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Wednesday, October 31, 2007


By Beth

As I went out walking this fall afternoon,
I heard a whisper whispering.
I heard a whisper whispering,
Upon this fine fall day...

As I went out walking this fall afternoon,
I heard a laugh a'laughing.
I heard a laugh a'laughing,
Upon this fine fall day...

I heard this whisper and I wondered,
I heard this laugh and then I knew.
The time is getting near my friends,
The time that I hold dear my friends,
The veil is getting thin my friends,
And strange things will pass through.
(Author unknown)

Will you follow me? Its Halloween and I thought that maybe, just maybe you would be in the mood for a ghost story but first we have somewhere that we need to be. Yes, I know that the woods are dark, but isn’t the smell intoxicating this time of year? The leaves are wet and seductively sour, sweet ripe apples are still hanging on the cool bare branches and the musky scent of deer lingers all around in the still night forest . We have come here the other way, through the woods instead of the churchyard, the old way…….the way that she came.

Just be careful where you step for the wrought iron fence that surrounds this family plot is broken in places and terribly low. I know that you are wondering why I’ve brought you to this place that smells of old grave dirt, wood smoke and limestone. I know that it’s scary because the soundless dead that lay here are so very different from you. In this place I can practically hear the blood and adrenaline pounding through your veins. I can’t tell this story anywhere else though for this is where she finally, peacefully lays. It is the story of fragrance as it passes through the veil.

I used to live in a very old house built in1848 and we actually had to perform an exorcism (I hate that word, it’s not truly appropriate) on a woman who died in childbirth , whose spirit was trapped in our upstairs back bedroom. She died alone and without her husband who had gone off to fight in the civil war. Her name was Lucy Smith. She presented herself to me when I was upstairs one night nursing our son Alex, whom she loved very much. I was rocking him in our chair and was surprised to hear a very slight breathing accompanied by soft moans that became more labored over time and would fall away only to be repeated over and again. As I screamed for my husband the hair began to stand up on the nape of my neck and my breast milk ran dry. We searched the room for a draft, anyplace or anything that could be making such sounds. It was the most tragic sound that I have ever heard. It was the sound of a young woman giving birth and dying at the same time. After that night I always knew when she was around because of the fragrant smell of spring violets tinged with blood that accompanied her even in the dead of winter.

She used to open the door that was dead bolted from the inside on the first warm day of spring. She loved our rocking chair and we would find it moving in the still of night and then hear her soft footsteps as she went back up the stairs. It was that icy moment just before winter turns to spring when we were working to help her break her bonds to this plane. I would bring her vases of fresh pussy willows and snowdrops that grew around the house because she loved our/ her farm so much. Through the relationship we established a very deep love grew. As strange as it sounds, she began to trust us and we her. Finally one evening she shared her whole story and that was when we saw the blood that we had smelled so often. She was a beautiful woman with long dark hair and deeply in love with her husband. She led us with happy visions through her wedding day that took place in the barn that we owned, shared with us the scent of dancing leather boots and her wedding supper. Sadly the last image she shared was the moment of her death as we saw her lying in her own blood, sobbing and holding the lifeless body of her dead child who is buried with her here. She was 38 years old when she died.

Several more days passed and one morning I went upstairs and felt her presence all around me. I knew then that soon she would be able to go. At that moment I heard her voice as soft as the wind telling me that she loved us, thanking us, that she was grateful. I felt myself being held by her, a sensation that I will always remember. I will never forget the smell outside of the window after she left.

It was of nectar, a honeyed presence that speaks to the presence of the divine and it lingered throughout the morning. There was still snow on the ground and I cried all day, more alone then I had ever felt in my life.

Lucy was an amazing woman and even after she was gone she would come back when Alex was sick and help me care for him, she loved him so much. One night when he had been ill for three very long and sleepless nights, I went upstairs to his room, pulled him out of his crib and brought him downstairs to rock him as he choked and coughed. When at last I took him back up to his crib I removed the beautifully folded blanket from the edge of the crib and placed him back into it. He fell quietly, instantly asleep. I went back downstairs to thank Jim for straightening up the room and he looked at me quite queerly. My husband hadn’t left our bed the entire time. Alex didn’t let go of the blanket for 4 days and he still remembers her. My son has been in danger’s path several times and known immediately and without question to run because of the voice that he still hears. I am sure that it is hers.

After she left, I went to the library and the historical society to see what I could learn about her. There were diagrams of the old McBride family cemetery where we now sit and I found her in those old crumbling papers , buried with her stillborn son. I took Alex and Moon, our Rottweiler for a walk the next day. After walking through the churchyard cemetery, I went through the woods and found the old family burial ground. As soon as we moved past the rusted gates my dog released her scent glands, a rank perfume of terror that I had never smelled before. When we got back to the old broken tombstones she started to pull me out of there. I stopped her long enough to read the headstone she was bolting from. It was Lucy’s.

This is a true story and indeed a very sad story, made lighter only by the fact that she did eventually become free. It was interesting , when I was thinking about what I could share with you tonight I smelled the faintest odor of violets and heard her softness. ..”Speak…… of me.” There was more it seemed that she wanted me to know.

Lucy was wonderful, although at the point when she was trying to reach out to us for help she was terrifying. It broke my heart when I realized how many families had lived in the house with her right there under their noses and she had struggled so hard to let them know of her presence without any success. I didn’t blame her for finally resorting to some very ghostly tactics to get my attention. I treasured my time with her.

