In the spirit of Halloween and because I’ve decided that on Fridays I will blog about whatever topic I want to, today I thought I’d talk about things that go bump in the night. Well, I mean ghosts and I suppose it would be more accurate to say things that go bump at any time of the day because my experiences, if that’s what they indeed have been, with the other side, if that indeed exists, have happened at various times of the day.
I am very intrigued by the subject and have been for as long as I can remember. Do I conclusively believe in ghosts. No. But I believe in the possibility of their existence. I believe that there’s a possibility that there are more things to be known about what happens when someone dies, about what happens to their soul or their spirit or whatever you want to call it depending on your religious beliefs.
I also believe that it’s easy to dismiss things we don’t understand or can’t see. I mean, come on, they used to think the world was flat, right, and that you could fall off the edge? At that time there was no way to see the world as a whole so that conclusion was based on the information that was available at the time. So, is it so impossible to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is more to understand about what happens to a person after death?
Okay, okay, I suspect some of you are snickering by now and shaking your heads at my ridiculous theory.That’s okay. I’ve been laughed at before! And, in fairness I should also say that I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine tonight as I write this!
So let me tell you about one of my experiences. This happened this past summer and I swear this is absolutely true – no exaggeration or embellishment – cross my heart and hope to… well, you know how the rest of that goes!
But first a bit of background. My husband and I have done a lot of genealogy research over the years. And as anyone who has ever done any genealogy research knows, you often need to go to cemeteries as part of your research. Our poor kids were dragged to cemeteries regularly during their childhoods – even before they could walk! And, when I served as president of our local genealogy society, I was actually interviewed on television–in a cemetery! It was my 15 minutes of fame, edited down to about 90 seconds, broadcast to the nation!
We’ve come across some great stories about people in our families and made some fascinating discoveries. About twenty five years ago, while doing some work in a local cemetery here in town, we discovered the graves of my husband’s great grandmother and her daughter. Elizabeth (the mother) and Susanna (the daughter) had died on the same weekend in October 1918 so that in itself was suspicious and warranted more investigation. Was it an accident, a fire perhaps, or maybe a contagious illness?
So off to the library I went. There was no Google (or internet!) back then but it didn’t take long to track down information on the Spanish Influenza epidemic. I’d never heard of the Spanish Influenza before I did this research and if this is the first time you’ve heard of it, you might want to learn more about it, check out this link on Wikipedia, but basically, the Spanish Influenza epidemic first started in Europe in the spring of 1918 at the end of WWI infecting the troops just as they were returning to their own countries. They took the virus home with them and thus it spread all the way around the world ultimately killing more people than the war itself. It hit our area in the fall of 1918.
A couple of times after the initial discovery of Elizabeth and Susanna’s gravestone, we’d gone back to the cemetery and attempted to find their graves again. But we never did find the gravestone and since there wasn’t a particular sense of need or urgency to find the graves, we didn’t really think any more about it and just assumed that we would find the site another time when we had more time to search.
Okay, so fast forward to the summer of 2014. My husband is a keen photographer and had recently upgraded his SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera. He happened to have the camera with him one Saturday morning while we were killing time, waiting to collect his car from our mechanic who just happens to be a couple of blocks from the cemetery. So we drove into the cemetery and I started roaming about while he started taking pictures of the gravestones of family members to add to our family tree info.
I know that cemeteries can give some people the creeps, and I get that, but I’ve always found them interesting. They’re so quiet and peaceful, and I always wonder about who the people were and what happened to them. Maybe that’s just the writer in me?
I asked my husband if he would like me to try to find Elizabeth and Susanna’s gravestone so that he could take a picture of it. He shrugged and said something like “Yeah, you can try but you’ll never find it and we won’t be here for too long. We need to pick up the car.” I nodded and said I’d try then started off in the general direction of their graves.
Now you should also know that I had an elderly friend who passed away about a year ago and Anne always swore that if you wanted a dead person to tell you something, you had to ask him or her. She regularly communicated with her deceased family members over various matters and was certain they guided her.
With this in mind, I think I actually said outloud “Elizabeth and Susanna, if you’d like us to take a picture of your tombstone, I don’t have a lot of time so you’ll have to help me find it.” I might have just “said” it in my head. I honestly don’t remember, but if you do cross paths with me in a cemetery and hear me talking to myself, well, uhm… don’t tell the men in the white jackets, okay?
I walked pretty much in a straight line toward the section of the cemetery where I thought they were buried. I seemed to recall that their stone was small-ish and flat, almost like a foot stone. The family had been poor at the time of their deaths so that memory made sense to me. I also seemed to remember it being under a tree, that their stone had been in shade so that is what I was looking for – a small flat stone under or near a big tree.
Eventually I stepped into a row of gravestones because about 15 graves down on my right there was a large tree and I stopped to ponder whether or not I should go to that tree to investigate and as I was looking up and down the row, I realized there was another big tree several graves over on my left. Should I go left or right? Right or left? As I debated this, by chance I looked down at my feet and right directly in front of me was their gravestone! I could not have walked more directly to it IF I had known exactly where it was!
The stone was actually an upright rose coloured granite and I’d obviously envisioned it incorrectly all that time, and there was no tree near it although I suppose it was possible that there had been a tree there all those years ago when we had originally discovered it.
So was it just a coincidence that I found that stone after asking for their help? Don’t they say that there are no coincidences, don’t they? We’ll never know for sure, but I do know that I’m getting shivers right now while I write this.
My husband, forever the logical analytical type, thinks that I found it because deep down inside I knew where it was, having been there before, even though that supposed knowledge hadn’t helped me in any previous efforts to find it off and on over the years.
A week later we went back to the cemetery. A young grandson of Elizabeth’s was buried next to them and I wanted to find out what he’d died from (a genealogist’s mindset I think) and although we’d take a photo of the stone, I hadn’t thought to check his dates on the stone using the picture before we headed to the library to see what we could find in the microfilmed copies of the local newspaper.
I didn’t ask for help to find the stone this time, perhaps because I was confident that I would remember where it was, perhaps because I wasn’t convinced that asking for help had really been the reason I’d found it the week before.
Neither of us could find it initially and we ended up roaming around that section of the cemetery for about 10 minutes before we actually spotted it.
Not sure if that convinced my husband, but I’m fairly convinced, I think, that Elizabeth and Susanna heard me that day and really wanted us to take a picture of their gravestone. Perhaps they didn’t want to be forgotten?
(Just imagine the Twilight Zone music starting to play here!) S-p-o-o-k-y!
Have you ever experienced something like this? Do you believe in ghosts or do you think I’m nuts? (You wouldn’t be the first! LOL) Tell me in the comments.
Photo courtesy of Simon Howden | Freedigitalphotos.net