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THE STRANGE PHENOMENON OF HAUNTED UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCHES

by The Notorious  Doctor Zoom Zoom

    The Unitarian Universalist Church is a very theologically liberal church founded in 1961 when the American Unitarian Association joined with the Universalist Church. It was probably the biggest and greatest team up since Batman Joined Superman in World's Finest comics!

OK, maybe not.

    Universalism is a liberal religious view where basically all religions are viewed as true, basically making it the anti-thesis of Atheism, which says all religions are false. The Universalist Church began from Christians who believed God was just too darned nice a guy to send people to burn in Hell for all eternity, or even just instantly destroy them in Hell like annihilationists believe (such as Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventists, and Armstrongites). Eventually out of this idea evolved the belief that all religions are true. Meanwhile, Unitarians believed that since the Trinity seemed like a logical impossibility, there was only one God, not three in one. Eventually their beliefs outgrew their label, as well.

    The church's symbol is a lamp, representing enlightenment,  with two circles, representing the joining of the two churches. Atheists and agnostics are allowed to join, and some have even become ministers. The Church has no creed, and members are allowed to find their own path. Unitarian Universalist Statement of Belief #4 is:

”A free and responsible search for truth and meaning”.

    One thing UUs (pronounced Yoo Yoos...it's how they refer to themselves) are famous for is coffee and conversation immediately following the services after church, along with being all inclusive and involved in social activism.  
 
    Despite the claim of allowing people to use reason and logic to find their way, the Unitarian Universalist Church seems to be one big giant non-sequitur, because how can all religions be true?

    For instance, how can Islam, which says there is only one god, be true while Hinduism, with its many gods and goddesses, also be true? How can Taoism, claiming to be "the way", be so if Jesus of Nazareth said he was "the way"? How can the Zoroastrian idea of Heaven or Hell be compatible with the Buddhist view of hundreds of lifetimes via reincarnation? How can Judaism be compatible with Neopaganism, when the Tannahk (Old Testament) says all Pagan gods were merely idols and should be avoided? Furthermore, the one thing all religions agree on is that they are the only ones with the truth, and all the other religions are false.

    At best what Unitarian Universalism demonstrates is that no religion is true, since it doesn't really seem to embrace what each one says, and only take to heart the few parts they like about each religion. For instance, if everything Muslims believe doesn't have to be believed, then that means everything Muslims believe isn't true. Then that means the Koran isn't true, and therefore Mohammed wasn't a prophet. The same argument could be applied to the beliefs, prophets, and holy books of any religion. In that case, what's the point in bothering with any of them? But hey, maybe I've just become an old curmudgeon at this point in life.

 

Or, maybe Universalism simply amounts to this. Yeah. This is it. 

    UUs have opened their church doors to occultists, such as Wiccans and Neopagans.  "There are a number of women in the church who identify themselves as witches," says the now retired Rev. Brian Kopke of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, Canada (who claimed to be an atheist). Many UU churches allow Wiccans to perform rituals and hold Sabbats. Scotland UU Churches have members identifying themselves as Druids, and the UU church of Columbus, Ohio allows the Three Cranes Grove (affiliated with the Neo-Druid group Ár nDraíocht Féin) to meet there.

    An odd fact about Unitarian Universalist Churches is that some of the congregations claim their churches to be haunted! No, I'm not talking about the annual Jaycee style "haunted houses" some of them have during Halloween, either. I'm mean these people really thinks they got spooks! THEY THINK THEY GOT SPOOKS I TELLS YA!

Haunted Unitarian Church, Provincetown, MA

The Unitarian Universalist meeting house of Provincetown, Massachusetts (built around 1847), is one such church that's said to be haunted. It meets all the criteria for being a haunted house because a) it's an old building, and b) it has a creepy history (it was used as a morgue during a 19th century epidemic). Like all haunted houses, people report seeing "something" moving form the corner of their eye and also "felt a presence" when alone. The Church has weekly 12 Step meetings there, so is it possible some of these people are experiencing the after effects of alcoholism, maybe?
     

             At the Little Hickory Universalist Church of Ramsey, Illinios, according to one ghost hunting website, members of the church claim to have heard "strange noises" (if you were sitting next to me and heard strange noises, um, sorry about that), "felt" a presence (um, unlike lost of people who claim to feel a “divine presence” in church?), doors that "have been known to open and close" (but aren't all doors supposed to open and close?),and "images" have been seen through windows (but what else are you supposed to see through windows?).

    The First Unitarian Church of Alton, Illinois is another gathering place for the departed. It seems the ghost of none other than a Pastor who committed suicide in the church in 1934 haunts it! If you're game, you can join local ghost hunters for an overnight stay in the church of $40. 




    Of course, you're just asking for a ghost to haunt your church if you turn a 19th century mansion built to look like a spooky old castle out of a 1960's Hammer Studios horror film - - and then use it later as an all girl college - - before turning it into a Unitarian Universalist Church, right? Yes, the Beverly Unitarian Church in the south-side of Chicago is just such a place. Built in 1886 by a successful Real Estate developer, the mansion was modeled after the castles of Europe, and is simply known by locals as "the Castle". A custodian claimed to have carried on a conversation with a female ghost, a pastor's wife says she saw a pair of woman's hands around her husband's waist...only in this instance they belonged to a ghost and not Jessica Hahn...and a ghostly candle flame is allegedly often seen floating about.

