We talk about demons, ghosts, angels and the nature of good and evil with Miriam Van Scott. Is Hell real? Is Heaven real? This and more with Miriam.
You can find her recent book based on her own experiences at Amazon: Bandun Gate: A dark tale of fiendish hauntings based on true events
JIM’S FREE NEWSLETTER
Never miss anything going on at the Spooky Studio, sign up for Jim’s FREE newsletter HERE
Please note we do not guarantee 100% transcript accuracy. The below reflects a best effort. Thank you for your understanding.
Jim Harold 0:00
Good and Evil. Demons and Angels. We discuss this, and much more, on today’s edition of The Paranormal Podcast.
Paranormal Podcast Announcer 0:22
This is The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.
Jim Harold 0:26
Welcome to the program. I am Jim Harold. So glad to be with you once again. I think we’re going to have a fascinating discussion. Now there’s a very successful book now on Amazon. It’s called Bandun Gate by Miriam Van Scott, and it’s inspired by true events. And it’s a modern day Charleston ghost story. And we’re going to talk all about it. And again, the important thing here is it’s based on real events, and Miriam is an expert in her field. And we’re so glad to have her with us. She was born in Washington, DC and attended George Washington University in George Mason, earning a BA in journalism. During her early career, she was a public information representative for government agencies and worked as a photo journalist for a variety of publications in the metro area. Her first book, Encyclopedia of Hell, was published in 1998. And since that time, she’s been prolific. Her articles and photos have appeared in over 30 publications, ranging from Good Housekeeping Magazine, to The Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise. She’s also provided content to the History Channel, SY FY, the Learning Channel, ABC News, Paramount Entertainment Group, Media General, and many others. Her published works include the books, Song of Old, and Advent Calendar for the Spirit, the Shakespeare Goes Pop series, and the children’s picture book, Boomer’s Criss-Cross Christmas. And we’re so glad to have her with us. Miriam Van Scott, welcome to the program today.
Miriam Van Scott 1:58
Thank you so much. I’m really glad to be here.
Jim Harold 2:00
So let me ask you, I mean, with this kind of journalism background, how did you get into ghosty stuff?
Miriam Van Scott 2:08
Well, the first book I wrote was The Encyclopedia of Hell. And I wrote that, really, because I was looking for a book like that, that would sort of bring all of the different depictions of the underworld into one volume; different religions, different myths, pop culture, there wasn’t a book like that. So I put it together. And I really got interested in that, because I grew up watching Twilight Zone and loving those creepy British horror movies–
Jim Harold 2:37
Miriam Van Scott 2:37
–and reading ghost stories. And then once I had– I did Encyclopedia of Hell, and then had a companion book, Encyclopedia of Heaven, but I think everybody agrees Heaven really isn’t as interesting.
Jim Harold 2:52
Miriam Van Scott 2:52
There’s something about Hell that really sparks the imagination. And so from there, it sort of took on a life of itself. And a lot of the work that I’ve done for History Channel, and Learning Channel, and many of those others, was an offshoot of the research I was doing for Encyclopedia of Hell.
Jim Harold 3:07
The thing about Hell, in terms of reading about it, it might be a nice place to visit in books, but I wouldn’t want to live there. (Laughs).
Miriam Van Scott 3:14
Jim Harold 3:16
Well, congratulations on this new book. I understand it’s the number one new release in Angelology and Demonology.
Miriam Van Scott 3:23
Jim Harold 3:23
So good for you in that regard. Give us kind of a thumbnail idea of what this book is, and what did it draw upon in real life?
Miriam Van Scott 3:36
Um, this book is a fictionalized tale that was inspired by some real events. And the story is basically set here in Charleston– I now live in Charleston, South Carolina. And it’s about a misadventure involving myself and my daughter where we come upon a paranormal phenomenon. It turns out that there’s a ghost of an executed murderess in the area who sets her sights on my daughter. And in order to try to free her from that grip, then I have to harken back to some of the sources that I developed in Encyclopedia of Hell, as well as some local Gullah Shaman. Really, they call them, Gullah Root Doctor, it’s the equivalent of a Shaman– and some other sources to try to help save her. The reality behind the book is– the title, Bandun Gate, comes from a real life structure that I happened upon by accident. And it was this very elaborate gate and fence that had all sorts of unusual things attached to it: videotapes, and toys, and tools, and in no particular order, it was just a very interesting configuration. So I took some pictures of it, and I took my daughter out to see it. My daughter, Abby, she’s always- she’s always loved weird and unusual, strange, things. Her first ever job, she was a professional zombie. So I thought, she’d like to see this gate, because it’s so unusual. So I took her out to see it. Then, a few weeks after that, two things happened in very close proximity. The first was, I was living in Charleston, Abby was still living in the Washington, DC area. And she was working in law enforcement, she had a pretty tough job. She was a jail guard. I got a phone call one day from the man who said, “I have Abby. And if you don’t do exactly, as I say, I’m going to start cutting her fingers off and sending them to you.”
Jim Harold 5:36
Oh, my God.
Miriam Van Scott 5:37
And I could hear a woman screaming in the background.
Jim Harold 5:39
Oh my goodness.
