When I was in grade school, Scholastic Books put out an amazing collection of ghost stories. First of all, yes, Scholastic Books has been around that long. And secondly, yes, I have been collecting ghost story books for that long. To get back to the point, I still remember the cover of that paperback book. It showed a forest in darkness and over the black tree tops was a ghostly, veiled moon that cast doubtful light over the scene. The words "Ghost Stories" were written in puffy, smoky white cursive across the darkness. I still remember that because even then I was into cover art, I guess.
One of the stories in that book concerned the ghost of a young pioneer girl who had died along the Oregon Trail. The story took place some where in the Midwest/West, where there were caves not far from the original wagon train routes. The setting was either a state or national park, and the heroine of the story was a local high school girl who was volunteering as a trail guide for the summer. At some point, someone on staff told her to be on the lookout for the pioneer girl; apparently the ghost appeared as dusk was heading toward darkness and could be spotted easily because her dress and her bonnet -along with the strings- glowed against the dark of oncoming night.
Of course, our protagonist is caught out on the trail near the caves at just that time and sees this pioneer ghost coming towards her, with the glowing dress that moved in the wind, and the bonnet strings that trailed behind her, each with their own particular illumination.
I have never forgotten the description of that scene. For one thing, however the writer phrased it, the image I got from those descriptive paragraphs has remained with me for decades.
For the other, however, I always wondered -and still do- why a ghost would choose to haunt such a lonely and secluded spot. Was it by choice? Was she doomed to walk that path for some reason unknown to the living? As an older, more experienced ghost aficionado, I also ask, was she just a residual haunting?
And that leads me to the question, if you could haunt anyplace in the world, where would it be? Would you stay in the same place? I have it on good authority that ghosts can haunt more than one place if there were several meaningful locations during their lives. Or would you maybe haunt a person instead?
My brother, who passed away at a younger age than he should have, was a great fan of books and movies. He left us before the last Harry Potter film hit the screens. He didn't live to see The Hobbit as brought to the big screen by Peter Jackson. And he has missed all of the amazing Marvel Comic adaptations from the earliest Captain America through Deadpool. He would have loved all of them.
But there are times I wonder if he isn't tagging along with me or his adult children when we go to see one of those films. Sometimes I get the sense that he pops into those movie theaters with us and enjoys the show much as he would have in physical form, except, of course, no popcorn or chocolate.
But I can't help thinking, maybe that's the way to haunt, if you're going to do it. Not just places special to the heart (find me in Door County frequently!) but also with the people and activities who were the most important in your life. If it's doable, I plan to pop into my children's and grandchildren's lives long after I'm gone. Not to frighten -they shouldn't even know I'm there- but just to check in. To see how they're doing. To see what they get up to as adults and as parents and grandparents themselves.
I guess if a place is magical enough, a person might want to come back and visit. Would that pioneer girl really have chosen to hang around a dusty, old road when she could be visiting with descendants? Or maybe spending time (if there is such a thing in the afterlife) with the people she had known and loved through the years of her short life? When I'm gone, I suppose a "sensitive" might feel my presence along Highway 42 or along the shoreline in Door County from time to time. I really do love it there. But I really do love my kids and grandkids, too, so maybe it's a safer bet to look for me to be visiting them just a little bit more often. Not to scare. Just to check in.