Saturday, March 12, 2011

Haunted Christian Science Church?

There's a ghost story that perenially makes the rounds of, well, those who pass along ghost stories, regarding a haunting on the steps of Louisville's magnificent First Church of Christ, Scientist at 1305 South Third Street.

As the legend goes, a woman in 1918 paced around the front steps of the church, which was the prearranged place where she was to meet her husband. When her husband, who was a soldier stationed at nearby Camp Taylor, never arrived, she took it as a sign that he no longer cared for her.

Okay. That's the first part, and there's something of a leap on logic, rather like a poorly-constructed plot, between that and the next bit: unbeknownst to the woman, her husband had actually died of Spanish Flu, and then she herself died of that very same disease a week later.

Furthermore, the story is sometimes embroidered with the factoid that the woman and her soldier boy were actually not married, and that they had made secret plans to elope to Chicago that very night. But if they were secret plans, and they both died, how did anyone know this and how did that info become part of the story?

And, of course, the tale has the inevitable punchline that even to this day, late at night when the moon is just right, you can sometimes see her ghost still pacing around the steps of the Christian Science church. Yada yada yada.

(I'm pretty sure David Dominé deals with the subject in great detail, and probably much more accurately than the specious and sketchy online accounts I've perused, but I've misplaced my copy. When I find it, and if better data is to be gleaned, I'll update this post.)

I wonder what the parishioners of the First Church of Christ Scientist must think about all this. Apparently some local "ghost tours" take people by the church so they can gawk and hear the hearsay and say "golly, Martha, sure am spooky."

I'm not exactly certain what the Christian Science position is regarding ghosts, but I do know they don't believe in Heaven per se, at least not in the conventionally understood manner. (On the other hand, the term "Holy Ghost" does appear in their writings often.) The faith's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, stated in her autobiography that from the age of eight, she began hearing disembodied voices.

Often confused with The Church of Scientology, the Christian Science religion was formed in February 1866, after Eddy had a severe fall which caused a major spinal injury. According to her own account, Eddy unexpectedly made a full recovery after reading Matthew 9:2. She subsequently claimed to have helped to heal others via Bible Study, and also to have taught others in the precise way to do it most effectively. By 1875, this belief system was fully formed and expressed in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Today, Christian Science reading rooms can be found all over the world, and most people have come to look at their newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, as one of the best sources of journalism available.

The Christian Scientist radio program can be heard every Sunday in Louisville at 8:00-8:30am on WAVG-AM 1450, and 9:00-9:30am on WKJK-AM 1080.

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