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Living with Ghosts
(and other reflections)

Bidding the Ghosts and the Illustrated Novel Farewell

Sharing two and a half years of my life with soldier ghosts who loved to tell me their stories⏤slinking into hypnogogic states⏤nocturnal visitations and me sleeping in the nude⏤the accidental psychic hook-up with a photograph, a bread-bag strap, and an Edelweiss medal⏤items charging my mind with visions of past events⏤snippets of lives no longer living. In the end, the ghosts with dark pasts left me feeling exhausted and off balance so I bid them farewell.

Mahyar Sarreshteh | He's Watching You, Part 3

In the early morning hours of June 6, 2015, D-Day (although I didn’t realize it was D-Day at the time), 71 years after the Normandy landings, it wasn't the spirit of an American GI that came to me. It was the spirit of a Fallschirmjäger, a paratrooper in the Luftwaffe. He stood at the foot of my bed, with slicked-back blond hair, his body glowing brightly. He stared at me without blinking, telepathically chanting, “Normandy, Normandy, Normandy.” I sat up and stared back, mesmerized by his presence. He placed his right hand on my left foot, sending a shock of pain to my big toe. He had been shot in the foot, he was conveying. The pain continued even as I moved my foot away from his hand,

I wondered, "Was he mad at me because I hadn't purchased his portrait?"

Rewind to the Previous Day

The day before the paratrooper spirit appeared, I felt compelled to buy original WWII German soldier portraits. Buying old photographs online isn't something new to me (more on this in the next section). But buying WWII German photos was never on my radar (at least, not intentionally). The spiritual "calling" that came through on June 5 was forceful and urgent, but nonthreatening. I felt shame and concern for following the call of buying these old photographs, but I couldn't shake the strange feeling that this dark and tumultuous plunge was larger than the act of simply buying these photographs. It was a part of my heroic journey.

Spiritual calling, which is an aspect of the heroic journey, isn't all paved with unicorns and rainbows, at least it wasn't (isn't) for me. My initiation process has been at times "bipolar," if I had to pathologize it. There have been moments filled with spiritual bliss, where snippets of mysterious insight are downloaded into me in a ways that make me feel one with everything---for a few seconds here and there, I understand the meaning of life, and then it's gone.

I don't think there's anything worse, suspicious, humiliating, and wrong about contending with a past life in Germany during WWII while the current world sinks deeper into fascism.

Sadly, the gods have not deemed me "prophet" material. I have no other insight other than into my own journey with Hans who is still fighting his own demons from his recent life. That is to say, this journey has been an arduous and confusing one as well, but I think that's just my ego dying a slow death.

Nevertheless, I don't think there's anything worse, suspicious, humiliating, and wrong about contending with a past life in Germany during WWII while the world sinks deeper into fascism. Given the dark political and cultural landscape of this country and throughout the world, we, as concerned citizens, have become rightfully more suspicious of anyone who is interested in anything fascism and totalitarianism. Believe me, I'd run away from myself if I could. As it is, I can't escape this mind and flesh, nor the restless spirits that urge me to explore the great cancer of this period---if not of all time---so that I may understand my past self and my spirit guide's past self.

What I do know is that when I unconsciously heeded Hans's first call back in 1993, then consciously volunteered for this journey in 2010, my life has gotten better in ways that are meaningful and leave me no choice but to trust the twists and turns of this journey that is filled with witches, dragons, angels and faeries.

So once again, as it's been the case for many years, I followed the call and combed through Ebay for photos of dark and terrifying warriors.

The paratrooper who appeared at the foot of my bed.
Actual photo of the paratrooper who appeared at the foot of my bed. He won't reveal his name to me. Purchased on Ebay, June 6, 2015. Photo taken by Skolil Olmütz Backergas 13, c. 1940s

The paratrooper who stood at the foot of my bed didn't make the original cut of purchases. I assumed he had appeared that evening to let me know that he was upset that I hadn't selected him. So, on June 6, after the ghostly encounter, I immediately purchased his photo.

Then I realized it was D-Day, and that the paratrooper's telepathic message of "Normandy" was no coincidence. It rattled me to the core. From that moment onward, it was my quest to uncover the reason for the visitation. A spirit portal opened up in my home, which I intentionally kept open for two and a half years, consumed by the maddening world of World War 2. GIs would eventually stop by as well, sometimes arm in arm with German soldiers. They loved sharing their war stories with me, and I loved hearing their accounts. It absolutely fueled the dark artist within.

Trying to “Capture” the Essence of Hans through Antique Photography

Original photo of Luftwaffe pilot chilling out with a pipe | Agfa photo, c. 1940s | Purchased in 2016, Stuart Archive.
Original photo of Luftwaffe pilot chilling out with a pipe | Agfa photo, c. 1940s | Purchased in 2016, Stuart Archive. I purchase this photo because this young man reminded me of Hans.

The handmaidens wear lace and the soldiers show off broken hearts and dueling-scarred faces, garnering their tunics with misappropriated medals and the occasional Iron Cross.

I had been collecting antique photographs of all kinds since Hans appeared in August 2010 (Hans has also gone by a few other names⏤Magic Man, Dylan and John⏤prior to revealing his true identity in 2018. Hans is an alias that I've chosen to use to keep his real identity confidential. He still has family in Germany).