esther_asphodel: a bat wrapped in a blanket that says O Hai (adorable bat)
So [ profile] ursulav  had a post about ghost stories a few months back, and naturally people started sharing odd experiences in the comments. I saved links to some of my favorites, and this seems like an appropriate time to post them. naomikritzer
I also want to note that I was at Convergence (enormous local-to-me general fandom convention) last weekend, and my last panel was about Urban Legends. Our moderator let us know at the beginning (so we had lots of time to think about this) that we were going to finish off by each relating a Convergence-specific made-up urban legend. After giving it some thought, I decided to tell a ghost story, which went roughly like this: Years ago, there was a regular Convergence attendee who died right before con, very unexpectedly. But, she still comes to con, and sometimes people see her. She was an avid cosplayer. When she appears, it's always late Saturday night, sometime after midnight. And you'll know it's her because when you see her, she always appears in the most amazing cosplay you've ever seen....of a fandom you thought was so obscure and so personal, no one else would ever have even heard of it. You always see her from across the room, you never manage to get close to her, you can't take her picture, and you'll only ever see her once. But someone sees her, every year. What I didn't know -- or I would have told a very different story and probably stayed away from the "ghost story" motif entirely -- was that someone on the concom (or formerly on the concom) had died that morning -- she'd been taken away in an ambulance Saturday afternoon, and she died Sunday. I feel pretty bad for having possibly poured salt in the wounds of her friends, if any were in that panel audience. Although, the story got applause, so hopefully if it did strike close to home for anyone, the fact that it was an upbeat ghost story about someone still doing the thing she loved, after her death, was comforting rather than awful. (This was an entirely made-up ghost story, but you can kind of imagine a fannish ghost hanging out at a con, can't you? Minnesota allegedly has a bunch of ghosts like that, which just appear occasionally in certain spots in period costume.)
I only have one "could be a ghost?" story. We were house-hunting and our realtor suggested we look at this foreclosed place that had been on the market for a year. It was in awful shape (carpets completely destroyed by cats, the yard was torn to pieces (I think they had tried to terrace it, but had failed), holes in the walls, etc.), but Hubby and I had agreed that we would look over every inch of every house we toured since there could be a treasure. So Hubby headed down to the basement while I was exploring the kitchen (ick!), and he suggested I go down there to check out the laundry area. I remember walking down the stairs and laughing that a pool table was still set up (I guess they couldn't get it out?). There was a little storage area to the right of the stairs, nice and bright, could be good for an office. I turned to the left and I think I might have seen a washing machine, but that's all I remember for a few seconds. Next thing I know, I'm running up the stairs saying, "Nope. Nope. Nope." I marched myself out of the house and hollered to the realtor that it was haunted and I'd see her and my family at the car. I kept my back resolutely turned to the house the entire time we chatted at the cars, and refused to make eye contact with it again. Now, I have no idea if I actually saw a ghost or what, but something freaked me out. I'm pretty content not knowing what it was. *laugh*
So there we were at my great-aunt's graveside, three rows up front of blood-kin who hadn't seen this woman in twenty years and a row and a half in back composed of her partner and her family-of-choice. The sky was bright, but the area under the pop-up pavillion felt like a thunderstorm. Aunty's casket was on the lift-thing they put caskets on to make the lowering-into-the-grave easier. Atop it was this truly epic arrangement of daffodils and lilies, and in between it and us stood the funeral home's rent-a-preacher, two minutes in to the most mealymouthed, ostentatious sermon-masquerading-as-a-prayer I'd ever heard. I was wondering what Aunty would've thought of this nonsense when the thunderstorm feeling intensified and swept up the aisle past me. There was a thump, an exclamation of pain, and a hurried "Amen." When I opened my eyes, the arrangement was on the ground and the preacher was looking rumpled and unsettled. If it was wind that knocked the arrangement off the casket and onto the preacher, it would've had to do a quick reverse in direction. No-one else was standing near enough to pull or push it off. I didn't mention the storm-feeling I had until my mom brought it up the next day, having felt the same thing, herself. So that was as close as I ever got to meeting my great-aunt or believing in ghosts.
