Entertainment » Culture

Are There Gay Ghosts?

by Scott Stiffler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Oct 27, 2008

The next time you feel a strange presence lurking behind you at the local gay bar, don't be so sure it's just that creep who's been hitting on you for the better part of Happy Hour. It could be a Friend of Dorothy who's passed on but decided to stay around for awhile and cop the occasional feel. It could be. . .a gay ghost. No such thing, you say? Well, think again. Edge did some homocentric paranormal sleuthing and came up with a whole new color in the flag of our proud rainbow tribe.

With LGBTs accounting for one in ten of us (and an even smaller percentage of us ending up as earthbound spirits), your chances of sighting a gay ghost are as rare as encountering a perpetually thin and sober Liza. But just because gay ghosts are rare doesn't mean they're not real. And why not? Once you wrap your head around the concept of life after death, it's no great leap to conclude that some of the spirits dwelling between this realm and the next are of the lavender persuasion.

Gay Ghosts? Hell, Yes!

Ohio-based gay ghost hunter Ken Summers has compiled what we can confidently say is the web’s most comprehensive database of otherworldly queer occurrences. His website, Queer Paranormal (www.moonspenders.com) serves as "your guide to gay and lesbian supernatural phenomenom" by answering the probing questions "Do all hauntings require a heterosexual phantom? And are gay-owned businesses somehow immune to paranormal activity?" To both questions, the site provides a resounding "No."

Although he’s been investigating ghosts since the age of thirteen, Summers’ interest in the topic of LGBTs and the supernatural begun when he encountered the spirit of a recently deceased friend while visiting a gay bar. Summers: "I went to bar in Akron, hoping to run into him because I hadn’t seen him in a year. I felt someone standing up against my back. When I turned around, there was no one there. When I went to order a drink, something in my head screamed vodka cranberry." Well, we’ve all been there; but for Summers, the intuitive drink order had an otherworldly explanation: "I didn’t think anything of it and went on talking to these friends of mine. Within a few hours, one mentioned that somebody who frequented the bar committed suicide. By the way he described him, I knew it was my friend." Over the next several days, Summers began to connect the events at the bar with his late friend. Back in college, they worked through some personal issues with a night of screening "Victor/Victoria" and downing vodka cranberries. What happened at the bar, he believes, was his friend’s "subtle sign of letting me know he was there and was OK.

Three Gay Ghost Stories
The Hauntings section of Queer Paranormal documents ghost sightings in gay bars, B&Bs, theaters and clubs from around the world. Locations in pink denote places with gay or lesbian ghosts; those in blue indicate haunted gay or lesbian-owned establishments. Here are a few highlights:

  • A gay monk supposedly roams the halls of New Inn Hotel (Gloucestershire, UK). He makes his presence know through disembodied whispers and his habit of pulling the sheets off couples staying in the honeymoon suite.

  • Fitz Manor Bed & Breakfast (Shropshire, UK) was built in 1450 and is considered one of England’s most haunted sites. Although several ghosts haunt the estate, Fitz Manor gets its lavender cred from a priest murdered for his homosexuality. Moans and weeping in the dining room are said to come from the priest, and not the notoriously bland English food.

  • At Carluccio’s Tivoli Gardens in Las Vegas, you can have a ghost AND a celebrity sighting in one singular experience. Liberace, who purchased the building in 1982, has been seen by patrons in the form of a glittering cloak. The flamboyant piano virtuoso is also said to move objects and play with the lights. Even in death, he can’t stop showing off.

    Gay Ghost Shame?

    Do you believe these accounts of LGBT hauntings? Either way, the preponderance of documented occurrences on Summers’ site makes a good case that there’s something just not normal about certain paranormal events. So why haven’t we heard about these sort of cases in the flood of supernatural cable reality shows and documentaries? Summers believes that the LGBT nature of these cases is "something that the paranormal community at large doesn’t want to deal with." He says that over the thirteen years during which he’s been investigating, he’s repeatedly encountered "an underlying homophobia in the paranormal community. I’ve heard a lot of negative gay comments made by paranormal investigators." That those willing to believe in ghosts can’t make the leap to accept gay people is ironic - especially given the fact that, according to Summers, "A good percentage of psychics or mediums are LGBT."

