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Friday the 13th and Ghost Stories

Here we are again, at a point where the days and numbers on the calendar align and give us another Friday the 13th.  In general good things have come my way on a day many people associate with bad luck.  My son was born on a Friday the 13th, making it a very lucky day indeed.  More often than not you get what you expect in life, and if you’re primed to look for the negative it’ll find you.  I’ll stick with the opposite point of view, thank you.  Optimism with a healthy dose of stoicism seems to work for me.

I’ve written before about dancing with ghosts.  For me ghosts aren’t the creepy spirits that get annoyed that you’re in their space, they’re the people who lived in the past who’s story is all around us.  Historical figures and anonymous lives alike, all lived before we were here.  The stone wall standing alone in the woods, the old foundation on Isle of Skye left from the Clearances, the soot on the ceiling of a cave from fires long ago, and the groove worn into a stair tread; These are my ghosts. I love uncovering the stories of some person from centuries ago and visiting the place they did something memorable, and maybe their grave to remind them they aren’t forgotten.  We all want to be remembered, don’t we?  At least for a few generations.  Make the ripple last as long as possible, hopefully in a positive way.

I’ve been bumping into the other kind of ghost stories lately.  People who encounter poltergeists.  A poltergeist wants attention, making its presence known by messing with things in “our” world, crossing some border between death and life.  Frankly I never think about the poltergeist kind of ghost.  Maybe I’m closed-minded about it, or maybe they see me dancing with other ghosts and leave me alone.  But I’ve got this stack of stories people tell me about poltergeists they’ve encountered, and after a while you have to wonder what’s real and what’s imagined.  I see good things on Friday the 13th, others see bad things; who’s right?

Yesterday I was speaking with a Town Clerk in Connecticut.  I’d stopped to pick up a death certificate for an ancestor as a favor for my mother.  We noticed on the death certificate that this relative had died from a fall down the stairs, breaking his neck.  I joked about that house being haunted and the clerk, not missing a beat, told me about Antonio, pointing to the vault and saying he died right in there and still haunts the place. I looked in the vault and asked if he preferred Antonio or Tony.  We finished our transaction and I was on my way, with one more ghost story added to the list. I don’t know if Antonio is a poltergeist haunting the vault at Town Hall, but I do know that he tragically died in the vault at some point in history.  And people are still talking about him to this day.

I’ve heard similar stories from separate friends about encounters at hotels in Boston and Nashville, and some good friends that insist there’s a ghost in a family home on Cape Cod.  What do I know?  I’m not in the poltergeist business.  I have no desire to stay in Lizzy Borden’s house for a night trying to bait unseen ghosts to come out and play.  No, I’m trying to bring their stories alive without all the mischief.  But now and then I do hear a whisper in the wind, feel a spirit in the air, and I give a nod to acknowledge.  Walking alone in the woods at Holy Hill in Harvard, Massachusetts in Autumn once had me thinking of Shaker ghosts.  Visiting King Philip’s Seat in Bristol, Rhode Island and spooking a hawk into flight had me hearing whispers of Metacom and the lost Pokanoket tribe as I explored the woods.  And visiting the Winter Street graveyard in Exeter, New Hampshire looking for the grave of Major General Nathaniel Folsom felt like I was being directed around to look at every other Revolutionary War hero’s grave before finding his.  I felt it that day too.

So here we are on another Friday the 13th.  We generally get what we look for in life, and I hope today brings you good fortune.  If you happen to run into any ghosts, I hope they aren’t poltergeists – those buggers are nothing but mischief.

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