Ghosts ... and a clock on the mantel

Friday, June 8, 2012

We are not ghost people in Killough Valley in the Ozarks over yonder.

Sure, we believe in the Holy Ghost, even though we can't say for sure what that means. And most churches have purged the ghost right out of the Trinity, leaving us with the Holy Spirit. I can't say we understand our theology any better now.

Mostly, we don't worry much about ghosts over in the valley. If we did, we would be nervous and emotional wrecks. There have been enough gruesome deaths in those parts to populate a small city -- or the barn or the chicken house or the outhouse -- with ghosts. Best not to believe in them. That way you won't have to deal with them.

Then I moved away from the farm. Went away to college to get educated. Met and married my wife. Started a 45-year career in journalism. Lived all over the country. Visited Europe. Had two sons. Retired.

And saw some ghosts.

Yes, I can tell you there are ghosts out there. Maybe not the kind you see in horror films. But there are beings out there who have a connection with the Great Beyond.

When my wife and I were first married, one of the couples we counted as friends included a woman from London whose mother had grown up in County Cork, Ireland. When her mother told ghost stories, they were about her personal experiences with banshees and the like. More than once she made the hair on my arms and neck stand straight up.

That was about the time a clock we had purchased in England went flying off its perch in our living room and landed with quite a thud in the floor. Thrown by a ghost.

Don't ask me how I know that. I just do. The clock? It's fine. Still keeps perfect time on the fireplace mantle in our living room. It has not been tossed by any more ghosts.

When we moved to Nevada, Mo., many years ago, my wife's parents came to help us move into a nearly century-old two-story house. I won't go into all the weird things that happened on move-in day. Suffice to say we were all bone tired at the end of a long day.

Getting into bed in our new bedroom felt good, and soon we were drifting off to sleep. That's when we heard two ghosts. Talking to each other. Somewhere outside our bedroom.

We got up to look. We searched the upstairs hall, the stairway down to entry hall, the living room and dining room. Everywhere we went the voices came from somewhere else.

We were about to give up and go back to bed when we passed my in-laws' bedroom. We cracked the door. Sure enough, the voices were coming from inside. We stepped in. We listened. To two tired, sleeping parents snoring like crazy, first one and then the other. OK. Those weren't ghosts.

When we first moved to Cape Girardeau we lived in the upstairs apartment in the newspaper building on Broadway. The apartment features a long, wide central hallway. On many occasions I saw a ghost, a woman, in the hallway. Not a scary ghost. Just another presence, one that seemed to enjoy our company.

We've lived in our current house 15 years, and I've sensed several ghosts here. One time was terrifying, when little demons perched on the window sill over our bed's headboard. Most of the time, though, the ghosts are busy doing whatever ghosts do, and they don't seem to mind us at all.

Tuesday morning I was working in the yard. My panicked wife came to the patio door, grateful to see me alive. She had just heard a horrendous crash somewhere in the house and was afraid I had fallen.

Such noises are sometimes made by falling limbs from the enormous oak, elm and ash trees in our hard. No limbs were down. So I went through the house, finally reaching the basement. We have a set of wooden chairs, painted bright orange and dating from our early housekeeping years, hanging on the wall. One of the chairs had fallen from its nail with enough force to break the top shelf of a small bookcase, and then the chair landed on the concrete floor. The nail holding the chair did not come out. It was bent.

By a ghost.

I can't imagine what any ghost would have against this chair. Maybe it was the noise value that was important. Whatever, we're keeping a close eye on the clock on the mantel.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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