Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Ghost Story

I love a good ghost story. I'm not sure I per se believe in ghosts. Rather, I tend to think there is not yet a good explanation in our current science as to whatever it is that happens to the life energy (or soul or spirit) of a human as it transfers out of a person's body when they die. Our understandings of thermodynamics may begin to explain some of it. (Ok, so I'm not expressing these thoughts as clearly as I should. Having just typed that and read it back to myself, I think it even sounds a little ridiculous. But it's what I happen to feel, so I'm just going to go with it.)

Do I believe in ghosts? No, but there is certainly a part of me that really wants to, because I think the idea that ghosts are real makes for a much better story. And certainly, people all over the world have been seeing ghosts since antiquity. Maybe it is how we as humans have developed a strategy to cope with our fear of death: if we think death is not really the end, it is a little easier to accept.

While I have never actually seen a ghost, I'm pretty sure I witnessed a very specific communication between grandparent and grandchild from beyond the grave.

Here's my ghost story.

In the winter of 2004, I was at my dear friend S's house one night, a few weeks after her grandmother had died. She had had a 3-month-long battle with cancer. As a child, S had lived for a time with her grandmother, and they were quite close. Her grandmother knew her cancer was terminal, so she often talked frankly with S about her inevitable death and about her thoughts on the afterlife.

They were both fans of Sylvia Browne, a psychic who used to appear every Wednesday on The Montel Williams Show. Sylvia Browne offers a positive view of ghosts (they're nothing to be afraid of, they don't always know they're dead - so if you see one, tell them the current date, that they're dead, and that they should go to the light...). Browne insists that sometimes people who have died will send their living loved ones various signs in order to say goodbye, or perhaps to let them know they're ok on the other side. The "signs" might be things like birds that will appear at the surviving loved one's window; unusual birds, or a large number of different kinds of birds. Or a special song that has not been popular in ages that will randomly play on the radio. Or the sign could take the form of flickering lights, or brief lapses in the electricity in the home.

Or in S's case - it was all of the above.

Before her death, S's grandmother had promised her that she would send S the kinds of signs Sylvia Browne talked about to let S know she's ok, and that there is an afterlife. And boy, did she. At the funeral, all kinds of rare birds showed up and apparently put on quite a flying display. For weeks, anytime S did the dishes at the sink under her kitchen window, a little bird would show up and tap lightly on the glass.

There was this old Dolly Parton song S used to listen to with her grandmother in the early 80s, and that she hadn't heard in years. Suddenly it was playing on every radio station, and for no discernible reason.

And there was the night I went over to S's house to visit. S was telling me how much she missed her grandmother, but how she felt very comforted because she perceived her grandmother's presence all around her. She knew her grandmother was watching over her.

Eventually the conversation turned to S's uncle's wife, who apparently went into grandmother's house and helped herself to some of grandmother's jewelry without asking anyone in the family. S was visibly incensed.

"If my grandmother knew about it, she'd be rolling in her grave."

Then the lights in our room suddenly flickered. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On.

S turned to me and laughed, "Well, I guess my Grandma knows and she's not having any of it!"

And the lights flickered again. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On.

Again, at the exact moment. How on earth could this be?

Nothing happened with the lights in the other rooms, as we could clearly see, just the lights in the room we were sitting in.

I had goosebumps. To this day, I can't explain any of it. People I've told this story to have suggested it was an older home and there were some issues with the wiring. Nope. Their house was only 2 years old and here's the real kicker - S's husband is actually a journeyman electrician. There was nobody else home except me, S, and S's infant baby sound asleep upstairs.

Eventually, after about 2 months of getting sign after sign after sign, S told her grandmother out loud - "Grandma, I hear you. I've seen all the signs, and they were just like what you told me you were going to send, and so I know you're ok. Thank you. It's ok for you to move on now. I love you and you'll always be in my heart."

Then the signs stopped.


Claudia said...

Love. It.
My friend nearby has a ghost at their house. The freaky thing (it seems to me, based on reading fictional ghost stories...) is that he has said the names of two of the family there. They don't know him; he didn't know them. I shiver over that even now.
Must go read Woman in Black again. It's that time of year!

Any other ghost stories from readers? Can I ask that on Hush's blog?

hush said...

@Claudia - I wonder if the ghost heard saying the names at your friend's house is something like a Domovoi or "house spirit" popular in Russian/Slavic folklore - they are (usually) friendly guardians of the house and family:

Yes - let's hear your ghost stories! Feel free to leave your own ghost story in the comments here, or link to your own post, or if you like you can email me at hush everyone at gmail and I will post it here.

mom2boy said...

I don't believe in ghosts and have never had a ghost experience BUT this new house makes weird noises that I've been attributing to proximity of neighbors and just new to me house noises UNTIL my partner who also doesn't believe in ghosts said while Tate and I were out the other afternoon she thought for sure someone else was in the house with her, to the point where she felt like someone had walked behind her into the closet and she started looking all over the house for an intruder. I hadn't told her that I had been hearing noises when I was home alone. Weird.

Jac. said...

I'm a believer. When I was in high school, I had an early morning dream that my grandmother was sitting on the end of my bed. We chatted, but I can't remember what she said. My mum called later that morning to tell me that my grandmother had passed away early that morning.

Sometimes, I get really strong smells of my grandmother's perfume in really random places. I know it's her :)

My son has said some things over the years that spooked me right out and convinced me he was seeing things.

paola said...

I'm not a believer either, but once a friend of mine spookd me out with a photo he had taken a few nights after his grandfather died. In his photo was a clearimage of his grandfather in the Background. There was no explanation of how the image could have gotten into the picture and this was about 25 years ago, so before Photoshop etc. I honestly believe that he wouldn't have made anything up as he wasn't the type to.

Also, back in the days I did believe in mumbo jumbo, I took part in a few seances, where things were flying off tables etc. No explanation for that either, unless someone was fooling the lot of us. Prefer not to think too hard about it.

Sybil said...

Hi. I'm the friend of Claudia's who mentioned about the ghost in my house. I have heard loud footsteps up and down the stairs and once over the roof! (as if there was an attic - trouble was, I was in the loft at the time!) My husband heard his name whispered one night, and I have heard my daughter's name whispered loudly in the next room. (I thought at first it was my husband calling her but it turns out he was downstairs!) My daughter has also heard her name called a couple of times. Twice she has actually seen a farmer-type man walking past the window of our house - and then only last week my 4 yr old son told me plainly he had seen a 'friendly builder' looking at him in the living room (I was upstairs at the time).

The amazing thing is we don't actually feel scared and things don't go flying about or anything. Sometimes the room under the stairs goes very cold in spots and once the cat growled at this place and there was no reason for it.

Could it be a previous occupant do you think? He seems friendly - but the think that makes me a bit spooked is the fact he knows our names?

Sybil said...

Hi Sybil again. I should have clarified in my previous post that we live on an old farm, the front doors were locked and the man that my children have seen matches the same description - quite tall, dark hair,but with no obvious feet - kind of 'in a cloud'. The second time my daughter saw him we were sitting in the kitchen and she suddenly shouted out of the blue 'There's a man outside!' I rushed out but no-one was there. She described him as the same man as she had seen before but this time he was wearing a cap and carrying some sort of sack over his shoulder. My daughter wouldn't make things up -she's not the sort.

hush said...

@mom2boy - Yikes. You should definitely avoid the "Paranormal Activity" movies - they manage to make the everyday sounds of a house downright bone-chilling!

@Jac. - Very cool story about your grandmother. Also, I'm thinking of doing a psychic children post - I bet you'd definitely have some tales to contribute! ;)

@Paola - Awesome stories. I'm with you in the "prefer not to think too much about it" department, except, of course, around Halloween when I can't help myself.

@Sybil - Welcome! The farmer is probably either the ghost of a former occupant or a Domovoi (less likely if you're not Russians of course). I'm thinking it boils down to this main question: "Are you and your family ok with sharing your house with the friendly ghost farmer?" If so, you could give him some ground rules for staying like, no more sneaking up on you and no more calling you by your names. He probably does not know he's dead, so you could let him know that it's 2012, and suggest he move on "toward the light." Please come back and keep us posted.

Janet @ House Four said...

Love this post.
I had a similar experience after my dad died two years ago. It went on for a while and stopped on the one year anniversary of his death when I actually said "Hi dad. Thanks for visiting me". I wrote about it here if anyone is interested:

My mom also had a weird experience a week after his funeral. My dad was a golfer and had golfed the day he went into the hospital with a brain tumour, never to be released again. On the first day my mom was home alone following his death, she poured herself a glass of wine and went to sit down in her living room to watch tv. When she picked up her glass to take a sip, there was a golf tee in her wine glass. These glasses had been used by my entire family just days before, and we had hand washed them and put them away for her....and I swear there was not a golf tee in any of them.

Not sure what I believe re: ghosts, but these experiences were pretty meaningful for us.