June 14, 2008

10 Ghosts

Ghost #1
The house, a solid four bedroom colonial on an acre of land in Buck’s Country, had been on the market for years, and each year the price had come down. The stain of death bothered Jenn’s parent’s but their immigrant’s love of the deal overcame any sense of trepidation. Each house they had owned since moving from Korea had been a little bigger than the last, but this one was two steps up the ladder.

Soon after moving in, Jenn, who was 8 at the time and who had heard nothing of the dark history of the place, would complain about a man whistling in the hallways. “Can you tell him to stop,” she would ask her mother. Her mother would shush her. Ghosts should be ignored. Later, through the network of 8-year-olds at school Jenn found out about the dad who had been murdered in the basement. Friends were scared to sleep over. She told the whistling man to go away and as suddenly as it started, it stopped. Four years later when her own father dropped dead of a heart attack in church, everyone blamed the ghost. To a certain extent, they still do.

Ghost #2
One of the previous owners of a house I lived in on Coronado Street in LA was a man named Fink. Fink had died in the tub and wasn’t found for several weeks. While I avoided tub baths in that house, I didn’t think much of the story until I found an old suitcase full of Fink family snapshots. Most were apparently taken by Mr. Fink himself. There was his shadow at the Rose Bowl, the shadow at the State Fair wearing a hat, the shadow wearing another hat at the Golden Gate Bridge. There was Fink's date at Chasens. Fink's cat. Another cat and another (Fink apparently had many cats). And at the bottom of the suitcase in an envelope, there was a single picture of Fink himself. A picture of Mr. Fink in a bubble bath wearing one of the saddest expressions I have ever seen.

Ghosts #3-#8
My grandmother was one of 11 children. Nine of her brothers and sisters died before her and she claimed to have had premonitions of each death. Her mother was also a frequent visitor in dreams.

Tio Gorgonio had come to her in a dream the night before he died. In the dream he was wearing his best suit, but without shoes. He did not speak when she called to him, but just waved and walked away.

At the very moment someone called to tell her of Tiberio's death, a wind blew up the curtains and slammed the doors of her house. It was a windless day.

With Tia Honda it was a nighttime vision of her sister alone on a bus carrying a live rooster. When my grandmother would call out her sister's name, Honda would turn towards her with a twinkle in her eyes, shush he,r and tell her to get off the bus.

When my grandmother would sleep in her blue rocker, she would dream it was Tio Nacho who was rocking her, and indeed even in the deepest sleep her rocking would never stop.

Her mother, Mama Juela, would show up in afternoon dreams as a 10 year old in a confirmation dress eating Polvorones.

More often than you might think, my grandmother woke up with tearstained pillows.

Ghost #9
Most of all I remember the silence. In the mid-90's I worked for for a movie producer for a few years and we had offices near the top of the old Gulf an Western building on Columbus Circle. The building was on its last legs (it was about to be gut-renovated, renamed, and clad it chintzy bronze by Donald Trump) and our offices were less than glamorous (and made less so by a boss who had a habit of punching holes in the walls), but we all had spectacular views.

One afternoon out of the corner of my eye I saw a man falling. He was out across Columbus Avenue. It was not a graceful fall. It happened in slow silence although the fall itself was incredibly fast. I was spared the impact by some intervening buildings but some officemates were not and I remember the startled yelps that echoed through the office. The man we later learned was a college professor. In the middle of a lecture, he had paused mid sentence, gone to the window, opened it, taken off his glasses and jumped.

A scrum of police cars and fire engines arrived quickly on scene. An ambulance showed up, and then men with power hoses. An hour later it was as if nothing had happened. When I walk that particular corner I always feel enveloped in the cold and helpless silence of that moment.

Ghost #10
My brother Christopher would probably enjoy being thought of as a ghost. He always had a thing for the supernatural although he was an intensely rational soul. In my dreams he is usually reading in the back of the room. I'll have been doing something else and will only notice him after a long time of being engrossed elsewhere. He is always 19 always with a fresh haircut. I try to ask him how he's been, but by the time I reach him, only the book remains, always with one of his elaborate homemade bookmarks. I collect the bookmark hoping that finding it missing he will have to pick up the book again, and I will have another chance at saying, 'Hey there little brother, I miss you'.

