we give to God alone, that these are all violations of what it means to pursue love of God,” Zia said. “We are taught that we are to avoid all these things (Ouija boards, tarot card readings etc.) like the plague because they are like the plague.” 

Committing the sin of necromancy is a serious offense and can lead to grave consequences. Contacting evil spirits is often done out of a desire for knowledge that human beings do not have a right to. When humans seek out this knowledge of the supernatural, they are breaking a barrier that God created for the benefit of humans. If this barrier is broken, it results in a separation from God and opens one to the potential of being possessed by a demonic spirit.  

College chaplain Fr. Matthew Nathan has encountered the sin of necromancy many times throughout his ministry. The advice he gives to one who has committed this sin is simple: confession and prayer.  

“Confess, confess, confess and then say prayers that invoke the presence of good spirits in one’s life,” Nathan said. “Pray for saint’s intercessions and pray to your good old guardian angel to help you out in combatting against these evil spirts.” 

Atchison is steeped in supernatural culture, boasting many houses advertised as haunted, and offering a variety of activities such as trolley tours that seek to profit from Atchison’s claim of being one of the most haunted towns in America. Creating commerce driven by the supernatural leads to evil spirits and an aura of darkness descending upon the town.  

“One of Atchison’s biggest problems is that it supports this haunted Atchison endeavor every year,” Zia said. “The city pours a lot of money into this haunted Atchison theme. The problem with this is the city is going out of its way and using money to bring evil and darkness into the town of Atchison and it needs to stop.” 

As Halloween draws near and the town of Atchison embraces its so-called haunted roots, there is a responsible way students can embrace the spooky spirit of Halloween without putting their soul at risk.  

“On one hand, there’s the haunted house that people make for entertainment purposes, and I don’t see any problem with going to those. If somebody wants to dress up as a “Friday the 13th” character, whatever,” Nathan said. “But then in terms of places that have the reputation of demonic activity going on there, I wouldn’t recommend dealing with those sorts of things. Even for the novelty of it, one should not deal with the demonic.” 

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