You know how some of the most startling information comes to us in the most nondescript of ways. That is exactly how I heard about the ghost in the house.
I was finishing up from a long and tiring day at school, slumped at my desk trying to make some order of the papers I had flung there. The custodian was also doing his part to bring some order to the chaos and was sweeping the floor beside me. He asked if we had met Mr. Harland yet. “Mr. Who?” He had my attention now despite the pull of wrapping up early and heading home.
“Mr. Harland,” he replied in the same casual way.
“Who is Mr. Harland?” I pressed.
“Well, if you haven’t seen him yet, you surely will. He’s around.” And with that cryptic statement he moved out into the hallway to talk to someone wanting his expertise on this or that.
I don’t know if it was just because I was tired at the end of the day or because in my family I had learned to gather important information in little morsels thrown my way just as this had been, but I didn’t run after him. That doesn’t mean that this new information wasn’t put at the very top of my: When I Have a Minute List.
You see my daughter had just bought a home on one of the winding mountain roads not far from where I live. The two storey house had a new addition full of windows and light but the original part of the house where the kitchen and dining room were located had been a log house dating to the 1800’s. This log home and the surrounding terrain happened to be the ancestral home of my friend, the custodian.
I had gathered from our brief, cryptic exchange that he was telling me about something otherworldly. I have always been curious about ghosts and have heard stories from more than one person about their encounters with them, but up until now none of these presences had a personal connection.
I had a lot to process that night. I have a very vivid imagination that can easily slip into the macabre without a ghost presence pushing it in that direction. I thought about my daughter being alone in her home and wondered if I should let her know this latest piece of information. Maybe I could talk about the plumbing and the new lighting and slip in, “Oh, by the way, there’s a ghost.”
After a restless night spent tossing and turning, I decided I needed more information. At school the next day, I broached the subject once again. “I am wondering,” I began, “about Mr. Harland.” There was a long, deliberate silence. I decided I would just come out with it. “Was Mr. Harland an axe murderer?” Another long pause ensued.
“No, Mr. Harland was a very good man, a kind man,” was the answer. It seems he had decided at one point and for his very personal reasons that he had had enough and committed suicide. With this newest information, my perceptions about this particular ghost made a radical shift.
Whenever I spent time at the house after that I was always very conscious of Mr. Harland’s’s story. My daughter, who was living overseas, never actually slept in the house while she owned it, but she did have a whole series of renters none of whom ever shared any stories of encounters with Mr. Harland. My son, who knew the story and spent a few weekends there with friends, said that the only thing he noticed was that when the group gathered for a meal they all felt as if someone was missing, only to see that they were all there.
I have always been curious about ghosts. I find it interesting that everyone I have talked to over the years about “ghosts in the house” speak of these presences with a warm affection. Talking about ghosts seems to be a bit of a taboo subject for some, but for others it just seems to be a fact of life.
For my part, I am deciding to pursue my curiosity and gather more stories. Homes come with all kinds of stories, it seems.