Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Family Ghost

This post falls under the heading of what I started with on this blog, stories of life that I always figured that someday, I would get around to telling. Such as it is, I am not going to bury this one. I did save it for just the right season though.
In the last year, I have thought much about my mortality and the things I wanted to get written before I was gone. Somehow, the family ghost(s) was not on the list, or maybe it was. It is not that I ever officially said, well yes, I do believe in ghosts. Somewhere along the way though, I realized that no matter how logical we want reality to be, there are some things we just plain do not understand. And ghosts are one of those things.

Most of the time, when the subject of ghosts comes up, I have avoided mention of my own. One does so love to maintain a semblance of normalcy, the illusion of sanity. Be that as it is, with all these books and stories and histories of ghosts, it’s time to fess up, this one is among those stories that I am not inclined to take with me to the grave. We have a ghost(s). And we pretty much have, since we moved into this house.  

We had only been in the house maybe a couple weeks when we had our first encounter. Actually, my daughter had the first encounter. I am trying to remember her exact age, she was still in the carry her around in your arms, diaper wearing stage, less than two years old. But she had a few words, and one word that she communicated very distinctly was “Baby.”

I was walking through the kitchen with her in my arms, and suddenly, she reached for the ceiling and squealed “Baby!” almost jumped out of my arms reaching, like very small children do, when they are so excited to see another little person just like them. Except she was reaching for the ceiling, and there was nobody else around. The first time it happened, I brushed it off, didn’t think much about it. The kitchen is more like a great room, with a cathedral ceiling, and I figured maybe she saw a shadow—or something. The second time it happened, I squinted trying to make out what she was seeing. I didn’t see a thing, tried again to make outa shadowmaybe. About the third time, she started excitedly squealing “Baby,” and excitedly reaching toward the ceiling, for something I still couldn’t see, I thought maybe I would say something to one of the neighbors the next time I ran into one of them.

Well, the next time, I am in the yard, here comes the neighbor walking over to my fence, “Did you hear about the baby?”

“What baby?”

“The people who lived there before you, their baby drowned in a swimming pool not long after they moved out of the house.”

I never met the family who lived there before us, never knew the child’s name. My own daughter was too young to have a clue what a ghost was, but after so many instances, there was no doubt, she was seeing and communicating with something that appeared very childlike to her. It was also eerie that in these early experiences, the apparition was always above us.

That was the start, but over the years, we had a number of what would be considered paranormal experiences in the house. When the kids were in elementary school, there was a while that it seemed to be a perpetual problem. And I do mean problem. Somebody was always seeing something. My son, who was maybe ten years old at the time, was in the backyard, and swore somebody was walking behind him. In the same time-frame, he had walked past me, looked at the wall beside me, which was toward the hall, and said, “There’s a dog man.” He pointed and kept going. Didn’t even stop. He doesn’t remember that now, but it sure stuck with me at the time.

Over the years, there were a number of instances in that hall. More than once during this time, out of the corner of my eye, I would catch a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy being that seemed to hurry away when it realized it had almost been seen. But it was always an almost, I never really saw a thing, nothing that I could define.

And then there was the neighbor’s kid. Late one night, one of the neighbor’s kids, she was around 16 at the time, started banging on our door to wake us up. She was terrified and had crawled out the window to come to us for help. She said somebody was in their house. Her parents were asleep in bed and she heard footsteps walking down the hall. We called their house to see if everything was okay. And her parents, of course, answered. Everything was fine. This child was an honor student; she was about as far from what you would ever consider a flake in your life. If she said she heard footsteps in the hall, there is no reason anybody would doubt her. As far as I know, she had never in her whole life had a silly little goofy incident; that was not her personality. She was rock solid as both a child and an adult. What she heard that night, we’ll never know. But at the time, it was just a late night incident with the kids. Alone, it was the inclination of teen angst, ghost stories perhaps, but in the context of the other, too close for comfort, and never to be discussed again.

