A true ghost story collected by folklorist S.E. Schlosser
I heard the neighbor’s car running in the garage as I got into my car to drive to the grocery store. That seemed a bit odd, since it was summertime. Why would they need to warm it up? I shrugged the thought away and drove to the store. An hour later, I heard the car again as I unpacked the groceries from the trunk. I frowned. Maybe they’d just gotten back? I couldn’t see anything because the garage door was closed.
As I was putting the groceries away, my mother phoned about some arrangements for my son’s third birthday party. We talked for nearly an hour. Then I ran back out to the car to get a bag I’d forgotten. And heard my neighbor’s car again. Maybe they forgot it was still running? I walked over to their house and rang the doorbell repeatedly. No answer.
Now I was getting worried. There was no sign of anyone home, and normally the kids would be out playing in the backyard with their father at this time of day. I phoned the house. No answer. I phoned both parents’ cell phones. I got voice mail. I couldn’t leave things there. A car running in a closed garage was dangerous. Reluctantly, I called the police and explained the situation. They sent someone over.
And found the father dead in the car. Suicide. Worse, the carbon monoxide had crept into the house, and all the children were affected. The eldest girl and the baby were far enough away from the garage to recover quickly. But the middle daughter was hospitialized in a coma. I went every day with her hysterical mother to visit. Poor woman. A dead husband, traumatized children, and a daughter who would be a vegetable all her life, even if she woke from her coma. My family did everything we could to ease her burden, as she waited for her family — who lived overseas — to arrive. I took her to the hospital to see her child and my mother watched the other kids while we were out. My husband even went over to cut the grass and fix the leak in her sink.
On the fourth visit to the hospital, something strange happened. While I was watching by the side of the little girl and my neighbor was talking with the nurse in the hall, a breeze swept suddenly into the room and seemed to whirl about the little girl. It flattened the hair on her head as if it were a hand patting it. I heard the murmur of a man’s voice. Then the breeze vanished, and in that instant the child’s eyes popped open and she sat up in bed.
I exclaimed in surprise, bringing my neighbor running with the nurse. And the child called out to her mother in a perfectly rational voice. “Mama,” she said, holding out her little arms. Her mother swept her up into a huge hug. The child hugged her back and said: “Daddy was here. He said he was sorry I had gotten hurt, and that he missed me. He told me to wake up, so I did. He said he missed you too.”
I know I gasped. So did the nurse. My neighbor was crying — tears of joy for her daughter and pain for her loss. Quietly, we tiptoed out of the room and left them alone. But I wondered, looking back over my shoulder, about that strange breeze that had swept through the room. Was it possible I had seen my neighbor’s spirit talking to his daughter? I shivered a bit, and went to phone my husband with the good news.
A longer version of this story appears in the expanded edition of Spooky Texas.
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.