Growing Up with Ghosts

Ghost(As first scene on Beyond Fiction)

I grew up with ghosts. They were everywhere in the house that I was raised in. To explain my experiences with ghosts, I must first explain where I live. The Niagara Region has one of the bloodiest histories in all of Canada. War after war has been fought here, from pre-history to only two-hundred years ago. Old Fort Erie, often called the “bloodiest battlefield in Canada”, resides about twenty minutes away. Here, in this area, the British made a stand against the US invasion force that sought to turn my country into another state. The loss of life was great, on both sides, and most of that blood was spilled here, where I was born and raised.

Niagara is also a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water. There’s Lake Ontario to the north, Lake Erie to the south, and the Niagara River, including the famous Niagara Falls, to the east. Various rivers and man-made waterways are strewn all over the place. My research into the paranormal and into energy work both indicate that water is a natural, powerful conductor, if not focus for such things as ghosts. It’s as good an explanation as any, I suppose, to why it seems that everywhere in this area, there are ghost sightings, of one type or another.

I was one of “those” children; one of those children that frightens the adults around her with her startling insights, stories, and predictions. At first, everyone assumed the “people” I talked to and played with were just the standard lot of imaginary friends that children seem to have. It was only after I had a great big scare that people in my family began looking at such things with a lot less innocence.

The house we lived in was an old, wartime house; one of the many built for the families of the soldiers during World War II or shortly thereafter. My Grandparents lived there and my parents came to live with them, with my sister and me. My father, the youngest of his parents’ large brood, moved us in to help them in the twilight of their lives. My parents shared a room they had built in the basement, my sister and I shared a bedroom, and our grandparents had the room across the hall from ours.

One night when I was three or four, I asked my sister to get me a drink of water in the middle of the night. When she had left, I turned my head to watch for her out our bedroom door and into the living room. There, I saw a woman standing all in white, a few inches from the ground. I started to scream. When I described the woman I had seen, the faces of my family members paled visibly. I had just described my maternal grandmother, who had died years before I was conceived and of whom there were no known remaining photographs. Later we did find some, but at the time I had described her, those photos were in another province.

However, she didn’t scare me because I knew I was seeing a ghost. She scared me because I had never seen her before. Actually, there were three ghosts I knew intimately in our small house, and I played with them regularly. I had nicknames for them that I still remember. There was Rain, so-called because he only ever showed up when it was raining outside. He wasn’t very happy, but he was very polite. He was always complaining about how crowded the streets were and how no one seemed to know how to drive in the rain. There was Dawn, so-called because she could be found early in the mornings in my grandmother’s sun-room, looking out at the garden every day. Then there was Dusty.

Now that I’m a grown woman with two young sons, Dusty makes my heart break. He was a young boy who didn’t have a very happy life. He was kept down in the basement in the cold storage room, and he started coming to me when that room got closed off as my parents’ bedroom was built. He told me that he hated the basement because it was chilly, and the wood-burning furnace made terrible smoke that sometimes filled the place. I now believe he must have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, because he told me one night that he went to sleep and didn’t wake up again. He was always so lonely, and always asking people to go and play, but I was the only one that ever answered back. Dusty’s the reason I enjoyed playing “all alone” when I was little.

After the incident with seeing my grandmother’s spirit, even my sceptic of a father had to admit to being a bit wary of me. My grandmother was plain spooked. Sometimes, she’d ask me if any of my “friends” were around when we were alone in the house together. She liked to know, I think, because it made her feel a bit more secure if she heard sounds in the places I wasn’t playing. She’d have me play in the basement while she did laundry, because she never liked to be alone down there. Dusty always told me that he didn’t mean to scare her, so I told her that one day. She looked like she was going to jump out of her skin.

As I grew older, I found that it was harder and harder to “hear” Dawn, Rain, and Dusty, as well as the other such “visitors” that I noticed almost everywhere. Seeing them became harder, too. I became so frightened by this that I began to write down all the stories they were telling me. Some of the first stories that I wrote, stories I still have thanks to my mother’s saving those old workbooks of mine, were far bloodier than most children’s writing is. Comments like “has a maturity of writing that is astounding”, are often found in my early report cards.

I suppose, in a way, my earliest experiences being a writer came as a response to “growing out of” seeing the ghosts all around me. That does bring up the question, though, if what I considered ‘ghosts’ as a child were only my blooming creativity. Should I really believe that I saw ghosts that kept a strange little girl company and by doing so, provided themselves with company because all the big folks ignored them as only shivers going down their spines? Why not?

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