Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not now nor have I ever been or will I ever be involved with the occult. I firmly believe it's just not a wise move, so I'll leave that to others if they're so inclined. BUT--do I ever love a good ghost story!
My first introduction to ghosts was Washington Irving's classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Who couldn't be sucked into the story of poor Ichabod Crane and his wild ride to nowhere? My next favorite memory is Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. I could well imagine mysterious doings behind that creaking door! So is it any wonder that I like to inject a ghost into many of my stories?
Book Two of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit has a whole raft of them! And, of course, all three books of The Dreamland Series weave the spooky tunnels beneath the town of Dreamland into their plots.
However, I think it's my fascination with history more than ghosts which leads me to seek out ghost tours when I travel. I've enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, AR, reputed to be America's most haunted hotel". At Thanksgiving, on a cold, rainy night, I was treated to a tour of haunted Vicksburg MS. In February, while visiting Charleston SC, I plodded over uneven ground and through old cemeteries in the dead of night. No, I never saw a ghost, but I loved the historical tidbits picked up from the guide. Last March, I signed up for Shelley Tucker's "Ghosts of Denton" tour, Denton being the north Texas town where I spent four years attending college. She's a master storyteller and a fount of the area's history. Next month I'll be spending two nights in Branson MO and am already booked for a ghost tour there. It doesn't begin until 10 PM, so I'm thankful it forms just a hop, skip, and a jump from my hotel!
Have I ever experienced anything ghostly? If I have, it hasn't been of the scary variety. In 2003, my parents died within 9 weeks of each other. In June, a few nights after graveside services for my father, I found myself blessedly alone at last in a quiet house, so I fired up the laptop and browsed around. As I sat at the breakfast bar, my back to the "open arrangement" of the rest of the house, I had a sudden feeling I wasn't alone. Now, I knew the house was empty and locked up. I didn't feel afraid, but whenever I turned around, I sensed "movement" in the tiny hall between the bedrooms. Finally I decided on a simple explanation: my parents, too well aware of my stress over the past year, were just checking to see if I was all right.
The next summer, after arriving home from working in Fort Worth, I was sitting in the recliner one morning when I became acutely aware of a "presence" beside me. Without even thinking, I looked up and said, "Yes, Mother, I'm taking fresh flowers to the cemetery tomorrow." And she was gone, just like that--and never came back. I think she just wanted to remind me my responsibilities hadn't ended with her death.
I've had one more experience which I've never shared. Several years ago, when leaving the pew to receive communion at the front of the church, I was overwhelmed with an awareness of how alone I was in comparison to other women going ahead of me with their husbands. Unexpectedly, the sensation of warm fingers gripping my own put an end to the momentary pity-party. I like to think my husband walked down the aisle with me that Sunday.
So do I believe in ghosts? I do believe those we have loved and lost are never truly gone. Are they ghosts? Spirits? Specters? I don't know. It doesn't really matter. The feelings engendered by my own personal experiences remain as warmly real today as when they happened. And that's enough.
But... I DO love a good ghost story!