A Haunted Past

She stood atop the stairwell looking down. Something didn’t feel right. Her hand, braced on the railing, tensed at the sudden uneasiness she felt.  A chill, so cold it left goose-bumps on her bare arms, whisked past her nearly pushing her down the stairs. She gripped the railing harder, taking a deep breath. What the hell was that? Swallowing the lump in her throat, she turned.  What she saw before her took every ounce of air she had in her lungs away.  He stood a mere two feet away from her. A tall man with dark hollow eyes and a pale complexion, sunken cheeks and thin blue lips. And she knew instantly what she was seeing.

He was a ghost.

Did I spook you? I hope so. No, that is not from one of my books though once it was written a story flashed inside my mind.  The paragraphs above were taken from personal experiences. Last week in my post, ‘Why I like to Scare’, I hinted to my having lived in a haunted house. Today’s post is all about my life dealing with ghosts.

When I was a young child, I lived in a farm house that most saw as a typical farming home. It was a two story three bedroom one bath house that was build in the early 1940’s. My father was a travelling salesman and my mother stayed home to raise her seven children while tending to her duties on the farm. We weren’t rich, as a matter of fact, most of the time we struggled to make ends meet. But for the most part, we were happy. Aside from the nine of us living in this small farm house, there was another presence. Her name was Mary, and she was a ghost. Yep, you read that correctly. She was a ghost. Were we afraid of her? Never. But that’s not to say she wasn’t a pain from time to time. My mother could attest to that. 

Every morning, before the crack of dawn, the living room curtains would open, allowing the rising sun to shin directly into my parent’s bedroom. It didn’t matter how my mother kept the curtains closed, pinned or tied, every morning they would open. Even if my mother closed her bedroom door, she would be woken to the sunlight in her face, door open.

Then there were the early morning sounds of cupboards banging and dishes rattling that would wake everyone in the house. Only it wasn’t anyone one of us doing it. Nope, Mary was up and having her morning tea. She was not the quietest ghost but at least she set her dirty cup in the sink rather than leaving it on the table.

But she was helpful on occasion as well. Often my mother would wake, worried why her baby daughter hadn’t woken for her nighttime feeding only to walk into the nursery to find her with a baby bottle already in his mouth. When questioning the family, my mother soon learned none of us had done it. One night, my mother waited up and when she heard the baby crying, waited to see if someone would bring her the bottle. After several moments, the baby stopped crying and my mother dashed into the bedroom and once again, found her with her bottle. My mother went from room to room only to find each one of us sound asleep in our beds. The only conclusion was, Mary had done it.

For years my family dealt with the helpful ghost. My oldest brother married and moved away and life carried on as usual for all of us. Then on one fateful spring afternoon, everything changed.

While enjoying lunch after having worked on the yard, raking leaves left over from the fall my mother noticed the wall felt hot. The next thing she saw were flames shooting out from the roof. She whisked my younger sister and I out to the barn and she and my oldest sister began fighting the fire. When it was evident they couldn’t control it, my sister went for help.

In the barn, set atop two large barrels, my sister and I sat, frightened. My barrel sat directly in front of a window and I had a perfect view of the burning house. Imagine being 8 years old and seeing your house engulfed in flames…and your mother running into the burning building to retrieve our belongings. I was crying, my little sister was crying but there was nothing we could do.

Then, out of the blue, a woman appeared and placed a hand on my shoulder. In an instant I felt calm and relaxed. My tears subsided as I looked up at the woman. She spoke to me in a soft hushed tone that put both my sister and I at ease. “It’s all right, little one. Everything will be just fine.”

She stood with us as we watched our home disintegrate, as everything we held dear was taken by the flames.  She stayed with us until my oldest brother came rushing home, racing into the barn to make sure the two of us were okay.  Mary made me feel safe and she’s been in my thoughts since. Did I ever tell anyone about her being there with me? Yes. Did they believe me? No.  I don’t know why they wouldn’t believe me when several members of my family had seen the woman over the years and it wasn’t until I was 13 when I had a “moment” and described her perfectly that they finally believe me.

I suffered nightmares from that ordeal of having watched my mother race in and out of a burning home and I think it would have been even worse had Mary not come to me and comforted me during the fire. As the years moved on, she never left my thoughts and when I began to write, she found her way into the pages of my work.  When I wrote Secrets of the Dead, it was Mary’s helpfulness that came through in the pages as a ghostly little girl known as Andrea helped solve a murder. And she’s there in the pages of Discovery in Passion as the character, Eddie Talbot and his parents, as they try to find justice for their deaths.

But Mary isn’t the only spirit I have seen. There have been more. My grandmother has come to me, as well as my son and a cousin. I don’t talk about my ability much because, well…people tend to chuckle and disbelieve. Why am I telling it now? To help you understand why I write what I write.

Having grown up with such paranormal things, it’s only natural that I would be intrigued by it. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard other authors, editors and publishers say, “Write what you know”. Well, that’s just what I do. I write about ghosts and paranormal because it’s what I know. Now, have I ever seen a real vampire? No. But having grown up not afraid of ghosts, other paranormal things intrigued me. I often snuck down to watch a horror flick that my parents were watching late at night. I remember one movie, though I can’t remember much from it now, called, Straight Jacket. I remember seeing a crazy woman coming after a man with an axe and hacking him to pieces. I think I was about ten at the time.  If given the choice to see a comedy or a horror/thriller, I picked the latter every time. Aside from my novel, Kidnapped, which is a contemporary comedy, each one of my books has a spooky, thriller or horror aspect to them. Escape in Passion: Thriller about a cop running from his past. Mercy in Passion: Thriller about a man returning to his home town to right a wrong only to be stalked and almost killed. Until Death do us Part: A story of a man going into witness relocation to protect his family only to have his supposed killer come back for revenge. And the Darkness series: A tale of vampires living in a city cast in darkness by an evil vamp wanting to rule the town.

What do I like to watch? You guessed it. Paranormal, thrillers and horror. What can I say? I like the scare, the tension and the mystery.

Now you know a little bit more about me. So now tell me, do you believe in ghosts and hauntings? Have you ever experienced something that left a chill down your spine? Or am I the only one?

Shiela Stewart www.shielasbooks.ca


2 responses to “A Haunted Past

  1. Fantastic post!!! The hair was literally standing straight on the back of my neck. I do believe in ghosts. I’ve never seen nor experienced one myself, but know many people who have. Or maybe if I have I just explained it away.

  2. Thanks Brenda!

    I think that’s the common response for most people is to explain it away. Things like, you’re the only one in the room but someone whispers your name. You had to have been hearing things. Or a cold draft whisps past you like icy fingers except its scorching hot in the house and all the windows are closed.

    It’s hard for some people to accept that we might not go to our everlasting peace after we die.

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