So my new house is haunted.
For those of you who don't know this already, I recently purchased a house in Key West. It's pretty old. It was built in the 1930s—which doesn't actually make it any older than the house I grew up in, and which wasn't haunted, that I know of.
But that might be partly why I was so drawn to it, out of the thirty or so houses we saw when we were looking for a place to live in in Key West in December. I mean, I'm USED to old houses.
And I have to admit, though I sometimes write books about ghostly experiences, I myself have only had a few, most of which—well, okay, maybe all—could be explained away as the work of an over-tired or not quite awake brain, or possibly an optical illusion.
I mean, I WANT to believe in the paranormal. I really do.
But that doesn't mean I necessarily DO.
Still, some of my best friends, who are very practical, sensible people, have had experiences that cannot be explained in any other way than the paranormal.
And when I worked in a residence hall at a college, at least four or five incidents were brought to my attention that were ultimately deemed the work of the other worldly. I was not what you would call “open” to the suggestion back then that an open drawer was the work of a poltergeist. I was such a non-believer, in fact, that I even sent one kid to counseling when she claimed to have seen a ghost in her room.
Imagine my shock when I later got a note from the head of campus psych that said: “She's not crazy. The person she described seeing in her room DID die there in the 70s. I was on duty the night he died, and she described him to a T, down to his tie-dyed bandana.”
So, okay. I'm willing to admit there MAY be such a thing as ghosts, and that SOME people MIGHT be able to see them.
But not me.
Then this morning I ran into a previous owner of my house (did I mention I spent the weekend in Key West? I think I tried to fake you guys out in my last entry by not telling you where I was going, but, big surprise, I was in Key West. I don't know why I didn't just come out and say that…I think I was having a breakdown from that whole ER thing) and the previous owner asked me, “Have you met Mary?”
I was all, “Mary? Mary who?”
And then the previous owner explained that Mary is the house's resident ghost.
That's when I got mad.
Not because I thought he was trying to spook me, but because it's so my luck to have bought a haunted house.
I'm a firm believer that if there is such a thing as ghosts, the only reason they're hanging around is because there's something they left undone in life. According to my neighbors (who claim Mary's visits aren't just to MY house, but to theirs, as well) she was a sweet old lady who fell dead of a heart attack or something one day in her kitchen (the one room we are fully remodeling). Mary's ghost apparently manifests herself in the form of banging doors, mysteriously raised windows (Mary can't abide stuffy rooms and often opens windows to “let the air in”), and “figurine rearrangement.”
When I heard this last part, I got REALLY mad, because I was planning on bringing my Star Wars action figure collection to Key West. And believe me, those figures get rearranged enough at home WITHOUT ghostly help. I can't tell you how many times I've found Queen Gwenevere holding Princess Leia's laser-blaster (OK, not all my action figures are from Star Wars. I have some King Arthur ones, too), thanks to my husband's bizarre sense of humor. Now some ghost is going to be rearranging my collection as WELL?
What, I wondered, could Mary possibly want, coming back after all this time and bugging people by rearranging their figurines and opening windows and the like? What could she possibly have left undone in her life? IF, that is, she existed at all.
I'll admit, a part of me wondered if my neighbors might be trying to pull my leg. Key Westers—also known as “Conchs”—though incredibly generous and friendly, like nothing better than to poke gentle fun of tourists and “snowbirds” who flock to the island in the winter.
But I soon realized the people who live in the houses on either side of me WEREN'T kidding about Mary. Although I hadn't noticed anything at all amiss with our home, my husband informed me that when he'd arrived, both the kitchen windows had been slightly opened…windows we'd closed and locked upon leaving the house last month.
Nothing was missing—no one could have crawled through the windows in any case, as they're connected to motion detectors, which are connected to our burglar alarm, which is connected to a private security firm.
But that did leave just one explanation: The Conchs weren't kidding about Mary.
So now there's a ghost in my house.
Did this explain the bad dreams I'd been having since I got to the house—one of which was that I was still in high school, being forced to go to Algebra and mechanical drawing class, even though I kept insisting I'd graduated already?
Or what about the dream (nightmare) I kept having where I found out I was pregnant with twins (this one I know is courtesy of my friend Mellie, who just DID have twins, and, having gone to visit her, I realize I am in no way ready for motherhood)?
Was the ghost of Mary causing these bad dreams? Or was it just leftover book tour stress, brought on by having been away from home for more than two weeks, without HGTV or Henrietta?
And if the bad dreams WERE courtesy of Mary, what was I supposed to do about it? Call in a priest? Have an exorcism? What do people DO about ghosts?
Remembering my days in the dorm, when we'd urged residents who encountered strange phenomena in their rooms to open their minds to it and not freak out (and remembering how, consequently, the complaints eventually vanished), I went about my business after learning about Mary.
I'll admit I did go from room to room, trying to see if I felt any “cold spots”—but there were none, not even in the kitchen where she died.
I left windows closed, and looked to see if any of them crept open again. Not a single one did. I opened doors, and none of them slammed behind me.
And though I had no figurines on me, I left lots of stuff out…it was always exactly where I'd left it when I returned.
Later that day, sitting outside on my terrace, with the sun shining down and the palm fronds blowing in the wind, it seemed totally unlikely to me that there could be a ghost anywhere in the vicinity. My house is just a HAPPY house. It really is. There isn't a sad—or even dark—spot in it.
The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced the whole thing was ridiculous. There's NO SUCH THING AS GHOSTS. Okay, yes, I do know some people who've had weird paranormal things happen to them. Maybe THEY can see ghosts. But not me. Maybe my neighbors really WERE pulling my leg.
Then, going into the kitchen to get a Tab a little while later, it happened:
Not a cold spot. Not a spectral vision. Not an open window. But a sudden and undeniable craving for….
Ginger snap cookies.
I am not kidding you.
Now, I like ginger snaps as much as the next person. But they are not something I CRAVE. I really never crave anything, except Tab, which is my preferred method of caffeine deliverance.
So what was up with suddenly, from out of nowhere, wanting GINGER SNAPS?
It was such a strong craving, and came on so abruptly, that, when it hit me there in the kitchen, I actually said it out loud: “GINGER SNAPS? W
hat's up with THAT?”
And then, hearing my voice echo around the empty house (we have no furniture yet) I realized it wasn't actually ME who wanted ginger snaps at all. I NEVER want ginger snaps.
There was really only one explanation for it: Mary.
Seriously. I know it might sound dumb—to me, a semi-non-believer, it sounded REALLY dumb. But that had to have been what Mary had been going into the kitchen to get when she died: Ginger snaps.
And all this time, her restless spirit has been looking for them….
….amidst our neighbors' figurine collections.
So now I know what I have to do about the ghost in my house. No, no exorcism. No priest:
I just have to remember the next time I go to the store in Key West to buy some ginger snap cookies for Mary.
I highly doubt that, when I put them out on a plate in the kitchen, I will actually see them disappear.
But I'm willing to bet that, for as long as they're there, the windows will stop mysteriously opening.
In response to the hundreds of replies to my last blog, I am happy to report that I have come up with a way that I can reply to your emails AND write books. It's all part of the SECRET PLAN that will be unveiled next month.
Until then…watch this space.
And no, the ghost of Mary did not help me come up with the idea. I don't think.