Jon, I agree with you.
Yes, the OT is clear on this.
Words other than nephesh in the Old Testament are used when referring to departed souls, such as rephaim, often translated in the English as 'shades' or 'healers.' Rephaim are ghosts according to Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words (Vine's) and very much in existence according to the Old Testament as seen by Isaiah 14:9-10 (ESV), which completely disproves the Jehovah's Witnesses' theory that only extinction follows man at death. In speaking of the king of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:
9 Sheol beneath is stirred up
to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades to greet you,
all who were leaders of the earth;
it raises from their thrones
all who were kings of the nations.
10 All of them will answer
and say to you:
‘ You too have become as weak as we!
You have become like us!’
This passage in and of itself proves the Jehovah's Witnesses wrong. Here, the shades obviously exist and were not extinguished into nothingness. They even speak, and therefore think. The Watchtower leadership is fully aware of this insurmountable obstacle to their theology. To circumvent the problem they translate rephaim as “those impotent in death,” but this does not help them in the slightest because it only describes one condition or attribute of the departed, that they are in a weakened condition, as seen by the answer the shades gave - that the king of Babylon would become weak like they had become. Nothing in these verses remotely suggests that these rephaim, or shades, don't exist; it's impossible, even if the shades are impotent with respect to their powers. Impotent does not mean annihilated, it does not mean nonexistent. Furthermore, Almighty God, YHWH, does not lie; his word is truth (Titus 1:2; John 17:17). If shades do not exist in the nether world of Sheol, he would never convey to his people that they did, and that they spoke and are conscious. God is telling us in no uncertain terms that an immaterial, conscious entity survives the death of the body.
That the departed dead spirits in Sheol are conscious and communicate and think is reiterated at Isaiah 29:4 (KJV) where God warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem of their impending destruction, writing through the prophet, “Prostrate you shall speak from the earth, and from the base dust your words shall come. Your voice shall be like a ghost's (Hebrew, owb) (Vine's at 178), from the earth, and your words like chirping from the dust.” (NAB). According to Vine's, “Owb means 'spirit' (of the dead); necromancy, pit. This word usually represents the troubled spirit (or spirits) of the dead. This meaning appears unquestionably in Isaiah 29:4” (ibid.).