The dead man, the minister and the comfy couch.

A dead man and a minister walk into a bar…

Actually it was a living room and they sat on a couch.

yellow sofaI received a telephone call from an hysterical wife. Her husband was nearing the end of his life and she needed my help. Of course I helped her, that’s what I do. It was a difficult situation because her husband was actively dying and she was not coping well. She refused to enter the bedroom.

I took care of him. He was fine. Nothing dramatic happened. He died peacefully shortly after I arrived. I made him presentable and left the bedroom to fetch his wife. At first she was willing to peek through the door, look over my shoulder, but even that quickly became too much for her. I asked if I could call someone for her, a child or a neighbor. I was reluctant to call the mortuary when she was in such a state.

At last she agreed to let me call her minister and of course I offered to stay as long as she needed me. She asked me to sit with her husband until the minister arrived. Not a problem.

The funny thing was, when I entered the bedroom a second time, her husband was sitting at the bedside. Yup. Right next to his own body. Gave me a bit of a start to say the least.

Oh, sometimes ghosts are nothing more than sparkles, maybe a ball of energy, and sometimes they look just like themselves but not quite in the altogether. He looked just like himself, just not quite in the altogether. So, now I had to decide what to do. Did I sit there and chat him up, you know– explain to him what had happened? Did I ignore him, pretend I didn’t see him and finish my charting?

To be honest, I’m not all that fond of ghosts. And it felt especially weird to be in a room with a ghost who was sitting next to his body. But I didn’t want to be rude. Still, I looked back at the closed door and I considered leaving.

However the truth is, he seemed like a pretty nice guy, not scary at all. Not even Ghostbusters cartoonish-type scary. So I sat myself down in the rocking chair and proceeded to chart his death.

All I can say is thank god the minister finally arrived, except the dead man didn’t want a thing to do with him. The minister and the wife entered the bedroom and the dead man followed me out to the living room. He walked right through the minister.

By this time I really wanted to go home, but of  course I had to wait. Couldn’t call the mortuary until the wife gave me permission so I kept my eye on the ghost. He plopped himself down on a yellow sofa, spread his arms along the back and crossed his legs. Made himself just as comfy as he could be. He had this big grin on his face, and he winked, you know, like the joke was on me.

I took the arm chair near the open entryway door. Always plan your escape routes, that’s my motto. But actually the ghost did seem like a nice person.

At last the minister came out of the bedroom, walked down the hallway, entered the living room and sat down on the couch, right on top of the ghost. And I’m like waving my arms around and stuttering– “Hey. No. Wait. Uh, don’t uh, sit, uh, um, uh… Don’t sit there.”

And he, the minister, shot me a look like– What is your problem?

The ghost was cracking up. I’m looking at the ghost and he’s doubled over with laughter, and he’s got this minister superimposed over him. And it was so totally freaky.

And then the minister asked me to close the front door because he felt a cold draft. Yeah, ya think? You’re sitting on a dead man, dummy.

And now, Winston Saves the Day!

My hero.

My hero.

Winston is a huge green parrot. He’s 35 years old and we’ve been his foster family for over 20 years. His owner is now in her eighties and I consulted with her two years ago when her husband had a stroke. It ended up being a hospice situation.

In any case, Winston has spent a lot of time with us over the years because his family has traveled to places like Mongolia and Siberia and Japan and Antarctica and they’ve left for months and months.

Winston speaks. Not only does he speak, he says what he means and he means what he says. He knows our names. He knows our pets’ names– and he never gets confused. As I said, he says what he means and he means what he says. And his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner is beautiful. He could sing it at a baseball game. Hits all the high notes.

Normally Winston carries on conversations with whomever happens to be near his cage. The dog, my kids, me, the cat. He’ll even talk to our birds although he’s kind of a snob when it comes to birds. He doesn’t know he’s a bird. Winston thinks he’s a person in feathers. He turns his beak up at bird food. He prefers croissants. And omelets.

