‘Carry on my wayward son. There’ll be peace when you are done.’ My ghost obviously never heard this song. No one told him he should just carry on. He never knew there was peace beyond his earthly connection. And so he stayed to haunt me.
Ghost stories are the best. Sleepovers at my girlfriend, Christine’s, house were always charged with excitement. In between giggling about boys and choreographing dance moves to Olivia Newton John’s Physical, we exchanged stories that made our thirteen-year-old voices squeal with delight and fear. Gathered in our shadowy backyard, with flames from the bonfire reflecting on their eager faces, my boys never tired of, Who Took My Golden Hand. And scaring them with The Monkey’s Paw or imagining the shrieks of Moaning Myrtle, while cuddled in sleeping bags around a sputtering kerosene lamp at the cottage, will forever be one of my favourite memories.
Ghosts and creepy dreams have always plagued my sleep. Whether waking in the dark to see the red light of my VCR moving across the room to murder me or cowering from the person standing next to my bed, these nightmares used to recede as I blinked myself awake. Until the night the figure beside my bed refused to leave - refused to leave for months.
My ghost was the Supernatural kind, the menacing kind Dean and Sam annihilate while Wayward Son plays in the background.
The first night he woke me, my heart did the familiar race, the familiar thump as it tried to hammer its way out of my chest. The trembling took hold and my skin was soon slick with sweat. A figure curved over my bed. Slightly bent and completely motionless, he stared down at me. He wore a long, dark cloak with a hood that shadowed his face. I closed my eyes and opened them again, as I usually did to chase away my uninvited guests. But he stayed and as I watched, he backed away from my bed. Fully awake now and literally paralyzed with fear, I watched him methodically back across the floor and out of the room. On the wall outside my door hung a three-tiered shelf, lined with homemade mementos made by my boys. My ghost backed out my bedroom door, backed up the wall and sat on the top shelf where, in eerie silence, he watched me.
I remember the first time, as I opened and closed my eyes, trying to rid myself of the apparition. But he would not disappear. And my heart would not stop racing. Each time he appeared, the ritual was repeated. I would wake to find him watching me. He would back away from my bed. He would back right up the wall (the most disturbing part of all) then he would sit on my shelf and watch me. I would watch him back, until eventually, after one of my long, sleep-deprived blinks, he would be gone.
Truly, it was terrifying. Fearing that people would think I was a lunatic, I told no one but my family.
Until the night I invited my ball team back for a little postgame party on my deck. After a few pink grapefruit Woody’s I spilled my ghost story to the team. Instead of the skepticism I expected, a few of the girls shared their stories and I instantly got that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you realize you’re not alone. One of the girls, a long time resident of our little village, told me an old house had stood where mine stood now and it had been taken by fire. Another teammate suggested an exorcism was in order. After months of broken sleep, I was game for anything. So I rifled through my kitchen cupboards and found my salt shaker. Debbie, Jen and I poured a trail of salt around the perimeter of the house as Deb firmly ordered my ghost to leave, to quit haunting me.
Well, many would think I am a lunatic. Many would think it was just the power of suggestion and I’m okay with that because, after that night, my ghost never came back. But he made an impression on me I will never forget. One of my sons told me recently that when he was about ten years old, he sat on the swing, facing our backyard when a girl ran past him. She ran straight through the wire fence and disappeared into the field behind our house. My son is twenty-two now and I believe. I believe we were haunted. I believe we lived amongst unsettled spirits. We no longer live there and at the risk of jinxing myself - the Scottish are notoriously superstitious - I no longer have a ghost standing over my bed.
I still love ghost stories and I infuse the supernatural into my own writing. But my ghosts are not the menacing kind. Yet.