Growling in the Afterlife: Hair-Raising Bear Experiences

It’s Halloween again, that time once a year where we all get a little wild and overindulgent, releasing the inner party animal and pretending to be someone else if only for one night. And as the leaves turn in autumn splendor, those nondescript streets now hold eerie possibilities. The veil between this world and the next is said to be thinner tonight… could the next shadow you see be a spook?

Nonsense, you say. Ghosts don’t exist. That rocking chair was caught in a breeze. It was the wind rushing down a chimney making that mournful cry. That growl was just my roommate in bed with his boyfriend. The booze was playing with my mind. But can you really be sure?

Back when I first was planning my trip to Massachusetts to talk about my book, Queer Hauntings, I was expecting to be in Provincetown for SpookyBear Weekend. Why not? It’s the right day to talk ghosts… and I certainly qualify as a bear (or cub, depending on whom you ask). Instead, my trip was changed to an earlier date and the destination became Salem. While I still had a wonderful time, I wished I could’ve stayed at P-town’s haunted Christopher’s by the Bay Bed & Breakfast and met with the bear-couple owners, Dave and Jim. A few guests have reported unusual things happening in some of the rooms, and the resident dogs occasionally behave oddly, as if some invisible person is in the room. Hopefully, this coming year will mean an opportunity to find out for myself if there’s anything creepy happening there… and finally attend my first-ever bear community event.

As a species, bears have often been regarded as a mystical and spiritual creature. Some cultures worshiped them as deities, while others viewed them as embodiments of woodland spirits and ancestors. In Finland, a bear’s spirits had to be appeased after its passing, else it would not cross into the netherworld and remain here on earth seeking vengeance. And in some legends, bears have been said to haunt different places in the world. Even at England’s Verdley Castle, a bear ghost, the spirit of the final wild bear killed in the country, is said to wander the grounds.

Yet England is a place known for its ghostly legends, and many other tales are far more interesting and intriguing. Instead of spirit animals, wouldn’t you rather encounter a naked ghost? In the town of Bath, the town square is supposed to be the haunting grounds of a nude Roman soldier. Perhaps he’s still trying to find a partner in the long-forgotten bathhouses? Even in London, along the Victoria Embankment of the Thames River in the shadow of Cleopatra’s Needle, the specter of a naked man has been seen leaping from the parapet, perhaps forever reenacting his suicide. Whether he’s hairy or smooth isn’t known, yet interestingly enough, the same riverbank is also haunted by another bear ghost.

In my pursuit of strange stories of the paranormal, I’ve encountered many strange tales of ghosts which are far from your typical spooky sighting. For instance, a straight man staying in a St. Louis, Missouri apartment found a ghost sporting an erection in his bed. Another male ghost in England has a fondness for other men… and a tendency to unzip their pants when they aren’t paying attention. I’ve been asked so many times of ghosts ever behave sexually, and I guess these experiences definitely confirm that possibility.

But don’t take my word on it. Tonight, when the parties die down and the crowd thins, allow your mind to open up a little to the unexplained and venture out into the stillness of the night. The next ghost story might end up being your own personal encounter with the unknown. And just maybe, a handsome rugged man might follow you home and slip into your bed for all eternity.

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