Sunday, October 31, 2010
I am not the kind of person who wallows in tales of the mystic. I do not dabble in ouija boards nor attend seances. I was never a regular Art Bell listener. I have never seen a UFO. I was imbued with a firm grasp of logic by the Jesuits.
But, I have seen a ghost.
This happened in early 1993.
I had just returned to Chicago, and my old college roomate told me that my dog, Mackie and I could crash at his place, until I found an apartment. In fact, he said that since he was leaving town on business, I'd be doing him a favor by staying there and letting various home remodelling workmen into the house.
It was an old, stately-looking two-flat at 1515 W. Touhy in the Rogers Park section of Chicago. (photo above)
So on the second night that I had the place to myself, I was sitting on a sofa in the living room, drinking a beer (but I was not by any means drunk), listening to some old vinyl records that he still had from our college days. My dog was quietly sleeping in the corner.
At that time, I began to roll my own cigarettes, since I was appalled by the outrageously high price of cigarettes in high-tax Chicago (they were at least 2X the price that I had been paying in Virginia.)
I was not very good at rolling cigarettes, back then, and as I fumbled with the cigarette paper and loose tobacco, --- I am not making this up --- a woman appeared. She had reddish/brown, auburn hair and wore a faded green house dress that had red and blue dots on it.
She was sitting on the coffee table right in front of me and said, "Let me help you with that." She took the cigarrette materials from me, rolled a cigarette and handed it back to me.
That I distinctly remember.
I have vague memory traces of having spoken with her at greater length. I recall that it was amiable, but cannot recall exactly what we talked about.
Then she was gone.
The next thing I remember was a sense of waking up -- as if from a dream. But I had not been asleep. I felt something that was akin to shock as my mind began to come to the realization that something very strange had just occured.
I felt an extreme sense of calmness and wonder -- a strange kind of high.
I looked over and my dog was still sleeping quietly in the corner.
The next morning, that shock-like calmness still permeated my senses. I was, in a word, dumbstruck.
When my former college roomate returned from his trip, a few days later, I asked him if he knew anything about the history of his house. If he had heard of anyone having died there, perhaps.
He told me that sometime in the 1920s, there had been a serious fire in the house. In fact, you could still see burn scars on the brick in back, off of the upper floor.
"So maybe someone might have died in that fire," he said.
Some of it makes sense. Back in the 1920s, cigarette rolling was quite common, as compared to today. And the faded housedress that the young woman wore was not of a style that girls would wear today.
Maybe someone started a fire from errant cigarette smoking on that day in the 1920s.
Maybe the girl died in the fire and came back to help me so that it might not happen again.
I'll never know.
But I can quite sensibly assert that I am one of the 40% or so of Americans who have seen a ghost.