Sunday, October 28, 2007

ok fine i have one more damn ghost story.

I tend to think long and hard about things for years. Arriving at a final decision about, say, art or religion-you know, the inconsequential tiny shit that housewives regularly sit around thinking about-after all that means that it's a pretty solid damn decision. I rise rejoicing and move on to something else, like cleaning the lime scale off my toilet bowl. And yet I can't escape one nagging fact....that just because I know with complete certainty that any given conclusion I've arrived at is absolutely right DOES NOT MEAN that I'm not full of shit.

My last 'ghost story' is pretty short and falls squarely onto 'total flake' territory. This is the kind of 'ghost experience' that happens to hormone-poisoned 13-year-olds named Jordan (dEtHdArK666) or Tiffany (69sweetsadangel69) who sneak out at night and hang around in cemeteries scaring the crap out of themselves.


One hot July afternoon about four years ago I'm sitting in the Lone Jack Saloon waiting for my pizza. Now the Lone Jack is a genuine old-west dance hall-saloon, complete with a long bar, a stage and a gallery that runs around the main area, exactly like the saloon in 'Gunsmoke'. I mean it. There really were places like that, and this is one of them.
After having sat unused for decades it was re-opened for dining and gambling during the last big Canadian economic shift. At this time it was only months away from closing down again after a brief six-year run.

I sat in the main area, facing the 'grand staircase' which leads up to the gallery. All I had on my mind was my pizza. The very last thing on my mind at that moment was drainage reorganization during the breakup of Pangea as revealed by in-situ Pb isotopic analysis of detrital K-feldspar. Second to last was 'anything supernatural whatsoever'.

This is when I glanced up at the grand staircase and 'saw' a woman who was not there.

The woman who was not there was wearing a dark green floor length dress with long sleeves. Over this she was wearing a black pinafore. Her hair was up. I couldn't have described her face but she seemed to be Caucasian.

And boom, gone.

Shocked me so bad my heart jumped and my hands and face tingled.

Now I did not actually register a visual, here. What I mean is, imagine the emotional impact of seeing a person unexpectedly, AND THE MEMORY OF THEIR APPEARANCE, but subtract from that experience the actual 'seeing' and that's what happened. It was the goddamnedest sensation.

I asked my husband to look at the stairs and tell me if he saw anyone. Nope. Then I had to tell him what had happened and he kind of sighed. I did too. Who needs this? All I wanted was a damn pizza and a glass of pop. Now here I had this unwanted haunted shit that was going to bug the crap out of me for the rest of the time we're there.

I got up from the table a couple of times and rambled around looking for anyone who fit the description, or even the general description of what I'd thought I'd seen...a tall man in a green shirt, a woman with her hair up, anyone in a dress or an apron....nope. Nada. Nothing. Took in the entire place...the bar, the gallery, the back pantry area, even peeked into the kitchen.

'Well, good. I'm nuts," I said, and ate my pizza.

Nowadays the Lone Jack is 'Ship Happens'...a shipping warehouse open to the public. The interior has been remodelled; once you enter the door you're in a small reception area; the rest of the space is walled off into freight storage. We do business there frequently; they're locally owned so the Yummy Biker throws them all of his large freight shipping.

One day, after ascertaining that I was the only customer in the place, I finally got up the nerve to ask them if anyone had ever seen anything out of the ordinary there.
"Oh yes," the girl replied. "There's a lady in a ball gown up on the second floor. She walks around and opens the safe."
"Lots of people say they see a lady in a long dress walking around," agreed another kid, stacking boxes. "She used to own the place or something."

When I'm very tired I see what I call 'mice' out of the corner of my eye...small moving shadows or hints of motion that when looked at squarely turn out to be an electric cord or the toe of a shoe sticking out from behind something. It's caused by eye fatigue. Your eye muscles tremble and this makes your vision go out of focus for a half-second. That tremble gives dark objects in the periphery of your line of sight the illusion of motion. It's the same effect on a smaller scale as that shitty 'MTV' hand-held cinematography. The objects being filmed aren't in motion; it's just that the camera is being held by someone with a hangover.

This wasn't that.

I wasn't drunk or stoned; all my medications were balanced, I was well fed and rested. Not stressed, having a good day, in good health (for me, anyway.) And then this happens.

Is there perhaps a name for this kind of mental phenomenon? Can something cross-connect randomly in the brain and register a visual impression in context like that? Because remember; this wasn't anything terrifically out of the ordinary that you could conclusively call a hallucination or a seizure artifact, like an angel or an alien or the floating head of Oz the magnificent; this was a woman in a dress standing on the fourth step from the bottom of a staircase.

