by Chris Goff
Touched is the word that comes to mind. Which of course can be taken two ways. This Halloween, as the Rogues reveal their scary encounters (or attempted encounters) with those from beyond, the word so aptly describes my experiences.
It’s well known in my family that I’m the crazy one. For years I’ve seen spirits. Shadows that swirl around and seem to multiply just before someone I love passes. And, more than once, I’ve seen actual people.
The first ghost I ever saw was a rattlesnake ghost. I was six. My father was sitting beside my bed reading to me from Pinocchio when I the snake stuck its head up at the side of the bunk near my feet. I shrank back toward the head of the bed and told Dad to be careful. He turned off the light and told me to go to sleep. Right!
The second spirit was one I conjured. I grew up in an triad A-frame house that my father built. It had two lofts—one that was my play loft and one with two bunks where I hosted sleepovers with my friends. You could only get up into them by ladder. An only child, I thought it would be fun to have a playmate, so I made up the ghost of “the girl in the loft.” The weird thing was, when I no longer wanted her there, she refused to leave. Eventually I left for college and my folks sold the house.
The first full blown spirit I saw was a young man standing near the stereo in my home in Frisco, CO. He was short, with dark hair and dressed in shamrock green. It was March. A leprechaun? No one else could see him, and he disappeared when the phone rang. The caller was my mother telling me a close childhood friend of mine had died from a drug overdose. I was nine months pregnant. They chalked my vision up to hormones.
We’ve all heard that it’s not uncommon for dying people to “see” family members who have already passed, but I admit to being surprised when I received a frantic phone call from my grandmother’s nursing home. They wanted me to come right away. My grandmother was “talking in tongues.”
Not exactly. It turned out she was speaking Swedish As I walked in the room, she brightened, more animated than I’d seen her in months. “Christy,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’ve never met your great-grandmother, have you?” For the next hour, Gram proceeded to switch between English and Swedish, introducing me to her mother, Emma Christina, and translating our conversation. Clearly she believed my great-grandmother was in the room.
What frightened me was, I was seeing spirits at home. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen “shadow people.” I first saw them when my mother was dying from cancer. Swirling figures who would gather in my house, and follow me room to room. I saw them when my father-in-law died, when my mother-in-law fell ill, when I lost my dear friend Janet. The take away—I see ghosts when someone close to me is about to pass.
A week after being introduced to my great-grandmother, I became aware of the gathering spirits and bolted up the stairs toward my bedroom. For the first time, I could actually pull faces out of the crowd. Taking the stairs two at a time, I bumped into someone halfway up. We hit shoulders hard, and I shouted, “Get away.” My husband called down from the bedroom, “They’re only trying to comfort you.”
With Wes snoring, I convinced myself it was all in my head and crawled under the covers without waking him up. Then a couple of hours later, I sat straight up in bed. My heart pounded. My breath shallow. Wes—who still appeared to be sleeping—said, “Lie back down. They won’t call for an hour.” I lay there awake until the phone rang at 1:30 a.m. My grandmother had died at 12:30.
I hate seeing spirits. They scare me. Though, sometimes I’ll see them now and nothing bad happens. Once in our Denver house, I saw a young girl standing near the fireplace. We lived in an historical residence, but I have no idea why she was there. She looked to be about seven, dark-haired, wearing a pink wool coat and hat with black velvet piping and black patent leather shoes. She just stood and stared, her eyes wide, as though she was just as surprised to see me. I was sick, recovering from surgery. Everyone around me blamed it on drugs.
Still, I must admit, I am that person. The one who can’t handle scary movies; who sleeps with the bathroom light on if I’m home alone. After seeing “The Haunting,” a 1963 film based on “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, I can no longer sleep with an arm or leg draped over the side of the bed. I still sometimes feel ghost animals walking across the duvet. And, just the other night, when my husband was out-of-town, I felt someone sit down on the edge of the bed. It was 2:35 a.m. The light was on. I was terrified.
Were I braver, maybe I’d try and engage with those that gather. I’ve never sensed malevolence. They’re likely family and friends, and I would love the chance to talk with my mother again.
In a comment to Robin Burcell’s blog, “There’s a Ghost in my Bedroom” (Oct 2018), Gayle Lynds wrote about how her daughter kept finding pennies in unexpected places after her grandmother died. I LOVE the idea of finding pennies. The closest I’ve come is an earring. I was in my new office, sitting in a new chair, when I heard something drop to the wood floor. Looking down I found a small, gold hoop earring. It was one of a pair that my grandmother had brought home from Sweden and given me when I was sixteen years old. They were my favorite, and I had lost it six month earlier. Fortunately, I’d never thrown away the mate. I still wear those earrings, everyday.
I am convinced, if we’re honest with ourselves, that everyone has experienced something that cannot be explained, something that defies reason. A roommate I had after college told me about her mother, who had lost a little sister in a fiery car crash years ago, when they were still in high school. Fast forward ten years and Shelley was born, and her mother heard her sister’s voice telling her to “come into the other room. I’m there.” Her mother did as asked, but only Shelley was there, lying in her cradle. Her mother never said a word, not until Shelley was a young adult and seeing a therapist to help her with her pyrophobia.
Rogue Readers, I’d love to hear some of your stories of the unexplained. Care to share? I promise, I won’t call you crazy.