More Ghosts
I am in Maine for the week and ghosts are plentiful here. People talk of the ghost of a headless sea captain who roams Damariscove island, the ghost of a mother who lost her baby in the sea, and the ghost of a girl who walked into the woods one day and never returned. In thinking about ghosts I realized the ghosts that scare us are born of other people's tragedies, the things we can't understand, they are the mental form of our fears— a clumsy way of marking the unspeakable and warning us that danger is all around. But there are other types of ghosts, these are the ghosts conjured from our hardest memories, the ones that give shape to sadness. In their strange medicine of allowing us taste to loss anew, these ghosts provide deep comfort even if we must occasionally wake as my grandmother did with tearstained pillows.

posted at 01:48 AM by raul

Filed under: night musings

TAGS: christopher (2) ghosts (1) maine (1) mr. fink (1) whistling man (1)


06/14/08 03:39 AM

this reminds me of that octavio paz quote about Mexicans and death.

beautifully written.. like always

06/14/08 04:23 PM

i'm glad you documented these happenings...
my husband (a very logical and sensible man) used to live in a house in Altadena which was a former orphanage (in the early 1900's). he never believed in ghosts until he lived there. apparently the orphanage was shut down due to abuse and mysterious deaths.

many of the current inhabitants of the house have seen or heard ghosts there. a common occurance was all of the lights in the house flashing on and off several times in a row- this happened one time when my husband was alone in the house with no one else around. at that point he'd only heard about the occurances, not actually experienced them.

06/14/08 10:34 PM

I always get a slight happy tingle of excitement when I see one of your text posts. They are often highlights of my week. I like your take on ghosts. I think you are not saying they are real things just that they are made to seem real. Indelible haunted memories. I love the distinction you made between the ones that scare us and the ones that sustain us. In my dreams I often find myself holding a love I lost when I was 16. He was hit by a baseball in the right temple and died almost instantly. In my dreams he is sleeping and naked and I hold him and feel his weight and can even smell him. I can hear him breathing but I dare not wake him or kiss him although I want to. That was 14 years ago. I'm going to be married next May. I've never told my fiancee.

06/15/08 07:53 AM

love how you write. you made me remember a story about my mom & grandmom. my grandmom passed away when my mother was only 22.

a couple of years later my mom gets married and moves from monterrey to baton rouge. not so long after she becomes pregnant and she realizes how hard life is for her not speaking english and not having any family around. she weeps in her bed and suddenly hears her mothers voice telling her she would never be apart from her. upon hearing this she feels warmth embracing her and sees how the portion of the bed next to her is pushed down as i someone was sitting there...

maybe ghosts are also here to give us support and realize we are not alone...

06/16/08 10:48 AM

I've always sort of, kind of believed in spirits. Like to think of myself as clever enough to find an explanation for the unexplainable always. Still, your ghosts are mostly the kind I'd want to believe in. Though not number 9 (too sad) but the family ghosts sound so comforting that I can't figure anybody not wanting similar ghostly ties to their loving but gone relatives. Beautiful post. Like Jude says: Like always...

06/16/08 11:59 AM

Mr.Fink's story has got to be the creepiest ghost story. I just try to imagine the feeling one would get when stumbling upon an old suitcase, with their secrets, their shadow...and to top it off-the bathtub photo.
I wish it didn't scare me so much. The idea that we can communicate, that we can be close, that we feel something, a connection-is such a magical, and wonderful thing. Why do I fear the dark, cold shadows-when perhaps it's someone reaching out to me...

08/22/09 02:36 AM

I'm late in chiming in, but I know the house xie is referring to. I worked there and it is absolutely ... there are spirits there. Young and old. Footsteps, faucets on and off, lights on and off, very cold areas, bad vibes in certain areas, sounds of moving boxes, sounds of a heavy man sleeping, sounds of a child talking, slamming doors.

I really want to know what happened there and why these spirits are still there.

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