My Grandfather said he witnessed Saint Peter walking on water, as he was preparing to sit down for supper. Then he died where he sat, of a major heart attack.
Another time he had police searching the woods for a decapitated body he said he seen propped in a sitting position under a tree, the man’s head in his lap! They never did find the body.
I never met my Grandfather. The day he died sitting down for supper, my father was only a boy of twelve. But the story was told to me by my Aunt Lena. She had come to stay with us during a family wedding. I don’t remember the discussion that preceded the conversation I had with her, that made me blurt out, I see ghosts!
But I have seen ghosts, and more than once!
Aunt Lena calmly told me I should see a doctor. I explained to her I wasn’t crazy, she said; “neither was your Grandfather.”
My mother thinks I may have had a ghost attach himself to me while hanging out in the cemetery. I fell in love with cemeteries while on a field trip in grade school, where we made grave stone rubbings on rice paper. Even now, I will occasionally drive through one looking at the beautiful carvings of granite and marble. I am more fascinated however with the mausoleums. To think only wealthy people could afford to have one built so they could visit the souls of their dearly departed, sheltering them from inclement weather, and reigning prestige over columns of headstone markers. I like peering through the windows on them, those that have windows. Some are stained glass, and those really are the most beautiful. When the sun hits them just right, there is a colored ray streaming through the window, a solemn beam, evocative of a rainbows guiding light.
I have often wished my family was wealthy and that someday upon my demise I would have my body entombed in one. The thought of being cremated or placed in the earth does not sit well with me.
My first encounter with the super natural happened at the age of fourteen, after an early evening of partying in the Old Swedish Cemetery.
A group of us teenagers liked to hang out under the roof of an old stone pavilion that was in the center of the place. We were not disrespectful, unlike others that have been known to vandalize headstones, we just needed a place to go, where we could play guitars, smoke some grass, and be out of the way of adults.
This is where I believe my first unfriendly ghost found me.
While the others would sit and play their guitars, I would occasionally roam the cemetery reading headstones. I came across a bench someone had decidedly thought more appropriate than an upright stone slab, and much more utilitarian than kneeling in damp wet grass while paying their respects… so I sat.
There upon the cold stone bench, shaded under the sprawling oak, and surrounded by huge rhododendrons was this epitaph:
Do not sit with me
now that I am gone.
You are no closer to me now
than you were then.
I sat there never knowing who this poor soul was. I wondered who the epitaph was meant for? There was no name, no date. Did this person feel alone in life, to have wanted this written as their last goodbye, or was it a message for God, and was I the only person who ever disregarded the message?
I felt a sudden sense of gloom shadow me. I tried to say a prayer for the poor soul that lay buried beneath my feet, just as the winds picked up and sent me scurrying for shelter in direction of the pavilion. We waited out the storm, as I spoke of the bench wondering what the others thought about the epitaph. We all concluded it was an unusual thing to have written. The more I thought about it, I began to feel an unholy presence.
There was a strange feeling leaving the cemetery gates that evening. The rain had stopped and in its wake, a mist and cold fog followed me home.
For weeks after, I had the feeling of someone close by. Then one evening while lying in bed I saw the shadowy figure. A tall apparition of a man, draped in black, arms crossed, holding in them what appeared to be a book clasped to his chest. I quickly turned to face the wall, and started praying to God to shower some light upon me. I remember thinking that sometime during my childhood someone had told me, if you pray and ask god to shed his light upon you, he will answer your prayers. When I looked back, the figure was gone.
My shadowy friend was to visit me again three more times. Each time I found him looming over me in the same manner, just standing there with his arms crossed over his chest. Yet each visit he became more distinct, more dark. Then I did not see him for some weeks.
The last visit he made, we had just finished packing. We were moving from our home into an unknown territory. Divorce, or rather a separation of sorts had finally succumbed my parents. The house was being sold, and the only thing left to do was break down the beds in the morning, and set them up in our new apartment. I was finally going to have my own bedroom, and only because my eldest sister and brother decided to live with my Dad, while my younger sister and I decided to live with my Mom. I was going to miss that house. I painted a mural on the walls in the finished basement, and the backboard of the basketball hoop with its geometric arrows pointing to the net. Well, it was not my house anyway. But my fingerprint would somehow outlive its walls, even if they did get a fresh can of paint.
This time, the last time I would encounter my zombie like ghost, I was watching and listening to the snoring of my girlfriend who was asleep in the next bed. The house was quiet, accept for the sound of her steady rhythm. I had left the door open and a light on in the bathroom across from the hall, so my girlfriend could find her way, should the need arise. Usually I slept with my bedroom door closed.
I first saw his figure climbing the stairs, his shadow moving along the wall. I watched for the first time, his approach, as he slowly and methodically strode across the bedroom floor directly toward my bed. Yet this time his arms were not crossed over his chest, he had one arm raised above his head, he was holding something, it could have been a cross or it could have been a knife! I didn’t wait for him to stop, I jumped out of bed, ran toward the door and threw on the light. Screaming hysterically I woke everyone in the house.
Then we heard what sounded like someone running downstairs, but no one saw anything. Someone asked if we locked all the doors, and my mother said she did before going to bed. I tried explaining to them who it was, but Michael, who had been helping us pack and move, had already decided to search the house and then the neighborhood. When he came back, he reported he couldn’t find a soul. Of course not, I told him…not everyone can see a soul lost in the dark.
© Jackie Summers – 2012