Each year at Halloween, ghostly images appear everywhere. You can spot them on lawns and rooftops, inside malls and department stores, and at parties. Why is that? Our modern Halloween traditions are based on the ancient notion of real ghosts. These ghosts are said to be the spirits of dead people who return to haunt the living.
Is that possible?
Halloween traditions began centuries ago among the Celtic peoples who migrated to Britain and surrounding areas. According to tradition, on the night of October 31, the spirits of dead people crossed over from the Other Side to bother the living. To protect themselves, country folks would lay samples of their newly harvested crops beside their doors as peace offerings. These foods were considered “treats” for the disembodied, contributing to today’s trick-or-treat practice. People hoped the ghosts would take the food and leave them alone.
A similar holiday in Mexico is called the Day of the Dead. From October 31 to November 2, Mexicans pray for their dead friends and relatives. They visit cemeteries and leave gifts on graves such as food, candles, incense, or pictures of the person buried there. Behind this tradition is the idea that the ghosts of the dead still think, talk, and assist the living.
What Happens at Death?
Many different ideas are floating around today about what happens when people take their last breath. Some believe a soul either soars straight to heaven or descends into hell. Some believe it flies into a holding place called purgatory, or effortlessly slips into the spirit world. Some believe the soul goes nowhere at all—the entire person is just plain dead, resting in a grave, without thought or feelings.
The Holy Bible clears up the confusion, and its message may surprise you. Take a look:
The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence (Psalm 115:17).
His [a person who dies] breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish (Psalm 146:4 KJV, italics added).
The dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5, italics added).
[David prayed] Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death (Psalm 13:3, italics added).
These verses teach that a dead person knows absolutely nothing. The dead have no thoughts and lie silent in the grave, having entered “the sleep of death.” Based on these clear Bible teachings, the common beliefs about ghosts are impossible. A person’s soul, spirit, or ghost can’t consciously exit a body. It can’t float around in the atmosphere, visit Paris or Los Angeles, and then communicate with the living—not on Halloween, the Day of the Dead, or at any other time.