Two (Plus One) Ghost Stories

I don’t believe in ghosts. I think it’s fair that I admit this before I tell you a couple ghost stories (and I added a third today). Someone suggested that I call them “unexplained phenomena” stories instead, but it doesn’t have the same ring. It’s not difficult to resist a story about unexplained phenomena but a ghost story? Now that’s hard to pass up especially as Halloween approaches.

Both these ghost stories take place in churches and the third, in a cemetery.

Listen to me read this post:

Strange Stomping

When I was teenager, another girl and I were the janitors at the United Church we attended in Fairview. It was always a little eerie working in that big empty building that smelled of wood and paper. It was easy to feel spooked and to feel watched.

St. Paul's in Fairview
St. Paul’s United Church, Fairview, Alberta

Back in the day, the church was left unlocked. There is a small meeting room located behind the sanctuary. It used to be furnished with a couch, a couple of chairs, and a coffee table from the 1960s. On occasion, folks with nowhere else to go would sleep there. Sounds like a very good use of God’s house, don’t you think?

The front and both side doors were very creaky, and no matter where we were working in the church, we could hear those doors screech open and slam shut. I always listened for the sound of someone entering the church while I vacuumed and while I dusted.

One Saturday afternoon as I vacuumed the sanctuary carpet, my partner mopped the basement floor. Suddenly, above the whir of the vacuum cleaner, I heard loud footsteps stomping across the second-level floor above me. As I recall it, the steps were so pronounced that they shook the stained glass window panes. I hadn’t heard anyone enter the building. I shut off the vacuum and stood there frozen, listening to the racket above, heavy steps, back and forth, forth and back, making the floorboards and me tremble.

green yellow brown and blue stained glass
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Finally, I broke out of my paralysis and into a run, leaving the vacuum behind in the wide aisle. I met my fellow janitor as she raced up the stairs from the basement. We didn’t speak. We just looked wide-eyed at each other for a moment. Then she dropped her bucket and mop, and out the side door we ran.

Misplaced Bouquet

Before I moved out to this area of Alberta, I spent a couple summers working at Heritage Park, the historical village in Calgary. My duties there included covering staff breaks in the buildings throughout the park, so I had the opportunity to work all over. I liked this job a lot.

st-martins-church
St. Martin’s Anglican Church, Heritage Park, Calgary

One morning I was covering a shift in St. Martin’s Anglican Church. In the closet just off the vestibule, I found a glass vase. I spotted a gardener employed by the park walking through the churchyard, and I darted outside to  ask him if he’d cut a bouquet of flowers.

“No problem,” he answered and in no time, he was back with the vase full of water and flowers gathered from the nearby beds.

He took the bouquet to the front of the church. There was a low railing and a tiny gate that cordoned off the altar area at the front of the sanctuary. The obliging gardener asked, “Where should we put this?” The church stood on ground that is consecrated and is still used for Anglican services, and so I felt that we should be respectful.

When the gardener placed the vase full of flowers on the baptismal font, I said, “No, maybe not there. Let’s leave the bouquet on the floor in front of the altar where people can see it.” I backed up down the aisle and he positioned the vase.

“Here?” he asked.

“That’s perfect. They look good and everyone will be able to see them. Thanks for doing that!”

The gardener left me alone. It was a quiet, dreary day and my friend in the RCMP barracks across the dusty street stepped out onto the boardwalk and beckoned to me to come for a visit. Together we stood and chatted on the boards, watching our respective buildings. If visitors came, we wanted to greet them and show them around. On that cool spring day, no one dropped by either exhibit while the Mountie and I talked. When it started to lightly rain, we both headed back to our stations.

When I re-entered the gloomy church, all the moisture left my mouth and my heart started to pound. The vase of flowers was now up on the baptismal font.

One More

Here’s a third ghost story and probably a good reason to completely change the title of this piece. And yet …

About 25 years ago, I drove out to the cemetery close to where I now live. I was in the area to visit my grandmother but wanted to see some of the old folks in their final resting place, too. I remember that it was a warm, summer day and it was bone dry in this parkland region of east-central Alberta.

I turned off the highway and onto the narrow gravelled lane that leads to the Lakeview Cemetery gate. There were no other vehicles there. I parked my car on the brown grass and walked between the concrete pillars that mark the graveyard’s entrance. The breeze was light and stirred that thick, dry air around a bit.