Miriam Van Scott 5:40
And I tried to stay calm. And I tried to solicit as much information as I could to try to figure out what is going on. Is this even real? And the person finally hung up, and he said, “I guess you don’t care about your daughter. You know, maybe I’ll try you later,” and hung up. As soon as he hung up, of course, I tried to call Abby. Abigail is never without her phone, ever. But for– she just didn’t answer on this- on this day she didn’t answer. I kept calling back. I called her boyfriend, I got his- his phonemail. I call my two sons who are living up there. Neither of them had seen her in a- in a couple of days. I called her job, they said she wasn’t there, and they weren’t sure where she was. It was- it was pretty traumatic. It turned out– eventually, did get resolved. And she is fine. That happened. And then about two days late– after- after the resolution of that, I had posted some of the photos that I taken of that gate onto a social media site that had photos of the Charleston area. And immediately people started contacting me saying, “Oh, wow, don’t you know that that place is haunted? That’s a cursed site. That gate- that gate was built to pen in evil spirits.” And there was a woman who I had shown the photos to, and she had said something along the lines of, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you went there, and you took your daughter.” And I said to her, “Oh, my daughter’s fine. She’s fine now.” And then, and then this woman said to me, “How do you know she’s fine? She’s 500 miles away. You don’t even- you don’t even see her every day.” And the two of those things happening in such close proximity to each other, it really did start me thinking about, what if something had happened to Abby? What if something had happened, that I couldn’t control, that I couldn’t– I mean a kidnapper, you can pay a ransom, and hopefully get your loved one back. But what if something sinister had happened that was beyond my control? And so that was sort of the beginning of it. And then the other factual parts in the- in the fictionalized story, Bandun Gate are– there are accounts of people I spoke with back when I was researching Encyclopedia of Hell. I started researching that in the early 90s. There was no internet then. There was no Google. And most of my research was done with original sources. It was either reading books or essays, or talking to professors and different clerics. And so, it was a lot of personal interviews, but again, at the time, there were some things that I came upon, and stories that I heard, that were just so terrible. I felt like, “I can’t put them in the book.” I didn’t want people to get ideas from them. There were- there were just some things that were just- just beyond horrible. That idea now seems ridiculous, because obviously on the internet–
Jim Harold 8:28
Miriam Van Scott 8:28
–you can get such horrible, terrible, step-by-step guides for all kinds of things whenever you want. But at the time, these– a lot of this information just wasn’t- it wasn’t in the common mainstream. But I kept all those notes. So in Bandun Gate, I went back through, and I pulled up some of those notes, and I sort of wove them into the tale of the way to counteract evil. There’s no like one size fits all for evil. You have to sort of look at different facets of it and different ideas on how to counteract it. And so a lot of the notes that I was not able to use in Encyclopedia of Hell, I brought back in- for in- for _Bandun Gate. There was an extensive interview I’d done with an exorcist. There was– there are different people who practice various forms of Satanism and witchcraft who told me about different rituals and things that they did. Just things like that, that were then– I was able to use them in this book.
Jim Harold 9:25
Now, do you think that by delving into all of this, and I- I saw your foreword to the book, do you think in some ways that you brought– or opened a door or something, that kind of led to these scary events, later? I mean, by researching something like Hell and- and delving deeply into it?
Miriam Van Scott 9:52
Well, when I was researching Hell, more than one cleric, from various faiths, told me I had to be careful, because they said that evil spirits look for open doors. And that, even something as simple as researching demons or witches or evil ghosts, even things like that, can actually set up the welcome mat, so to speak. And while I was working on Encyclopedia of Hell, I did have terrible nightmares all the time. Almost always involving my kids. And almost always, I was the person doing the terrible things to my kids. And at the time, I was told that is a- that is a tactic that evil spirits use to sort of get into the psyche, is they sort of kind of curdle your own memories, and your actions, and your dreams. But I was warned to be careful about that. They say that, too, like people who use Ouija boards, or who even get their palms read, and things like that, they say, sometimes you really can be opening a door without realizing it and making yourself vulnerable. So I definitely think there’s a connection. And I met some terrible, scary creepy people, let me tell you, when I was working on Encyclopedia of Hell. People also, when they found out I was writing about Hell, people would tell me things and tell me stories that were just- just horrible. So I think it’s connected.
Jim Harold 11:13
So you know, again, you know, there are people that I talk to, our New Age friends, for example, I think they’ve got some great insight on things. But people will say to me, “Well, there’s no such thing as evil, there’s just a lower state of vibration.” Obviously, I’m assuming from what you’ve told us, you believe evil is a very real thing.
Miriam Van Scott 11:33
Oh, yeah, I’ve seen some things, and people have told me something. And I’ve seen– one of the people who I spoke with at the time, I did not include any of his stuff, but it came back in Bandun Gate, was a law enforcement agent who over the course of his 30 years, he had occasion to work on various crimes that– they may not have been Satanic. They weren’t– maybe not, real, you know, quote, unquote, practicing Satanists, but they had elements of Satanism in them. And some of them were just– some of the photos I saw, and some of the descriptions I read in the crime reports were just– they’re beyond things just being a bad vibration or whatever. These- these are just true depravity.
Jim Harold 12:15
Now, in terms of other worldly beings, you know, people think about ghosts, they think about demons, they think about angels. Do you think there are a spectrum of otherworldly beings that interplay into our world? And what does– what do you think that spectrum, if there is one, it looks like?
Miriam Van Scott 12:36
I definitely think that there’s a lot more going on, even within our- within our realm than- than meets the eye, or that we can perceive. I think that there are departed spirits that range from the good, the bad, the indifferent, the benevolent, the evil. I do believe they’re created physical– I’m sorry, non-physical beings, spiritual beings. I guess you can loosely categorize them as angels or demons, that are different from humans in the they’re- they’re not human souls that have departed. These are creatures that never had bodies; they never had physical presence. And I don’t- I don’t think that– I think that a lot of people feel like, that ghosts or spirits, whatever, can sort of be classified, good or evil, and that’s it. I do think there’s a range. And by that, I mean, I think they’re spirits, maybe, that are misguided. They might be doing things that, to us, are perceived as evil, but they’re just trying to find their own way. And they’re trying to make sense out of their new state of being. I don’t think that– I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think that all departed spirits that are still somehow interacting with this plane, I don’t think they’re all evil, and I don’t think they’re all demons.
