Ghosts are out and about. I saw several today. And scary things they are with their booing and disappearing and haunting and tattered sheets. I thought I better get with the season and reblog some earlier ghostly tales from my youth. Our family lived next to a graveyard. Many were the encounters we had with the creatures of the night. I would like to begin by reporting Mr. Fitzgerald is dead, very dead.
He has been for decades but I still have a clear memory of spying on him, trying to get my six-year-old mind around old age. I was perched in my favorite lookout, a Black Locust tree on the edge of the Graveyard. Dark clouds heavy with rain marched in from the Pacific while distant thunder announced the approaching storm. A stiff, cool breeze sent yellow leaves dancing across the ground.
Mr. Fitzgerald was a bent old man preparing for a future that might not arrive. He wore a heavy coat to fight off the chill. I watched him shuffle around in his backyard. He sharpened his axe on a foot operated grinding wheel and then chopped wood.
When he slowly bent over to pick up the scattered pieces and carry them into his shed, I scrambled down from the tree. I located a convenient knothole in the wall so I could continue to spy on him. He stopped stacking wood and stared intently at where I was, as though he could see through the weathered boards.
It frightened me.
I took off like a spooked rabbit. Mr. Fitzgerald was intriguing but his age and frailty spoke of death. I already knew too many dead people. They lived next door.
The Graveyard was out the backdoor and across the alley. We lived with its ghostly white reminders of our mortality day and night. Ancient tombstones with fading epitaphs whispered of those who had come to seek their fortune in California’s Gold Rush and stayed for eternity. Time had given their resting place a sense of permanence and even peace. But not all of the graves were old. Occasionally a fresh body was buried on the opposite side of the cemetery. I stayed far away; the newly dead are restless.
At some time in the past, Heavenly Trees from China had been planted to provide shade. They behaved like weeds. Cut them down and they sprang back up twice as thick. Since chopping them down provided Diamond Springs Boy Scout Troop 95 with a community project every few years, they retaliated by forming a visually impenetrable mass of green in summer and an army of sticks in winter. Trailing Myrtle, a cover plant with Jurassic aspirations, hid the ground in deep, leafy foliage.
During the day, it took little imagination to change the lush growth into a jungle playground populated with ferocious tigers, bone crushing boas and half-starved cannibals.
Night was different; the Graveyard became a place of mystery and danger. Dead people abandoned their underground chambers and slithered up through the ground.
A local test of boyhood bravery was to go into the Graveyard after dark and walk over myrtle-hidden graves, taunting the inhabitants. Slight depressions announced where they lived and tripped you up. My older brother Marshall persuaded me to accompany him there on a moonless night. I entered with foreboding: fearing the dark, fearing the tombstones and fearing the ghosts. Half way through I heard a muzzled sound. Someone, or thing, was stalking us.
“Hey Marsh, what was that?” I whispered urgently.
“Your imagination, Curt,” was the disdainful reply.
Crunch! Something was behind a tombstone and it was not my imagination. Marshall heard it too. We went crashing out of the Graveyard with the creature of the night in swift pursuit, wagging her tail.
“I knew it was the dog all of the time,” Marsh claimed. Yeah, sure you did.
NEXT BLOG: The Attack of the Graveyard Ghost.