When I saw the two women dressed in long, black dresses, I was startled. Usually another car or truck outside the gate or in the lane way signals other visitors are in the countryside cemetery. One woman knelt and the other stood beside her with a hand resting on her companion’s shoulder; both of their heads were bowed, their eyes downcast. There was no grave marker where they were and no headstones close by.

The women looked up when I entered the gate, gravel and dry grass crunching beneath my shoes. I lifted my hand in greeting, feeling uncomfortable, as if I were interrupting a solemn occasion. I wished I’d waited longer to come to the graveyard that day. For a moment they stared at me with piercing eyes set into pale skin from under the dark scarves they wore. They seemed annoyed.

This photo of Hughenden Lake is from the local history book The Lantern Years. You’ll see no sailboats on the lake these days.

Then slowly, the one who’d be kneeling stood up, and together they walked toward the woods that overlook the alkaline body of water that was a recreational lake back in the day, full of fish and fun, Hughenden Lake. They paused at the barbed wire fence and helped each other through, one holding the wires apart while the other held her skirt out of the way and stooped through the spread wires.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t want to have an experience to convince me otherwise and so I was almost relieved to see these forms helping each other through a pasture fence. That, I thought, was a good sign that they were human — humans that headed into a thicket of scrub brush that covered a relatively steep hillside that ended where the salty lake water started.

After they’d gone through the fence and disappeared into the trees, I walked to where the women had been when I first spotted them. As I’d thought, there was no marker, no gravestone. Interestingly, a decade or so later, some metal crosses were erected right about where the two forms had shared a solemn moment that hot afternoon, crosses that indicated the location of unmarked graves.

If you have a story to tell or need one edited, get in touch and I can help. Thanks for reading and listening. See you next time. ~ Lori

Stories

 

Eino and Grandma (2)
Grandma & her brother Eino

Good evening! It’s been a busy week and it’s only Tuesday. That’s the Christmas season for you. I was looking over my previous posts and I really like this one. It ran in our local newspaper last year. It’s all about family history and the stories we tell to create our identity and to carve out a tiny place in this big old universe for ourselves. Thanks for dropping by.

When she was a child, my grandmother received a locket as a baptism gift. That was in Calumet, Michigan. The family later moved to Hughenden. Then in 1931, my great uncle Elmer died from a ruptured appendix when he was sixteen and my grandma was twenty.

By her younger brother’s graveside in the Hughenden cemetery, my grandma lost that precious locket that she’d owned most all her life. That’s how it goes sometimes. Years later, in 1944, her father, my great grandfather, died. He was buried near his son Elmer, and as that grave was being prepared, the locket bearing my grandma’s initials was dug up.

Listen to me read this post:

Life is comprised of stories. My life is stories and your life is stories. These are scenarios that happened, that might happen, and that are happening right now. I love stories, but hearing the tales of the old folks who came before me leaves me feeling two different ways.

The first feeling is warm and sentimental. The old stories make me feel connected to the people whose blood flows in my veins. I treasure that connection, like time as a railroad track joining our stations along the way.

The second feeling is the stark realization that someday all that will be left of me is stories. And then, after a while, even the most colourful Lori stories will fade into time and eventually disappear. It’s true.

Petersons (2)
Another photo and there’s that locket again.

I like the story of my Grandma Knutson and her newborn baby, Jeannette, on their way home from the hospital following a March snowstorm. When the cutter tipped over in the deep banks, both new mother and new baby were pitched into a snowdrift. Good thing they were bundled up and that babies are typically a bit bouncy.

If you know me, you know I love ghost stories! Sadly, I’ve lost some of the belief in their plausibility. It’s too bad because the possibility of truth made those old stories especially thrilling. In this case, the truth doesn’t matter. I like hearing ghost stories and I like telling ghost stories.

Back in the day Grandma would tell me about the house she and Grandpa lived in on the edge of Hughenden Lake when they were first married.

She’d tell it like this: “Often, late at night, the door at the top of the stairs would slam shut really hard. At first this was terrifying, but after a while, we got used to it. We were startled, but we weren’t scared.”

Even so, my grandparents didn’t live in that house for long.

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and  Grandpa looking snazzie!