    The Haunted Gay-Owned B&B

    If you and your same sex partner want a cozy B&B experience with a dash of the paranormal thrown in, you’d do well to book a room at the gay-owned 1889 WhiteGate Inn & Cottage (in Asheville, North Carolina; whitegate.net). Since 1998, Frank Salvo and partner Rick Coffey have run the establishment, which has been the scene of countless ghost sightings by guests.

    The Inn is currently home to two ghosts, with one having been excised by a medium. Salvo: "He was a very angry ghost who hung himself in a room in the 1930s when this was a convalescent home for TB patients. He was not a mean ghost and never hurt anyone or was very disruptive, but it was a presence that was so strong and sad that I couldn’t even go down into the lower level, a basement storage room which is now a suite."

    The Cherokee Indian trained shaman/medium that convinced that ghost to move on "did smudging to clear him and also said the Inn had a lot of different entities, most of whom she sent on. She did keep two of them here. A benign character by the name of the Colonel hangs out at the house. The one we have more sightings of and activity is a woman by the name of Mariam Bridgett, a woman who bought this house in 1929 and ran it as a TB convalescent home and then as a boarding house. She still haunts the downstairs, is often seen in the gardens and the guest rooms on the second floor. In the early years, she used to walk up and down the staircase, open and close doors. She’ll turn on and off lights."

    When Mariam’s activity began to resemble that of a noisy guest, Salvo "talked to her and asked her to tone it down a little, but I also told her I wanted her to stay here. She tends to follow me through the house; according to the medium, she’s very attached to me."

    So who reacts in terror the most when Mariam makes her presence known: the gays, the lesbians or the straights? Ever the good host and sly diplomat, Salvo won’t say (but judging from his reaction, it’s a good bet we gays are the ones throwing the hissy fits when they spot her in the garden or wake up at night to see her sitting on the sofa). Salvo says that most guest, however, "feel a lot better when they know she adds a warm, welcoming loving feeling to the Inn."

    Gay Ghosts: A Case History

    Melissa Van Rossum is author of Their Way Home, My Adventures as a Ghost Guide?(theirwayhome.com). Chapter twenty-five of that book ("The Gay Ghosts") documents a case in which a deceased gay male couple occupied the spare room of a friend’s house. Van Rossum saw the couple "completely resistant to leaving, fully intent upon hiding out there."

    When the friend was visiting Van Rossum’s home, the ghost couple came along. "They were a lovingly devoted gay couple who had faced a lot of judgment in life, and feared the same judgment in death. So they refused to cross over. They stood by each other, fiercely protecting one another. I thought it was a beautiful testament of true love."

    After listening to their concerns, Van Rossum "explained that they had nothing to be afraid of. The judgment and the persecution was on this side of the veil, not the other way around. It took a lot of convincing, but I was able to show them the compassion they would find on the Other Side. Once they felt the love and acceptance that was waiting for them, they completely lost their fear of judgment and allowed me to start them off on their way home."

    No Sex for Ghosts?

    No responsible examination of gay ghosts would be complete without contemplating the question of sexuality in the afterlife. Just as so often happens in this life, gay ghosts are defined by their sexual orientation. It’s what sets them apart from the vast majority of hetero phantoms; it’s what gives them that extra element of fascinating appeal. But still, that’s not a very good foundation for daydreaming about all the impending adventures you’ll have living eternity as a fey, gay soul.

    When asked about the sex life of gay ghosts, Van Rossum had some sobering news. The verdict? Get as much as you can now, future Casper, because ghosts don’t have sex.

    According to Van Rossum, in the afterlife, "There’s no sexual activity because there’s no body. But there is identity. If you have not crossed over, you continue to embrace the same habits and interests that you had in life." Once your cross over, however, she says "you begin to lose all of that" in favor of dwelling in a realm where there’s "No money, no heterosexuality, no homosexuality." No thanks!

    Pressed for details on this rather disturbing vision of an eternal life without the all-important benefits of getting it on (be it ghost-on-ghost or ghost/human action), Van Rossum offers a ray of hope: "I don’t’ know everything. I don’t want to say this is the final answer. Ghosts can touch you. We can feel a presence, a touch or a tapping. But as for something like having sex, I don’t think so."

    Scott Stiffler is a New York City based writer and comedian who has performed stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. His show, "Sammy’s at The Palace. . .at Don’t Tell Mama"---a spoof of Liza Minnelli’s 2008 NYC performance at The Palace Theatre, recently had a NYC run. He must eat twice his weight in fish every day, or he becomes radioactive.


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