Ghost Stories


Last weekend I was telling some house guests about how my golden retriever Bear woke me up at night with his booming bark several times after he died. When I was finished, the husband nodded with solemn knowing and shared his story.
They had an orange cat that was very attached to him. When he was outdoors it would sit on a low table by the pool and watch him. One day after the cat died he was working by the pool and glanced over at the table and there it was, staring at him as it always had. “It wasn’t my imagination,” this very down-to-earth man said.  “This was real. I looked away for a minute, and when I looked back, he was gone.” We all nodded with solemn knowing. We believed him.
Some years ago we re-connected with a high school friend with a history of mental illness. A delightful charismatic actor, writer and scholar, he was living with a lovely woman, also a writer, to whom he was devoted.  When he was on his medications he was great fun to be with, but occasionally he’d think he was well enough to stop taking them and before long he’d be in trouble. One day while Fran was at the corner store he shot himself in the head.
In Fran’s words, “Then, just 26 hours after his death, Bill came to visit me. Suddenly, a space opened in my mind, as a door in a wall would open. There, as close as the air, was Bill in another form.  I was still somewhat aware of the room and the people in it, but my attention was riveted on Bill. He was himself, my love, the man I knew, but not in a body with flesh. Instead, he was a lovely, soft, white being, full of pulsing lights that slowly appeared, peaked, and extinguished to be replaced by others.
“Bill wasn’t alone. His spirit seemed bonded, or somehow fused, to another person in the same form. This spirit was an older man, I thought, whom I had never met. Their relationship was like that of a child at a party and a loving grandparent looking on. Bill was ecstatic — full of pure joy and terribly excited to be with me. The older man was joyful, but calmer and not at all surprised by what was occurring. Months later, someone suggested that the gracious old spirit might have been Bills’ beloved “Grandpa Tom,” whom I had never met, and who had died two years earlier.
“I think that Bill went to some trouble to let me know the truth about what happens after the death of the body. He wanted me to know that the spirit goes on in a most lovely and ordinary way, and that people stay the same in essence. Even in his “second skin,” featureless, Bill was immediately recognizable to me. He also wanted me to know that he was not alone, but experiencing intense joy, love, and freedom from pain.
“Just before he left me, Bill wrote a message in my mind. I cannot overstate the importance of this message, which seems to me to hold one key to understanding a human continuum between earthly life and immortality. I suspect he chose the written word because he knew I would take his writing seriously, as I had done in our life together. His words appeared slowly, one at a time: ‘Nothing exists except love.’”
I don’t know about you, but as I read Fran’s moving words I’m nodding with solemn knowing.

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  1. A couple months ago I sat bolt upright in my bed at 3 AM. I heard footsteps in the hallway—a child’s footsteps. I knew it wasn’t our kids because I always hear them coming down the steps. These came from somewhere else. And they stopped at our bedroom door. And then I knew someone else was in the room. I smelled sulphur. The computer turned itself off and on twice and then went blank. And I felt a presence—an uneasy, frightened, agitated presence. It was also somehow anticipatory. It wanted me to do something. It was hopeful. Through my trembling I tried to ask it what it wanted or needed. And as I listened for the answer, I suddenly remembered years before, sitting with a friend by a lake, and this friend was contemplating suicide. As I tried to comfort him I suddenly saw an angel on either side of him literally holding him up. When I told him what I saw he wept and wept. And then I saw a flock of angels drifting across the water like ships of wings coming to be with my friend. Then I wept. Sensing the presence in our room was like that—someone before me needed help–only this time I could not see him with my eyes—instead I saw with my heart. The presence told me he needed me to help him get somewhere. He told me I was going to need to cry and move through my pain, and that my doing so would somehow free him. I committed to do whatever it took, and I have done what I told him I would do. And I haven’t felt that presence since. The lesson for me: Free the ghosts—feel our pain—ancestors are waiting to go home.

    1. Dear Joseph,
      Thank you for sharing your deeply moving story.The beautiful lesson you drew from it bears repeating: “free the ghosts — feel our pain — ancestors are waiting to go home.” As I read this it occurs to me that the key that opens the connection between us and other spirits — whether present or departed — is a deep capacity for feeling, not only our own pleasurable and painful feelings, but also feeling empathy and compassion for others. It would appear you have an abundance of both kinds.