All the people involved in those stories are gone. The house, long since moved from the lakeshore into the village, stands here in town today. I wonder if the door at the top of the stairs slams hard enough to shake the walls. Does that particular draft, uneven foundation, or angry spirit still haunt the place?

People come and go from houses. We bring stories, we make more, and then we move on.

I always tell the story of Erwin Knutson, my dad’s uncle who was found dead in an abandoned vehicle outside of Wetaskiwin. It was December, 1957. The body had no identification on it, no wallet, and no money. But there was a slip of paper in one of the jacket pockets that read: Erwin Knutson, Hughenden.

My dad told me about him being fourteen years old and traveling to the Hughenden cemetery with his dad, the deceased’s brother, to deliver the rough box used to shore up the interior of that wintry grave.

I held on to that story and it became my novel, Denby Jullsen, Hughenden.

I’m grateful for the stories that connect me to my past and to my ancestors. I’m also thankful for the stories I’m living now, and for the good ones I imagine might happen.

My wish for you is that you remember and share your stories. I hope you’ll make new ones to tell again and again down through the years because, in the end, the stories are all we’ve got.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

Two Ghost Stories

I don’t believe in ghosts. I think it’s fair that I admit this before I tell you a couple ghost stories. Someone suggested that I call them “unexplained phenomena” stories instead, but it doesn’t have the same ring. It’s not difficult to resist a story about unexplained phenomena but a ghost story? Now that’s hard to pass up especially as Halloween approaches.

Both these ghost stories take place in churches.

Listen to me read this post:

Strange Stomping

When I was teenager, another girl and I were the janitors at the United Church we attended in Fairview. It was always a little eerie working in that big empty building that smelled of wood and paper. It was easy to feel spooked and to feel watched.

St. Paul's in Fairview
St. Paul’s United Church, Fairview, Alberta

Back in the day, the church was left unlocked. There is a small meeting room located behind the sanctuary. It used to be furnished with a couch, a couple of chairs, and a coffee table from the 1960s. On occasion, folks with nowhere else to go would sleep there. Sounds like a very good use of God’s house, don’t you think?

The front and both side doors were very creaky, and no matter where we were working in the church, we could hear those doors screech open and slam shut. I always listened for the sound of someone entering the church while I vacuumed and while I dusted.

One Saturday afternoon as I vacuumed the sanctuary carpet, my partner mopped the basement floor. Suddenly, above the whir of the vacuum cleaner, I heard loud footsteps stomping across the second-level floor above me. As I recall it, the steps were so pronounced that they shook the stained glass window panes. I hadn’t heard anyone enter the building. I shut off the vacuum and stood there frozen, listening to the racket above, heavy steps, back and forth, forth and back, making the floorboards and me tremble.

green yellow brown and blue stained glass
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Finally, I broke out of my paralysis and into a run, leaving the vacuum behind in the wide aisle. I met my fellow janitor as she raced up the stairs from the basement. We didn’t speak. We just looked wide-eyed at each other for a moment. Then she dropped her bucket and mop, and out the side door we ran.

 

 

Misplaced Bouquet

Before I moved out to this area of Alberta, I spent a couple summers working at Heritage Park, the historical village in Calgary. My duties there included covering staff breaks in the buildings throughout the park, so I had the opportunity to work all over. I liked this job a lot.

st-martins-church
St. Martin’s Anglican Church, Heritage Park, Calgary

One morning I was covering a shift in St. Martin’s Anglican Church. In the closet just off the vestibule, I found a glass vase. I spotted a gardener employed by the park walking through the churchyard, and I darted outside to  ask him if he’d cut a bouquet of flowers.

“No problem,” he answered and in no time, he was back with the vase full of water and flowers gathered from the nearby beds.

He took the bouquet to the front of the church. There was a low railing and a tiny gate that cordoned off the altar area at the front of the sanctuary. The obliging gardener asked, “Where should we put this?” The church stood on ground that is consecrated and is still used for Anglican services, and so I felt that we should be respectful.

When the gardener placed the vase full of flowers on the baptismal font, I said, “No, maybe not there. Let’s leave the bouquet on the floor in front of the altar where people can see it.” I backed up down the aisle and he positioned the vase.

selective focus photography of purple flower
Photo by Surender Singh on Pexels.com

“Here?” he asked.

“That’s perfect. They look good and everyone will be able to see them. Thanks for doing that!”

