Friday, October 17, 2014

Freaky Friday: A Ghost of My Very Own...

Like anywhere in America that was settled hundreds of years ago, Cape Cod has its share of ghosts and ghost stories. From sailors who lost their lives on the shoals right off the coastline to the flapper who died in a mobster-owned speakeasy during the height of the Prohibition era, the Cape has a ghost story for every occasion.

If you do an online search about ghosts on the Cape, you have your pick. There are books compiling local ghost stories, a haunted ghost tour in Hyannis, and historic cemetery tours across Cape Cod.

When we first moved into our Cape home, we even had a ghost of our very own.

The woman who sold us the house had built it for she and her husband to retire, back in the 1960s. Her husband, a noted horticulturalist, spent his retirement years developing winter-hearty strains of Camelia bushes, an evergreen similar to a rhododendron usually found from Virginia on southward. Before retirement, however, his work included the creation of powerful defoliant chemicals, including one you may have heard about. Agent Orange.

When we purchased the home, no one lived here. The woman had a stroke that left her unable to care for herself, and her daughter moved her to assisted living. But several times a week, the daughter would drop her mother off here at the house for the day while it was still on the market. She'd drop her off after breakfast, and pick her up before dinner. The old woman wanted to spend some last days with her husband.

Her husband who died fifteen years earlier.

According to one neighbor, he died peacefully in his sleep. But according to another neighbor, his last years were troubled by protesters throwing orange flowers in his yard, picketing on the street and harassing him while he worked in his gardens. His own son succumbed to illness caused by exposure to the chemical, having been exposed while serving in Vietnam. He was a troubled soul, whose only legacy was a deadly defoliant that also was a debilitating and often fatal nerve agent for so many young soldiers.

The first time I felt a ghostly presence, I chalked it up to new mother nerves and lack of sleep. My daughter was less than a year old and teething that first summer in the house, not sleeping through the night. After calming her, I'd often grab a book to read in the living room. So often I felt like someone watched me. A few times I saw a shadow moving in the hallway, and jumped to flip on the hall lights, thinking it was one of the boys sneaking around out of bed. Nope.

No one was ever there.

Several times I'd be at the counter in our small kitchen, and see something moving in the den. From my stool, I could see the den's sliding glass doors out to the backyard, but the white form was reflected from inside the room, not outside.

And then there were the doors that would open and close.

My son came upstairs from the basement one day, white as a sheet. He said he was playing with Legos on the floor alone, and looked up when a door slowly swung open, stayed open for a minute, as if someone was peeking in at him, then slowly swung closed again. He wanted to know, was our new house haunted?

By the time the ghost "checked on" my son, I was pretty sure he meant us no harm. It felt like he was doing just that - checking on us, as if we were his family to watch over. The spirit definitely had a male presence, like a grandfather keeping an eye on his grandchildren.

It was the second or third summer when the old woman who sold us the house came back for a visit with her daughter. She wanted to get some cuttings from the prize camelias to plant at her daughter's new home. The daughter was a gruff, overweight, overbearing woman, but she seemed so pleased to see children playing wiffle ball in the yard with our dogs. "Dad would have loved this, right Mom? He always wanted grand kids to play here, right Mom?" The old woman nodded, a tear in her eye.

We got used to his presence. Sometimes house guests would feel him upstairs and ask questions. I'd tell them it was just our ghost, but he was friendly, not to worry.

And then one day, I realized I hadn't noticed the ghost in a while. Had he decided to leave us and haunt somewhere else? I did an online search, and found that his wife had finally passed away. Maybe that was what he was waiting for, and he'd moved on now that his wife joined him.

Now that the house has been renovated, I haven't felt even an inkling of ghostly presence. Everything is different now. And part of me misses him. 

Have you ever had a ghost in your house? Or felt a ghost when you visited somewhere? Share your ghost story! We want to hear!

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