Do you believe in ghosts?

Do you believe in ghosts?

The first death which truly affected me was that of my maternal grandfather.

I was eight or nine. I remember people coming over to the house and talking in hushed whispers around me, pretending everything was okay.

But I knew it wasn’t.

My mother eventually broke the news to me, which was tough for her as it was her father, and she knew how much I loved him.

He was a tough old guy who had survived World War 2, a heart attack, electrocution, and diabetes. He also spoke his mind no matter who he pissed off.

But he was always kind to me, and his loss cut deep. Even decades later, I see how much his death impacted his offspring and their families in negative ways.

We’re never the same when someone close to us dies. We’re never really whole again.

For months after his death, I waited for his ghost to return, to say goodbye to me.

At the time I was reading lots of ghost stories, and truly believed ghosts might exist, if you just allowed yourself to see them. The problem with adults, I’d figured, was that they couldn’t see ghosts among us because they’d stopped believing in such things.

But I was wide-eyed, young, and ready to believe.

I oftentimes went to bed, watching, waiting, thinking every noise and movement in my dark room might be him. I was both afraid and excited at the prospect of seeing my grandfather again.

Even though I was too young to recognize it, I needed closure.

So I waited every night for his ghost to come.

While there were a few weird things that happened in the wee hours — unexplained noises, things I thought I might have seen, I never had a full-on visitation from my grandfather, as far as I know.

Eventually, I stopped waiting.

Later, when I was 26, I lost my best friend, Todd.

This death crushed me in new ways.

Young people aren’t supposed to die. We had our lives ahead of us.

We had plans!

And now all I had was regrets — of the things we didn’t do, the chances I hadn’t taken though he’d urged me to, and that I’d never see him again to say sorry about our last words to one another.

But Death doesn’t give two fiddler’s fucks about plans. And it eats regrets for dinner.

While I had no such illusions about ghosts at this point, there was a part of me that held out hope — that somehow Todd could communicate with me.

I soon started having dreams — very vivid dreams where we’d be hanging out together. We’d be talking, driving around, doing the things we’d been doing since high school. And it felt so real.

Usually, I’m able to tell when I’m dreaming.

But in the Todd dreams, that wasn’t the case.

Everything felt so real until some horrible point in the dream where I’d suddenly look at Todd and say, “Hey, wait. You died.”

And then, just like that, the dream would crumble around me.

And I’d wake up feeling the loss of Todd all over again. Though not a ghost, Todd was haunting me no less.

Eventually, though, the nature of the dreams changed. And at some point I was able to keep the dreams alive even after I realized he was dead. And it was then that we were able to talk about things — how I wish I could take back the things we last said to one another, among them.

The skeptic in me believes this all to be my brain attempting to recover, playing things out for me in my sleep to make the pain of Todd’s loss a bit less so. To take away the sting of regret.

But another part of me, that wide-eyed child still waiting for ghosts, thinks perhaps in sleep we can connect with those who’ve moved on.

I think a lot of what I write is informed by the ghosts who still haunt me.

So when Sean and I wrapped up our 2013 serials and decided to write our own standalone novels to finish up the year, I knew what I wanted to write about — ghosts.

I’ve been working on a story, Crash, since I was 18. It’s one of those things that I’ve wanted to finish, but working through it has been tough as hell. It’s a dark story, darker than anything I’ve ever written, I think. It’s also a very personal story without even being about me. And each time I’ve lost someone close to me, I feel the story pulling my strings, wanting me to write it again.

Crash is about loss, and it’s about ghosts, and how we deal with them.

So I was surprised to find that Sean was also writing a ghost story of sorts.

When I read his story beats for the first incarnation of the story, I immediately wanted to help him write his story, rather than finish mine.

So I put Crash aside and helped Sean flesh out the story a bit more.

Threshold is the story of a man, Scott Dawson, whose wife is missing (and presumed dead). He’s spent months clinging to the house he can no longer pay for and trying to be a parent to children without his wife around. And things aren’t going well. He’s about to lose his house, and his kids are slipping away from him.

Soon, Scott finds out that his wife had an uncle he knew nothing about. And that uncle has recently died, leaving the house to their children.

The beautiful old mansion is the answer to all their problems. And they’ll be well compensated for staying there.

There’s just one provision in the will … one of his children have to be on the grounds at all time, or else they lose the house.

But this isn’t just any old house. It has ghosts.

And that’s only the beginning of what lies behind the walls of the mansion.

What I love most about Threshold is a secret I can’t give away, lest I spoil the book. No, it’s not a trick ending sort of book, but there is more than meets the eyes.

And I’m thrilled to have had a chance to help Sean write the rough draft. You should be seeing it later this month.

As for Crash, while I did eventually get back to it, I’m still struggling through the middle part. And since we’ve got Z 2136 coming up, I had to put it aside for a bit.

My hope is that I can get back to it soon, to finally put some of these ghosts to rest.

What about you? 

Do you believe in ghosts? Are you haunted by those you’ve lost? Leave a comment below and share your story.

 

  • Carl Sinclair

    Very nice piece Dave. I’m looking forward to both Threshold and Crash when they come out.

    I still have ghosts to lay to rest. When I was 9, I moved with my family to ‘the next town over’. I missed my friends and it was all very sudden. It wasn’t far to go, but it was far enough that I hardly saw them. In October 1990 I went to a camp in my old area and saw some old friends. We played on the beach. Some guy helped us find my glasses. We built forts, climb trees and played war.

    A week later that guy on the beach, shot and killed a bunch of people, including some of my friends.

