Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween from Fred

I wrote this last year, but in honor of Halloween and to placate Fred, whom I have ignored all summer, I thought it was worth sharing now.

A Ghost Gone Wild!

Some of you may have met my resident ghost and literary muse Fred.  Glenn and I were told when we moved into our 1874 cottage on the Butternut Creek that a ghost inhabited the old house, but we were mostly unaware of his presence until his pranks came together one summer evening.  He ran the stove out of gas, started my husband’s truck, and, when we ran back into the house to get a fire extinguisher (Fred didn’t know the first thing about engines and shorted out the starter motor) to put out the engine fire, he made the doorknob fall off in our hands so we could not get into the house.  I thought Fred was quite the little prankster.

To be honest it was easier for me to assume a good-natured ghost than to believe the tricks he played were the outcome of an unpleasant and perhaps malevolent personality.  Did I say that across the creek from us is the local cemetery?  Live across from dead people with an unsettled ghost as a house guest and you kind of need to lighten things up when it comes to unexplainable happenings.

We close down the cottage for the winter, so I don’t know what Fred does those months, but I think he goes to visit relatives in the south because my next door neighbor, who checks on the house while we’re gone, has seen no evidence of him.  Fred is shy, and I’ve heard ghosts could care less about temperature swings, but I think he’d get very lonely in the house by himself all winter, and I can’t imagine the folks planted across the stream are much company for him.

Since that summer night of Fred’s perfect storm, things have been quiet around here.  I’ve tried to include Fred in my life by mentioning him often on my blog and when I guest on others.  I also was under the impression that Fred and I were friends, well, if not friends, then friendly or tolerant of one another.  Perhaps I’m wrong to think one can share housing with a ghost, call him my muse, and think there’s no price to pay for cohabitation with a disembodied entity.  I’ve assumed the ongoing battle with high water in the creek might have scared the ectoplasm out of Fred, because he hasn’t been up to his usual tricks.  Or so I thought.    

Every now and then, usually on the warmest nights of this past summer, I’d come downstairs it the morning and find the electric fireplace on, heating the living room to near ninety degrees.  I blamed the cats for stepping on the remote.  Cats are desert animals, I told myself.  They like it hot.  Glenn and I laughed at how clever they were.  Looking back now, I think the giggling and assumption the cats were to blame, made Fred mad.  But we continued to think our felines were the culprits.  We found we were wrong when Glenn was sitting next to the fireplace, and it came on!

The incidences came with greater frequency.  We woke up to a hot living room often.  Fred was getting annoying.  And then things began to go wrong, very wrong. 

At lunch last week, Glenn and I sat in our living room having our noon tea and sandwiches.  The digital camera lay on the hand carved Chinese bar behind Glenn.  The lens began to telescope in and out, over and over again.  When Glenn picked it up, it was turned off, yet it continued the lens movement as if an unseen finger was manipulating the lens button.  There was nothing we could do to stop it.  It was off!

The other day I flipped on the fireplace because it was cold in the living room.  I left and, when I came back, the fire was off.  No, it wasn’t broken because I tried the remote on button, and it worked.

I’m certain I’ve somehow offended Fred, and I’m at a loss for how to make amends.  Perhaps I’ve taken him for granted.  I’ve been writing away all summer with little thought of whether Fred was happily sitting on my shoulder inspiring me or not.  I just forgot about him as my literary muse.  Perhaps he’s more sensitive than I realized.  If the impending flood frightened him, perhaps I was remiss in not comforting him, but how was I to know ghosts find water as threatening as do people.  Maybe they don’t. 

I know I’ve avoided getting to know him.  I’ve assumed his sense of humor defines him, but I wouldn’t say that about a living person, would I?  My entire relationship with Fred has been built upon my sketchy of knowledge about his kind and, I’ll admit it, my suspicion he really doesn’t exist.  I simply used him, then dismissed him.  Ghosts may not take well to this kind of insensitivity especially since they are here because they probably have unresolved issues from their own past lives.

At dinner last night while our favorite jazz album was playing, a horrible sound emanated from the CD player.  It had to be Fred.  In the past I would have said he wanted to sing along and just couldn’t carry a tune.  Now I wonder if he’s trying to scare us.  I need to find a way to cohabitate happily with my ghost.  I don’t want to lose his companionship, but his unpredictability is creeping me out.  I want Friendly Fred back in my life.   

Note:  As many of you know, early last fall, we experienced two tropical storms that left over three feet of water in our basement.  Ghosts may ignore cold weather, but I think they must hate floods because Fred has been unexpectedly quiet this summer and fall.  Oops, I spoke too soon.  Someone has been leaving the locked front door open for the last few nights.


  1. WOW you have a real ghost at your place?!?!? That is scary. I couldn't do it. I'd be a mess. I think the good Fred will come back, maybe the flooding stopped his pouting :-)
    Thanks for this great post.

  2. I'm interested in knowing if you've done any research into past owners. Why do you call him Fred? I'm pretty sure the ghost I had when I first moved into my home over 20 years ago was Chick Needler, the elderly man who lived in my house for more than 50 years and died 2 years before I bought the house. It had been empty since he died. He's not around any longer to my knowledge. I wrote about him on my blog on Thursday at It can be found in the archives under Events without a scientific explanation. Anyway, I find your ghost not only interesting, but more active than mine was.

  3. I love Fred because he seems quite benign and has a sense of humor I like. I feel bad leaving him here when I go south for the winter, but he seems to be just fine. With this big storm coming in, I'm glad we'll still be here to tend to the house and to Fred.

  4. I find your story interesting, and somewhat amusing. I have no explanations for what's happened and wouldn't even try to guess. It sounds to me like you have a ghost -- or maybe two? Great post!
    Marja McGraw

  5. What a story, Lesley. Too bad you can't bring Fred down south - a ghost as snow bird would make for more good stories.
    Frankenstorm is coming; I think I'm prepared. Hope we all stay safe.

  6. Leslie, you and the character in my latest book, Ghost Writer, have a lot in common. The advantage (or disadvantage as she sees it) is that Max, her ghost, actually talks to her. Sounds as though you might need to start talking to Fred. Maybe if you acknowledge him more often, he'll feel appreciated and settle down. Or not...

  7. Have you ever had "ghost hunters" check out the house? Maybe they can tell you what to do to make Fred happy.

  8. We had a ghost in our house also named Fred, but he really loved us. The problem came when we wanted to move out. Both cars broke down at once and both computers too. Would have stayed if we could Fred! We had to move!

  9. I hate to leave Fred here all alone,and, as some of you suggested, I should find some ways to make Fred happier. I'm thinking he needs a girl friend. Maybe I should check with my neighbors to see if they have an available spirit for him to date. I know I can't be the only one around here with a ghost.

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