When he visits us his cage stays downstairs next to the big picture window overlooking the basketball court so he can watch all the activity both inside and outdoors. He’s not far from the laundry room. Maybe 10-12 feet from the laundry room door.

One day when he was here I was busy with chores. I had several loads of laundry to do, dishes to wash, sheets to change and loads of ironing. I spent a lot of time running up and down the stairs, the dog running with me, while Winston chatted us up every chance he got.

I was upstairs, ironing, when I heard bloodcurdling screams coming from Winston. Seriously– my blood ran cold. Then I heard Winston yell — “Help! Fire! Help! Fire!”

I flew down the stairs and, hell yeah, there were flames shooting out of my laundry room. The dryer had caught fire and my sheets were burning. I slammed the laundry room door shut, dialed 9-1-1, and got all the pets outside. I wheeled Winston’s entire cage out the back door.

The firemen managed to contain the fire. Fortunately it didn’t spread beyond the laundry room. We lost the washer, dryer and the floor beneath and had smoke damage on the walls and ceiling.

Winston saved our lives and our home. The firemen were so impressed they all wanted to meet him. Winston, of course, tried to bite them.

He’s one cool parrot dude.

 

Final Thoughts.

(So now you know I cuss like a truck driver.  It’s not genetic.  My children don’t cuss at all.)

I’ve always been weird. I was a weird kid– ask my mom.

She called me after she saw the movie, The Sixth Sense. Here’s what she said:

“I realized as I was watching the movie I recognized that child, he was you. I felt like I was watching my own child and I finally understood what you tried to tell me all those years, why you did the things you did. I’m sorry I was so mean. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

It was a breakthrough in our relationship.

The Sixth Sense got a lot of stuff right. It was pretty hard for me to watch the movie because I lived it. The writer got a few things wrong though. But I guess I’ll leave that for another post.

I’ll say this, if anyone thinks it’s fun or cool to interact with ghosts, it ain’t.  It’s not something I recommend as a lifestyle.

Thus ends one true ghost story. I’d tell you another one but it’s even scarier. Thanks for reading.  Julia

Because you’re asking– Why on earth did you stay?

Here’s a post script:  My husband, who’s been home sick for three days, has been reading the serial. Last night he and I discussed our reasons for staying in the house because in hindsight it seems like such a dumb thing to do.

At the time, while we weren’t poor by any means, we were a young family with limited savings. His job in Utah didn’t begin until mid-October, but he wanted to get us settled in before school started. Although we had a couple offers on the table, we hadn’t yet sold our house in Phoenix. We didn’t have the kind of money that would allow him to be without work for three months, so he stayed with his employer in Phoenix and maintained the house — sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag.

We had borrowed $5000 from his parents to move from Arizona to Utah and we were paying both the rent in Utah and the mortgage on the house in Phoenix. We couldn’t afford to lose our deposit on the rental and be on the hook for six months’ rent – our lease was a one year lease but after six months it became month to month. And we couldn’t afford to move back to Phoenix.

So we stayed. I know, seems crazy, but we stayed. Or I stayed. Things had calmed down by the time he joined us.

Guess there was a method to our madness.

Winning the War.

When my husband and I were first married, and frankly I don’t even remember how it happened, we became friends with a Kiowa Medicine Man. His Kiowa name was Little Hawk.

Little Hawk and his wife invited us to a traditional healing ceremony and sweat lodge. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think most Native American healing ceremonies incorporate a sweat lodge.

This experience was intense, unlike anything I’d done before. It involved inducing a trance-like state, chanting, special mixtures of wet earth and clay painted on our bodies and finally the sweat lodge.

Don’t envision a sweat lodge as a steam room or a sauna. We’re talking a real life sweat lodge – like a beaver lodge, buried in dirt, covered in plastic and buffalo hides.

You have to crawl in through the small entrance. It’s totally dark inside except for the light cast by the red-hot stones. You sit around the super heated stones, very close to the super heated stones, while the Medicine Man chants and I believe it was his wife who poured water from a gourd onto the super heated stones causing super heated steam.

