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Black Lamb

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Kids can see & hear things that we can't.

May 1st, 2013

BY ELIZABETH FOURNIER

childrenlookingup*2My little girl was up in her loft the other day when I heard her ask someone if they could please move because they were in her way. Minutes later Sofia comes down the stairs and says that Mrs. Butler won’t stop sitting on her bed and she has already asked her nicely to move. Sofia wants Mrs. Butler to like the color pink and summertime, and holding hands all the time in the grocery store and the park. But she doesn’t ever get an answer from her.

We moved into a house in the hills that had sat vacant for years. Vacant of taxpayers but not really vacant of ghouls, the former couple who died in the house. We were aware of this when we signed on the line for the place but we just weren’t phased. We figured we were generous enough to share the space with them — so long as they didn’t do things that would scare the hell out of us.

Sofia sees them, we do not. But that doesn’t stop me from constantly talking aloud to them, explaining cheerfully that we acknowledge we are in their house, and while we are honored to be living in their house (and please notice we didn’t remodel anything in the house we heard they really liked) we would be very, very happy if they played nicely with our child.

We’ve had prior experience with this. My husband was the cremation artist at a very grandly colonial funeral home just across the river from downtown Portland. The place had three levels and the spiraling staircase that led to the basement was hidden behind a painted door. Once the door was opened, all of us employees would take a deep breath and make our way down the stairs. Slowly.

A little boy lived in that basement. He was dressed in a blue suit that almost looked vintage, like from the ’30s. His eyes were bright, but they didn't move. He wore a jaunty little cap and almost looked like he was transparent. His head was cocked to the side, tilting his jaunty little cap. He would just wait at the bottom of the stairs to see who was heading down.

Only three people I knew claimed to have seen him. They all gave the same description and equally shared a fear of the basement. One of them was my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. He spent all his working hours in that basement, unless he was enjoying noodle bowls with all of us in the break room.

I worked in that funeral home, too. And the possibility of seeing that little boy scared the hell out of me. I wanted to see him, but I really didn’t. Every time I needed to head downstairs to the vault room under the stairs where all the records were kept, I would pause at the door and get ready. Quickly I would whip the door open and take my first step. I would stare at the green carpet under my high heels, all the while talking to the little boy, telling him that I was coming down and please do not scare me. I was coming down and didn’t want to bug him, I just needed to get an old file or something that could wait if he was poised to freak me out.

As I made my way to the curve at the bottom of the stairs I was ready to see him. But not really. I was so curious yet so relieved when he didn’t appear. I spent all my time downstairs talking aloud to the little guy, telling him that he was welcome to show himself to me if he felt he needed to but to please, please not make any sudden moves. Or tap me on the shoulder when I was in the prep room. Or appear in a mirror.

We guessed that the ghost boy was brought into the parlor alive but died in-house, maybe before embalming was really a sure-fire thing. Maybe the undertaker thought he was dead but he really wasn’t. Being placed in the mortuary refrigerator did him in. And after escaping in phantom form he was set free to roam the corridors of the basement, which was a full footprint of the building. My husband spent many hours in the darkened basement cremating people and constantly looking behind his back.

Closed-minded people repel most spirits. It may sound odd, but it’s true. If you are fiercely defending your position that “ghosts do not exist,” odds are you will never see one. Here’s why: first and foremost, you will miss any sign, and if you do notice one, you’ll quickly brush it off without analyzing the situation.

Second, and most important, spirits avoid closed-minded skeptics for the most part. Spirits are people and they do not waste time if they feel they won’t be noticed. Put yourself in their invisible shoes; if you were somewhere and someone was looking right past you, not hearing you or even joking about your non-existence, what incentive would you have to talk to that person? Just as spirits can sense who is open to spirits, they may also sense who is closed and avoid them. This is why children are their perfect audience.

Our loved ones often leave us little reminders that they are still with us. Some of us may be so wrapped up in stresses and worries that we miss the subtle signs we are given. Some are in tune, and when they look for a sign, they often find one. But all my ghost experiences have been total strangers.

Ghosties love to communicate, especially with small children. I decided to take a bag of pure white flour and pour some on a big mirror on the floor. After I left the room and closed the door, I had Sofia ask the ghost in a clear but friendly voice to write his/her name in the flour and stay in the room until we came back. So I came back the next day to see what the ghost’s name was; I was planning to check the flour for the ghouly name, call the entity by its revealed name, and explain to him/her that he/she is welcome in our home but that he/she has passed on and it is time to move towards the light and forever be in peace.

The next day I came in and was pissed. Instead of a name in the flour, the dog had gotten into the room through the secret door in the closet and rolled in it. I spent a few hours getting the pound bag-full of flour out of the carpet, cursing the ghost at full lung capacity.

Ironically, the plan worked. He/she (Mrs. Butler?) has never appeared since.

Last week Sofia told me a new ghost has been dropping by her dreams lately. It’s a cigarette-smoking ghost. She thinks it’s a boy because it’s stinky. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Children Issue, Fournier | Link to this Entry

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