Except, you know, not.

Never happened before, never happened since.

As an adult, I've been in lots of places that were supposed to be haunted...Colonel Ebeys' house, the Coronation Hotel, The Crystal Ballroom, the Whatcom Museum, Pittock Mansion...the list goes on...and nothing. Nothing at all. Even when I really had my mind on the subject too...nothing. So why, then, would I get struck with some 'phantom impression' while sitting in a sticky chair on an ugly carpet waiting for a goddamn pizza?


  1. Obviously it was Miss Kitty looking for Matt Dillon.

  2. I've seen those dresses they make waitresses wear in these theme places, no wonder she just upped and disappeared, poor woman.

  3. mj: you're a lot of help. anyway, miss kitty was a bottle redhead.

    ziggy: you're another big help, you are. good thing I didn't leave her a tip.

  4. Just lucky, I guess?

  5. (checking calendar...)
    A lot of people do experience similar moments .Most of us have learned to keep shtumm or risk being hauled off to the flaky place!
    After years of wondering, I've told myself (and, for me, this works!) that even if I don't feel tired, I'm probably having a muscle-flick (like you described; no big deal.
    (has another look at calendar, does time-difference math...)

  6. You know...Salinger describes the Glass household (Franny and Zooey) as a place that has "hot and cold running ghosts." I have lived in such a your description is not so strange to me...especially because it hasn't happened when you expected or wanted it to happen. I have found myself feeling unexpectedly calm about seeing the occasional ghost or presence (not to sound too groovy). All is well.

  7. Holy crap woman, I go away for 6 days and I return to 3 fantastically written pieces which make me laugh so hard I have to get my inhalor....then the ghosty story....shivery stuff!
    I used to have conversations with the beeping thingy on my sons would chirp (even when turned off and silent for hours), I'd say hello, it would chirp back and so on and so forth....nobody believed me until one night my friends visited and saw it happen (freaked one of them out pretty badly). I've also lay in bed and watched a shadow in the shape of a woman with her hair blowing in the wind move back and forward between my bed and my babys cot and beside her was a running wolf.
    Ach, I'm not sure why these things happen or if they even really do....but I generally find myself feeling a wee bit comforted by them if that make any sense.
    And Leota with her 'wupping', well I swear I was howling out loud at the 13yr old antics....but I feel for the 'clean-up crew',yick.
    Can I come to your house for Halloween...I could be the freaky Scottish crone and I promise I wouldn't eat ALL your candy!!!
    pps pics are in the post're getting the set.xx

  8. I used to work in a hotel where people in 'family' room no 11 checked out early on a regular basis.

    They all said that they'd seen a figure in a nightgown leaning over the cot.


  9. I haven't had an experience like yours but there are so many mysterious aspects to life that there is room aplenty for a dead woman wearing a Loretta Lynn dress.
    I find the idea of ghosts less scary than being absolutely certain about everything.

  10. Nah, it was the beer.

  11. Sometimes I hear music. Whole symphonies in perfect clarity-- every instrument, every note, just as if i was sitting in a concert hall. And the minute I realize I'm hearing it, *poof!* it vanishes, and the silence that crashes into the void like wave filling a hole in the sand on a beach is deafening.

    I think this is the audio equivalent of seeing ghosts. It's not there, but it sure as shit seems like it is. I don't think it's supernatural, though. I think it's some kind of sensory projection created by the brain. Slightly weird, but perfectly natural.

  12. I was reading this theory of imprinting.The bare bones go like this.
    1.Most hauntings are related to very strong emotional events.
    2,As emotions are abunch of electrical impulses and most hauntings occur in areas with strong electrical feilds (ie over underground springs and streams).That the person having the strong emotion imprints on the natural electrical field generated by the spring or whatever.
    If you then wander into this field with a weaker electrical field for whatever reason , your nerves and stuff register the imprint on top of your usual nerve traffic......ergo you see a picture and also register the emotion of something that isnt there.
    This is just my dumb ass interpretation of what i read, and I cant remember nowwhere i read it.
    Does that make any sense ?

