Monday, October 18, 2010

Haunt Me

I want to be haunted.

Nothing too scary. I don't want the walls to bleed or anything; I just want a good story to tell. Maybe a being from another world could send mysterious lights bobbing down the hallway. Or maybe there could be a little fiendish laughter emanating from the attic once in a while. I'd like that.

But no. I am apparently the antighost. I've lived in many houses that should be haunted, but the minute I move in, everything gets all normal. Bummer.

For instance, my grandparents' farm in Maine was built in the 1800s. The attic was my favorite place to play, because it was full of old stuff and I was sure there had to be a ghost up there. There were framed sepia photographs of people in fancy clothes, and all of them had somber expressions and weird dead eyes. I later learned this was because they had to sit still and stare at the camera for ten minutes to get their pictures taken, but at the time I was convinced that all my ancestors were zombies.

There was an old melodeon up there too, and after my piano teacher taught me to play minor chords I could make the whole place resound with creepy organ music that made you think Vincent Price was going to pop out of a steamer trunk at any moment.

But nothing. Ever. Happened.

Later I moved to the Pennsylvania countryside and rented a farmhouse that was built in 1757. I used to imagine what it was like sitting by the enormous fireplace knowing that the Lenni Lenape were out there in the woods stewing about the Walking Purchase and vowing vengeance. The house had been built over a spring that bubbled up in the basement so you wouldn't have to go outside for water if you were under attack. Surely someone, sometime had died in that house. And surely at least one of those people had unresolved issues.

But the only scary thing in the house was the gigantic salamanders and frogs that hung out by the spring in the basement. The Orkin Man doesn't do amphibians, so we just had to live with them because I sure as heck wasn't going to pick a fight with a frog the size of a Yorkie.

Recently I stayed in a haunted hotel: The Occidental in Buffalo, Wyoming. Scrape and I poked around in the north wing where all the ghosts were supposed to hang out. One of them is a little girl ghost and the other one is a former prostitute, so they get bonus points for having high childish laughter and slutty clothes, both of which add a little extra creepiness.

That night, Scrape was awakened by the sound of a high-pitched scream. Me? I slept through it. Never heard a sound. And he didn't wake me up because he was afraid I'd be scared. He told me about it in the morning, acting all superior and stuff because he had experienced the Occidental ghost.

But I missed it. Of course.

For a while I lived in an old house here in Cheyenne, Wyoming that had been built by a funeral director. It had woodwork that was carved by coffin makers. Spooky, right? Better yet, there were three huge, ancient pine trees outside the house that were home to a flock vultures. Big, black turkey vultures, with ugly bald heads, mean little eyes, and an appetite for roadkill. They would hunch in the trees all morning, staring down at the house, and then fly up and circle it all afternoon looking for dead stuff.

The guy who owned the house lived in the basement. I was convinced he'd killed his wife and hidden her in the yard somewhere and that's what the vultures were looking for. But my theory was destroyed when she turned up one day alive and well. Turned out she'd been living in California.

Now I live in a house that was built in 1936. That's not the eighteenth century or anything, but it's still plenty of time for the people who lived there to develop unresolved issues and die, which is apparently what leads to effective ghost-hood.

Before I lived there, Scrape and his son heard ghostly footsteps at night. Doors opened and closed mysteriously. And once, Scrape swears that something grabbed his leg in the hallway. Whatever it was didn't bite him or anything (which is a shame, because ghostly toothmarks would have been ultra-cool), but it hung on for a minute with its cold, cold hands.

Ooh, I wish that would have happened to me!

But no. I moved in, and the ghosts moved out. I have an office in the attic, which is sort of spooky--but there's no weird cacking laughter, no sudden gusts of cold air, no fireballs or strands of ectoplasm floating around.

Maybe I should sell my skills for settling the restless dead. If you have a haunted house, I could come stay there and everything would get boring and normal again. Because ghosts don't scare me, even though I'd like them to.

Evidently, I scare them.

Have you ever lived in a haunted house or been visited by a ghost? Tell me your ghost story. Go ahead, make me jealous!


  1. I can't say I've met the restless dead, but I do think if we were more mindful of and comfortable with the ancestors, as many other cultures are, we might have fewer souls hanging around without their space suits (bodies).

  2. Oh Joanne, you antighost, this got me chuckling. I can just picture the attic in your grandparents' house. I've never seen anything ghostly either, so maybe I'm the antighost too. The atmophere you described in the different places would certainly seem conducive to a ghostly visit. I don't want to see a ghost myself. It would completely freak me out, but I love reading stories about people who do.