Jim Harold 13:56
Can you talk a little bit about the difference between, in your view and based on your research, the difference between ghosts and demons and how they operate?
Miriam Van Scott 14:06
Sure. Ghosts are, most often, that’s a definition of a spirit of a human being who once lived and is now deceased. They have moved into a different plane of existence. Demons are creatures that were, from their inception, from their creation, were spiritual only. So that’s just a basic– when I use the terms, that’s what I mean. Ghosts can kind of fall into various categories. Some of them are not- not evil at all. That, you know, again, those are, you know– you hear about stories about wandering spirits, the girl on the bridge, who seems to always want to be going home. The ghosts who- who do have a sort of a harmful effect on humans, let’s say, most oftentimes, ghosts are not setting out to do harm to humans. Ghosts are emission-driven, they are motivated by their own memories. And their missions are always very specific, very personal, and have something to do with their life, or their manner of death. For example, a ghost might want to settle an old score, get revenge on an enemy. Maybe a ghost is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer living. And in the course of doing that, humans can be harmed. Demons, always, their- their goal is to harm humans. They do not have memories like we do. They don’t experience time the way humans do. Time in the created world is measured by the movement of the stars. That’s across every- every faith, every culture, that’s just how time is measured in human terms. Demons don’t have any physical connection, so they’re outside that. When demons use memories, they will use our own memories against us. But they don’t have memories per se on their own, and they don’t operate that way. docile. So when they approach humans, the ghosts will always approach either benevolently or not so benevolently with a request of humans. “I need help accomplishing this task.” “I want to remain in this particular place.” “I want to warn this particular person.” And then, they rely on humans, on the living. They rely on the living having empathy, sorrow, or fear to help them. Either, “Wow, yeah, you were wronged. I’ll help you find justice,” or, “Okay, if I do what you say, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt my family.” When demons approach humans, it’s always with an offer of something. They don’t ask anything from humans. They’ll come to human, and they’ll offer something. “I can give you great wealth.” “I can help you defeat your enemies.” “I can get you the girl of your dreams.” “I can give you supernatural power, so that you, you know, you live a thousand years.” And they almost always do it by trying to cozy up to humans, by pointing out something that has, sort of like, a kink in the human’s timeline where things have gone wrong for that person, sort of with the idea of, “Oh, God, did you wrong. Fate did you wrong. You’re a good person. You shouldn’t have gotten sick. Your husband shouldn’t have left you. Your kids shouldn’t have, you know, had this terrible tragedy happen. I can help you correct that. I can help you make up for that. I’m your friend. I’m the one who you should rely on,” and then proceed from there. Another way that they differ is, is really in their scope too of what- what they’re looking for. A ghost’s scope is that specific mission. And by a specific, I mean, like a ghost wouldn’t come back with some sort of, broad, general, “I’m here to save the environment.” “I’m here to prevent World War III.” It would be very- something very, very specific. And in trying to accomplish that mission, really the worst a ghost could do is to kill a human, a living human. Either accidentally, or maybe part of the ghost accomplishing the mission, means to take on, to sort of wear, a human body. And that might displace the soul that’s already in there. So, whereas, a demon, the scope they’re looking at is; they want eternal suffering for the- for the humans interact with. And, also, to that end, ghosts often like to remain hidden. They will wear humans often as a cloak, as a disguise, per se.
Jim Harold 18:31
What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that?
Miriam Van Scott 18:34
Ghosts aren’t ones- aren’t ones to sort of come and sort of announce, “I am a ghost. I am here to complete this mission.” They will– the way that most people talk about seeing a ghost is, “Oh, it was an appearance. The ghost was in the course of doing some action, or it was sitting at the foot of my bed.” It’s usually subtle. And- and they- and they often like to stay hidden, to remain hidden. They don’t want to, sort of, they don’t want to be seen. They don’t want to be, you know, jump up and announce their presence. Whereas for demons, it’s the opposite. The demons sole presence is to be noticed and is to gain attention from humans. Demons will pretend to be ghosts. Ghosts will- don’t ever pretend to be demons. And by that, I mean, let’s go back to like if you’re having a seance or using a Ouija board. And a person is saying, “Well, I’m- I’m trying to reach the spirit of my my grandfather or my, you know, my sister who died when she was a child,” and you might get a response. And at first, it’s very loving. It’s very– it gives you a very, very warm feeling and a connection. And then you start, sort of becoming simpatico with this presence, with the spirit. It’s only further down the road that it’s revealed that this is not your loved one, or some innocent child, or whatever. It’s a demon using that to get its hooks into you. But, you would never have a situation where if you– like, a ghost would show up and say, “Oh, well, I’m, really, I’m Beelzebub, and I’m here to work a deal for you to sell your soul.” It’s just– that’s just not part of the existence of ghosts. They are- they’re creatures of their own memories and of their own routines. And they sort of stay in their lane that way. Demons are creatures of their- their nature too, and their nature is to lie to get what they want. The end. That’s it.
Jim Harold 20:27
Very interesting. Indeed. Our guest is Miriam Van Scott, we’re talking about her new book, and that is Bandun Gate. And we’re talking about the nature of ghosts, the nature of evil, and so much more. And we’ll be back right after this.