To be honest, I can’t remember everything about the experience. I guess I was in kind of a dream state.

When it was done we felt reborn, which I believe is the point– cleansed, totally cleansed of all negative energy and thoughts. We felt whole and healthy and that’s about as much as I can put into words.

Anyway, when the ceremony was finished and we’d given thanks to the Great Father and scattered cornmeal to the Four Sacred Directions, Little Hawk told us our spirits – those of us who had participated in the ceremony and sweat lodge – would always be connected.

******

Our family had already moved several times before we moved to Utah. I remember before our move to Arizona, which came before the move to Utah, I was carrying a box of glassware up from the basement when the bottom of the box tore. All the glassware spilled down the stairs and shattered.

As I stood there staring at a million pieces of glass, my phone rang. It was Little Hawk. He asked, “What just happened? I heard a crash.”

Here we go.

So there I stood in the hallway of this horrible haunted house in Utah, having just chased an evil ghost, who wanted me to kill myself, from my bedroom. I hadn’t spoken with Little Hawk in three years but I knew he was the man for the job. If anyone could take on this spirit and beat his ass, it was Little Hawk.

I called him. I swear I barely had to say two words. He understood immediately.

Here’s what he said – “Pack up your children and your dog and leave the house tonight. Stay away for two days. Return on the morning of the third day. I will take care of this.”

I said, “Thank you.”

Little Hawk lived 800 miles away but I had total faith in him. I knew he would help us. I found a motel with a kitchenette. They didn’t allow dogs but I sneaked the dog in anyway. I called my husband to let him know where I would be, packed a couple bags and took off.

We spent three nights in the motel and for the first time in nearly three months we all slept soundly. It was just a cheap motel but to me it was heaven.

On the morning of the third day I dropped my son off at school, took my 3 year old to her preschool and headed back to the house. I asked my neighbor, Pat, to watch the baby, and I left the dog in the car.

I entered the house– no idea what I would find. Everything had changed. The very air had been altered. The house was filled with light and positive energy.

Little Hawk had done it. He’d done it, by god.

The ghost was still there but he’d been humbled, cowed.

From that day on he no longer troubled us. He kept to two rooms, his weird storage room and the cavernous workshop. He never again bothered anyone, not the dog, not the kids, not me. The ghost gave us a wide berth.

While it’s true Little Hawk couldn’t remake a poorly designed house, now we pretty much had the run of it. My kids went back to their bedrooms, my baby went back to her crib. The dog went wherever she pleased– except she stayed away from the workshop. There was the occasional raising and lowering of the garage door and the odd toilet flushing– both of which diminished over time and eventually stopped altogether, but there were no more freaking appearances, moving furniture, ghostly tantrums, flipping light switches, no more running up and down the stairs dragging chains…

It was beautiful, just beautiful.

I called Little Hawk and thanked him. I didn’t ask how he’d done it because I knew whatever he’d done was beyond my ken.

He said, “He’s a very bad man but you don’t have to be afraid. He won’t bother you again.”

He never did.

I tossed cornmeal to the Four Sacred Directions and thanked the Great Father.

When we finally bought a home and moved away, the ghost stood in one of those front windows and watched us load the car. He seemed sad. I was worried he’d become attached and try to hitch a ride with us, but he didn’t.

So, that’s my story.

The End.

R.I.P. Little Hawk.

Tomorrow – Final Thoughts

 

 

 

How I Lost the Battle (But Won the War).

After that night the ghost seemed to be emboldened. As far as he was concerned no room was off limits. Mi casa was his casa.

He really pushed it. I couldn’t go anywhere in the house without his eyes drilling into the back of my head. The dog went nuts, she could not get away from him. The kids couldn’t sleep with all the noise. He went crazy with the garage door. He threw the kids’ toys across the room every chance he got.

Taking a shower totally creeped me out.