  2. Very moving jean Thank you. It’s always reassuring to hear stories that reinforce what many of us just know but cannot rationally prove. I lost my mom to cancer nearly 6 years ago, I have felt her presence so strongly on many occassions, but especially so while pregnant with my daughter and in the early weeks and months after her birth.
    I aslo lost my first love in a tragic accident 18 months ago, and again, I’ve had an awreness, that I don’t try to explain.
    Thank you. x

    1. Dear Hills,
      To “reinforce what many of us just know but cannot rationally prove” was my purpose in this post. There are things that reason cannot explain and there are times when it’s pointless to try. The non-rational mind — the unconscious self, the right brain — interprets life from the standard of feeling and personal meaning. Your experiences are deeply meaningful to you, and therefore utterly valid whether others believe them or not. At the same time, insofar as your stories touch others they have the potential to open them to deeper meaning too. So thank you very much for sharing.

  3. Jean,
    Of all the people, this was said by Erma Bombeck; “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else”. With that said; I love reading your blogs; your spiritual awareness is so enlightening. I enjoy looking at life through your eyes and your heart.

  4. The brain is amazing! I wonder how much of our ability to access the spirit of others is hardwired within us? Can some achieve this while others can’t? The first story is about how our brains may allow us to remember and access events in our lives differently, and if so, does that help explain my second story?
    A friend and I were discussing memory the other day and how our brains seemed to be wired differently. She was commenting on how I have the ability to name all the children in my fourth grade class and remember many of their idiosyncrasies and conversations I had with them. She said she can hardly remember any of this. On the other hand, I can’t remember any of my dreams while she said she remembers many of her dreams including those of her childhood. Are our brains wired differently?
    As for ghosts, I can’t say I have ever experienced what you’ve written about but I have experienced something that may be similar, perhaps similar to Hills’ experience. It occurred while I was talking to someone who was standing in front of a full length mirror. Suddenly, I caught myself in the mirror and I thought I was my father. My father and I didn’t look much alike but according to others we had very similar mannerisms. At first I chalked the experience up to “similar mannerisms” but on occasion I wonder: Is my father living with me?
    The point of these two stories? I suppose the point is that they raise additional questions: Are our brains wired differently, allowing us to remember, access and experience events and memory differently? And thus, can some see ghosts while others cannot, but on the other hand, might others experience those who are gone by feeling the power of another living within them? Maybe some are wired to do both. Or maybe I’m way off base on all this. Regardless, it is a very compelling topic. Shaking out the Saturday morning cobwebs here, Jeanie. Thanks, you make me think.

  5. Hi Charlie,
    You bring up some fascinating, thought-provoking questions. Are our brains hard-wired differently? I don’t know about hard-wiring, but I have read that we can “activate” different brain potentialities by practicing certain forms of mind-training. For example, studies show that regular meditation on compassion can activate more cells in the area of the brain having to do with feeling compassion, thus enhancing one’s ability to experience and act on this emotion. Perhaps more intentional practices to heighten our sensitivity to extra-sensory perception can likewise alter our brains.
    As for memory, my sense is that psychological factors have a lot to do with what we remember and what we do not. For example, my husband, whose mother died when he was five, can remember virtually nothing about his life prior to the age of 11, whereas I have many memories from as early as 3. Maybe his forgetting was a necessary form of self-preservation, whereas I never felt that need. There’s also personality type: he’s oriented to the external world and rarely remembers his dreams; I’m oriented to the inner world and remember dreams, strong emotions from the past, etc. etc.
    I think you’re right that memory —along with our personality, capacity to feel strong emotion, and perhaps even genetic inheritance —is strongly linked to our sensitivity to certain extra-sensory perceptions. And thus, as you say, “some see ghosts and some do not.” I suspect we have a lot to learn about the potential inherent in every brain and our ability to enhance our potential in whatever ways we choose! Thanks for making me think too!

  6. This is powerful. Steve lost a beloved black lab 5 years ago, but he’s never said anything about Jackson visiting him. Maybe he couldn’t believe it, since he’s so factual.

  7. I’m glad you liked it. I remember reading a while back about a survey which estimated that about 40% of people experience phenomena similar to these. I suspect everyone has the potential, so whether or not we do has to do with lots of factors, probably including, as you note, a very left-brained, factual orientation.

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