Haunted Unitarian Universalist Church Natucket Island, MA    Then there's the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. The church's clock tower is reportedly haunted by it's first pastor. Children can see him when adults standing nearby can't (Gee, imagine that!). There's a portrait of him in Hendrix Hall (which is the basement) that creeps people out because it's one of those pictures that has eyes that look like they follow you (also known as an "optical illusion", unless you believe in ghosts). His disembodied hand has allegedly been seen in windows waving goodbye to parishioners as they leave...apparently being a ghost he's unaware that's going to scare the living crap out of people by doing that. Then again, maybe he knows he's scaring people and he does that on purpose because he's pissed off  his portrait is hung in the basement!  Oh well, the late actor Jack Klugman actually had a Kentucky college toilet named after him out of spite, so maybe Pastor Hendrix shouldn't feel too bad.

    In Helena, Montana, a Unitarian Church built in 1903 was later turned into a theater...and you can guess what happens next.  The Grandstreet Theater is said to be haunted by the ghost of Clara Hodgin, the wife of one of the Church's pastors from the turn of the century. There are also more aggressive spirits that are said to haunt there, and Clara's ghost is thought to protect people from these meanies. Hey, preacher's wives are tough! The building was also used as a public library from 1933 up until 1976, and no one seems to recall any spooky stuff going on all those decades when the building housed books, oddly enough. The paranormal activity didn't get going until the place became a theater. Since actors are often said to be very superstitious people, well, you connect the dots.



    The Unitarian Cemetery of Charleston, South Carolina  is said to be "one of the most haunted cemeteries in the city". OK, all old cemeteries are spooky and scary, and thought to be haunted, so I guess that one is a gimme. Even colleges founded by UU churches attract ghosts for some reason. The University of Akron was founded in 1870 by the Universalist Church. In 1967 the college became part of the Ohio University System, and today is a top research facility in the field of polymer research. Students claim the part of the college known as “Hower House” is haunted by the spirit of Susan Hower, who is still mad her husband cheated on her. She supposedly has frightened away many male students who have entered the building. Boy it's a good thing college students have never been known to do lots of mind altering drugs and play pranks even when they're not inhaling chemical fumes from experimental polymer substances, or else I might doubt the veracity of these accounts! 


    Haunted Unitarian churches aren't a new phenomenon, either. An article from the Milwaukee Journal dated Dec. 22nd 1894 mentions a Unitarian Church that was best known for a ghostly apparition which frequently appeared at its front entrance. A reporter even claims to have seen the ghost before it vanished. The ghost doesn't seem to haunt the place anymore, and could simply be the product of 19th century yellow journalism. A few days later the same paper reported a “copycat prankster” who deiced to imitate the ghost until she was almost shot by a policeman...assuming it wasn't the prankster pretending to be the ghost all along. Or maybe the journalists at the  Milwaukee Journal knew they were lying when they ran the first story, which is why they seemed so sure the girl was just a “copycat”.

   
Mitchellville, Iowa seems to be some kind of convention center for ghosts. Along with a haunted prison, haunted school house, haunted park, lots of haunted houses, including about a dozen houses or so haunted by a little girl dressed like an extra from Little House On The Prairie – it even has a haunted house on ELM STREET (but no Freddy Kruger, alas) - it has a haunted Unitarian Church. Built in 1860, it was renovated in the 1980's and still has an active congregation. It was during the renovation that people noticed something odd about the church... a mural was uncovered of a long golden path ending at a stained glass and gold door at the end of a blue hallway which gives an optical illusion making it look like it goes back further into the wall than it actually does. That surprised some people who went to church there. Then of course, came the stories of other odd things happening, such as voices, footsteps, and so on. 


    Milford, New Hampshire has a haunted Unitarian Universalist Church, and their ghost is a basement dweller. A cold spot in front of a place marked "not storage" under the staircase is where the ghost hangs out. He's serious about people not storing stuff in that spot, apparently. Supposedly it is a male ghost that, according to ghost hunters who have investigated, is "guarding something". How do they know this? Why, they used a pendulum, of course! According to a ghost busting webpage, "there seem to be two portal-type energy-openings" in the basement, so there's that.  A cold spot in a dark dank basement and swinging pendulum can only mean ghosts, and any Nimrod knows this!

    There's also another UU church in Missouri built in the 1800's where some members are afraid to go into the basement because they're convinced there's a ghost in there, and was featured on a TV show about ghosts.  A few more cities with Unitarian Universalist churches said to be haunted include Marietta Georgia, Salem Massachusetts (now who could have imagined the Wiccan capital of the world had a haunted house?), Pataskala Ohio, and Niagara Falls,Ontario, Canada. 

    My less than 100% scientific explanation (and yet 100% completely true explanation) for all these hauntings:

I guess ghosts are really, really liberal and concerned about social activism. You won't find a ghost within a mile of Jerry Falwell's church, I bet! Seriously though, read the article on Bloody Bucket Bridge on this website to see how ghost stories evolve. Quite a few ghost hunters and believers in the Paranormal seem to be UUs, and when you toss Wiccans, Pagans, Druids, and other garden variety occultists into the mix, well, don't be surprised at reports of haunted churches! So there you go.

    

 

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