Nov 16, 2023 etc
I have been surrounded by ghosts my whole life. There was the White Lady, the ghost who lurked at the end of the lane by my childhood home. Not a lot was known about the White Lady, other than that she was a ghost, she didn’t like children and she was, presumably, white. Then there was the ghost who haunted the university theatre in Otago. This was the ghost of a girl (a goth — at least, that’s how I pictured her) who, when kicked out of her flat, decided to take refuge in the lighting box of the theatre. She was discovered one morning by a diligently early student technician. She didn’t die in the theatre or anything, which makes this one less of a ghost story and more of a scathing indictment on student housing. There was my childhood friend, who informed me that he was feeling pretty tired because he had been up all night “talking to the old man sitting at the end of his bed”. I remember feeling extremely envious of this. No dead old man had ever visited me at night. Absolutely gutting.
I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in ghosts. Pretty sure. My doubt comes from the inexplicable weirdness of ghost stories. The details that no one would invent. My parents told me about a colleague of theirs, a doctor, who was on call late one night at the hospital. In the wee hours of the morning he received an alert that a patient had gone into cardiac arrest. As the doctor sprinted through the sleeping hospital he encountered a woman in a hospital gown wandering down the hall. He stopped to talk to the woman, to encourage her to return to her room, but she ignored him. Instead, she continued down the corridor, as if in a trance. Our doctor friend eventually gave up and continued his sprint towards the patient in need of assistance. At last he made it, panting, heart racing, only to be informed that the patient had died. His eyes drift to the recently deceased patient lying in the bed and with dawning horror he realises that he recognises her. It’s the woman from the corridor.
Well, our doctor friend quit the medical profession on the spot and became a gorilla-gram. A gorilla-gram I’m told was a service in the 80s where you could hire a person dressed as a gorilla to knock on your friend’s door and give them flowers accompanied by a short, humorous poem. Unconfirmed whether or not they strip. Now, in many respects, what happened to the doctor is a classic ghost story, apart from the gorilla-gram bit. And him becoming a gorilla-gram performer was always a key part of the story, never to be left out. It’s that element that gets me. Why a gorilla-gram? It’s such a strange detail, so strange it just might be true…
My mum doesn’t only tell ghost stories second-hand, she has one of her own. One night while staying at a motel she was awoken suddenly not by a noise or a light but by a smell — the, and I quote, “unmistakable” smell of faeces. She was hit by a stunning and immediate realisation. No, not that — clearly there was a ghost in the room. The next morning she asked the receptionist if anyone had ever died in the room she was staying in. With a look of horror, the receptionist said yes! An old woman had died in the room the week before! Explain that, Einstein!
My uncle has stories, too. He was taking his dog for a walk once down by a secluded quarry. Suddenly, in the distance, he spots a man dressed entirely in white. This quarry is secluded, mind you (did I mention that?), and only accessible via car. Needless to say, there were no other cars around. Or people. As my uncle approached the man, it became clear that his clothing was not only white, it was “old-fashioned”. Time period unconfirmed. Now, this man being out there dressed in old-fashioned white clothing would have been unusual enough, but things were about to get a lot stranger. I’m quoting verbatim from my uncle here when I say the man’s legs “began moving in a most peculiar fashion”. On probing, my uncle reveals that the legs, below the knee, were each completing a 360° rotation.
I have a version in my head of what this looks like; you no doubt have a version in your head, too. And never the two shall meet. I’m sure you also have a lot of questions, but unfortunately I am unable to provide additional information about either the legs or the man because after this one afternoon, my uncle refused to talk about it ever again. Needless to say, neither he nor his dachshund Poppy have ever returned to the quarry. Now, this story is obviously… insane. But it’s the insanity that makes it believable. Who would invent this? As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction and there is no doubt this story is extremely strange.
I don’t have a ghost story of my own, but if I ever get one my hope is that it’ll be as buck wild as the ones my family members have. And if I leave you with anything, let it be this: if you get woken up in the night by an unpleasant smell, it might not be a night-time accident, it might just be a ghost.