A true ghost story collected by folklorist S.E. Schlosser
I have a fascination with genealogy, which is what started all the trouble. My next-door neighbor and I were fellow hobbyists, and we often supported each others search for long-lost ancestors. We would spend hours pouring over stacks of dusty country records, wandering through poison-ivy strewn graveyards, and getting lost on back lanes trying to find the homes of retirees who remembered what our forbearers were like way back when.
On this particular day, we were traveling to a distant graveyard which conveniently happened to contain the graves of ancestors from both of our (completely unrelated) families. Cheryl’s great-great-aunt and her other kin were quite easy to find, but we had to search high and low before we found the tomb of my third-cousin-once-removed, one Samuel Beauregard Smith. I took a rubbing, recorded his information into one of my copious notebooks, and then stood examining the fancy stone for a few moments.
“No expense spared here,” I said to Cheryl.
“Either someone really loved him, or someone was glad to see him go,” Cheryl agreed with a grin. “Do you have any idea which it was?”
“Nope. I just found out about his existence last Friday,” I replied.
We packed up our stuff after that, lunched at a quaint little tea house in the vicinity, and then went home. The early evening proceeded normally; at least, it did until I heard the squeak the front door made when it opened. I knew I had shut the door firmly when I came in, and I was pretty sure I’d locked it, but when I went into the hallway, the door was wide open, as if someone had just walked in.
Behind me Soot, my black cat, started to purr. She walked delicately toward the front door and started twining herself around and around, as if she were rubbing against someone’s legs in greeting. But there was no one there. My arms broke out in goose bumps, and I hastily shooed Soot away and closed the door. The cat continued to purr and leisurely walked into the living room, as if she were dogging the footsteps of some invisible presence.
In the living room, Terry, my ancient fox terrier, huffed a greeting to a very-empty-looking spot in the middle of the room, thumping his tail a few times before settling back down in his basket to snooze. I hurried away to the kitchen to do something normal – like the supper dishes – and then went right to bed, telling myself I was being over imaginative and silly.
The next morning, some of the cabinets were open, as if someone had been searching through them, looking for breakfast food. Pretending that I must have left them open last night (I hadn’t), I closed them, and ignored Soot’s purred greeting to someone who just happened to be occupying the empty chair across from mine as I ate some cold cereal and got ready for work. I also pretended not to see the unfolded newspaper on the kitchen table as I grabbed my keys and I absolutely did not see one of the pages start to turn as I walked out the back door.
For almost two weeks, I ignored the invisible person living in the house with me, although he (it felt like a he) drove me crazy, leaving cabinets open, scuffling up the rugs, rearranging the furniture to suit his fancies, and forgetting to turn off lights. But when he started whistling off-key, I’d had enough.
I’d told Cheryl about my unwanted guest. She’d been reluctant to believe me, until she came over one morning and found someone invisibly reading the newspaper. After that, she gave me the name of a psychic, and I gave the woman a call.
Cheryl wanted to be here when the psychic arrived, but she was called over to her daughter’s house to baby sit, and so she missed out on the grand entrance. The psychic was a nice, normal looking brunette who stiffened as soon as she entered the house and said: “Yes, you do have a ghost,” before I’d even had a chance to take her coat.
We sat down in the living room, and the psychic quickly made contact with the spirit. And what do you know? It was Samuel Beauregard Smith. Apparently, he’d seen me visiting the graveyard, and decided I reminded him of his first wife, so he’d followed me home.
“I’m flattered,” I said carefully, “but it isn’t seemly for a widow to be sharing her home with a bachelor such as yourself.”
As the psychic relayed my message to the ghost, I heard Cheryl’s car pulling into her driveway, and knew she would be over any minute.
“Samuel has agreed to leave the house,” the psychic said. I wondered where his spirit usually resided, but decided it would not be appropriate to ask such a personal question. A moment later, a feeling of emptiness filled the room. “Samuel is gone,” the psychic told me.
After thanking the psychic and paying her for her services, I escorted her to the front door, just in time to see Cheryl hurrying up the front walk. The two women nodded to each other as they passed, and then Cheryl burst into the hallway.
“Was that the psychic? What did she say? And who was the old-fashioned man with the white mustache who came out your front door just as I was pulling into my driveway?”
My mouth dropped open in shock. Closing it, I swallowed and sat down rather abruptly.
“What is it? What did I say?” asked Cheryl, alarmed by my pallor.
“Nothing,” I said, slowly beginning to grin. “You just saw Samuel Beauregard Smith leaving the house at my request.”
Now it was Cheryl’s turn to sit abruptly. “Samuel Beauregard Smith?” she asked incredulously. “That third cousin of yours with the fancy tombstone?”
“I just saw his ghost?” she said.
“You just saw his ghost,” I confirmed.
For the first time since we’d met, Cheryl was speechless.
I laughed suddenly and got up. “It will be nice to have my house to myself again,” I told her, and went to the kitchen to make us some tea.
Author retelling: This is a unique author retelling of this folktale. This version of the story is copyrighted to S.E. Schlosser. See the Permissions page for information on reprints.