Good evening, living people. Since Halloween looms and everything in the cold October world seems dead or dying, I thought this would be a good time to tell you about my experiences with ghosts.

We’d have fun, you and I, huddled in the orange gloom of dusk exchanging our tales of skin-crawling confrontations with the spirit world.

The only flaw in this plan that I can see is that I have no such stories to relate. Not a one. I’ve never seen a ghost, nor anything that could be misconstrued as such.

No creaking chair rocking all by itself in the shadows of grandma’s parlor; no moon-white face appearing over the grave of a dear departed friend.

I’ve never seen that sad young girl, still clad in her prom dress, hitchhiking along the lonely roads of Poland, although Lord knows I’ve searched for her.

Haley Joel Osment may see spirits of the dead every time he turns around, but not me, bro. If the physical world is haunted by inhabitants from the other side, they clearly want nothing to do with me. When circles around a campfire turn to the topic of ghosts, I’ve got nothing at all to contribute.

Frankly, I blame my grandmother — would it have killed her to get that old rocking chair cranking on its own now and then and give a boy a thrill?

Which is not to say I haven’t had encounters.

When I was a boy of about 6, a neighborhood kid died in a house fire. A short time after the tragedy, I found myself all alone inside his house as the day darkened outside. The silence of the house was heavy and late-day shadows crawled across the walls. Somewhere above a board creaked and the thought occurred to me that, holy smokes! These are all prime conditions for ghosts!

The very moment the thought took form inside my shuddering young mind, a door swung open all by itself before my eyes. It went “creeeeeeee,” just like in the old Hammer films and in that instant I was sure — 100 percent, absolutely certain — that I was going to see the dead boy standing on the other side, his face all black and his flesh still oozing smoke in places.

Of course, I saw nothing of the sort because I ran. I ran so fast out of that house, I may have left a Mark-shaped hole in the door. I ran like only a scared kid can run and with every frantic step, I expected a blackened hand to fall on my shoulder to drag me down into some dreadful place populated by dead children.

But there was no hand and there was no dead neighborhood boy on my heels, either. All that I found in the gathering gloom outside was my older brother and a small tribe of punks, each doubled over in hysteria and possibly wetting their dungarees, so great was their mirth over this well-played prank.

That’s the same brother, incidentally, who assured me that “The Exorcist” wasn’t scary at all and that I should totally watch it by myself — and who, after I’d barely survived the movie, found a way to make my bed thump up and down in the middle of the night. Seriously, bros. Is it any wonder I’m the way I am?

Years later, as a teen, I had the opportunity to spend the night in a reputedly haunted house in the wilds of Vassalboro. Place was absolutely filthy with ghosts, I was assured. And so when darkness came, we assembled around a table with candles, a Ouija board and various other ghost-rousing accoutrements we’d learned about by watching “The Amityville Horror” a dozen times.

The seance began. The candles flickered and the planchette jerked across the board like something alive.

“Did you FEEL that?” my best pal Rusty gasped at just the right level of drama.

“We’re not alone,” one of our girlfriends whisper-screamed, her face a mask of incredulity in the flickering candlelight. Pretty sure she’d been rehearsing the line all afternoon.

Later, we’d all agree that we’d felt something in the room with us — something not of this world. But can I be honest with you here? What I felt that night was mostly the foggy buzzing glow of about a dozen Old Milwaukees bought on sale at Jenny’s Gas-n-Go a mile down the road. I’m pretty sure the girls had consumed a few too many Zimas to make them any kind of experts on paranormal contact and Rusty … Well, Rusty was a fine friend and all, but his eyes weren’t glassy and red that night from sheer terror alone.

If there were ghosts out in that dark patch of Vassalboro that night, they were too sensible to make themselves known to a group of liquored-up teenagers armed with a $5.99 parlor game plucked from the discount rack at Laverdiere’s.

Later, we’d try spending a night in a cemetery — an entire city of the dead! — and all I got out of that experience was poison ivy and a criminal trespass warning. No tomb doors groaned open to reveal the reanimated dead inside. No pale, bony hand rose up out of the earth to grab our ankles.

In more recent years, I’ve been to more scenes of murder and untimely death than I can count, yet never once have I witnessed an enraged, cheated soul flapping out of its vacated corpse en route to the afterworld.

Maybe ghosts are everywhere, and I simply lack the mystical third eye with which to behold them. Perhaps there’s a ghost hovering over my shoulder this very moment, reading along as I type and shaking its incorporeal head in disgust over my many run-on sentences.

The final proposition is the one that troubles me the most. Maybe I don’t see unhappy spirits floating like mist around me because, like that sad family in “The Others,” I’m the ghost here. Maybe when you and your giddy friends get down to playing Ouija on Halloween, I’ll be the one to shake your rickety poker table hard enough to send bottles of Zima crashing every which way. Maybe I’ll be the one blowing out your candles and whispering ominous words of warning into your trembling ear.

Might even build pyramids out of your kitchen chairs, like the punk in “Poltergeist” and I’ll almost certainly drink the remainder of your beer if you don’t lock it up tight.

I’m going to be a fantastic ghost, you wait and see. Certainly, I’ll be better than my dear ol’ grandma, 30 years dead and apparently not raising any hell at all.

Seriously, how hard can it be to set a simple chair rocking once you’ve made the long trip back from the netherworld?

I honestly wonder if that woman is even trying to be scary.

Mark LaFlamme is a ghost writer for the Sun Journal. Email him at [email protected]


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