That Time I Saw a Ghost

If my title got your attention, then I’m going to begin this little tale with a caveat just for you:

I don’t know that what I saw was actually a ghost.

Ghosts are defined as the souls or specters of the dead. I’m not even close to being convinced that it was the soul of a departed person that I saw. The fact is, I don’t know what the thing I saw was. And you don’t either.

The Weird-Shit-O-Meter

When I was younger, I saw a few strange things. I still don’t know whether I imagined them or whether they were some sort of bizarre cosmic hiccup.

When I was a teenager, my family lived in a house purported to be haunted. Lights would dim and brighten, and we’d laugh and say that it was our ghost, Goosey (the nickname of the man who’d lived there.) Although friends weren’t too fond of the strangeness with the lights and the general creep factor of our house, it didn’t bother me. I did once see a strange shadow moving on the staircase landing, but that’s as close as I came to ever spotting anything outside the norm.

ghost in robes

Further proof that ghosts always wear sheets.

It got weirder, though. I worked in a beauty salon when I was 19, and near closing time one night when I was working alone I saw a woman who appeared to be looking at the appointment book at the reception desk. I saw her through a wicker shelving unit that held product for sale, but I was very certain that I saw her, and that she wore a wide-brimmed blue hat. When I got to the reception desk and asked, “May I help you?” she was no longer there. As I came back into the salon scratching my head, the tanning bed in an adjacent room turned on for no reason at all. My story freaked out the salon owner, Linda. Turns out, there was a photo of a woman in a wide-brimmed blue hat hanging in a large apartment above the salon. It was the building owner’s wife, who had recently died of cancer. Linda had been dating the guy while his wife was on her death bed. (If you want to talk about creepy, I’d say Linda’s relationship status wins over supposed apparitions in blue hats.)

Another strange thing happened when I was a young adult. My brother’s high school best friend died in a terrible car accident (he’d been racing on a back road and lost control of his Camero). I was visiting my family’s farm, and that night I swore I saw him, by the glow of the mercury vapor light, walking across the driveway. He tipped his hand in a what’s-up kind of gesture and vanished.

I don’t know what I saw. It’s possible I could have imagined or hallucinated them (although I was perfectly lucid both times.) I wasn’t afraid. The incidents seemed peculiar, but I never ascribed any significance to either of them. Although I was Catholic at the time (thank God that’s over, she says punnily), I wasn’t inclined to think of what I saw as spirits. I didn’t automatically assume I was being visited by someone from the other side. All I knew was that I’d seen and experienced weird things. I knew there was some sort of explanation; I just didn’t know what it was.

The Windy Day Shadow Guy

By the time I was in my mid-20s, I stopped seeing things that registered on my weird-shit-o-meter. For the longest time, nothing more significant happened to me than the occasional weird moment where the hair stands up on the back of your neck and the cat (or dog) stares intently at some fixed point in the room and can’t be distracted. In other words, the kind of stuff that happens to everyone now and then.

But then the bombogenesis swept in a few years ago. I’m a weather buff (as well as a trained storm spotter), so I actually knew what this was when I started hearing about it in the media. Bombs are rapidly developing low pressure systems, where the pressure drops significantly in a short span of time. Low pressure systems, as most of us know, mean wind, and the lower the low pressure system the higher the wind speed it generates. Bombs aren’t all that uncommon, but this bombogenesis, when it hit the Upper Midwest, was intense enough to make news on more than just The Weather Channel. It was kind of a big deal.

Needless to say, it got real windy real fast.

Because I often worked late into the evening, I was in the habit (still am; who am I kidding?) of taking a nap in the mid-morning. I was lying in bed in that weird limbo state where you’re mostly asleep but also kind of awake. I heard the bedroom door open and someone walk across the hardwood floor. I wasn’t particularly startled; I figured my husband had come home from work early for some reason. Maybe he was ill, or had been given permission to work from home. Those things didn’t happen frequently, but they did happen. I started to stir.

Then I heard the person moving next to the bed. This all happened pretty quickly, so it’s hard to remember what ran through my head, but I suppose I assumed my husband was planning to join me in taking a nap. I roused myself then and came fully awake to ask him whether he was feeling okay, and that’s when I saw the shadow of what appeared to be a person — not a real solid person at all — bending over the bedside table on my husband’s side of the bed. I startled and said, “Go away! You’re scaring me!” It instantly dissipated.

Lucid dream? Maybe. In fact, I figured that was what it was and opted to just go back to sleep. When the shadow vanished, I simply assumed it hadn’t been anything to be frightened of and that my brain had been playing tricks. It’s not uncommon for me to have really strange half-awake dreams during those morning naps.

But, the incident was weird enough that the next day I told my kids about it. They were both in high school at the time. What’s fascinating is that my son — a skeptic who, like me, prefers science over woo-woo — raised an eyebrow and said, “That’s strange. I heard two separate people at school yesterday freaking out about having the exact same sort of experience — seeing a shadowy person who disappeared.”

Three people seeing the same thing on the same day in the same city, all while we were in the throes of some intense weather, seemed a little more than coincidental. I began to wonder if weather had something to do with the phenomenon.

Science, Bitches!

Sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke said, “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.”  I’m certainly not a scientist, but I subscribe to the idea that conclusions about the way our world works require evidence and proof. That’s why I don’t draw any about the things I’ve seen. I know a lot of people who watch shows like Ghost Adventures but few who watch it for the same reason I do — for laughs. It’s true that Zak and the boys capture some interesting and unusual stuff from time to time, but the fact that they ascribe these strange happenings to things like demons and dark energy makes me giggle. I mean, come on guys! Anyone can go to the prestigious college of MSU (Make Shit Up); that doesn’t make you an “expert.”

My preference for proof doesn’t stop me from making guesses, though. One has to do with infrasound. It certainly seems possible that an intense low pressure system could create a wind tunnel sort of resonance chamber in some locations and generate the low-frequency sound vibrations often connected to feelings of unease and shadowy sightings. Maybe the collective experiences people in my town had on that very windy day had something to do with infrasound. One of my wilder notions has to do with scientific theories about parallel universes. I don’t claim to understand multiverse theory, but as a writer I do have a finely tuned sense of What If. What if bubble universes do exist, and in some rare instances, when conditions are just right, we’re able to see something we normally wouldn’t? Something outside our own three dimensions? A quick glimpse at an alternate universe, even?

I like ideas — I’m a writer, so it’s fun to entertain wild ass theories. But I require proof before my wild ideas take more solid form. So, instead of telling people that I’ve seen a ghost, I usually say that I saw something strange once that I can’t explain. Or that I saw “what some people might call a ghost.” I don’t, however, say that it was a phantom or a shadow person or a demon because those things are superstitious made up names — folklore for the “science we don’t understand yet.”


Have you seen unexplainable things? What do you believe ghosts are? Share your thoughts, and even wild ass theories, below in the comments.

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