I do believe in ghosts and no, I’m not in need of electro-shock therapy or a padded cell at Trembling Acres. Some folks believe, others don’t. ‘Tis the way of the world.
I grew up in an old house in Illinois’s Fox Valley in a town called Wayne. The house, a Victorian, was built in 1887 for a colonel from the Blackhawk War, and eventually other families of course. My family has lived in this house since 1966, so it’s safe to say we know every nook, cranny and nuance. Plus, we know all the noises and moods of the house — it’s the backbone of our family. Not only has it sheltered us from extreme weather, it also has witnessed our tremendous victories and our saddest moments, our great loves, huge losses and plenty of joy and laughter.
This house is also haunted.
I had my first encounters with a young woman –who appeared to be around 18 or 19 –when I was little. She was dressed in a Victorian dress, her brownish (?) hair styled in a loose bun. She was tall and slender, and had a serious gaze. I don’t know who she was — perhaps she was the colonel’s daughter. It wasn’t unusual for me to find her sitting on my bed at all times of the day and night when I entered my room, or woke up for whatever reason. We’d just look at each other and she’d smile, then fade away. I never feared her –something inside me told me she meant no harm to me or anyone else in my family. My childhood kitty, Squeaky Fromme (yeah, long story), did not like her however. Squeaky hissed and growled whenever the ghost was in attendance, and it got to the point where whenever I heard a hiss, my ghost friend was waiting for my acknowledgement–it was as if she couldn’t get on with the rest of her haunting UNTIL I gave her a thumb’s up. Over time, Squeaky’s hisses became a Pavlovian response: Hiss=ghost.
The other presence I see and feel quite often is my grandfather, Evan R. Chesterman Jr., affectionately known as Pop Pop. He was a Southern gentleman and lawyer from Richmond, Virginia who had a big heart and a cute sense of humor. He was adored by those who knew him, and his death in 1980 knocked the wind out of all of us. His spirit hung around those first few years following his death. Usually, I’d hear him first, “Jewya,” he’d say in that wonderful Virginia drawl, “Hi, sweet girl.” I’d turn, smile and stare. He’d disappear just as I’d start to speak, and he always had a smile on his face. The last time I saw him was when I was in California in the apartment I was renting in Highland Park. One cool morning in February, I found him sitting on the couch in the living room — staring at the Picasso owl print above the fireplace. He looked tired, but happy to see me. I stood for a moment, with my hands on my hips and when I moved toward him, he got up and quickly disappeared. As he wafted away, an aromatic breeze of Virginia fir trees — one of the scents that surrounded his house in Richmond — filled the room. It felt like a hug.
Next up … stories involving another family’s ghosts who dig me.