I want to tell you about two other podcasts that may interest you if you’re a fan of the Paranormal Podcast and Campfire. First of all, I want to tell you about a show that we just premiered Season Two of, yesterday. It is called Unpleasant Dreams with Cassandra Harold. And really, it is a deep dive into specific cases that involve the strange or supernatural. Just this week, Cassandra covered the topic of Teresita Basa. And it’s a murder case where true crime meets the supernatural, and did a woman meet out justice from beyond the grave? It does seem so. And that’s what we covered this week on, Unpleasant Dreams. And you can find that wherever you listen to the Paranormal Podcast, all the apps. It’s also over at JimHarold.com, and dare I say, it’s the best episode of Unpleasant Dreams yet. The other show that you might be interested in is called, You Won’t Believe What Happened to Me. It is a brand new podcast from Jim Harold Media. We just started it last week, and it comes out every other week. And it is basically a show I do with my wife, Dar Harold, who you may know from Soulmates Stories, when we were doing that show together. And basically, if you’re familiar with The Campfire show, it shares a lot of lineage with that. It’s basically a show where people come on, and tell incredible stories. So for example, my house was shot up by an AK-47 when I was just out of college into my first apartment. Case of mistaken identity, thank goodness, I was safe. But that was a non-paranormal story, although I do think fate had something to do with it. But that was a non-paranormal story. That is a You Won’t Believe What Happened to Me. The stories could be good, bad, happy, or sad. We had someone who had kind of a hitchhiking ride from hell on our first edition. Then we had another story on the first episode, that came out last week, about a person who really found out how small the world truly is. Then we have celebrity sightings, and interactions, and a lot of other fun stuff. So check that out. You Won’t Believe What Happened to Me. And I hope you check out both of these podcasts from Jim Harold Media, both free. Please do check them out at JimHarold.com or on your favorite podcast app.
Paranormal Podcast Announcer 23:23
You’re listening to The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.
Jim Harold 23:29
We’re back on The Paranormal Podcast. Our guest is Marian Van Scott. She has a very successful, number one book in its category, on Amazon, Bandun Gate. And we’re talking about the nature of ghosts, the nature of evil, and hauntings, and just having a great discussion. Now, um, you were talking about demons, and how they try to tempt humans by offering them things. I mean, do they–? Do they just appear like a genie, almost? I mean, is that what we’re talking about? Where they say, “Hey, you can have it all! Just give me your soul! Just sign right here.” I mean, in your experience, how does this actually play out?
Miriam Van Scott 24:11
Um, I’ve never heard anybody tell a story like that. Like a Faust story where, like you said, a demon sort of shows up with his, you know, his quill pen and, “Hey, sign this in blood.”
Jim Harold 24:21
Miriam Van Scott 24:21
There, obviously, there are stories like that, but the stories on here from those people are the, sort of– they fall into two basic categories. The roundabout revelation of a demon. Again, in it, “I came upon this presence, and it was a child crying. And finally, I got the presence to trust me enough to say, you know, he’s crying because he’s lost his parents. And can I help him find his parents?” And then over the course of that, sort of a, you know, lengthy interaction, then the child starts asking them to do you know, dire evil things, “While I was living this person hurt me. Can you kill them for me? Can you do some terrible thing?” And then, slowly it becomes obvious that this is not an innocent child, but this is a demon in disguise. That’s one category. The other category is possession. I have talked to a couple of exorcists in my time, and they said that possession is really more common than people realize, but not as dramatic as it’s often portrayed. Like when you say, “exorcist,” people think about the movie with, you know, Linda Blair, spitting up the green soup, and her head spinning around. And exorcists will tell you, that does happen, but that is not the most common form of demonic possession. Demonic possession actually has several different levels. There’s obsession, where a demon does not control human from inside. It doesn’t try to take on the human body, it just sort of plants see- the seeds of ideas. And of– it sort of tries to set a pattern for the human to follow. And then there is actual possession. What if– if it’s something even to the level of possession, if it’s an actual demon involved. That is something that the person who is being preyed upon, will actually hear voices. It’s not like, “Oh, you know what, I had a bad thought. I thought, wow, I should go into work and shoot up a bunch of people.” It’s not something like that; it’s an actual voice. And sometimes, a physical embodiment, saying, “Well, you know what, you really should think about doing this. You have been wronged. You need to make amends. You need to hurt the people who hurt you.” That is fairly common. The church, last time I talked to the friend of mine who’s involved with exorcism, I think they said that it’s pretty common to do two- about 200 a year.
Jim Harold 26:52
Miriam Van Scott 26:53
Ex– full-on exorcisms. And again, not like Linda- Linda Blair style, but where a priest had to go in with, you know, the reinforcements. You know, an exorcist will never attend an exorcism alone. That’s a that’s a big no-no. That’s a good way to get everybody hurt. So they’ll go in with a team, and really try to dispel the dark spirits. So those are the two ways that– those are the two most common ones, I would say, in modern times. I’m not saying there aren’t people who possibly are approached with, “Hey, have I got a deal for you.” But in my experience, I haven’t really heard- I haven’t heard anybody say that they’ve either had that or, you know, knew somebody that happened to, but it might.
Jim Harold 27:33
Now, and then I guess the corollary, if- if demons want to cause eternal suffering, that means that, you know, a lot of times when people write books like The Encyclopedia to Hell, it’s more of kind of like, let’s take a look at this mythology. But it sounds like, to me, that not only did you write this big work on- on hell, but you believe that it’s a real place.
