Monday, June 13, 2016

The Tactile Ghost

In past posts, I have largely written about ghosts that can be seen. The apparition beside the bed. The extra face looking back at you in the mirror. The filmy mass at the bottom of the stairs, ready to ascend.

 I have also written at least once about ghosts that can be heard. Clairaudient is the description of the person who hears the dead without necessarily seeing them. Skeptics might suggest that such a person is mentally ill and is hearing voices that are only rooted in illness, but I think we all know the difference between hearing a voice outside of ourselves and hearing one within. Barring actual mental illness, that is.

Some spirits announce themselves with a particular odor or smell. The scent of a flower like lavender or lilac is commonly associated with the ghosts of fine ladies. Places that have witnessed disasters sometimes will haunt a person with the smell of smoke if there has been a fire, or the smell of the sea, if items in a room have been involved in a shipwreck. And of course, smelling sulfur or something rotting and nasty is NEVER a good thing.

But there is also the sense of touch. And that's one that seems to connect with me from time to time. 

I always tell people that I grew up in a haunted house. Heck, it's in every author's bio I have ever included at the back of my books. My sister and I frequently heard things. Jim actually saw something. But I have felt things, and the first time was back in the haunted house of my childhood.
When I was nine years old, I shared a bedroom with my sister. (Thank God. Sleeping alone in that house? No, thank you.) She was a lighter sleeper than I was at the time, and so anything restless in the house was probably going to disturb her before it bothered me. However, one night I remember waking up when it was still full dark. The entire house was still so I knew that everyone was in bed. I would guess it was about two or three in the morning, or thereabouts.

Going back to sleep -simply going to sleep- was never a problem for me when I was younger. I could shut down like C3P0: now you see me awake, now you don't. So when I woke up I didn't anticipate having any problem falling asleep again. I remember that I yawned and stretched and I also remember that I put one hand on top of the headboard of my twin bed. And was surprised to find what felt like a finger beneath my own hand.

I remember scrabbling around with that hand, trying to figure out what I had touched, and just one more time I felt that other finger beneath my own. It was across the top of my headboard, the end of it curled around to follow the angles of the wood. By then I was literally flailing around with my hand, looking for whatever was attached to that finger. I have no idea why I did that: I sure as heck wouldn't do that today! At any event, whatever I felt was gone. I never turned around to see if anything was there. I was young, but I wasn't stupid. I had touched something -or someone- that was behind my bed one moment and then gone the next.

That was just one more thing in the list of "things that happened" in that house. Fast forward to two years ago. Married, with children and grandchildren, and writing ghost stories as a job. I woke up in the middle of the night, a common occurrence at my current age, and lay there for a little while. I laced my fingers behind my head on the pillow and a moment later felt something touch and glide, finger-like, along the underside of my arm. YIKES! I was no longer nine years old, and lots of weird things have happened to me since I was a child. I yanked my arms back down and got farther under the covers. And managed to find a way to fall asleep again.

I don't give much thought to either of those incidents. Except that last night, yes, last night, also in bed and awake in the darkness, I felt something again stroking along my arm. (Why doesn't she sleep with her arms under the covers at all times? you're probably thinking. Good question.) Yes, I got back under the blankets. No, I didn't open my eyes to see what could have been there. I may be post-menopausal, but I'm not stupid. 

I am not the sort of person who likes being touched by someone I don't know. Being touched by someone I don't know and who is probably also dead goes far beyond simple dislike. More like get away from me. But there it is. When I least expect it, something decides to reach out and and

The house I live in now isn't haunted. I would never call it that. On the other hand, I do feel that sometimes -well, okay, frequently- visitors pass through our home. I hear the noises: the rustlings, the knockings, the shufflings, sometimes the footsteps. That's okay. That lends itself well to what I write. On the other hand, I would really appreciate it if all our guests would keep their hands to themselves at all times.


  1. Aaah! Maybe you should switch sides of the bed with Jim and see if he gets harassed instead. Or smudge the whole house. I can't believe you fell back asleep after that. If it happened to me I'd be up every night until I moved out!

  2. Another writer friend of mine always says the same thing. It didn't feel malevolent or anything, just weird. And unexpected. I fell asleep because I kept my eyes closed!