Saturday, October 31, 2015


Shamelessly used without permission from the
I sometimes wonder how Halloween came to be a children's holiday in America. Death is no laughing matter! We are all going there sooner or later so would it not make sense to have a little respect for it, for our departed ancestors? Cultures far older than ours respect those who come before. Not in America. There are no such things as ghosts, or whangdoodles, or other ethereal entities. Of course, I beg to differ.

I have been plagued with ghosts and ghostly activity my entire life. If they cannot get to me during waking hours, then they sometimes chase me through my dreams. Just the other night I dreamed of my mother. She and I were holding hands but then a ghost grabbed my hand and would not let go. I knew I had to shout the word "NO!" aloud to convince the ghost to let go of my hand. In the dream I could not speak but I kept valiantly trying until, with all of my willpower gathered in the pit of my stomach, I shouted "NO" and woke myself up.

It was not a frightening dream and after I shouted myself awake, I thought it was funny. Like every human being ever born, I wondered what the hell that was all about, especially considering my mother is technically a ghost, too. Perhaps when they visit us here they seem like ghosts, and when we visit in their dimension we seem as ghosts there. Maybe some unfortunate spirit on the other side thought I was a ghost and was trying to rid its space of me, a most uncooperative entity.

I know that in some cultures, All Saints Eve is the one night of the year when the veil is thinnest and those on the other side can easily visit. I am confused if the veil is thinnest after midnight October 30, or at midnight October 31? Or is it all 24 hours of Halloween? I have not received a visit from anyone on Halloween yet. Given my family's aversion to any sort of holiday travel due to the crush of crowds, it does not surprise me. Better to wait until the crowds thin, for an off day to visit.

In honor of  Halloween, I humbly offer one of my true ghost stories:

Years ago, when my son was a little boy, I took wood carving lessons from a husband and wife team. She was the artist and carver, and he hand-made fine wood carving tools. Their studio was a small two-story house only a couple of blocks from my house. They had turned their interests into a wonderful business. Once a week during the winter months I took carving lessons. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences! Everyone, mostly old people (I SAID it was YEARS ago), sat at tables arranged in a big U, carving and bullshitting for two hours once a week. Bullshitting is the scientifically correct and appropriate term for the wonderful ebb and flow of companionable conversation that occurs when carving. I came to love those old people and their wonderful sense of humor and patience and graceful acceptance of life.

The house I lived in at the time was haunted and the activity was quite blatant and troubling but I did not dare to bring that up for fear of ridicule from these fine older people. Inevitably, ghosts came up in the conversation one evening. A woman shared that her father had been working at her house when he died instantly of a heart attack. She explained that her father's spirit continued to visit her and made himself known to her in various ways. Predictably, everyone guffawed and disbelieved, not very charitably I might add. Except for me. I knew exactly what she was talking about because similar things happened in my house all the time! In her defense I shared my experiences and received the same treatment from our carving peers. The discussion lasted until it was clear that ten people were true disbelievers and two people were true nuts. The conversation naturally came to an end and in the silence I heard someone walking upstairs.

In all the months I had attended class in that little house, there had never been anyone upstairs. The owners did not live in the house. The rooms the woodcarving business did not occupy were used as storage for all manner of other things and were filled to the brim. I assumed the upstairs was the same. I was so surprised to hear footsteps, to clearly hear someone walking across the floor, that I quickly looked at the owners. They gave no indication whatsoever that anything was out of the ordinary. I looked around at every other person in the room. Not a single other person acted as if they were aware of the loud footsteps. We had been together as a class for over two years and not one other single time had there ever been a sound from upstairs. There was no outside staircase on the house, so if someone lived up there we would have unavoidably heard them open doors or walk up the steps. We would have heard someone before and we would have heard someone after that night. I waited for someone else to acknowledge the unmistakable footsteps across the old wooden floors over our heads but no one even looked up from their carving. After a few minutes, the conversation picked up again, the footsteps ceased and I never again heard someone upstairs during class.

I told my brother that story. He said he thought some people see or hear things others cannot see or hear. Maybe so.