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Published:December 27th, 2009 20:41 EST
My First Ghost

My First Ghost

By Mark Frederic Jennings

Good thing I was looking forward to it I guess. Seeing my first ghost that is. That way it didn`t scare me to death. Though it did scare me. Just not all the way to death. As evidenced, obviously, by my writing of this article. This isn`t coming from the other side. I am still alive.

      And I guess it only figures that I saw one now, a ghost that is, since I`d quit looking for them some time ago. After taking more than one tour of houses and places here in San Diego where they were supposed to be. Including the nationally renowned Whaley house which is supposed to be highly haunted. And may very well be. Except that my frequent trips there, including several sundown watches in the garden out back where a spirit was supposed to frequently appear at that time of the day in that area turned out to be disappointingly normal and this-worldly. Nice roses anyway. But no ghost.

      So after all that I was starting to think maybe ghosts were like those watched pots that never boil. Or like that teacher you had that never showed up for class on time until that one day you were late and the teacher wasn`t and then boy weren`t you in trouble.

       I mean, have you ever watched those ghost hunter shows on TV where those guys and gals go deep into the bowels of like the scariest place you can imagine and then they`re lucky if they see a shadow or a puff of smoke or hear a ghost sound that really more resembles someone`s stomach growling or a scratchy radio transmission. 

       So I gave up on it all. Both watching those shows and trying to find wandering spirits of the dead wherever they might be. But then it happened. The unwatched pot boiled over. Both my teacher and I showed up for class late on the same day. And the wandering spirits of the dead came and found me.

       Or really I guess they were already living there. At the large hotel sitting adjacent to and even connected with one of the bigger and older Indian Casinos down here. After all, the ghosts had their pictures on the walls. Or at least the photos all up and down the wide hallways that were otherwise very colorfully decorated were rather ghostly looking, all of that historic looking, black and white type and featuring American Indian people of days long gone by who one can only assume are present or former residents of the reservation in which the Hotel rests and rises almost as high as the beautiful surrounding hillsides.

        And of course that`s all well and good, a fitting tribute to the tribe members who lived and grew up there. And of course too not all the people in the photos, if any of them at all really, had become or ever will be wandering spirits in the hotel now located on their land. But after what happened to me later that night, I could only wonder if maybe at least a few of them were. Although who really knows for sure. Who really knows.

         The one thing I do know is that the images in the photos near our hotel room door seemed to literally come to life later that night, especially those that were of a group of small children and another one of just one young girl in extra large close-up whose large and dark eyes watched the hallway in an eerie and seemingly life-like manner.

       "Wow, look at that one, honey," I said to my wife as we neared our room. It was the little girl made big in the picture already mentioned.

         "Ohhh, she`s so cute. I wonder if she`s still alive and living out here," my wife asked.
         "I don`t know. Maybe. These pictures all look so old though, don`t they?"

         "I guess so," she said, but I could tell her interests lie elsewhere. Probably in the free buffet dinner we`d soon be enjoying or the gaming to follow, or both.

         I was having trouble, however, pulling my eyes and my mind away from the young girl in the photo and her afore-mentioned, engaging stare. As well as with the whole mystery of both her photo and all the rest of them that did seem to have been taken a long time ago, which only added to their haunting quality, as well as to the possibility that the people pictured therein had indeed gone on into the spiritual realm.

         I had to quickly let go of all such ethereal considerations, however, as I heard the high-toned chime that signaled the unlocking of our door by my wife and I knew that any further delay with our night of fun and relaxation would simply not be tolerated, if you know what I mean.

         And so then we did have our night of fun and returned to the room rather late. We got to bed and my wife was snoring and out cold only moments after her head hit the pillow. A little too much fun for her maybe. But either way, I was not so exhausted and remained awake.

         I reached over and turned on the bedside clock radio. I knew it wouldn`t bother my wife. She sleeps deeply. And I had to find some way to mentally occupy myself and hoped I could tune in my favorite late night radio talk show. I soon did and though the signal was weak, I could make out what was being said and after about an hour of listening I too was dozing off.

         I was jarred awake fairly soon however when short blasts of static erupted from the radio. There had been none before in the time I`d been listening. And being a late night AM radio aficionado, as well as a frequent hotel user, I am quite familiar with the many types of static that can come from surrounding sources, equipment or whatever, elevators, phone lines, big machinery out in the fields of nearby farms or factories, etc. all. But this was different, sudden, strong, sharp and loud, sounding like it was created by something right there in the room. Nothing was on though that hadn`t been before, just the room`s air conditioner humming quietly, which I really only turned on for the soothing and also hopefully sleep inducing blanket of white noise it provided. I clicked off the radio and rolled back over to try and sleep some more.

         Something felt funny though. Whereas earlier I had felt totally fine and happy, just not sleepy enough but otherwise fine, now an aura of unease and eeriness filled the air. Like I`d just watched a really spooky movie or something. But of course I hadn`t. And just like in that sort of a situation, my imagination started up too. Without even trying to, I was suddenly seeing the many pictures in the hallway again. And in particular those right outside our door. The one with a group of five or six children and the one of the single girl, big and in close-up.

