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Childhood Ghost Story: 4 Rules for Living with a Ghost

July 26, 2020

(image via wikimedia)

Looking back, I probably should have told my parents about the old man ghost in our house.  They might have believed me.  My family went to church every Sunday, so we believed in certain aspects of an afterlife.  Having a ghost, especially if you could show proof, could be seen as a sign that that there’s more to our lives than what we see.  An atheist family might tell a kid to shut up about ghosts, but a religious family shouldn’t.

I didn’t connect my ghost sighting with spirituality back then.  I had other things to think about.  My dad had quit drinking but was still going through some really bad mood swings, and I didn’t want to piss him off by whining about a ghost and risk him thinking I was a sissy.  My mom had to deal with my dad’s temper and bad moods, so I didn’t want to put that ghost stuff on her either.

Maybe I could have told my older brother and sister, but they had their own issues.  If I were going to bring up the ghost, I wanted proof.  But first, I had to convince myself.

Anyway, back to the story.  The old man ghost had disappeared from my bedroom door at around 5:00 in the morning.  Maybe he’d had sympathy for me because, I swear, I was about to pee in my bed, I’d been holding it so long.  I had only an hour before I had to get up, so I went to the bathroom, came back, and saw that the hound dog had returned to her normal spot on my bed.

“Where did you go?” I whispered while I pet her.  I really did ask her that question.  She didn’t answer back.  No dog has ever answered back, but I still talk to them.

“You could have helped me, you know,” I said, but I don’t know how she could have helped, besides barking or howling.  That would have woken the entire family and ticked off my dad.  And she couldn’t really bite a ghost.  I wouldn’t want her to.

If not for my hound dog, I would have believed that the ghost had been my imagination.  But my dog disappearing the same time as the ghost showing up?  No way.  That was too much of a coincidence.

That morning I kept my mouth shut.  My mom yelled at me for getting up late.   I kept dropping stuff and running into other family members in our small crowded house (with one bathroom).  When I turned around sharply in the kitchen and plowed into my dad (he was a big guy with a belly), he yelled at me to get out of his way.  And then he yelled at my older sister for something, and he forgot about me.  I don’t think my older brother got yelled at.  He was good as I normally was of staying out of the way.

School was fine.  In fifth grade, I could be tired and still do okay at school.  I’d think about the ghost a little bit and then get back to work, or think about the ghost a little bit and talk to my friends.  But I didn’t mention the ghost to anybody.

The short version (since this is a blog serial) is that life with a ghost almost became a routine. The ghost would show up maybe once every few weeks, sometime between 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and then he’d hang until about 5:00.  At some point (this was more than 40 years ago, so I don’t know how long it took), I came up with a few rules that made it easier to coexist (before I knew what the word coexist meant) with the ghost.

1.  Don’t tell anybody about the ghost.

Talking about the ghost wasn’t going to help me.  All my friends and family would think I was crazy or a sissy if I said there was a ghost.  If I said there was a ghost, I would have to offer proof, and all I had was my hound dog who was never around when the ghost showed up.  And I was pretty sure that the ghost wasn’t my hound dog playing a trick on me.

2. Don’t walk through the ghost.

I wasn’t scared of the ghost, but I was afraid to walk through the ghost.  I didn’t know how the ghost would react, if the ghost would retaliate or possess me.  I didn’t want to get possessed by an old man ghost.  Besides, the ghost seemed content to stare at me, and he never left his spot by the door.  And if I had to go to the bathroom really bad, I’d wait it out until 5:00.

3. Don’t talk to the ghost.

I had no interest in trying to communicate with the ghost.  I didn’t care why he was there.  I figured if he had something to say, he’d find a way to tell me.  Maybe he was just there to tell me that ghosts were real, and that would be enough for me to figure the rest out.

I would talk to myself.  I’d talk to my dog.  But I wouldn’t talk to my ghost.

4. Don’t stare at the ghost.

Obsessing over the ghost wasn’t going to help.  If I noticed him there, I’d close my eyes and at least try to rest.  Facing him down didn’t do me any good.  I didn’t think he could leave his spot.  He could have approached me or attacked me at any time, and he hadn’t, so either he wasn’t interested or he couldn’t.  As long as I didn’t violate his space, he wouldn’t violate mine.

Whatever it was, a ghost or a trick of the light, I figured out a way to live without going insane.  I knew, however, that there was more to life than just coexisting with the ghost by myself.  There was at least one more crucial step:

Could I prove that the ghost was real?

To be continued!

In the meantime, you can start at the beginning at Childhood Ghost Story- The Prologue .

From → Dysfunctileaks

3 Comments
  1. You have further captured my imagination and I love your description of the very personalised rule following strategies children develop. This resonated strongly with me.

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