Miriam Van Scott 27:57
Yeah, you know, I grew up Catholic. I’ve always, I’ve gone Catholic school. I’ve always gone to mass. I kind of always had had a concept of something in the afterlife. But the more that I do research, and the more that I just hear other people’s stories, and- and listen to the ideas of other faiths and people who don’t believe it all, I think the more my idea has changed about hell.
Jim Harold 28:22
Miriam Van Scott 28:23
And I guess what- I guess where I am now is, yeah, I believe there’s definitely something more. I believe that it is driven by our own choices. I don’t believe people are sent to hell, per se. I believe there are some people who quite frankly, don’t want to– they don’t ever want to be affiliated with the common concept of goodness, or that, you know, if you’ve heard the phrase, “It’s better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” I think, yeah, there really are people like that. Who, even in the afterlife, feel like, “Well, I don’t want to go anywhere if I can’t be in charge.” I think the more I learn about, again, different faiths, there’s a lot of overlap, which is kind of interesting. There’s probably more overlap than there are divergences when you come right down to what people think about the afterlife.
Jim Harold 29:11
Miriam Van Scott 29:13
But it just does feel like there’s- there’s more out there. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my belief in justice. In a lot of ways, Hell is the ultimate affirmation of freewill and of justice. If- if there were no hell, and if there– people were forced to go to heaven, you really wouldn’t have any choice in your own life, because everything would be predestined for you. I guess I can’t believe there’s nothing after this life. It just seems like from what I’ve seen, and the people I’ve spoken to, both on the good side and on the evil side, it just feels like they couldn’t possibly be that the story just ends there.
Jim Harold 29:53
Yeah, I definitely believe in the afterlife. And- and I mean, for me, it’s kind of like you know, I was brought up Protestant, and- and the one- the- the one church I went to when I was a teenager, I mean, they were hellfire and brimstone. You know, if you don’t do this, this, and this, you are going to hell. And- and that’s where, again, I also, you know, what is it? “The greatest trick the devil ever played was making people think he didn’t exist.” So I do think there’s an evil side. On the other hand, see, I struggle with this. It’s not anything original. I think a lot of people struggle with it. Can I see Hitler going to hell? Absolutely. Can I see Putin going to hell?
Miriam Van Scott 30:31
Jim Harold 30:31
Absolutely. Can I see, you know, me going down?
Miriam Van Scott 30:38
Jim Harold 30:38
Well, I’m, you know, I’m not perfect. You know, sometimes I get cranky. Sometimes I’m not the best person. But I’ve never, never hurt anybody. I’ve never, like, stolen anything.
Miriam Van Scott 30:49
Jim Harold 30:49
I mean, you know, I’m just like a regular suburban guy, except I do spooky podcasts. But- but- but the point is, is that I’ve never tried to hurt anybody. And even if I haven’t followed what the religion says is the prescribed path, is that really, you know, eternity is a long time. That- it– should I really burn in Hell forever, because I didn’t follow X, Y, and Z. I have a problem with that. But on the other hand, if I go out and serial murder 20 people, you know, and I’m–
Miriam Van Scott 31:21
Jim Harold 31:22
— I can under– John Wayne Gacy? I get that. Jeffrey Dahmer? I get that.
Miriam Van Scott 31:26
Jim Harold 31:26
But you know what I’m saying?
Miriam Van Scott 31:29
Oh, yeah, definitely. I do know. And that’s why I’m saying I don’t- I don’t like the metaphor or the verbiage of people being sent to Hell. Because like you said, it- that almost feels like, “Oh, there’s some kind of point system, and if you don’t hit the minimum, then you get booted down into hell.” And that doesn’t seem to make sense for everything else that we do know about the universe. Whenever it comes to anything with faith, I always- I always remind myself, “Start with what you know. Like, what you see.” And, you know, even in this world, even with the terrible things going on: the Putins and the Hitlers, and the- the Maos. Every time somebody does something terrible, a hundred people step up to help, and to try to make it better. So if you start with– I mean, that’s something I know, because I’ve seen it. That’s why when I think about, “Okay, the afterlife,” I can’t really picture the same creator, the same divine force that put that in motion, standing there, sort of, with an abacus like, “Oh, boy. Three points short. Sorry! You know, you’re going down.” That’s why I really feel like being in Hell is really a personal choice. And I know that sounds crazy. People say, “Well, who would spend eternity in hell, if they had a choice not to? Well, going back to the, “we’ll start with what you know,” I think all of us know people who, either in our family or friends, have someone who is living in a horrible situation. Maybe they’re being abused, maybe they’re, you know, having problems with addiction, maybe they are just in a miserable situation. And people say to them, “Hey, you can come stay with me. I’ll take care of you. I will do, you know, I will do everything I can to help you.” And these people, for whatever reason, just say, “No, I’m good. I’m good here. I’ll just stay here.” And I’m not saying those people are evil. That’s- that’s not my metaphor. It’s that there are people who seem to make decisions against their own best interests. That seems to be a part of human nature, is that we don’t always decide what’s best for us. Sometimes we feel like we’ve got the better plan. Even when we don’t. And that’s why I think that that’s more my idea of the afterlife. Is that idea of that– I can imagine that, you know, God, the Creator, coming to somebody and saying, “Hey, you’re welcome to come to Heaven. It’s great. You’re gonna love it. But you know, when you’re in heaven, you can’t- you can’t rape people up there. You can’t beat on people. You can’t set fire to things. You can’t, you know, scream insults at people you don’t like.” I do feel like there are people who would be like, “Nah, I don’t want to live by your rules. You’re not going to tell me what to do. I don’t I don’t want that.” I really honestly believe there are souls who would- who would make that choice.