        As I continued to let my imagination show me these photos, something I am prone to do, being a writer of fiction as I am, next, as quite frequently happens, a movie started in my mind, albeit a very short one in which the children in the photos came to life and jumped right out of their still and monochromatic world into ours, and could be seen then, albeit shadowy and translucent still standing in the hallway right outside our door.

        I stopped that little movie in my mind right away. It`s just my imagination, I told myself over and over. I took some deep breaths and looked around the room once more. All was the same. I relaxed and lay back and luckily the grogginess returned and I drifted off once more.

        SQUEEEK! came a quick and short chirp from the smoke detector near the room`s door. I sat up quickly in bed and looked over at it.

          "What was that, honey," my wife slurringly asked.

          "Smoke detector I guess," I more than just a little agitatedly replied. "... test... or whatever... but why at three thirty in the morning," I seethed.

          Or maybe a dead battery, I thought of then too, but didn`t bother saying it to my wife. She was already out again. But then I remembered too that if that was the case, it would be chirping again before too long. And then I would call the front desk and angrily request immediate servicing, along with comps to make up for our inconvenience.

            But then another theory came to mind as what might be going on. I remembered how on many of those ghost hunting shows a device that measured for electromagnetic energy was frequently deployed. Could that be what caused the strange static outbursts on the radio earlier? And now this chirp of the smoke detector as well? Were the ghostly apparitions out in the hallway putting out some electromagnetic waves into our room? And scarier yet, were they headed our way?

            Suddenly yours truly, the once upon a time ghost hunter, wasn`t so anxious to see some ghosts anymore. I was almost petrified, for the moment anyway. Would I really see some ghosts if I just got up and took a peak through the peephole in the door? Only one way to find out, I knew. And I was just about to go for it, having convinced myself that it couldn`t be real so why not. But then things got real scary.

            That eerie feeling I`d been sensing earlier was back, but only now it was ten times stronger. The room`s temperature dropped what felt like about twenty degrees too. And now I really was frozen in fear. Something was telling me this was the real deal. Something was telling me I was about to meet my first ghost. Something---

            But first I heard their voices. Children`s voices. High and happy. Singsong. Like they were playing. Or I could have sworn I heard them, mixing in with the white noise coming from the air conditioner. But then, yes it was them, louder now and yes, over near the door.

             With more courage than I`ve had to call on for a long time, if not ever, I managed to raise my head and look to my left toward the door. And although I couldn`t really see the whole door, a room partition hid a lot of it from top to bottom and the foot of the bed hid the bottom third as well, I got a good enough look to say to myself, nahhhhh, there`s nothing there. Just hearing things.

              So I lay my head back, and still just looking lazily toward the foot of the bed, there they were. One, two, three, four, five and six. They passed by. And all I could see were shadowy images of their heads and shoulders as they ran past the foot of the bed, running and smiling, giggling and laughing, one even seemed to throw a ball or something ahead of their projected path across the rest of our room toward the curtain covered large sliding glass door there.

               So of course I quickly turned my head that way. But they were no longer visible. Just as they had seemed to materialize only at the foot of the bed, they had then just as quickly disappeared again as they ran on. I could still hear their voices though. And then in the final act of their show, as I still looked toward that part of the room, the thick curtains covering the sliding glass door ruffled and parted slightly. One, two, three, four, five and six times. 

              I lay there looking at those curtains for several minutes more. Not expecting them to move again, or for the children to return. I can`t explain how or why, but I knew, as just alluded to, that the show was over. The kids were probably out playing by the lake now that I knew waited a few hundred feet beyond the sliding glass door. But I really couldn`t move. And also didn`t want to. I would imagine it might be the same thing a UFO witness might experience. Or anything else just totally unbelievable.

              Finally after a while I rolled back over. Then when I realized I wouldn`t be sleeping any more that night, I thought about turning the radio on again, but then decided what the heck and turned on the TV. My wife could sleep through that too, and did. I tried to and managed to find that TV station that plays old sitcoms all day and all night and that was just what I needed to wind down.

               In the morning I didn`t tell my wife about it all. She`s not into this sort of stuff like I am, and I didn`t want to freak her out or anything. Or maybe have her get second thoughts about this weird guy she`s been married to for about a year and a half now. I love her a lot. Plus too she really likes staying out there and I didn`t want to ruin that for her. 

               "Honey, you look terrible," she told me at breakfast in a nice little restaurant in the casino. "... couldn`t sleep again," she asked and placed her hand softly on my leg. It`s kind of a problem of mine. Especially when ghosts are around.

               "Nahh. You know me," I confessed. So she offered to drive home, and did. I still didn`t fall asleep though until we were several miles away down the winding hilly rode that left the reservation.