Even for somebody who doesn’t believe in ghosts, and I never honestly did, but after so much of this, you start thinking, well could be we need to do something about it. So I had the bright idea of seeing a family counselor, a shrink perhaps. Whatever comes in life, I have always been of the mindset that you just deal with it. At least I felt like I was attempting to do something—the most rational think I could come up with to deal with an irrational problem. That was among the dumbest decisions of my life.

At the time all this was going on, I didn’t know about things like parapsychologists, there really are people who make their living as ghost busters, and later somebody did tell me that a family therapist probably wasn’t the best choice for dealing with ghosts. I figured that one out. I tried, I really did. Shrinks, Rid-Damp, and salt. I tried everything. For a while I wondered if a Catholic priest might know what to do, but I’m not actually Catholic. If a person can deal logically and rationally with a ghost, I gave it my best shot. I eventually tried to read and understand what I could. Didn’t deter those ghosts one bit. And the thing is, in the middle of all this, if you had asked me if I believed in ghosts, I would have still answered with a resounding “No, of course not, you have got to be kidding.”

As to the Rid-Damp, whatever you live with, you do your best to deal with it. Being the logical pragmatic person that I tend to be, who never believed in ghosts in the first place, except now I apparently had a problem with them, and no matter how crazy your problem might be, or how crazy it sounds when you try to talk about it, there are some things a shrink can’t fix, and ghosts are right near the top of that list.

So after the useless money I spent trying to shrink the ghosts away, I attempted to figure out what one does to rationally deal with ghosts. For a while, I would go from corner to corner of the house sprinkling salt. I heard somewhere that would work. It seemed like it would work for a while, and then they would be back again, so I kept at it, trying to resolve the ghost problem.

Then somewhere or other, I heard that ghosts really like damp places so if you get rid of as much dampness as possible, at least the place won’t be so enticing to them—perhaps. So how do you get rid of dampness in your house? Rid-Damp, of course. I put Rid-Damp containers all over the house. When an old friend dropped by and I was putting out more Rid-Damp, he was asking what I was doing, and I was explaining my ghost problem as I went from room-to-room and he is following me around the house as I put out more and more Rid-Damp. That was a particularly bad episode and I had Rid-Damp all over the house. Nobody questions my ghosts, my eccentricity, or even my sanity, they just nod their head, not a suggestion at all, and I continued in my mission to drive away the ghosts. And that week it was Rid-Damp.

Needless to say, the Rid-Damp was a complete waste of time, money and effort. Rid-Damp is not effective for controlling ghosts. I don’t remember who gave me that helpful household hint, but it doesn’t work.

Over the years, we had several instances that involved the family pets, when a cat or dog caught sight of something that nobody else could see, and for the cat, growling, and hair standing on end. One instance with the dog, she stood at the entrance to the hall, her hair stood on end and she started trembling, suddenly she broke out of the tremble, put her nose to the floor like she was smelling something distinct, on a trail, with her nose to the floor the whole time, she followed the trail into the bathroom and it ended at the vent. That was it, and she turned around looking, running around in circles, she clearly had the scent of something, and was going back and forth with her nose to the floor, over and over, tracing the same path. But whatever it was, it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

Over the years, there was also the realization that we were dealing with more than the spirit of one child. The ghosts are not an everyday or even an every year occurrence, but one can be pretty certain though that once you get complacent and you are sure they are gone, they will be back. And that is generally when you least expect it, and frequently at a time when you really do have real life problems to deal with, in the real word. The world does not stop just because you have a ghost.

The years brought acceptance though and then there was the one time, my daughter yelled out, “They’re back.”

“Who’s back?” I asked,

“The ghost,” she said. “The cat. Look at the cat. He sees something.”