Jim Harold 34:01
Here’s another question that always bugs me. When I’m talking to people about ghosts, and hauntings, and things, I like to get their perspective on. Because, you know, I’ve been doing these shows now, come this summer, seventeen years.
Miriam Van Scott 34:14
Jim Harold 34:15
So, you know, I– and you’ve been delving into this longer than I have, but still, I’ve talked to a lot of people. And one thing that worries me, or disturbs me, is this idea of ghosts and spirits getting stuck. And the common thing that I hear from different psychics, or researchers, or people, investigators, is people will get stuck if they die suddenly, and they don’t know that they’re dead, and those kinds of things. And to me, that’s one of the most disturbing aspects of the paranormal, because I tend to believe in a just universe. And I believe that if you are Hitler, you know, somewhere down the line, you’re going to get your– you’re going to get your comeuppance.
Miriam Van Scott 34:59
Jim Harold 34:59
You’re going to get punished. And if you’re a decent person, I hope that you’ll be treated fairly, and have a good afterlife. But to me, you know, someone dying suddenly: heart attack, suicide, whatever it might be. It seems like the ultimate injustice to get stuck, and be wandering the earth forever, and not realize you’re dead. What is your perspective on that?
Miriam Van Scott 35:26
Um, I’m not a big believer in the idea that souls get stuck. For one sort of logical reason I struggle with that idea, is that that would indicate that we all have the agency to crossover and- or not crossover, at will. And I just don’t think that that’s part of the human makeup. I don’t think that we have that ability to decide when we go, and you know, how we go, and do we go? I guess what I’m saying is, the idea of crossing over from one dimension to another is not, it’s not done within ourselves, it’s done from outside us. So then, it is hard to believe that whatever creative force is- is moving souls from this realm to the next, all of a sudden, like, “Oh, whoops, you know, I missed that one.” It just that doesn’t really make sense to me. I can envision a situation where souls who are going to face a terrible fate, and who don’t want to, are kind of dragging their heels or, you know, for whatever reason, I guess, lingering. St. John the divine said, “The dead don’t come back, but some of them stay.” And I think what he meant was that, yeah, there are some, probably both good and evil, who– that is part of their afterlife judgment. Is that they either remain in this realm, for whatever reason, but even that’s temporary. But I’m with you, I don’t believe in a situation– and especially not by the manner of your death, or the circumstances of your death. That just goes against the whole idea of justice. And there does seem to be a pattern of cosmic justice in the world. And that is just a huge contradiction. That doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the way things work.
Jim Harold 37:16
Now, I want to be clear, earlier, when I said I didn’t think I should go to Hell, I’m not saying that I should go to the upper ring of heaven, if there are gradations. I should have, you know, like a, you know, nice- nice place. But, you know, there’s people who’ve done way more great things than me that deserve much more than I do. I’d- but I don’t I don’t think I deserve eternal damnation. (Laughs).
Miriam Van Scott 37:38
I don’t either, Jim.
Jim Harold 37:39
To be clear, to be clear.
Miriam Van Scott 37:40
I don’t either. I think most people, I guess my– if- if somebody asked me, like, boiled down to its essence, what do I think, in terms of what you’re saying: Heaven, Hell? Are there layers of this, other things? My basic idea is that whatever you are in life, that’s– whatever path you’re on in life, that’s what you’re going to continue on in the afterlife. If you’re on a path in life, where you’re a nice person, and you’re decent, and you’re kind to others. In the afterlife, you’re going to keep pursuing that path. And you’re going to gravitate to people who are kind and generous, like you are. If you are, you know, a child-molester, or a serial killer, or a sadist, or whatever, in the afterlife, you’re gonna stay on that path. And I guess I think about that more than there’s different levels, or different– kind of like you’re saying, like, yeah, I’d be happy with like a little shack in heaven, where some people are going to have a big castle and a big mansion.
Jim Harold 38:31
Miriam Van Scott 38:32
I think maybe it’s more along the lines of whatever we already were in the process of becoming, that is what we’re going to fully realize when we’re in heaven, if that makes sense.
Jim Harold 38:43
Here’s my– when you talk to the the idea of heaven, or other people call it other things, here’s kind of the thing that I would love. This would be like my number one request. And who knows if it happens. I would love upon, you know, entering, and so forth. You know, you’re supposed to get all the knowledge, and those kinds of things. That’s great. But I would love to have a family picnic with all the different members of the family who have passed before me. And we sit around for, I don’t know, maybe 20-30 years, and have a family picnic, and catch up, and talk about old times, and those kinds of things. I know that seems kind of silly, but that’s kind of– that would be, literally, like a family reunion.
Miriam Van Scott 39:32
Jim Harold 39:32
And you could- you could even introduce people who didn’t know each other in life, although they probably all know each other now, because it’s all one, you know? We’re walking around like beams of light. But what do you think about that? Do you think that we are reunited with loved ones? Or is it a case where things are so different there? You’re just kind of one, and it’s- it’s- it’s not a case of being individuals per se?
Miriam Van Scott 40:01
I think that- I think that we were created as an individuals. So on some level, we will always be unique individuals. Again, that’s just, to me, that feels like the logic of creation. Even through biology, we know no two people have the same DNA. They don’t have the same fingerprints.
Jim Harold 40:17
Miriam Van Scott 40:17
There’s something inherently unique about all of us. Earlier, remember, I said how Hell always seemed more interesting than heaven? When I was working on these books. I mentioned that to– I can’t remember what faith. It was a cleric of a faith. It wasn’t Catholic- Catholicism. I don’t think he was Christian. But I mentioned the idea that a lot of people are sort of put off by the idea of heaven, because it seems like it could become sort of monotonous. Like- that- the idea of heaven, or just sort of floating around on- on clouds, or plucking at harps, or whatever. And I remember his response to me was, he said to me, “Have you ever– has a movie ever come out that you really wanted to watch, but you didn’t get to see it before you left the theater?” This was in the days before VHS.
