I’ve been listening to ghost stories lately. There are podcasts that are good company while I’m driving, and they distract me from current events, which is a good thing, too.
I haven’t heard any real stories that are much better than the ones I know.
My mom had the best ones – they were first hand, and they ranged from conversations with unquiet spirits to visits from relatives. My dad’s long-dead grandmother told her about a swimming hole and water wheel on the family property in Rosendale. One of his aunts, when pressed, confirmed there’d once been a water wheel where my mother said she was told it had been.
“I’d forgotten,” his aunt said wonderingly.
After my uncle died, my mother saw him, watching over me as I played in the back yard.
“He was right behind the fence,” she said. “He looked me in the eye and he raised his fist, like he did when we were kids. I knew he was looking out for you.”
My grandmother, my mom’s mother, knocked at the door, and stood on the front step. She’d been dead for weeks. She was irritated. “She told me she was alright, and it was time to let her go,” my mother said.
My son said he’s seen things, too, but he doesn’t talk about it much. When my daughter was very young, she saw a woman at her grandfather’s house. No one else could.
My experiences have been less clear. I’ve heard a buzzing in some houses, like a swarm of bees, that I know is only in my head. And when I tell it to stop, or if I step outside, it stops. Like a volume knob snapped to zero. It’s happened more than once. And I’ve had some experiences I can’t explain.
My mother died in a hospital in Kingston. I’d been there earlier in the day. I was in a grocery store, and my heart felt like it dropped. I knew she was dead. When I got home, my dad called to tell me what I already knew.
A deer showed up outside our kitchen window the morning after my mother died.
“It’s your mother,” my father exclaimed. I was dubious. But on the way to Dad’s funeral a year later, two deer, a buck and a doe, stood by the side of the road and watched our car go by. I’ll admit I wondered.
My mother-in-law and I were very close. When she was dying, she promised to let me know she was okay. A few days after her death, my cellphone rang. It was her number. No one was there when I answered. But when I called back, the person who picked it up said it had dropped on the floor from my friend’s bedside table. Okay, but what are the odds it would make a call – and dial me?
I saw something once. Just once. I was waiting for a client at an isolated house that was for sale. I was early, and I saw the owner, an elderly man, walk out the back door and down to what looked like a workshop. Rather than interrupt him, I waited for my clients. When they arrived, I explained that the owner appeared to be home, and I’d go find him to make sure we were expected.
I walked to that workshop. No one was there. The place had clearly been empty for a long time.
I still hesitate to say I believe in ghosts. But much as I’d like to think there is peace, or even rest, after life, I just don’t know. And no one does, except for people who aren’t alive anymore.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.