  13. gale: good thing I wasn't playing pulltabs then.

    dinah: i just wish it hadn't happened. they served good pizza there.

    mutha: yeah, but it's a big violent world. why arent there ghosts everydamn place? or ghosts of cavemen? that sounds funny, but really...nobody ever sees ghosts of cavemen. you'd think at least poor Iceman would be wafting around; he was murdered.

    punkie: OH NO DAMN WAY! thank you!!! i've got your collage pasted up, i still have to get it color copied so i can add a little more weird to it.

    garfy: i worked in a couple of haunted hotels and never saw a damn thing. even stayed in a murder room once. crap.

    ara: i would much rather have had a Brad Pitt apparition than a country and western one. THAT i wouldn't have complained about.

    joe: no beer, pepsi! (really. life imitates art, man. grooooovy.)

    cb: see, you even get cool mental phenomena. i WISH that happened to me. my grandmother claimed she had 'smell' hallucinations...everything from violets to onions frying.

    beast: I know what you mean. I had a psychologist tell me about patients who got the new form of electroshock therapy-which involved super strong magnetic fields instead of applied current- having 'replay' visions afterwards that they described as ghosts. i certainly prefer that explaination to 'freaky dead crap walking around dripping blood all over the place'. it's cleaner, for one.

  14. "'Well, good. I'm nuts,' I said, and ate my pizza."

    Like that was ever in question? :-)

  15. 'shot: more of a refrain, actually. make with the fried chicken recipe, beeyotch.

  16. I'll email it to you ONLY if you promise NEVER-EVER-EVER to give it to MJ or her ne'er-do-well cohorts...

  17. see? i started to read this last NIGHT, and i stopped..i KNEW it would fuckin scare me...jayus...and yeah, it "see" but you don' happened in the last house i lived in in los angeles...1906 craftsman'd only catch a glimpse of her foot and the hem of her dress going up the happens, saw what you saw

  18. 'shot: done. promised. and I'll send you my fried chicken recipe in return. it's southern you have one of those cast iron chicken frying pans??

    savannah; OH THANKS A LOT CHICKIE THAT'S JUST GREAT. i'm clinging like a barnacle to the 'random brain fart' explanation I dont care I cant hear you lalala alalalala woo, wooo, alalaaaaaa....

  19. re: cast iron...of course! (mock indignation)

    I've got almost eight years of seasoning on that baby!

  20. Anonymous3:59 PM

    I have seen ghosts Ms FN... they are real you know.

  21. Anonymous4:05 PM

    as a child, i would see a group of children playing in the woods behind our house...i could even describe their play area in the woods. but i'd never been in those woods, and there weren't any houses behind ours. i always thought it was my imagination from a book i'd read or something, but it was probably ghosts.

  22. We have the Waverly Mansion in a nearby town that is famous for being 'Haunted' by several ghosts. One being of a little girl. Sometimes I think I see things, but then again, it could be my paranoia and insanity playing tricks on me.

    I don't necessarily believe in ghosts but I do have *crazy idea coming in* this belief that time is constant and neverending in a sense that yesterday is happening today but in another sometimes these 'times' can overlap into another 'time' and result in a sense of deja vu or 'ghostly' sighting.

    Does that make sense? I really don't know how to describe it.

  23. Oh lord awa has been at the gin again :-)

  24. 'shot: gonna need every inch of it.
    that came out wrong.
    oh well.

    muttley: that having been said mr. the dog, you MUST NOW E-MAIL ME YOUR TRUE GHOST STORY so i can post it here. yes. go. now.

    pink: oh thanks. that was nice and creepy. now i'm afraid to look out the back window. thanks. THANKS.

    awaiting: yeah, like a piece of ribbon lying in a tangle...and where the pieces happen to touch you get image bleedthrough. crazy idea? oh my no. spent my whole mispent yoooth reading hard sci fi, lady. bring it.

    beast: nope. ever hear the phrase 'space is curved'? it's part of that theory. space, and awaitings avatar. both curved.

  25. i had an experience once...thought i was going nuts...when we were stationed in arizona this light in the walkin closet used to come on all the time...then this christmas decoration i had put up came back out on it's own...i kept hearing what sounded like a teletex machine in the livingroom...that wasnt bad and my husband basically just thought i was be it...i may be...then one night i heard some voices in the living room chanting...i ignored them and went to sleep (as i had been told so many time that i was crazy) however this night my husband was woke by them...the voice he heard was mine telling him "it's in here, come in here"...scared him shitless and he no longer made fun of me...i say he deserved the night awake and i deserved the night's sleep :)

  26. That was awesome. Love the experience, love your writing, as always.

    We used to have a visitor almost exactly like that in my current apartment. I exorcised her (gently). Maybe the shipping place would pay me to try it there?

    P.S.: I am not making this up.