  3. Loved your blog, Joanne!!! While we were visiting ghostly rooms of castles in Scotland, I saw nothing. Felt nothing. Then as we made our way to a field where Highland cattle stood so we could take pictures, I heard Celtic music playing. Neither of my friends heard anything. It faded in and was loud and clear and as I reached the fence, abruptly stopped. There were no homes but a farmhouse about a mile away.

    Another time, I was camping in the Palo Duro Canyon with fellow Army ROTC cadets and heard wild horses that were about to trample us in the middle of the night. Later, when I planned to write an article for a magazine about the wild horses there, I did a little research to find out what kind, and I learned there were sightings of ghost horses in the area. No wild horses.

    A large letter C appeared on my son's wall when I was painting the house to get it ready to sell. The wall was white before that, but after I painted it white (and he had already moved to an apt near his university), this strange huge letter C appeared. I painted over it 7 times. No matter the light--natural or otherwise, you could see it. My son, daughter, mother did also. :) I painted kiltz over it for tough stains. Still it wouldn't go away. I finally figured I'd hang a picture over it, but couldn't find the hammer. That morning, I looked at the C and the picture leaning against the wall beneath it and vowed to locate the hammer and cover it. When I found the hammer and returned, the C had vanished.

    :) I probably would be just like you in all your old "haunts," Joanne, and not sense anything. But set me free where nothing is supposed to be, and well, you never know what might happen!

  4. Loved this, JoAnne! I've never seen a ghost either. I'm not really "open" to the supernatural, but if a ghost moves in with me, you'll be the first person I call.

    Terry- The C story is majorly creepy!

  5. Grace, I think you're right - we probably have a lot of frustrated ghosts hanging around because we just don't listen! But I wish they'd come talk to me...

  6. Anita, I love reading ghost stories too, but they really scare the heck out of me - so maybe the ghosts know it would just be too much for me. I like the abstract idea of ghosts, but if one really turned up, I'd probably scream so loud I'd scare it away!

  7. Terry, those are good stories! I especially love the ghost horses one - that just might turn up in a Western romance sometime! And the "C" - did you ever figure out what it might stand for?
    I went to Scotland too, and we did a "ruined castle tour" because I love the atmosphere and was hoping for ghosts....but no. Not one!

  8. Olivia, if anything haunts you, just call me. Maybe you'll get a sexy rock star ghost!!!

  9. Thank goodness no ghosts here! I do have a baby who wakes me up. She likes to say, "Boo-wah!" Does that count? It sure scares me in the middle of the night!

  10. No ghosts here but a couple of days ago I was sitting on the sofa, working on my laptop, when everything shifted and my black cat's eyes popped wide open ... thought it might be Great Aunt Gert telling me I wasn't writing a story right. Turned out to be an earthquake! In Oklahoma! Guess us cowboy writers don't get ghosts, Joanne!

  11. Joanne, I see discarnate entities all the time. A few seem to be attached to a locale, but most are just passing through.

    Even though seeing them is easy for me, I understand your longing to see ghost. From childhood, I wanted to see a UFO. I figured people who looked at the sky a lot had the best chance, so I scanned the heavens every chance I got.

    I saw aerial phenomena most people have never heard of--sun dogs, and double suns, and moon bows. And I saw Venus and Mars so brilliant and huge they would knock your socks off. I knew what they were because I had studied things that could be misidentified. I saw weather balloons, shooting stars, and once, a satellite. But I saw no UFO.

    Years passed. It seemed like everywhere I went I met people who had seen them. Multiple times! And once or twice--I admit it--I thought to myself, what makes THEM so special?

    I gave up. I guessed I was a non-sighter. But now, scanning the sky had become a habit. I did it just because I liked to. And then one day...

    I was driving toward the airport on one of those super-clear, bright October days. The road ran along a ridge. Lots of sky was visible, traffic was almost nonexistent, and I saw a funny looking plane low in the sky going toward the airport. I never doubted that it was a plane. I couldn't see wings or tail, but the sun was reflecting extremely brightly off its metal skin made it hard to look at.

    Fortunately I had to stop because of some road work. I had a clear view of it for several minutes. I watched it long enough to be sure it wasn't any plane I'd ever seen before, and I never saw wings. At length I lost sight of it behind tall trees.

    Finally it dawned on me that I had seen something--unquestionably an object--flying low, that I couldn't identify. OMG! I had just seen an Unidentified Flying Object. And it never occurred to me that that's what it was, until it was gone.

    So hang in there. You could see a ghost yet.

  12. I tried to tell a story but Google said it was too long to process.

    Short version: I see discarnate entities all the time. Some appear to be attached to a locale, but most are just passing through. A couple of my dogs have also seen them. Much more rarely, I've seen discarnate animals.