By then, we were past worrying about it all. And we were no longer afraid of those ghosts. I can’t say the same for the cat though. One more time, that cat’s hair was on end and near the same area of the hall where the dog had also had an experience. Also, by this time, we had had so many encounters over the years, it was old hat, and this time my daughter went scrambling for a camera. I didn’t know what to look for in the picture, despite it all, I was never well versed in the lore of ghosts. There was indeed a light in the hall that we were able to see in the picture. I no longer have a clue where the picture is. But that was the day when the ghost went from being a problem to one of the family, or at the least a member of the household. It was there. It wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither were we.

The one time when the ghost actually manifest to the point of a poltergeist experience was the morning after my now ex had left. My soul was shattered at the break-up of our family and there was a horrendous storm that night, there were floods all around the area, as if the heavens were sobbing with me. In every sense of the word, it had been a dark, loud, wet, and stormy night.

The next morning, my daughter and I were sitting at the table in the kitchen, still digesting what had happened. She had a glass of something, I don’t remember what, probably juice, and one of those little toy straws like you get in the kiddy meals from MacDonald’s. It was something between a whistle and a straw, that you put together with one of those little action hero heads, then you could blow it and make noise while you drink your drink. We were sitting there and the action hero whistle straw starts blowing. And we were watching it blow, by itself. This was not a battery operated thing; you had to blow it. We were already in shock about her dad leaving and for a minute, we just sat staring at the thing. Then I picked it up and took it completely apart to stop it from blowing. A couple minutes later, the dog goes to the entrance of the hall and her hair stands on end. She stands frozen and trembles in terror for a few seconds, and then she snaps out of it, puts her nose to the floor, and begins the chase that once more ends at the vent in the bathroom, and then she runs around in circles, continuously retracing the trail of the scent, trying to find whatever it was she had both seen and smelled.

About that time the phone rang, it was our insurance man, sounding oddly nervous, stressed. My soon to be ex had already called about his car, the flood the night before had been so bad, places that had never flooded in town before flooded with that storm, and his beloved Beemer was among the damage.

Strange doings, the world doesn’t stop because a five year old ghost or any other ghost for that matter drops by. Over the years, I discussed these matters with people who knew and understood ghosts and the paranormal more than I did. With time, the fear of the unknown was replaced by an acceptance that there are some things we just plain don’t understand. In some of the experiences, it was clear that the ghost, or whatever it was, was a child and communicated with my daughter when she was too young to have a clue what a ghost was. Later, with that realization, in the times when it manifest, I tried to think maternal thoughts toward it. I really didn’t know what else to do. It is not like there is a manual on how to deal with the family ghost, or maybe there is and I just missed it.

With more time still, it was pretty clear, that not all of the encounters were with the same being. Although my daughter’s early encounters were very positive, the time in the yard with my son, and the incident with the neighbor’s child were both very frightening for everyone involved. Since, at times, the incidents seemed to involve more than the actual house, it has been suggested that perhaps the area was at one time a Native American burial ground. Since I too have at least a partial Native American ancestry, I did not find that troubling, and almost in some way felt like, well maybe I am supposed to be here. I don’t know, as frightening as it all was in the early days of awareness, with time, I have wondered what happens to the ghosts when the family moves away. Disconcertingly sad and odd thoughts.

Over the years, I have also visited other places that were supposed to be haunted. Sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose, at which point it was as much curiosity as a search for common ground. Something I could latch onto. With time, I also learned that where there is a tendency of a ghost to manifest if, for whatever reason, that spirit is not at rest. It has been a while now since the last visitation, but if it was somehow within me, it was my inclination that my home would be a place of peace, strength in spirit, love, and respect for life in all its manifestations. I didn’t know what else to do.

The years have changed what Halloween used to be about, and we do so love a good ghost story. But the day used to holy, for honoring those who had gone before. What was really going on? I still don’t understand it all, probably never will, but could be those ancients were onto something. I have long since quit putting out the Rid-Damp.

Copyright 2013 Regina Garson

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