Jim Harold 40:59
Miriam Van Scott 41:00
I said, “Sure.” He said, “Have you ever wanted to really read a book, but you just never had time?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Have you ever wanted to sit down with a friend you haven’t seen it a few years, but just- just catch-up, and talk about what you’re doing, but you can’t fit it in your schedule?” And I said, “Oh, yeah.” And he said, “Okay, that’s basically– Heaven is the opportunity to have all of the time to do all those things.” And he said, “Not just the books that you’ve been wanting to read, but the books you’ve never heard of. The books that haven’t been written yet. The books that were written years ago; the copies don’t exist anymore. The people who were born a million years ago, a million years from now. All of the things you want to do.” And he was saying, “You’ll never get bored, because by the time you’ve talked to every single person, and read every book, and seen every movie, and all the things we can’t even imagine. Technology that hasn’t been invented yet that we’ve enjoyed,” he said, “Then you can just turn around, and start, and do it all over again.” And I thought that’s a really good way to look at eternity. That eternity is not us, in a fixed place, doing one thing forever. It’s the continuous movement within a different realm. A different realm, but equally, even more creative, and colorful, and vibrant. And by that, I really do feel like that- that’s much more accurate than the idea that we arrive in heaven, we’re sort of, it’s like an usher bringing us to our seat, like, “Okay, here’s your spot. Here you go.”
Jim Harold 42:21
Miriam Van Scott 42:21
And then- and then we’re just sort of there forever. I think it’s much more likely that yeah, we do see our loved ones. We meet new people. We meet- we meet our great-great-great grandchildren, who, you know, we will not live to see, but eventually we will. That just seems to make a lot more sense, logically.
Jim Harold 42:39
I like it a lot. I like it a lot. That- that- that would be very cool. Now, back to maybe a little less heavenly talk. Do you think– and I guess I’ll put this in a couple different categories. Do you think there’s a definite trickster element to the paranormal, whether it be ghosts, who just have a sense of humor, but are fairly innocuous, or demons who just want to mess with you? Do you believe in the Trickster element?
Miriam Van Scott 43:07
Yeah, I definitely do.
Jim Harold 43:09
Talk to us about that.
Miriam Van Scott 43:10
Um, I definitely think that there is, definitely, an undercurrent of, kind of want to throw the- a monkey wrench into the works. That goes back to, I guess, in human nature, and if we extend to the unknown world of angelic slash demonic nature, that there are going to be some beings who want to buck the system. They don’t want to be– they don’t want to quote, “do as they’re told.” So ,they want to sort of create chaos. The other reason, I guess I- I tend to think that yeah, there definitely is a trickster and a, you know, a sort of a “misery loves company,” kind of element to the paranormal, that they want to sort of drag everybody down, is there- there are documented cases in various religions, of benevolent ghosts and benevolent spirits coming back. And those are terrifying. Those are just– the people who– like, there’s a very famous story about St. John Bosco. When he was in seminary, he had a friend who was very young, and the friend was dying. And he said to his friend, “If there’s a Heaven, can you come back and tell me, because I want to know for sure.” Well, then when the friend died, he did come back, and he walked through the halls of the seminary, shouting out, “I am saved. I am saved.” And it was terrifying. Everybody who heard it, they thought, if it goes on another moment that they- they couldn’t stand it, they would go insane. And that’s the- that’s the good side. So then you can imagine, if it’s someone or something that does not have a benevolent- benevolent intention. Someone or something that’s coming back to, you know, poke a finger in God’s eye, or to flex its own muscles about, “Hey, look what I can do.” Yeah, that would be absolutely terrifying. And- and that would just be a horrible thing to have to deal with. Even to brush up against it. Even If it was just a momentary thing. That- that- that would be a very– that would be something you never forget. And for the– and really for the rest of your life, it would haunt you in a number of ways. The actual experience would haunt you. Immediately, the- the human reaction for most people would be, “That didn’t really happen. I’m imagining that.” So now, you’re also haunted by the idea of, “Did I make that up? Am I crazy? What is going on?” It’s something that would stay with you forever. That, in and of itself, is a trickster element. That it can put– it can plant that seed in your mind that’s going to grow forever, and it’s going to keep, you know, producing forever.
Jim Harold 45:35
You mentioned something in that answer that we haven’t talked much about, and I think it’s a good way to, kind of, wrap things up on kind of a positive note. What do you think about angels? Do they exist, and- and what are they? I’m assuming not the winged creatures we see in movies, not Michael Landon coming down, or the highway to heaven.
Miriam Van Scott 45:55
Jim Harold 45:56
But- but what are angels and how do they manifest themselves in our lives– if they do exist?
