Some of my favorite historic buildings are churches. Not the grandiose, gilded ones that I view more as art museums, but the more spartan ones that were built through the passionate faith of their artisans.

Recently, I met two caretakers who confided in me that spirits visit their rural parish and, while at first it bothered them, they’ve made peace with it. These devout women shared two haunting stories with me.

Light the way

One night both women drove by the church noticing its interior glowed with an intense white light. Knowing they’d turned every light off hours earlier, they parked the car to see who was inside.

When they unlocked the church’s large double wooden doors, they didn’t find anyone.

Yet, the quality of the light filled every corner of the sanctuary. It left them unnerved. They knew the building’s interior bulbs were weak, casting a soft yellowish tint and many areas of the room stayed shrouded in shadows. This night, however, everything—even where there were no fixtures—was dazzlingly illuminated.


They hesitated just inside the entrance, even though the worship area didn’t feel ominous. But they reached a conclusion: They were witnessing a supremely holy occurrence that conveyed a message.

Earlier that day, the congregation had met to discuss ideas to maintain (and save) this 130-year-old house of sanctity but hadn’t come up with any.

One of the caretakers told me, “That night, in that bright, almost blinding light, we understood that God was showing us everything would be okay. Our church would be saved somehow.”

A Kodak moment

Sometime after that en“light”ening experience, the other caretaker snapped a photo of the church interior and went to a drugstore to get it enlarged. She fed the machine the coins to pay for the print and pressed the button to start it. Nothing happened. A clerk at the store told her they hadn’t had any troubles with the machine and gave her more change to try it again.

This time, the print machine worked: The photo she’d taken developed nicely. As she started walking away, the computer started processing another picture. Thinking it was her second enlargement, she picked up the print that emerged.

This image was definitely of their sanctuary. But there was a problem. She hadn’t taken that photo. It looked different from her church today: The heaters that had been placed there in the early 20th century were missing and other aspects of the room’s furnishings differed.

Seeking answers, she took the mystery photo to her fellow parishioners. They identified it as their church in the late 19th century and showed her an archived print that bore a striking resemblance to the unexplained image that she held in her hand. The mystery photo had to be her church more than 100 years earlier. To this day, she considers that second enlargement a miracle.

Many equate supernatural experiences to negativity. But the Bible is filled with divine paranormal happenings. So, in my mind, there’s no reason to believe spirits—whether angels, the Holy Spirit or other positive energies—wouldn’t make themselves known at a house of worship today.