BY HAROLD N. WALTERS
My landlady, in bygone days when I trod the hallowed halls of MUN, consorted with ghosts, tokens and a myriad other manifestations of the paranormal.
She never considered her encounters with spirits as something extraordinary. Rather, she believed she was fortunate to have a gift allowing her to tune in to what for most mortals was the invisible world, similar to the way her radio dial allowed her to tune in to the invisible, inaudible radio waves always present in the air – kinda.
Frequently, she spun me tales, ghost stories that I dared not scoff at, on pain of … well, no shepherd’s pie for supper, p’raps.
Here’s one story.
When I was a young maid some nights I had to go over to the old house and slept with my grandmother, when she was a little bit sick, for instance. Certain nights I would see a ghost.
Grandmother would be asleep but I’d be wide-awake. Before the ghost appeared sometimes the bed would shake. But grandmother wouldn’t wake up.
Other times a smell of lavender would fill the bedroom.
Then a young girl dressed in a nightgown would appear at the foot of the bed. Sometimes standing. Sometimes kneeling down saying her prayers.
I never spoke to her and after a spell she would just fade away.
My grandmother never saw her but believed me when I told her about the visitations. Our family was like that.
The detail that still haunts me is the specific scent of lavender, always lavender.
In ‘The Lime Street Phantoms’ the smell of perfume – Lavender? – accompanies the ghost: ‘there was a rush of perfume through the living room’.
Dale Jarvis includes a number of stories about ghost lights in ‘Haunted Waters’. He’d be remiss not to, wouldn’t he?
I’ve seen ghost lights, sure.
Granted, when I did, nights were darker than they are now. From my home cove on Random Island I could look across the Arm towards Deep Bight – ‘The Bights’. On occasional dark – and prob’ly stormy – night ghost lights could be seen tacking through the waters off The Bights.
They were the lights of ‘The Hope’, a schooner – I’m guessing because memory is often false – that sank in a gale in that part of The Arm.
In chapter 5 – ‘Phantom Horses and Other Spirit Creatures’ – Jarvis includes the tale of a spectral Newfoundland dog appearing to a traveller on an English moor.
I definitely saw the Hope lights when I was a keen-eyed kid, but I didn’t see the three-headed dog that sometimes appeared up by the ‘Rock Cut’. Or was it down around the ‘Turn’? Out the ‘Shot Hole’ maybe?
Again, memory is faulty.
I’m wondering if that canine, others luckier than I claim to have seen was some kind of runty descendant of ol’ Cerberus, famous multi-headed Hell Hound of legend.
Neither did I see the apparition of the woman who lingered alongside of the brook, in which her body was frozen until spring thaw when the ground became soft enough for grave digging.
I didn’t see her and now it’s too late.
The landscape has changed. The brook is diverted. The woman’s ghost has relocated to a spookier, ethereal stream.
It’s been a spell now since she’s visited me, but I have been visited by the ‘Old Hag’ on more than one occasion.
Jarvis describes that witchy old frigger as ‘that delicious nocturnal terror’.
Delicious! Yes, b’ys!
I do appreciate Jarvis’ humour, all the same.
By the way, if you’re ever witch-ridden by the Hag, don’t for a midnight minute pretend to yourself you’re half asleep and said ol’ crone is merely nightmare. You’re wide-awake, paralyzed and the Hag is real, deliciously real.
Dale Jarvis is a popular ghost (!) writer making a living – to some degree, I s’pose – on folks’ fascination with ghost stories.
Why the fascination?
There’s a Paul Zindel novel – ‘The Pigman’, published in 1968 – in which one of the characters, John, says he’d like to see an actual ghost because seeing one would prove there is something at least on “the other side.”
I don’t know about Dale Jarvis but like Zindel’s character I’d like to see a ghost – and also an alien – to unconditionally prove they truly, truly exist.
But not tonight.
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters is a retired teacher living in Dunville, Placentia Bay.