The gardener left me alone. It was a quiet, dreary day and my friend in the RCMP barracks across the dusty street stepped out onto the boardwalk and beckoned to me to come for a visit. Together we stood and chatted on the boards, watching our respective buildings. If visitors came, we wanted to greet them and show them around. On that cool spring day, no one dropped by either exhibit while the Mountie and I talked. When it started to lightly rain, we both headed back to our stations.

When I re-entered the gloomy church, all the moisture left my mouth and my heart started to pound. The vase of flowers was now up on the baptismal font.

If you liked this, consider following my blog. My new posts won’t always show up in your social media feed, but if you follow me by email, you won’t miss a post. Thanks for reading and listening. See you next time. ~ Lori

 

 

 

 

Stories

 

Eino and Grandma (2)
Grandma & her brother Eino

Good evening! It’s been a busy week and it’s only Tuesday. That’s the Christmas season for you. I was looking over my previous posts and I really like this one. It ran in our local newspaper last year. It’s all about family history and the stories we tell to create our identity and to carve out a tiny place in this big old universe for ourselves. Thanks for dropping by.

When she was a child, my grandmother received a locket as a baptism gift. That was in Calumet, Michigan. The family later moved to Hughenden. Then in 1931, my great uncle Elmer died from a ruptured appendix when he was sixteen and my grandma was twenty.

By her younger brother’s graveside in the Hughenden cemetery, my grandma lost that precious locket that she’d owned most all her life. That’s how it goes sometimes. Years later, in 1944, her father, my great grandfather, died. He was buried near his son Elmer, and as that grave was being prepared, the locket bearing my grandma’s initials was dug up.

Listen to me read this post:

Life is comprised of stories. My life is stories and your life is stories. These are scenarios that happened, that might happen, and that are happening right now. I love stories, but hearing the tales of the old folks who came before me leaves me feeling two different ways.

The first feeling is warm and sentimental. The old stories make me feel connected to the people whose blood flows in my veins. I treasure that connection, like time as a railroad track joining our stations along the way.

The second feeling is the stark realization that someday all that will be left of me is stories. And then, after a while, even the most colourful Lori stories will fade into time and eventually disappear. It’s true.

Petersons (2)
Another photo and there’s that locket again.

I like the story of my Grandma Knutson and her newborn baby, Jeannette, on their way home from the hospital following a March snowstorm. When the cutter tipped over in the deep banks, both new mother and new baby were pitched into a snowdrift. Good thing they were bundled up and that babies are typically a bit bouncy.

If you know me, you know I love ghost stories! Sadly, I’ve lost some of the belief in their plausibility. It’s too bad because the possibility of truth made those old stories especially thrilling. In this case, the truth doesn’t matter. I like hearing ghost stories and I like telling ghost stories.

Back in the day Grandma would tell me about the house she and Grandpa lived in on the edge of Hughenden Lake when they were first married.

She’d tell it like this: “Often, late at night, the door at the top of the stairs would slam shut really hard. At first this was terrifying, but after a while, we got used to it. We were startled, but we weren’t scared.”

Even so, my grandparents didn’t live in that house for long.

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and  Grandpa looking snazzie!

All the people involved in those stories are gone. The house, long since moved from the lakeshore into the village, stands here in town today. I wonder if the door at the top of the stairs slams hard enough to shake the walls. Does that particular draft, uneven foundation, or angry spirit still haunt the place?

People come and go from houses. We bring stories, we make more, and then we move on.

I always tell the story of Erwin Knutson, my dad’s uncle who was found dead in an abandoned vehicle outside of Wetaskiwin. It was December, 1957. The body had no identification on it, no wallet, and no money. But there was a slip of paper in one of the jacket pockets that read: Erwin Knutson, Hughenden.

My dad told me about him being fourteen years old and traveling to the Hughenden cemetery with his dad, the deceased’s brother, to deliver the rough box used to shore up the interior of that wintry grave.

I held on to that story and it became my novel, Denby Jullsen, Hughenden.

I’m grateful for the stories that connect me to my past and to my ancestors. I’m also thankful for the stories I’m living now, and for the good ones I imagine might happen.

My wish for you is that you remember and share your stories. I hope you’ll make new ones to tell again and again down through the years because, in the end, the stories are all we’ve got.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori