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Why I Wrote SEER: The Ghosts of Gray Fable

A recent Amazon review of SEER says this about me: “We can sense his spirit and sense of humor but also his tangible interests in supernatural – ghosts in particular, if they are still considered paranormal after reading his book SEER.”

It’s true: I have tangible interest in the supernatural – because I’ve had tangible experience with the supernatural. Over a two-year period (and in some ways still going) I lived in a haunted apartment in Los Angeles.

But let me back up. I’d always had some interest in the paranormal – ghosts, UFO’s – whatever it is. The implications if they’re real is too interesting and important to discard them. What’s most mystifying about paranormal topics is how they’re often treated like a joke.  Obviously, there’s a lot of nonsense involved in paranormal claims, but the only people who know what happens after we die are the dead. So I’m interested in the subject, but I’d never seen anything.

And then I met my wife. We met five years ago and she came to live with me in my apartment in L.A. She told me that she’d seen ghosts quite frequently growing up, and it sounded fantastic – a woman who died in the house played with her as a kid. Corroborated by other tenants who said the house was haunted. I believed her, but I always feel a tug of disbelief given that I was raised by a staunch science-minded skeptic.

I never knew this was possible, but my wife would see dead people all over the streets of L.A.: a homeless-looking guy in the Ralph’s parking lot, a bicyclist lying in the middle of the street. This is her life: she sees dead people like they’re pigeons, as well as footprints of people who lived in a place before – an echo of their existence, not a spirit (this is all explained in the first chapter of SEER). She doesn’t like being able to do this, but she can.

Soon after she arrived in L.A. she saw a frail woman walking through the apartment. She was told her name was Agnes. The apartment was once used to house up-and-coming starlets (as written in the book), and we think that’s who Agnes was. She didn’t say anything, but she would stand in the hallway looking shy and morose for a fleeting moment.

And that was just the start. I’d had some issues in the apartment before then – stereo turning on in the middle of the night for no reason, a smell of smoke that came from nowhere. I didn’t consider these supernatural (or I didn’t want to face that), I just found them to be annoyances. But these instances started to get worse.

In the time we lived in the L.A. apartment we had:

  1. A mattress flip to its side.
  2. The dresser fall on its face.
  3. A chair on the living room couch when we woke up in the morning.
  4. Unintelligible writing on the wall several times.
  5. Writing in soap on the bathroom mirror.
  6. My wife one day waking up with scribbling all over her forehead after being clean moments before.
  7. Things go missing – a block of muenster cheese vanished from the refrigerator and then reappeared again two weeks later. We dubbed this “interdimensional cheese.”
  8. My wife being dragged out of bed on almost a nightly basis.
  9. I would get tapped on the bottom of my feet on almost a nightly basis.
  10. We recorded the bedroom and heard a whistling sound.
  11. Fingerprints all over my computer monitor (this still happens – it’s not a touchscreen).
  12. Objects appearing on the top of the blinds.
  13. One time a music box came on by itself. A music box!

It was a proper haunting. Terrifying and amazing at the same time. I think my amazement actually led to more things happening, as I was almost daring it with “what else you got?” This was a mistake.

I grant you this is very hard to believe, and probably sounds like viral promo for a book, but it happened. I could post a picture of the flipped mattress or the fingerprints on the screen or a streak of light that’s there and then isn’t, but all of these things could be explained away. All I can say is I lived through this. Paranormal activity is real.

And so I wrote a book.

Why write this as a Young Adult novel? I’m more interested in writing fiction than non-fiction, so that was the medium I chose. As Grace says in the novel herself: young people are more likely to entertain the notion of ghosts, they’re more open to what the world has to offer, and so Grace could be a more reliable narrator. Being psychic is something experienced by children more than adults. I know I was more psychic when I was young, and I’m completely un-psychic today. My wife has been dealing with this all her life, from when she was a child, so as the book is in part an ode to her, I wanted to start early on in Grace’s life and then write more about her as she gets older.

The second question is why write about school shootings? I didn’t intend to write about mass shootings when I sat down to write the book. I took Grace to school and then the story poured out of me. Mass shootings have become terrorizing to everyone, and I was trying to understand a darkness that seems to be growing. Some will criticize that I’ve just added a layer of nonsense to a very real problem, but the core of the story is that darkness doesn’t have to be permanent.

My wife and I lived through what amounts to demonic activity – not just a haunting of the dead, but something darker, more malevolent. I wrote the book trying to make sense of the horrifying experience I’d been through, which felt like being under attack all of the time. The novel is in a sense catharsis that these dark forces can be overcome. That light can overtake the dark.

In other words, I wanted to confront the darkness in my own life the way Grace does in the book.

You don’t have to believe in ghosts and you don’t have to believe in demons to understand that mass shootings are evil, and they are contagious (full study). The study makes the point that mass shootings are exacerbated by media attention, but the problem isn’t just how the media covers a tragedy, but how people respond to the media – thousands of angry comments about gun control for and against, to start. A mass shooting leads to a massive amount of negativity beyond the shooting itself. To a troubled person, this is attractive.

Darkness breeds more darkness – it hardly seems like an esoteric concept. Whether this darkness is an “entity” doesn’t actually matter, because the bad feeling exists regardless. The premise of SEER is to make this darkness a literal thing that possesses people. But it’s not very different than saying bad ideas possess people as well – and the way to counteract those bad ideas is with love and hope.

Believe me, I struggled with the idea of writing about this subject as a work of entertainment. Many times I thought about not releasing the book at all, as I didn’t want the book to be seen as exploiting a tragedy, or wallowing in darkness and contributing to the problem. Thankfully, the responses to the novel have been positive so far.

But I do believe in the reality of what I wrote. That death isn’t the end. That negative thoughts can take on a life of their own. Does this mean that victims of Columbine are ghosts? No, but it can mean that they’re never truly gone. There is hope in this book that people can see light and darkness a bit differently – good can overcome evil so long as we focus more of our attention on the good.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.