Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ghost Stories, Part 3: Kids and Ghosts

My mom just told about another of her experiences in Grandma's house here and I want to tell you about my Abraham Lincoln story. First off, I should explain, my ghost isn't really Abe. For one thing, he's younger than any picture of the Linc-man I have ever seen. He looks softer, too, less serious. But, he wears a black suit, with a jacket that is longer in the back than in the front, but which I wouldn't quite call tails. He has a white shirt and a black, skinny tie and a hat. A tall, round hat.

I saw him for the first time when I was fairly little. He was standing in the doorway to my bedroom. I looked up, feeling someone watching me and thought mom must be home early. I looked up and it wasn't her watching me play. I knew who should be in the house: Grandmommy, Grandddaddy and possibly my mom. Meaning that no one else should be. Certainly not a creepy man dressed like he was reenacting something from one of Grandmommy's movies. But, he seemed to belong. He also seemed unwilling to move or talk. So, I went back to playing. Later, when I looked up again, he was gone.

I was probably 6 or 7. I knew he was dressed historically, although I didn't associate him with Lincoln until later. But I was in the pink room (the one that didn't talk), so I was older than 5.

Since then, I have seen him only a handful more times. Most memorably, when I was twelve or thirteen, I woke up, and saw him watching me sleep. I talked to him, but he said nothing back. This was the first time I called him Abraham Lincoln. Later, when I woke up, I was sure that it was a dream, but I also very clearly remembered waking up, sitting up even, never taking my eyes off of him. At this point in my life, I usually slept with the TV on. I would set the sleep function to turn off not long after Letterman, and fall asleep sometime during the monologue. The TV was on and there was singing, so it must have been at the end of the show.

I will tell you my lady in the mirror story another time, because there is so much to get into, but I stopped "seeing" her when I was about 15. I haven't seen Abe since about a year after that late night TV encounter.

I believe that children are more susceptible to sitings than adults. I'm not sure why. I think it most makes sense that as adults, we have developed the ability to reason away what we have seen. I saw a woman reflected in my dining room window not long after moving in and spent probably two months trying to catch my reflection in the window the same way. Nevermind the woman was wearing jeans and a light blue calico shirt and I was wearing black dress pants and a pink sweater. Oh yeah, she was blond. But, whatever, I am 90% sure it was me in that window.

I think that there is a critical age for everyone where believing in ghosts becomes harder than believing (against all reason) that multiple small factors lined up perfectly to make you see/hear/feel something that wasn't there. I know plenty of adults who believe in things that go bump in the night, but even we, the believers tend to try to disprove ourselves the way a child wouldn't.

My favorite ghost story ever happened to the sister of one of my best friends and her son. We'll give them fake names: Annie and Taylor. (As you may have noticed I have little interest in trying to protect the innocent and often use people's real first names. The main reason for this change is that I can't quite remember the child's name. Also, I feel like it really isn't my story to tell.)

Annie and her husband lived across the road from a family cemetery. In my neck of the woods, these small cemeteries are fairly common on the back roads. They mostly used to be on people's farms and as their farms were divided remained as a piece of one part of the property or were never sold off and are now all that is left. This one was surrounded by a chain link garden fence and opened up onto the road.

The family paid Annie and her husband a small amount of money to keep the cemetery up. The husband went over and mowed after finishing his own yard. Later that day or sometime the next Annie would take Taylor over and she would do the cleanup work. Tend to the flowers, weed around the stones, make sure they weren't covered with grass clippings, etc.

Taylor had a favorite stone in a back corner and he often took a few small toys and played around in that area while his mom worked. One day, instead of his usual quiet playing, Taylor was bugging Annie to death. Finally, exhausted, she said, "Why aren't you playing over there like you normally do."

"Because he's not here today." was Taylor's reply.

"Who's not here?"

"The little boy I usually play with." Taylor went on to describe how a little boy sat on the top of that "rock" and waited for him and when he came over they would play in the grass, making up games. Annie tried to convince him that no one else had ever been there, but Taylor was insistent. Finally, she walked over to the headstone in question and read that it marked the grave of a small child.

What followed was a list of what she did (took the kid away, didn't let him play there while she was working again) that is unimportant. The point of this story isn't what happened after, but that she worked there for years, tending to the stones, taking care of the lost ones there whose loved ones were mostly lost now too. She spent hours there and never saw a thing. Not a single thing. But her son, by all accounts, did. He was four, not reading. He could have made up a story and that stone could have been a coincidence. Or perhaps there was some carving there that led him to believe a child was buried there. Of course, if this was from the period that most of these family cemeteries were, then I doubt there was anything other than name and date carved there.

My daughter often points out things to me that simply are not there. The tractor in that field, the child playing over there, the dinosaurs in the house. Truthfully, I know that I can't believe all of her tall tales. Because she is a tale-teller. Some kids are. I want to foster that into a love of reading a writing that mimics that her parents share. And I know that at four the relationship between fantasy and reality is fuzzy. She knows that Scooby Doo isn't real and that I am but there are shades of gray that she hasn't been able to identify properly yet.

But sometimes I wonder. I wonder if maybe the dinosaur story is made up and the man and boy riding the tractor are not. I wonder if she just sees things that I cannot. I wonder when it will stop. I don't draw attention to it because children aren't scared of the things they see. Oh, sure, they are afraid of ghosts, because we teach them to be, but they aren't afraid of the things they see, the unusual kids they play with, the people watching them play from the hallway. And maybe that's another reason why kids see more than we do. Because they aren't scared to process what their eyes tell them is there. They haven't learned to be yet.

Coming soon - Ghost Stories, the Conclusion: The Woman in the Mirror


Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Oh, please don't let the next ghost story be your last! I've been enjoying realizing that either I'm not insane, or at least I'm not the only one out there who is insane! LOL

Suze said...

I am LOVING all these posts, from you and Jenn and Steph...I don't have a story of my own to tell, but never mind. i wouldn't tell it as well anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it drives me nuts to here stories about G town people and not know who they are.

Fun story, by the way. I saw a similar one on an angel show on TBN once. I'm not much into angel sitings (or TBN) but that one was cool.

The man in the coat sounds like Roy.


Mom said...

Your daughter was staying all night at (your) Grandma's house and we started to go upstairs to bed. She started walking through the dining room toward the steps. She got about half-way through the dining room, screamed at the top of her little lungs, and ran back to me. She wouldn't walk through there again that night. But the next time she did without any problems. She was small and had a very limited vocabulary, so I never knew why she screamed, but she was one very scared little girl.