Do you believe in ghosts? The tales of otherworldly events that I am about to relate are not for the faint of heart. If you read any further, it may take you at least five extra minutes to get to sleep tonight. You have been warned.
I was on my first summer home from college. My sister Karen, five years younger, and I were bored, so we took a drive. We headed out into the nearby countryside with no particular destination in mind. After awhile we neared the top of a hill where a small cemetery stood.
“Let’s stop!” Karen said, so we did. It was about 8:30, just starting to hint at getting dark. We started walking around, reading headstones, when Karen spit on a grave.
“Karen, don’t spit on graves, that’s disrespectful!” I said in my best big-sister tone of voice.
After walking around some more, we went back to the car. It wouldn’t start. So, we walked down the road about half a mile to where our dad’s friend Mr. Willander lived. He came back with us, and we were all standing outside of the car with the hood up, when suddenly the car started on its own. Then it died again (pardon the expression, ghosts).
Needless to say, we were more than a little spooked. Finally we got it running again, and Mr. Willander followed us home for safety’s sake.
Back at home, Karen confessed, “All the kids at school say that cemetery is haunted.”
“Well, why did you spit on a grave in a haunted cemetery?” I asked incredulously. We said our prayers with extra sincerity that night.
The kids at school also used to tell stories about hauntings in the school building itself. In the hallways of my small, rural high school were pictures of all the graduating classes dating back to when the school was first built, around 1916. Rumor had it that a kid was helping clean up after school one time, and when he sprayed window cleaner on the picture of the Class of 1918, one of the pictures spit back at him.
Clearly, ghosts don’t like you spitting at them, but they feel that they can do it to you. Perhaps ethereal beings feel they have the lock on that particular form of rudeness.
Another time, only a mile or so from the haunted cemetery, I was baby-sitting when the power went out. This was long before all the parents had cell phones, so I walked down the dark hallway to check on the kids, then dozed on the couch until the power came back on. When it did, I looked at my watch: 11:37. Then I walked into the kitchen and looked at the electric clock: Also 11:37. My wrist watch had stopped at exactly the same time as the power went off!
My sister Ann, two years younger, baby-sat there, too, and had always said that house gave her the creeps. Nice family – not so sure about the house.
Speaking of houses, when I go on a tour of a historic home, I like to ask if there are any ghost stories associated with it. Usually there are. For instance, in one former Army officer’s home, one of the staff told me that when they come to open up in the morning they sometimes smell coffee and cigars for no earthly reason.
Could teenagers be sneaking in to party during the night – with coffee and cigars? Not likely. Plus, ghosts seem to have it in for teenagers, as we’ve established earlier. Perhaps ghosts have teens profiled as likely spitters.
It has been years now since I’ve had an encounter with a ghost, real or imagined. But as the days grow shorter and Halloween approaches, let’s none of us go around spitting on graves. Or if the power goes out when you’re in a “creepy” house, just take off your watch and don’t look at it until morning.
And that coffee you smell? It’s not for you. Not quite yet.Catherine Forte is one of six reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. She is a 14-year resident of Lakewood and sometimes hears things that go bump in the night, but it’s usually the automatic ice maker on her refrigerator. Email her at email@example.com