One afternoon it came to a head. My son was in school, my 3 year old in preschool, and I’d just put the baby down for a nap – on my bed, of course. The dog lay next to her.

I propped some pillows on her other side so she couldn’t roll off and I sat on the edge of the bed, my feet in the bathroom – because that’s how damn small the room was – wondering what in the hell I was going to do.

Suddenly I heard this whisper. A man’s voice said, “Nobody wants you around. Nobody wants you here. Why don’t you just end it all? Go on, you should end it all.”

The dog jumped to her feet. She stood over the baby and began howling like a banshee.

My head flew up and when my head flew up I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Over my left shoulder I saw him. Tall man, white man, dark mustache, brown hat, evil expression… sitting right next to me, whispering in my ear.

Oh, the horror!

I flipped around and swung my fist at him with all my might. He might have been a ghost but he ducked reflexively.

“Get out of my room,” I yelled. “Get the hell out of my room.”

This time the dog snarled and she threw herself at him. I think Rosie had simply had it. She was finally fighting back.

I screamed – “Don’t you ever, ever touch me again. Don’t talk to me. Stay away from me.”

The dog and I chased him down the hall and he vanished.

Suddenly I knew what to do. I’d known the answer all along, I just hadn’t realized it.

Tomorrow:  Winning the War.

 

The Ghost Throws A Tantrum.

So now I knew what he was and where he was.

What was some sort of trader or trapper or murderer or rapist or all around bad man.  He wasn’t a Native because the Shoshone didn’t grow mustaches, weren’t tall (as my son described him) and probably didn’t wear big brown hats. Besides, my son told me he was a white man.

If a 6 year old says the ghost is a white man then the ghost is a white man. 

Where was buried behind or beneath that nasty storage room.

The question was, what in the hell was I supposed to do? I called the rental agency. The agent in charge denied knowing anything about it. Besides, she said disclosure of a haunted dwelling is only required when one is buying a house. Stupid fine print.

I still had a good six weeks to go before hubby could join us. I was at my wit’s end.

My husband suggested I call a priest. But I’m Jewish. There were no orthodox Jews around to perform a Jewish exorcism, and I was worried a Catholic exorcism might make things worse.

Hey, I watch movies. I know how bad it can get when you call a priest.

Besides, do you really think a priest would have believed me? C’mon. Any priest I talked to was likely to think I was nuttier than a fruitcake.

So, one evening at supper – my two kids sitting in their chairs, the baby in her high chair, the dog beneath the table, me serving spaghetti, we heard noises coming from the tiny bedroom next to the master bedroom. Remember it was too small for a bed. I’d stacked a few unpacked boxes in there along with one book shelf filled with books.

We all looked at each other. So being mom, I gave a big sigh and went to investigate.

I stood in the open doorway. Dusk had fallen and the room was dark. It sounded as if something was being scraped along the walls.

I said, “Look, can’t we just co-exist? Does it really have to be this way? I’m sorry for whatever happened to you but I didn’t do it and I don’t really want to put up with your crap.”

I probably should have left out that last part.

Suddenly books flew off the shelves, slammed into the wall across the room. One of the cardboard boxes opened and the toys inside were tossed up in the air. I reached to turn on the light, but before I could touch it, he flipped up the switch.

I said, “That’s it. That’s it. You are dead. You are so dead. I’m going next door and I’m gonna get me a gun and I’m gonna blow you away. Do you hear me, ghost? I’m gonna blow you back into the ground. I’m gonna blow you back to hell. Do you hear me, mother fucker? Do you hear me? I’m gonna get me a gun.”

I stomped down the hall, seriously planning to go borrow a shotgun from my neighbor and shoot the hell out of that ghost when I heard him laugh. He laughed.

That son of a bitch laughed.

My son and the dog hightailed it out to the garage, leaving the two little girls in the kitchen. And I came to my senses.

Goddamn him. He’s already dead. I can’t kill him.

Tomorrow:  How I Lost the Battle (But Won the War).