The young one, Caley Eleana, being but eighteen years old, has gotten into a dour fascination with death. While working away alongside the elders, she’ll pause in the midst of a stale sea of jargon – waive, portal – and ask, point blank, “Do you believe in ghosts?” “What happens when you die?” The poor girl has been visiting graveyards, haunted houses, inextricably drawn to and repelled by the topic.
It was in this vein that she politely asked to have a séance at my house, and appeared on my doorstep Saturday night, not long after Halloween, with a Ouija board, a crystal, holy water at $8 a bottle, frankincense, myrrh, and dove’s blood. What to do with these objects, no one knew.
Some of the most distinguished members of the Donnybrook secret society gathered around the outside fire pit, cynically smoking cigarettes and downing vodka, making plans to scare the poor girl out of her wits.
Okay, that was me.
My disbelief in ghosts might seem contrary to the several sightings I’ve had:
1.) After the death of my grandfather, I went home to my apartment, alone. He was very special to me – a writer, beautiful and tortured and happy all at the same time; he had pulled me aside once and said, “You and me – we have something special.” I was in my room, thinking of him, and I found the only tattered photo I had of him and scanned it into my computer, in case the photo ever crumbled. Through my tears and the obvious, but great-for-death song “Porceline” by Moby, which repeats, “This is goodbye” – I saw the old, black-and-white photo on my computer turn to a vibrant technicolor masterpiece, with flourishes of the rainbow radiating out from his smile not unlike the photos of auras crazy ladies try to push at metaphysical fairs. The CD got stuck on the song, and my computer crashed while paused on his photo, repeating “Goodbye-” “Goodbye-”, forcing me to stare at this moment in time. A well-timed coincidence?
2.) I had a dream I was in an attic with large dusty windows, sleeping on a dingy mattress on the floor, giant slates of clean moonlight so bright it ruined the night; my mother walked in, sat on my mattress like she did when I was sick, when she was concerned. She asked in an accusatory tone: “Tell me now: Who is LaTaine?”
My mind immediately flashed to who I knew he was, a ghost, his giant face overtaking the whole reality of the dream but inches from my eyes: a pale, freckled Irish man with a wrinkling forehead and a toothy grin.
I flung myself from the dream, where to my horror, the background had changed to my real bedroom, but his face remained, two inches from my face. And that floating face indulged in a slow, wicked smile as my eyes blinked furiously, for what seemed like ten seconds.
I just hadn’t fully woken up.
3.) A proponent of the sleeping aids, my mother had given me a full dose of prescription sleeping pills the night before the first day of school. In the middle of the night, I awoke to a benevolent old man hovering directly above me, parrallel to me, with his white robes and intertwining hair and beard swirling as if he were swimming in ghostly water. My bed moved in gentle waves with him, giving me a sensation that made me giggle. Three dark figures hunched clinging to the walls. I smiled and knocked over the lamp across the table, as a sort of proof of the happening, and went back to sleep.
I woke up the next morning with a headache, next to a broken lamp on the floor, and a vow to try these prescription sleeping pills more often. What great hallucinations!
4.) Here is the only “ghost sighting” that had me wondering. Years ago my sister and I signed a lease on a gorgeous apartment that fell through, so we got stuck with a smaller, cheaper apartment in a halfway house for the mentally ill. The property management company failed to tell us our rent was high because our neighbors were living there at a discounted rate, fresh from straightjackets and hopefully on their meds. We just started to notice all of our neighbors were wanted by the FBI, or channeling god through their television sets.
One man, either a resident or homeless man, made it a ritual of pounding outside my bedroom window at 2 a.m. with both fists, rhythmically interspersing this dialog: “Nobody likes me, Fuck!”
First it would start in whispers and gentle knocking, “nobody likes me fuck.” And he would progressively become louder and louder until he was pounding his flesh and screaming, “NOBODY LIKES ME! FUUUUCK!” I was about eighteen.
I began to have nightmares about him, possibly kick-started by his real life screams, ones that would jostle me from my sleep. One night I woke up suddenly, chased by a dream, to see a young man in jeans, a white t-shirt, and a purple bandanna tied around his head, lounging lazily in the corner of my room. I sat up and – oh- tried to scream for a good thirty seconds, blinking, and he still remained. Finally his image dissolved into the wall and where he had been sitting, there was no chair.
When we were moving out of that place it was overtaken by a foul smell. We were convinced it was some dead rat in the heater; but after we moved, we learned the tenant below us had drank himself to death and rotted, for god knows how long, until a friend broke his window and found him.
I’ve always been a fretful child with an amazing imagination, one hellbent on torturing me. I never truly believed all of these things to be anything besides my overactive mind.
But I told Caley that Saturday night, armed with her perfumed holy water, that ghosts were attracted to me; and as I jokingly made the sign of the cross with it, sneering, I left the bottle on the counter to see black residue on my hand where I had been holding it.
Sitting in a circle, surrounded by candles, we put the dog in the bedroom and turned off the music. Unsure of how to start one of these things, we of course consulted Google; which educated us not to try the Ouija board under the influence of alcohol (oops!) or drugs (double oops!). It warned us not to ask the said spirit to reveal itself or give us any signs. It told us the best results were achieved by designating one to be the medium, the one to ask the questions to the spirits. We designated the brave Nina Barry I to do the honors.
We struggled to come up with a first question for said spirits. Who are you? The best one we could come up with, under the influence of vodka and marijuana, was, “Are you here?”
“But that question is pointless,” said Professor Honeydew. “If they answer, they’re here.”
“Do you live here?”
“No, ask who they are!”
“But it needs to be yes or no! Stop moving the crystal!”
“The board needs to be warmed up, Google said so!”
“Should I close my eyes?”
“Yes, everyone close your eyes.”
“Then who will see what it says and write it down?”
After a few tries, it seemed the ghost was speaking in a different language – the only results we had gotten spelled MOTL, which I assured must be the language of Satan. Suddenly a text message beeped off and we screamed bloody murder just for the fun of it.
Nina Barry I became possessed, more with the drink than the spirit; as she slid the crystal planchette all over the board in hysterics, moaning and chanting and throwing one hand flailing into the air. And for a while we indulged in primal chanting and making ghost noises. And it was fun.
Finally, I decided to address the spirits with a direct inconvenience they had caused my sister in this house. For the other night she had locked the front door tightly, only to find it waving wide open in the morning.
Caley decided to cover the planchette with dove’s blood, to increase the odds of the spirits revealing themselves, and a split second later we heard a knock at the front door. Father Guido bellowed, “To the ghost that opened the door, REVEAL YOURSELF!”
There was a loud tapping on the front door, enough for much of the group, especially Caley, to fall into hysterics. She screamed and tumbled into Nina Barry’s lap, clutching her, only stopping for a great breath and then jumping back into banshee screams again. We threw holy water on the girl. She still did not cease. The dog barked incessantly from behind the bedroom door.
“Wait! Look! Look!” said Father Guido. “The closet door is open!”
The closet door. Right next to the tapping at the front door. The closet door with a latch that you have to pry open. The closet door that would never open itself.
I naturally floated up to my feet and walked over to the door, in some dazed state, attracted to something now nameless. Caley’s young man friend came behind me, and we approached it.
“It’s…it’s a DUDE!” he yelled.
My eyes struggled to scan the dark cove quicker than they could manage; I couldn’t see anything. A figure slowly rose and it was…it was……
Who had been crouched in the corner, laughing his ass off!
You go, Timmy T!