    Sometimes they startle me, but I've never seen anything to be afraid of. If they start making a pest of themselves, I tell them to go away.

    So hang in there. You could get your wish to see something ghostly that's not scary at all.

  13. Grrrrr! First Google says it won't publish my comment, but then it does anyway, and makes me look flakier than I am!

  14. Shana - saying "Boo-wah" might count! Sounds cute!

  15. Carolyn, it's just not fair that cowboy writers don't get ghosts. I want a ghost cowboy. A handsome one. Wearing chaps.
    Doesn't Oklahoma have enough trouble with the tornadoes? I can't believe you get earthquakes too!

  16. Mary Margret, I agree that Google can be annoying! But that story was good enough to tell twice. And your point about scanning the sky for UFOs and noticing so many things most of us miss is a good one. Maybe when we're open to other worlds, it enriches the one we're in.
    But I've never seen a UFO either. My husband once flew with another airline pilot who wanted to turn the lights off in the cockpit so he could watch for UFOs. Now THAT'S scary!
    Thanks for the story - you always have great comments!

  17. I have and we have a house ghost now named Frank. He likes to take things for a few months then replace them exactly where they were.

    You might be a dampener.

  18. I have not one haunted story to share--and thank goodness because I am such a wuss! But there's this old stretch of railroad tracks near my parents' house (in the suburbs of Chicago), and there supposedly was a bad accident involving some kids way back when... some of my braver high school classmates wiould drive to those tracks at night, and they has some freaky stories!

    I was more than content to stay home and read a good book :)

  19. Linda, I've been called a party pooper, even a wet blanket. But what's a dampener? It doesn't sound good!

  20. Danielle, we had railroad tracks near my house, too, and we used to follow them to the ruins of an old Victorian estate with a boarded-up mansion, old-fashioned boat-houses, and lots of overgrown formal gardens. Come to think of it, that should have had ghosts too - but I never saw anything scarier than a snake. Darn it!

  21. I once sent a mass card to my Aunt because her mother had died and was haunting the house. Mrs. Romeo was a sneaky ghost. She took all her tax papers and didn't return them until a day before the deadline when Janet had to file Mrs. Romeo's final taxes. She'd move the lazy susan from the top shelf of the pantry so when we'd go to play Scrabble, it would be missing, it would turn up eventually, but not until after we played a killer game sans lazy susan.

    I sent a Christmas Mass Card to Aunt Janet letting her know that a Mass would be said for Mrs. Romeo every day for the entire year. I thought it might just give Mrs. Romeo the nudge she needed to go wherever she was supposed to go, and if not, at least she'd be happy having so many nuns praying for her. After that, weird things started happening.

    I only had two kids at the time, Twinkle Toes was an infant and my son was under three. I had just put them down for their afternoon naps and I went into the kitchen to do the lunch dishes. I was just about to turn on the water when my toaster oven dinged like the toast was done, but I hadn't made toast. Someone hand turned it on. No one else was in the house, both my kids were tucked into their beds and neither were tall enough to make toast. No one had been in the kitchen for at least a half hour. I hadn't even used the toaster oven that day. We'd had toastadas and baby food for lunch and I made them on the stove. Weird.

    A little later, before the kids got up from their naps, I went to call another aunt and I couldn't find my phone book. Now mind you, this was before speed dial. I always kept the phone book on the top of the microwave, just below the kitchen phone, along with a basket of napkins. Both the phone book and the napkin basket had disappeared. Did I mention this was during the Christmas season. I had no one's number or address, sure the Christmas cards had already gone out, but I could only call those people whose numbers I had memorized. Talk about payback although my husband didn't complain about the phone bill for once in his life.

    Of course, the phone book and basket of napkins reappeared December 26th as if they'd never disappeared. There that sat in their rightful spots. I remember looking around and smiling before I said "Thanks Mrs. Romeo!"

  22. When I was in grad school some classmates and I rented rooms in an old house. Word on the street was it was haunted (of course we are told this after we move in). So we had one of our profs, a Greek Orthodox priest do a special blessing in the house and we were never bothered by a ghost!

  23. Robin, Mrs. Romeo sounds more playful than threatening. The phone book episode had to be annoying, but I think she must have been thanking you for the masses when she "dinged" the toaster!

  24. Hi, Amanda! You could have just invited me over, and the ghosts would never bother you... but the blessing probably had more good effects than just getting rid of the ghosts!

  25. Joanne,

    Just that ghosts aren't comfortable with you. That you emit something that keeps them away.

  26. Nope, never have. I'm afraid my blog on this particular topic will be just exactly like yours!

  27. I don't believe in ghosts either, Joanne. But I absolutely believe in the marvelous imagination of people...especially writers. :}