Have you seen a ghost on Halloween?

Paul Gallico’s novel, Too Many Ghosts - an excellent book to read on Halloween

Halloween.  The perfect time, after an afternoon of trick-or-treating, parties, and fireworks, to curl up on the couch with your favourite spooky movie, or perhaps that ghost story you’ve been meaning to read.  If you are going to read, be sure to put on some appropriately spooky background music, and get ready to scare yourself silly… such fun!

Have you ever thought much about ghosts?  Did you know there are three basic types of ghosts.

Ghosts: the spirits of people that have been caught between this plane of existence and the next. They are generally intelligent, and often capable of interacting with the living.

Hauntings: these are basically recordings of an event, and they do not interact with the living.

Poltergeists: these are not actually ghosts, but are caused by the unconscious mind of a living person, who is usually under some kind of stress.

Ghosts can be perceived in a variety of ways: through sight (called an apparition), sound (the clanking of chains or moaning for example), smell (fragrances), touch (that sudden cold draft), and sometimes they can just be sensed.

If you’ve ever read Paul Gallico’s novel, Too Many Ghosts (an excellent book to read on Halloween), he has a delightfully clear description of the kinds of things ghosts do.

If you hear them, you don’t generally see them, too.

If you see them, they aren’t usually the type to ‘move’ things on you.  And if they move things around your home, you usually won’t hear or see them, though you may hear the objects being moved crashing or thumping about.

Of course, not all of us believe in ghosts, but many of us do, and I, for one, have seen two.  Following is one of the two ghostly tales.

The Ghost of Mrs. R.

When my family first moved to Mission, B.C. in 1971, the parish priest at the Catholic Church lived in the Rectory with his aging mother.  We saw Mrs. R. often at the Masses and my mother visited her several times when she became bedridden.  After several years and well into her 90’s, she passed away… then her son retired and moved away and the church got a new priest.

Time passed.

In 1980, having graduated from high school, I got a job three days a week at the Rectory as the parish secretary.  I worked Mondays – mostly counting and depositing the Sunday collections, Wednesdays – which were horribly boring, with very little to do except answer the odd call, and Fridays – when I prepared and ran off the Sunday newsletter on their old printing machine called a Gestetner.  The Gestetner was an old style printing machine that you crank once for each copy you want printed.

When I started working then, there was a nun who did the housecleaning, cooking and shopping for the priest.  She had light gray hair, used the closet in the room where I worked to hang her coat and, when things were particularly slow, would often chat with me as I helped with whatever chore she was working on.  The coat she most often wore during the warmer months was similar to a trench coat – longish, gray and tied with a belt.

I don’t remember the exact date anymore, but I do remember that it was on a Friday, as I was working on that week’s newsletter, and that it was a sunny but cool day.  The nun came to my room while I was typing the last of the newsletter info onto the template, got her coat and told me that she was off to do some shopping.  A minute or so later, as I was preparing to start running off the copies on the Gestetner, I heard the front door close as she left the Rectory.

I was now alone in the house.

I stood at the table the Gestetner was on, facing a blank wall with a window in the wall to the right, the door to the hallway on the left, and just back from the hallway door, slightly behind me, was the door to the closet.  My desk, facing another window, was behind me.

So, I’m standing there, cranking away like mad, somewhat zoned out by the mindlessness of it, when out of the corner of my eye, to my left, I saw what I thought was the nun walking back into the room to put away her coat.  The image I remember was that of an elderly lady with gray hair, wearing a longish coat.

I – in surprise – started to say “My! That was fast – did you forget something?” (after all, she had only just left a few minutes earlier) – turned and discovered no one there.  My heart started to pound from the shock. I mean, somebody… came into the room, but there wasn’t anyone there but me.  I remember sitting down and saying aloud something along the lines of ‘is anyone there? do you want something?’ and half expecting an answer.

After I had caught my breath, I walked through the entire house, just to confirm that no one was there.  When I got home later in the evening, I told my mom, who told me that the room in which I had my office was the same room that had been the priest’s mom’s bedroom and the room in which she had died.

I have no idea why Mrs. R. paid me a visit.  Perhaps she just wanted to know how things were going in the parish and dropped in to see.