The other week, my husband and I got together with some friends we hadn't seen for a few months. As the gathering broke up, one of them turned to me and said, "Hey, I saw a ghost the other night." Those are some of the sweetest words this writer can ever hear, and I love when that happens. My friend went on to tell me that as he was leaving his ex-wife's house (they are good friends), he glanced back and saw her walking on her outdoor back porch. He thought this was rather strange because it was a cold, dark October night, and all she was wearing was a white nightgown. Of course, when he asked her about it later, she said she was never anywhere near the back porch, let alone outside on a cold October night in her nightgown.
I also had an incident at work when my supervisor greeted my morning entrance with "Something happened at our house last night and I thought of you." Apparently, while her son was trying to go to sleep, he was visited in his room by an orb of red light that hovered above his face and refused to go away until he finally called out to his mother. He had seen this same thing previously but hadn't said anything about it because he thought his parents would think he was crazy. He was also bothered by the doorbell ringing only to find no one there when he answered.
I get smatterings of ghost stories frequently, like the newly-made acquaintance who was hosting a get-together and said to me, "You should talk to my son. His college is haunted." Or the instructor I had who said, "Have you talked to Dave? His apartment is haunted. Every night at ten PM the door to his bedroom closes itself. When he tried keeping it closed before-hand, the door opened and then closed itself at ten o'clock on the dot." And then there was the PTO mom who told me about her little boy talking to someone she couldn't see at their front door, inviting him in out of the rain. The boy said the man he saw was a fireman, and the PTO mom told me later she found out that the former owner of the house had been a fireman, and had died of a heart attack in that doorway.
I also collect ghost stories off of the Internet ("The Woman Who Sold a Ghost on E-Bay), out of newspapers ("Shoe Factory Road is Haunted!"), and at historic sites that are proud of their ghostly visitors (Shipwrecked Brew Pub and Restaurant, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin). I collect all of these and more, hoarding them in various bins, notebooks, and files to pore over and enjoy again, and to inspire and suggest stories of my own. One can never have too many ghost stories!
So when I go to work, or go to a party, or find myself exploring a new inn or restaurant or museum, I am always open to hearing a tale or two about the dearly departed. That lead-in statement "I have a ghost story for you..." always makes my toes curl in delight. Maybe a strange obsession, maybe even a stranger collection, but hey, some people collect (shudder) clowns or porcelain dolls. (See illustrative picture above) Now that's really strange.