Miriam Van Scott 46:03
I do believe in angels. I’m with you. They’re not– a lot of people think, “Oh, if a really good human being dies, they become an angel.” I don’t believe in an angel, that specific definition. I believe more in creatures that were created from the beginning of time to be sort of a good presence to- to embody the goodness of the universe. I do think that there– I do think they move among us. Not, again, as winged creatures. I think it was C.S. Lewis had a great quote, he said that, “The Bible tells us that every time an angel appeared, the people were terrified.” They, you know, they were like, remember when, in the story of the- when the angel appears to Mary, the first thing he has to say to her is “Fear not.” Like, okay, don’t- don’t be scared. But he says, “But now angels look like something from a Victorian postcard,” you know, now they’re these sort of beautiful winged creatures. I imagine that if they took on some kind of physical appearance, it would be terrifying, just because, there’s just such a higher order than the humans. That anything– it would be like seeing a UFO, and then having an alien step out of it. That no matter how kind that alien is, and no matter what wonderful things they want to do for you, that would be really scary. That would be horrifying. And I think it’s the same thing with angels. I definitely believe in angels. Moving among us, I’ve just heard so many stories of- of things that just can’t be explained other than some sort of intervention. And I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of that, too. People who, for- at the last minute change their travel plans and a life is saved. Or who forget something, and go back to the house to get it, and, you know, if they had left at the time they thought of there was, you know, they probably would have been involved in a terrible car accident. Or, you know, just even small things; people who are lonely in the hospital. People who are sad and lonely, and then, you know, a family member comes to visit them the next morning, and they said, “Oh, somebody came to visit and sat with me all night who, you know, helped me calm down.” And the people at the hospital say, “No one- no one was here. There was nobody here last night.” So I definitely believe that they interact with us, and that, you know, it’s- it’s just– even if it’s something as small as sort of, you know, give us a thumbs up, or a pat on the back once in a while to kind of keep us going. I think- I think everybody needs that. That’s part of human nature, too.
Jim Harold 48:22
Well, it’s been a great conversation. We have talked with Miriam Van Scott, and we’ve been talking about her new book, Bandun Gate. And I suppose, before we go, we should recap that, because again, it’s a novel. So- so tell us again a little bit about Bandun Gate, and if we pick it up, what we should expect.
Miriam Van Scott 48:44
Okay, Bandun Gate is a fictionalized story. I- I set it in first-person, and I wrote it memoir-style, because so much of it is true, or was inspired by truth. Even the ghosts in this are inspired by real people. There- there was a woman in South Carolina named Eliza Huger, who was considered so evil, that no cemetery would except her body. Finally, the- her family was able to get a church in Clemson to take it, but they had to wall in her grave, because they were so certain that her spirit would keep escaping. And that grave, now, has been struck by lightning so many times that the only words you can read on the headstone are “Brothers’ sorrow.”
Jim Harold 49:24
Miriam Van Scott 49:24
And the other graves around that have never had any damage at all. But that– this one, and the wall around it, it’s always crumbling, they have to keep going out and fixing it. There’s a lot of weird things that have been attached to that grave. And then there was also, I met a man who told– I’ve met many people in this area who have told me similar stories of a ghost, sort of, displacing a loved one. In other words, that the loved one isn’t who they are. It’s not that person anymore. It’s a ghost wearing the body of their loved one. And one in particular, a man told me about– he had an aunt, I don’t think he ever met her. I think this was before he was born. But it was, you know, the whole family knows this story that when the aunt was, I think she was 17 or 18, she went to put flowers on the grave of her grandfather. And everyone said that when she, her name was Elaine, they called her Laney, that when Laney came home, she wasn’t Laney anymore. She wasn’t– she didn’t do anything violent, or attack them. She just didn’t have any interaction with them at all. She was very quiet, she stayed by herself. And everyone agreed this was not Lane- this was not Laney. And within a few, I think he said just within a few, two or three weeks, one day, she just walked downstairs wearing just– she didn’t have anything packed, just wearing the clothes she had. And she just said, “I’m leaving.” And everybody said, “Okay,” and they never saw her again. And they’ve always felt like the Laney that they knew died at the cemetery that day. There are a lot of stories like that in Charleston. Charleston is considered one of the most haunted places in America. So I tried to put a lot of that in the book too, and also a lot of Gullah traditions. Gullah is a culture that came about when the slaves were brought over. They were set to work on the tidal marshes, and the white Europeans couldn’t really deal with the humidity, and the temperatures, and there’s a lot of snakes, and alligators, and disease. So they went inland, and the slaves were left to run things. And they not only did a great job, the biggest cash crops in colonial America came from the slave plantations that were run by the Gullah, but they also, sort of, were able to develop their own culture. So it’s a mix of some West African cultures, and some Creole, and some English. And- and- I brought a lot of those traditions in, too. They also have a lot of traditions with spirituality, and conjur, and white magic. Some overlap again, because there’s some Christian influence, and then there’s also some from the Western African, and some Native American. So I brought that into the book, too. And that’s all part of the, the non-fiction part in the fiction story.
Jim Harold 51:57
Well, again, it’s been a great discussion. Miriam, where can people find the book and more information about everything you do?
Miriam Van Scott 52:04
The book is on Amazon. I am not sure yet if it’s at Barnes and Noble. It’s going into seventy of their stores, but I know it’s already on Amazon. Or you can go to my website, MiriamVanScott.com. It’s got, on the website, it also has some sort of the backstory, and some of the photos of some of the real places that helped inspire this.
Jim Harold 52:24
Miriam Van Scott, thank you so much for joining us today on The Paranormal Podcast.
Miriam Van Scott 52:30
Thank you, Jim.
Jim Harold 52:31
And thank you for tuning into The Paranormal Podcast. And if you enjoy what we do, please make sure that you follow or subscribe in the podcast app of your choice. And also, please rate and review, too. It really makes a difference. There are a lot of podcasts out there, and this is one way people can separate the wheat from the chaff and say, “Look at all those great reviews that this show’s gotten!” And they can take a listen, and hear people like Miriam, and say, “I’m gonna make sure that I listen to that show all the time.” We thank you so much, we’ll talk to you next time. Have a great week everybody, and bye bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai