First Ghost

Dear Readers,

Do you like a good ghost story? God, I love them. And witches too. When I was a kid, Bell, Book and Candle was my favorite movie and I loved stories about ghosts, extraterrestrials, magic and werewolves. I watched shows like My Favorite Martian and Creature Features.

Well, okay. I still watch stuff like that. But I never experienced anything when I was a kid and I really, really wanted to see a ghost.

You see, my grandmother was clairvoyant. She was married to a Methodist minister and his parishioners would come to her if they lost anything; she could help them find it. She was worried about this ability, though. Where did it come from? God? Satan? It freaked her out.

Oh man! If I had an ability like that I would be over the moon. My grandmother was all worried about her gift but I was just there praying to meet a ghost. God, at least let me see a ghost. Just one. Pretty please?

When I got into my teenage years, I pretty much forgot about ghosts. I just wanted to be Mrs. Paul McCartney or Mrs. George Harrison. Still, the fanfic I wrote about the Beatles always involved some kind of spooky energy.

When I finally did have an experience, it was both more and less than I could have imagined.

It was quite sad as well.

In 1968-69, my family moved to Alabama where my father flew jets for the air force. It was temporary – we rented out our home in California and leased a house in Montgomery. The family who leased the home to us had just retired to a home in the Florida Keys and their son was in college.

Alabama was a kick. The house had magnolia bushes on either side of the door and the fragrance was almost like a wall when you walked out in the morning. The heat in summer was relentless. That year, several people who did not have air conditioning died in their homes, some in their bathtubs, trying to stay cool.

I was sixteen and in my first year in college at Troy State University. On the way from San Jose to Montgomery, I learned how to read tarot cards and the friends I made in Alabama wanted me to read their cards. That led to seances, where nothing, and I mean nothing, happened. With the exception of getting drunk and making out with a local radio show host, that is.

Then a group of guys decided we should break into a mansion in the older district of Montgomery. They’d heard it was haunted. I went with them – how stupid we all are at sixteen, eh? But beyond a little cold spot near the stairs to the root cellar and the excitement of being where I was not supposed to be, I got nada. No ghosts.

We then went to a segregated cemetery. My friends told me that black people could not even be buried in the same cemetery as white people. I’d just come from California and I didn’t believe them. So they took me to an all-black people cemetery and an all-white people cemetery. They wanted to try a seance there but guards chased us off.

Yet that night, after I went to sleep, something came into my room and woke me. I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was a young man. He looked rumpled, confused, and terrified. Then he disappeared. Just vanished.

My parents told me the next morning that the police had called the house looking for the owners. Their son had been in a horrific accident. My father gave them the number where they could reach his parents. They weren’t sure if he would live or die.

I thought, “Oh my god, how awful!” I was using his bedroom in the house. Was this it? Was this the ghost I wanted so much to see? That young man, mangled in the wreck of his car? Even though I did not believe I caused it, the guilt was immense.

I got down on my knees and prayed so hard I grew hoarse. “Please let him live.”

He recovered. His leg was shattered and he had other severe injuries. It would be a long haul for him, but he lived.

I got a chance to meet him before we returned to California. He hardly talked at all and looked completely pissed off when we met, so I didn’t ask him if he remembered anything from when he hung between life and death. I didn’t ask him if he had come looking for his family in his house, in the room in which he grew up, a room where I lay sleeping.

This didn’t stop me from seeking the paranormal, though. I mean, these are the big questions, aren’t they? Life after death. Telepathy. Telekinesis. God.

How about you? Have you seen a ghost? What have you experienced that can’t be explained? I’d love to hear it.


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