Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Tales of Mr. Smiley and Philip Aylesford

(Originally published October 8, 2010; edited July 2, 2011)

I started to write a serious article. Something all 'scientificky' about poltergeist phenomena or Bigfoot. But then I thought, "..gosh darn-it. It's Halloween. I want to tell something scary." And then I thought about what's more scary, mystery or reality? Of course all the philosophers will say mystery. You know, the whole "fear of the unknown" line of thought. And it's true, the unknown is scary. Then I thought about how scary reality can be too. So I decided to tell about Mr. Smiley's grave and how Philip Aylesford's story could explain it.

Long ago, while reading about many of the ghost stories and sightings around Texas, I came across a couple of tales about Mr. Smiley's grave. Mr. Smiley, they say, was a very mean man. Mean and crazy. He was so mean that he eventually took it out on his poor wife and children. He shot them and then shot himself one night. If you want proof, their grave is in a small cemetery near Garland Texas in Mills Cemetery. The tombstone is of moderate size and has all five names clearly engraved in the stone. Mr. Smiley, his beloved wife, and three children are all listed there. They rest below in a single mass grave. At least four of them are resting...

The locals say that the cemetery is peaceful by day. It's a well kept one with a manicured lawn and dotted with shade trees. But some will also tell you that it is not the place to be after dark. This is because Mr. Smiley is apparently still angry. He's so angry with what he's done to himself and his family that he's trying to take it out on someone else. He's trying to drag you down with him, as the saying goes.

If you go to the Smiley family's grave well after dark, people say that strange things will be felt and seen. Around Halloween is best. On Halloween is even better. Halloween at midnight is almost a certainty. Stand on top of the grave and they say that Mr. Smiley will try to pull you in. He'll grab your ankles and try to pull you off balance. This is no joke. People have actually stood on his grave and felt this, along with the sadness of the horrible event and a mysterious light in the cemetery.

A while back, I dug around and found out that the Smiley family really died in a tornado. The same tornado also claimed the lives of some of the family's relatives and several others in the town, including the Mayor.

This is just another one of those tales that we often run across when looking for ghost stories and sightings. The real stories are often forgotten, but later gain a new life when someone sees the mass grave of an entire family in a cemetery that they're strolling through for the first time. Such a grave, one containing both parents and children, often spurs images of a terrible disaster. Rightfully so, but those mental images of a nameless disaster that one can only imagine also bring about legends that are many times more scary than just a family's tombstone in a cemetery. It's normal too. That's why the stories are spun and told. They're supposed to scare you.

The feeling of being off balance could be explained by disorientation caused by standing on even slightly uneven ground and relaxing your body or closing your eyes. The orbs, unless there is something just amazingly abnormal and rare about them, are most likely air borne particles. The sadness? That's going to occur with anyone who's sensitive (or not) and see's the names of an entire family on one grave. What about the light around the cemetery? Perhaps it's the reflection of something, or maybe distant car headlights. Perhaps it, like the feeling of being pulled in (if anyone has actually experienced it), could all be from the imagination. What if so many people believing the same thing is making something happen somehow?

Think about it for a second. It's possible for someone to concentrate on a subject in a manner that will cause them to dream about it at night. Perfectly sane people do it all the time when lucid dreaming. Why can't that be done when awake, resulting in someone to see something that they want to see? This could be a perfectly rational explanation for the sightings of lone witnesses.

Then there's the story of Philip Aylesford. He was from England and lived sometime in the 1600s. He was a devout supporter of the King and was married to the daughter of a nearby nobleman. Sometime after his marriage, Philip came to know a Gypsy woman who was from a nearby encampment. After instantly falling in love with her, he had her carried to the stables of his family's manor in secret. One thing led to another and Philip's wife eventually found out. The Gypsy was put on trial and then burned at the stake for being a witch. Soon after, Philip decided that he would take his own life. He jumped to his death one night from the battlements that he often paced at his home.

Philip's story isn't entirely true either. He never lived. His story was created by members of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research who conducted an experiment in the the early 70s to see if they could create a ghost. They started off by creating Philip entirely from scratch. Like a character in a movie, they picked his age, his looks, his occupation, his background, how he died, his family, and so on. Then they imagined that he was haunting the place. Dr. A.R.G. Owen, an expert researcher on poltergeist phenomena, guided the TSPR on conducting their experiment. Seven other people from TSPR were used as guinea pigs to pretend this ghost existed. A psychologist, Dr. Joel Whitton, also sat in as an observer on many of the group's sessions. What happened after that? After about a year of trying, Philip began to make himself known.

The incidents were documented too. It really happened. There were witnesses, film, audio, and doctors present. It started with an episode at a seance where tapping on the table was noted. Objects began to levitate in later sessions. Using the taps, he would even communicate with the group by responding to their questions about his life. To my knowledge, at least three other research groups have conducted similar experiments afterward and have succeeded. So, it appears that this is very much possible. I'm sure it's not the case with all hauntings, of course. There are too many documented ones that don't fit the bill and are witnessed by lone families or single individuals, some of them even non-believers, in places with no known history or influence. But still, it apparently can happen. The TSPR proved that it was possible. They made Philip a reality.

When you think about it, that's more scary than the story of Mr. Smiley.

Reverend Chaos (aka Shawna Lowman)

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