Got a good one for you here. The best thing about it was, I wasn't the only witness. When I lived in Germany, the tiny town that I called home had a restored Roman watchtower in a field nearby and a restored Roman road that ran in front of it and crossed the two-lane highway at the bottom of the field. It faded out into grass and gravel shortly afterwards-- it had only been restored for about a quarter mile-- and you could see the whole length of it from the third floor of the tower, which had been rebuilt as a project by an excavation team from a Frankfurt college. The tower wasn't much-- three floors, each one just a square room with a sort of half ladder/half stairs to the next floor up and a walkway outside the top floor; it had very small windows and a palisade around it and dated back to the 3rd century AD. My husband and I always figured that you had to screw up BIG time to get stationed out there in the middle of all those wild Germanic tribes. Anyway, my friend Ayesha and I used to take our lunches and walk to it every now and then, just to climb up to the third floor and sit on the balcony with our legs swinging while we ate our sandwiches. The tower had been built on the tallest hill in the area and you could see for miles; it was a gorgeous view. So, one sunny day we're doing just that and we hear the sounds of a horse and wagon. This being farming country in extremely rural Germany, we saw horses hitched to gods-only-know-how-old wagons all the time as well as tractors pulling the same, so we expected to see one coming down the road. But when we looked, we couldn't. That was a little odd-- like I said, we could see for AGES and there were no buildings other than the tower anywhere around, it was all fields (the nearest town was Sohren where we both lived, almost two miles away.) So we kept listening and looking, and the sounds got louder and louder but there was nothing to see. By the time the horse and wagon got so close that we could hear the horse breathing hard as it pulled the wagon up the hill, it was obvious that it was coming along the Roman road... and nope, nothing, not in either direction. Like I said: sunny day. Full visibility, no buildings except for the tower, nothing. We got a bit agitated, trying to see what we couldn't see, and finally just stared at each other and turned to stand at the railing, watching the Roman road as the sounds got closer. By this point they were so clear that we could tell that there was just one horse; we could hear the harness jingling and creaking, hear the hooves, hear the horse blowing, hear the wagon's wheels-- it wasn't going fast or anything. And finally it came up directly in front of the tower. Aaaaand that's when it just stopped-- went totally silent. No sound, nothing, no wagon or horse or anything. So we stood there and waited for something to happen (I was afraid we'd hear somebody climbing the ladder/stairs.) Nothing did; we stayed for about 15 more minutes, and then we took off back to Sohren. Ayesha and I talked about what we'd heard and *not* seen, and it was the same; I've wondered since if it was just a memory that the road and tower had and if we were just there in the right conditions. We went back a ton of times but never heard or saw anything else unusual there again. I've had a handful of other weird moments through my life and two more of them were with other witnesses; I am a believer in earthbound souls, but I also am firmly of the opinion that places and things store up memories that play like films. I just wish we could've *seen* the wagon, not just heard it; that road was used for many, many centuries both during Roman times and long afterwards-- it would've been interesting to see what it was that we heard.
Ok.. kind of a ghost story... but from the other side [no, not that other side.] So, the set up. I used to do historical re-enactment at University, and this being York University, Vikings were the order of the day, the highlight of the year being the Jorvik Viking fest. Anyway, one year we had a bunch of really dedicated Norwegians turn up, sailing up the river Ouse in a replica longship [and by replica, I mean 1:1 scale every bit authentic wearing only the stuff real vikings would wear.] They told me a story over a pint... turns out they lost the GPS overboard the first night out, so they just figured they'd head East, wait until they hit land to stop and ask directions, and sail down the coast. So.. imagine you're part of tour group out on a foggy morning, walking along the beach around Lindersfarne... and out of this mist looms a Viking Longship, which scrunches up onto the beach, a couple of Very Large and totally genuine looking Vikings hop out, stomp up the beach, and in accents thick enough you could cut, say: "Excuse us please, Ve are lost. You give directions Jah?!" I doubt a beach has cleared any faster since 1066...


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