Explaining ghosts — or not — at the Oregon Ghost Conference in April – OregonLive.com
Rocky Smith says it doesn’t matter what you call it — a spirit, energy or a plain old ghost — there’s something very real happening beyond our understanding.
“I don’t even know what the word ghost means. In my mind it’s such a broad term,” he said. “I think there’s a whole bunch of terms and they’re all just umbrella terms for things nobody can understand.”
Smith is the director of the Oregon Ghost Conference, a free three-day event that will return April 10 to 12 to Oregon City. The event isn’t meant to fuel mainstream paranormal fascination (see: reality TV), but rather open a public dialogue about what this “ghost” business is all about.
The conference will include a surprising variety of entertainment. There will be comedy from stand-up/ghost hunter Marcus, a live psychic galley reading featuring Ankhasha Amenti and a dozen speakers, each a self-proclaimed expert in one paranormal field or another.
That variety could lead to a much wider discussion without any consensus on the supernatural, buy that’s exactly what Smith, who is also a city commissioner and an art teacher at Oregon City High School, has in mind.
“This ghost conference attracts people from all over the West coast who are essentially … experts in this subject, but how can you say you’re an expert in a field where nobody knows what they’re talking about?” he said.
His goal is to bring together all those experts, from the spiritual to the scientifically minded, and let the public make up their own minds. A lot of people have experiences of their own, he pointed out, and they don’t always jibe with the common conception of “ghosts” or “hauntings.”
Smith has had many himself, going back to the mid-1990s when he gave tours at the Ermatinger House in Oregon City. He knew that an old sea captain had died there, and had always taken a seat at the head of the table, but he didn’t expect to walk into the dining room one day to find the chair at that place setting pulled out a full two feet.
Nobody had been in the house that day, let alone the room, he claims. Nobody had touched the chair. There was no logical explanation, and it’s happened regularly ever since.
“It shocked me and kind of scared me too, but I was standing there just thinking, ‘OK how did this happen?'” he said. “It was never anything scary so much, but just something to remind us that, ‘Yes we’re here.'”
A history buff, Smith takes a relatively measured approach to the supernatural, seeing these experiences as simply reminders of the past.
“I think rather than to use the negative connotation of these houses as haunted, it’s more that these houses are places where important things happened, where history happened and that history is repeating itself,” he explained.
But that’s just his opinion. You can choose to believe him, believe one of the experts he’s bringing to Oregon City or discount all of it altogether. That’s the beauty of the Oregon Ghost Conference — it doesn’t ask you to believe in anything, but rather to question everything.
“Everyone’s a skeptic, and when you listen to somebody else’s story you want to second guess it and try to debunk it,” Smith said. “I like to say I’m a big skeptic too. I don’t believe anyone’s ghost stories except for my own.”
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OREGON GHOST CONFERENCE