    While I had been gone a while from the area and I didn’t know all of them that well. I did some and I have seen over the years how it affected the survivors and families. It wasn’t direct to me. I did feel like I was on the outside of it all. I do think of them often and I never really felt closure.

    I hope you can finish Crash and can get some for you.

    • Thanks for sharing that story, Carl. I’m guessing that you’ll find some sense of closure in writing about it in some form, even if a disguised version of the story.

  • gvvaughan

    Hi Dave,

    Paul Gallico aptly wrote: “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader”. The blood is visible in this piece, and having lost my own maternal Grandfather a little over 2 years ago I empathize with you. By Gallico’s standards I’ll never be a good writer, because I find it too hard to share incredibly personal things like bereavement in a meaningful way. That said, I posted here to say that there is sometimes a silver lining to even the awful process of working through the grief of losing someone close to us…

    My first serious girlfriend died of liver cancer when I was 22, just before her 21st birthday, which cast a shadow over the relationships that followed. It’s hard to tell your current partner that you haven’t been able to talk through the loss of your ex, and someone they never knew or want to know about. 20 years later, my now-wife lost her first life partner to stomach cancer when she was in her early twenties too, and had not been able to work through her loss either for similar reasons. One of the things that brought us together initially, in a somewhat morbid way, is that it was a huge relief for both of us to finally have someone understand that society’s taboo of talking about dead-ex’s is unhealthy and stupid, and to be able to let go of the internal editor that makes considering everything before you say it so tiring.

    Anyway, I look forward to Crash. Anything that is so hard to write is bound to be incredible, and I hope you don’t put it off for too long. I’ll be picking up Threshold too, which sounds like a great read, just like everything else out of Collective Inkwell.

    • Thank you, Gvvaughan. Sorry to hear about your first serious girlfriend. I wound up becoming close friends with my friend’s ex, so we sort of share that same bond of losing him, which is a weird bond, indeed. I’m glad to know that you and your wife found one another and can share this without it being a distraction keeping you from loving one another fully. I think in situations like this, oftentimes one can feel like they’re competing with a ghost they can never compete against because we remember the best of those we loved, and it’s hard to compare others to that. Thanks again for commenting.

  • Archer Caldwell

    Interesting post Dave. I’m the oldest of four boys. Growing up, we lived in a house that had a dormer added to the home by the owner before us. It had two bedrooms that the former owner’s daughters used. As we grew up and out of the house, each of us spent some time in the room at the top of the stairs and unbeknownst to the others, each of us had an “experience” with the ghost of the former owner.

    It wasn’t until years later, when we were all adults and my parents had moved out of state, that one night we were all reminiscing about the old house. Almost at once, we all wondered aloud if the others had ever had a weird experience in the old bedroom. Each of us had heard the old man walk up the stairs, make the turn at the top and pause at the first room and walk down towards the second room before heading back down stairs. We never saw anything that would turn your hair white, but if I ever got home right at 10:00, there was no way I’d use the stairs for at least another hour. No need for an unintended run-in.

    So… yes, I do believe in ghosts. I think that there’s always something around to look in on you from time to time. That old man wasn’t checking on me and my brothers, but we all knew we had an extra set of eyes on us so long as we slept in that upstairs room.

    • Thanks, Archer. If I had something so regularly occurring in my house, I would sooooo try to capture it on film, just for some sort of proof that it wasn’t in my head, even if I never shared it with the world.

  • MichelleGillies

    Dave, I am looking forward to reading “Crash” and “Threshold” when they are available. You brought back memories I had long forgotten about “ghosts”. I did have a ghost encounter…just not the one I longed for. I remember it vividly. It was my brother-in-law’s mother, Pauline. She passed in my sister’s home from cancer. She was very close to my nephew (her grandson) who was around 4 or 5. After she passed whenever I babysat I would I would see this movement at the end of a hall. Like a shadow it would move into the baby’s room and then into my nephew’s room. I could hear my nephew having a one sided conversation. After a few minutes the shadow would move right past me into the kitchen and go to the stove. I checked on the children and they were both sleeping peacefully and when I went into the kitchen there was nothing there. I told my sister when she came home what had happened. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh, that’s just Pauline checking on the kids and making herself a pot of tea”. Both of us just accepted it but we didn’t talk about it because her husband thought us crazy and it upset him. A few years later when they were moving out of the house they started to have problems with my nephew. He would get almost hysterical and adamantly refused to go along with the move. It took some time and some coaxing but he finally confided in me that he was afraid his “Nana” wouldn’t be able to find him anymore and talk to him every night like she does now.
    My Mom passed when I was 12. Like you with your Grandfather, I waited for her to come back and instead started having vivid nightmares. The nightmares got so bad I would force myself to stay awake all night so I wouldn’t have them. To this day I suffer from insomnia developed from my fears as a child.
    When my little nephew told me about his conversations with his Nana part of me was jealous and the rest of me was really pleased for him that he got to share more time with her before he had to say good bye. Of course the move was made and Pauline did not come with them. It does make me wonder how much it all effected him in the end.

    • Thanks, Michelle. That is creepy. And rather traumatic for your nephew. I think if I actually SAW a ghost, I’d not ever feel comfortable being alone again. I’d always feel spied on or something.

      • MichelleGillies

        Really it wasn’t creepy at all. It was kind of comforting. My nephew was never scared and enjoyed his chats with his Nana. His father was convinced it was an overactive imagination but I think kids believe in things until we tell them otherwise.