by Molly Jo Realy @MollyJoRealy
It’s late. It’s always late when I blog. And for the last few nights, Catford Manor’s hallway has been the feline focal point of things unseen.
You cat lovers, y’all know what I’m talking about. The furfamily pricks their ears, squints, and scurries into the shadows to meow at . . . nothing. At least I hope it’s nothing. Every night, I hope it’s nothing. When we first moved in so many years ago, the cabinet doors and drawers liked to open on their own about once a week. Until I let who–or what–ever it was, such antics were not acceptable.
The ravens love my rooftop and a few times throughout the year, they like to peck at the chimney cap and make more noise than I’m comfortable with. It’s all very Hitchcockian.
And very timely for today’s Five Things Friday: My favorite ghost stories.
So, I grew up in a small town in the midwest. The kind where kids rode bikes to the mini mart to buy sodas and candy bars before we took ourselves to the lake during summer, or the golf course after school. Mind you, we didn’t play golf. But the area was wooded, and lent itself to spooks and Bigfoot hunts. Growing up where and when I did was a great catalyst for my imagination. What follows are stories I have heard–or experienced–that have stayed with me.
- The Winchester House. Are y’all familiar with Winchester rifles? Sarah Winchester was the widow and heiress to rifle inventor, William Wirt Winchester. She built the mansion after his death. It was said to have been haunted by spirits of those killed by his lever-action repeating rifle. The house, now a tourist trap and historical landmark in San Jose, was built with odd rooms, doors that lead to nowhere, and windows inside that looked into other rooms. Sarah filled the home with representations of spiritualism, the number 13, and spider webs, all in attempts to appease the victim spirits of her husband’s weaponry.
- The Queen Mary. This is one of my favorite, well, haunts, if you’ll pardon the expression. Balmy summer nights under neon port lights, walking the wood decks, there’s a definite feeling of more than meets the eye. A guided tour and literature detail past and present encounters. There are many rumors of ghosts and otherworldly events on the docked ship. [Note to self: Don’t stay in Room A128.] This old photo is out of focus, but captures the sentiment perfectly.
- Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. I’ve heard many a rumor, but have yet to experience anything myself, except for the occasional unwarranted chill up my spine. It’s been said since the Haunted Mansion was built in 1969, there have been many unexplained paranormal activities. A pilot who died in a nearby crash haunts the dark hallways. Employees never work alone. Sounds, strange movements, and shadows all infiltrate the structure in a way not inspired or designed by Disney.
- The Grey Man of Pawley’s Island. I first read about him when I was nine. It was in a book, The Haunting of America, that I was so enamored with, I borrowed it from the library over and over and over. In fact, just a few years ago, I found an out-of-print copy and it still gives me the chills. The Grey Man appears on the island to warn residents of impending hurricanes. But the most chilling aspect is that he has no face. He wears a grey suit, a grey hat, and his skin is the grey of storm clouds. His faceless appearance in the sign to residents to leave immediately, or hunker down.
- Stephen J. Cannell. Now, y’all may not believe this. Sometimes I wonder if it ever really happened. But this is my own personal story, so I know it to be true. In 2007, I sent SJC an email asking for writing advice. He turned that inquiry, and his response, into a short video for his website. Over the course of the following three years, we had a quasi-mentor relationship online. Facebook, Twitter, a few emails here and there. He was the first professional writer to acknowledge me, and to call me “Molly Jo”, not just “Molly”. And then in 2010 we met at a book signing. He died a few months later and it hit me hard. Oh, we weren’t close friends, but he was important to my writing. He inspired and encouraged me. And one morning about two weeks after his death, in the middle of October, I woke up to an email from Stephen J Cannell. It was the same email he’d sent me over three years earlier, the first response to my inquiry. And that same email, with the same video query encouraging me to write every day, kept showing up in my email inbox every day for a week. Until I started writing again. #truestory
So there you have it. My five favorite ghost stories.
Curious: What are yours?
With a bright flashlight and a glow-in-the-dark notebook,
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!