Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spirits For Sale...Or For A Visit

Okay, I had planned to talk about the growing YA market today, but came across an article that was too weirdly entertaining to resist.

On Monday evening an auction closed on the New Zealand equivalent of eBay, a site called Trade Me here. The auction was titled "Two Captured Ghosts" and here's a partial (if poorly spelled) description:
Captured ghosts from our house

Captured by an exorsist from a spiritualist church

one spirit we believe is a man by the name of Les Graham...but he is not a very strong spirit.

The other spirit came from when me and my partner stupidly did an Oujia Board. We believe it is a little girl who likes to move things and turn things on and off. Exorsist says she is VERY strong and if left will get stronger.

We have had no activity since they were bottled on July 15th 2009 . So i believe they are in the bottles.

They are bottled with holy water as aparantly the water dulls the spirits energy, sort of puts them to sleep.

To revive the spirit, i have been told that you pour into a little dish and let it evaporate into your house.
Avie Woodbury, the seller from Christchurch, claims that the proceeds (after the exorcist's fee is deducted) will go to the SPCA.

Now here's the kicker. The lot sold for $2,830 (U.S. equivalent = $1,983).

You can go here to see the items.

Or--if you want to get in on the action--bid for your own ghost; this time in a Thriftee bottle with "more powerful red holy water." That auction is here and has another week to run.

It's easy to laugh off stories like these as scams or silliness. I certainly do--at least 96.9% of the time.

But it's that last 3.1% that makes me hesitate.

Back in the spring of 1979, I spent five days visiting my aunt and her husband in their large apartment in a brownstone in Queens, New York. During that time, I encountered something that I still cannot explain. And, believe me, I've tried.

After my first night in the guestroom, my aunt shrugged off my report of being awakened at 2:00 AM by a loud, bizarre noise. "It's an unfamiliar place. You were tired and probably dreaming. Don't worry about it."

Side note: I knew my uncle liked to tipple (as did every other male in my family tree). The night before, I'd figured he was drunk and stumbling around so I'd stayed in my bed and eventually fell back asleep. In the light of day, I decided my aunt didn't want to explain his late night peregrinations. I let the matter drop...until the second night when it happened again at 2:00 AM.

It sounded like someone was beating together pots and pans directly outside my bedroom door.

This time, I turned on the light, got out of bed and opened the door, prepared to confront my uncle.

Nothing. There was no one there.

The noise immediately stopped. No echoes. No footsteps. I turned on the lights outside my room and searched for a tape recorder or some evidence someone had been there and was playing a joke on me. I even tiptoed through the apartment to check that the front door was locked and then sneaked to the doorway of the master bedroom where I could hear my uncle snoring and see the outline of my aunt next to him in the bed.

I was young and seriously creeped out. I wanted an explanation...or alternatively a plane ticket home.

The next day another of my maternal relatives took me to lunch, and I told her the story. I suspect she could see I was alarmed because she was very matter-of-fact. "Your aunt doesn't want to scare you. It's the ghost. Don't worry about it. It's been around for twenty years and hasn't hurt anyone yet."

What???? What was wrong with these people?

I questioned her, and she gave me a quick sketch of odd happenings: things disappearing and later showing up in strange places, seat cushions and bedspreads disturbed when no one had been in the room, noises like the ones I had heard.

After lunch, I found a public phone booth and called my mother in Florida to ask what kind of a place she'd sent me off to. Mom confirmed what I'd been told, saying that the "hauntings" had been going on for more than twenty years. My maternal grandmother (Irish and sensitive) had refused to spend the night in the apartment.

When I asked why the hell my aunt and uncle had stayed, Mom responded, "Rent control."

My first reaction was to be majorly ticked off that--while my trip was being contemplated and then planned--no one thought to mention I was going to visit a haunted house. Mom said said the problems had been the worst during the time my cousins were growing up. Since they'd moved out, no one had mentioned the ghost in years. Full of knowledge gleaned from fiction, I immediately responded, "Maybe it's a poltergeist. Supposedly they're associated with teenage girls."

You can tell my second reaction was--now that I had an explanation (even a weird one)--this was kind of cool. I wanted to collect more information on the phenomenon.

So I set out to go mano-a-mano with the household's ghost or poltergeist--without informing anyone else of my plans. On my way back to my aunt's I visited a nearby Catholic church and purchased a rosary and a scapular. Not taking any chances, I hunted around for a priest and got him to bless them for me. The poor man was so pleased a young person wanted to wear a scapular I felt a twinge of guilt.

I had three nights left in my visit. The first night, armed for combat with my holy tools, I waited until 1:45 AM, then turned on the lights both inside and outside my room and moved a chair to the doorway where I could sit and wait.

I sat there until 2:30 AM. Nothing.

Undeterred, the second night I put the chair outside the room, closed the door behind me and waited. I didn't quite have the courage to sit in the dark so I left the lights on. Again, nothing.

My last night in the apartment, I was desperate. I had a noon flight home the following day. I purchased a flashlight and sat in the semi-darkness (with my fingers covering most of the flashlight's illumination). At 2:40, I gave up and went to bed.

About two hours later, my bed began to shake violently, and my comb and hair dryer fell off the dresser across the room. I screamed and--for the first and only time in my life--I peed on myself in fear.

Retribution. The ghost was coming for me.

My uncle opened the door and shouted, "It's okay. It's an earthquake!"

An earthquake in Queens????

You can check the records. On March 10, 1979 at 4:49 AM, there was a 3.2 magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale in New Jersey, which was felt in New York.

I can tell you, it was hours before I stopped shaking.

It's been over thirty years since that spring. I have nothing more to report than I've already told you. I know what happened to me. I can't explain it.

So I still have that 3.1% open mind.
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


Maria Zannini said...

After all that you end up with a real earthquake! LOL. I'd rather have the ghost. Earthquakes scare the bejeebers out of me.

The old apartment I grew up in was regularly haunted. I wish I had thought of the scapular. When it got really bad, I'd make the sign of the cross and tell them they had to go.

Most of the time, they did.

Maya Reynolds said...

What's really creepy is that I didn't realize the anniversary of that earthquake will be tomorrow morning until a few minutes ago.

Or at least I didn't realize it consciously.

Gina Black said...

Thanks for posting this, Maya. It clicked together with some ideas that had been floating around in my head and now I know what I have to do with a story I've been chewing on for a while. :)

Maya Reynolds said...

Gina: Glad to be of help!!

Mike Keyton said...

Brilliant story, Maya. I spent a year in a brownstone in Jackson Heights. Fortunately no ghosts, though I did see the same ghost twice in different locations back in Britain.
I was intrigued by the soul bottle scam because they figure significantly in my present wip.
Hope things are well with you

Maya Reynolds said...

Mike: Thanks for the comment. Yes, I'm fine and hope things are going well for you.

Warm regards,