“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but ok so in my religion we have a practice called Baptisms for the dead. It’s not about like forcing anyone to join the religion, but it’s about giving people who have passed the opportunity to be saved if they accept it [the baptism]. So, I did one for my grandparents, and they were like very present. I don’t know how else to describe it. My grandma had the sweetest spirit when she was alive, and while performing the baptism, just this sweet presence come over me, I can’t really describe what it felt like, but I knew it was her.”
T is from Joshua Tree, California. She told me this story while we were in our dorm room together. She is Christian, along with the rest of her family. Baptisms for the Dead is a common practice at her church. This practice she learned from her church, but she experienced feeling the presence of her relatives herself.
This is an example of a personal narrative, specifically a ghost story. She does not use the word ghost, but instead utilizes the word spirit. This phrasing shows how this story is held close to her. Often when we are talking about ghosts, it is in a much less personal context and is discussed with less reverence. When we use the word spirit, it is often in relation to a family member or an important figure, however both are essentially referring to the same thing: some sort of apparition of someone who has died. This connotation can help distinguish how truthful and unbiased a personal narrative is. Every event a person experiences is influenced by their emotions and beliefs, especially one as personal as seeing/feeling family members who have passed. Personal narratives are an important part of folklore, because they often blend many aspects of a cultural group into the narrative. For example, if there is not an already strong held belief in spirits or the soul within the cultural group, then it is less likely someone will experience seeing a spirit.