Eerily, there was one more voice in our house……a young boy who came and went with frequency. He wasn’t trapped like she was and there was always the strangest smell of frogs, oats and brackish water that accompanied him, along with the fragrance of blackberries which coincidentally grew in abundance all around our farm with the juiciest ones always flourishing by the pond . He loved to run and skip around our halls. When I began to think about the telling of her story I came back to this place and went once again through the old records. I wanted to find him again , I needed to know who he was. Look to the right of her grave, over there where the two tiny headstones sit. He is there with her now, her young son James.

I had always wondered what bound Lucy to this world, why she took such good care of my child. I am sure that she did the same for everyone who grew up in her house, for those who never even knew. She was a beautiful and generous spirit, in life she must have been an extraordinary mother. Her son James died one year after she did……she must have been distraught to leave him, he must have died from the heart break of living without her and the bitter uncertainty of his father gone off to war. I never knew why the story seemed to still haunt me. It was unfinished and I am glad to know now.

Tonight I have come with a bouquet of sunflowers for her , carved pumpkins and candy for her children…..I always wear a simple Penhaligon perfume of violets on Halloween, strange and unearthly in the autumn air to honor her.

Lucy, if you can hear me still, know forever that I am grateful for it all.

Happy Samhain to all,
On this night we remember……….


Blogger Renee said...

What a lovely and haunting tale. This was especially meaningful to me as I too, have lived in a haunted house. I wasn't fortunate enough to find out exactly WHO our ghosts were, only that they were an elderly couple. And how beautiful of you to remember Lucy every year.

10:26 PM EDT  
Blogger Gaia said...

Happy Halloween to you, Beth, and to Lucy. I'll think of her next time I smell violets.

11:08 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

What a beautiful story for the Eve of Samhain. I've been around enough not to discount accounts of this sort, life-force is powerful. Even a city as new as Los Angeles can manifest it's ghosts.

I wonder, when I die, will I haunt my home in Massachusetts, or bedevil the fragrance counter at Barneys? Maybe both- nurturing in the Bay State and poltergeiting perfume samples in Beverly Hills? A fate I would love...

In any case, again, thank you for a wonderful and clearly heartfelt post.

12:47 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

What a wonderful, beautiful story. How lucky you were to get to know Lucy. Don't think I could comfortably wear violet scents after something like that, however...that blood connection would do them in for me.
Have a cousin who lives in a very old house that has an elderly woman haunting it (I'm ambivalent about calling it haunting, since she basically just sort of hangs out there, not particularly bothering anything or anyone). She appears to be quite pleasant and peaceful, but she's inadvertently scared several of my cousin's house guests, since my cousin prefers to not talk about her and, consequently, her guests end up being very taken aback if they do encounter her. I've never stayed w/ my cousin, but have often considered it, since I would love to meet Mrs. D (which is what they call her).

7:10 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. This is the kind of account that I want to hear on Halloween, heartbreaking, a little chilling and essentially uplifting. Thank you again!

7:17 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a sweet and chilling tale. My beloved oldest aunt had a spirit of some kind that lived in her lovely old country bungalow. This spirit would pester us very little, often only affirming it's presense by a persistent cold place on the back stairs. It was, however, quite mischievous, and thoroughly enjoyed interupting, er, intimate moments-with odd sounds, blankets sent askew, lights flashing. I beleive my aunt rather enjoyed the antics.

8:30 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can only echo the previous comments: what a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it!
I have lived in a haunted apartment myself (the city cemetery was across the street), unfortunately I never got to know our ghost that closely. It enjoyed being in whatever room anybody was working into the night. And if you talked about it, you could feel it in the room, practically hopping with glee. I think it was lonely and wanted a bit of company. I am happy that you had and have such a wonderful connection to Lucy and her boy! For here sake I wish I weren't anosmic to violets!

9:07 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth, your story touched me with chilly fingers...
Still, I'm happy to read they are not always scary and malicious, and I hope to meet only those of the peaceful and comforting sort...
(I saw a soul in Venice in a hotel which was a nonnery in the ancient past but I was so scared I run away in a complete panic ! And nobody ever believed me, of course)

9:16 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been scared of the idea of much so that my best friends and I have made pacts not to haunt each other! But your experience sounds amazing- and comforting, can't explain why. Thank you for sharing it!

12:46 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beachadaidh math agus Beannached Slainte!
Thank you both for sharing,

2:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely and sad story - thanks for sharing it with us!

Have you ever seen an obsure Canadian film called "The Haunting of M?" It is far more disturbing than the slasher and gore offerings usually offered up on Hallowe'en. It has a ghost you will never forget....

6:18 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely and sad story - thanks for sharing it with us!

Have you ever seen an obscure Canadian film called "The Haunting of M?" It is far more disturbing than the slasher and gore offerings usually offered up on Hallowe'en. It has a ghost you will never forget....

6:19 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops - wha' happen, sorry for the double post!

6:20 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Dear Renee, Gaia, Tom,Elle, Marina,Louise, Dinazad, Lady Jane, Denise, Anonymous and Flora,

I am writing this at the end of a long and happy Halloween day and I apologize for only writing one lump thank you instead of my normal individual notes! Thank you so much , all of you for such lovely and supportive responses to my story. It was fun to write about Lucy and share her with all of you, a community that I knew would be sensitive enough to care about her in a very real way. How fun it was for me to read your responses and hear about your paranormal experiences as well! My experience with Lucy was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life and it completely altered the way that I view the world. Nothing was the same after her, nothing at all. She made me aware on a most profound level that we are far vaster beings than we may ever know. Thank you, all of you for sharing your ghosts, your stories and your fears and most of all for the simple sharing of yourselves. It has made my life and my experience here very rich.

Happy Halloween,
Beth and Lucy

10:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, all my hair stood on end as I read your story.

Long ago, I spent the night at a new friend's house. I slept in an attic room and I felt the presence of an old man sitting in the rocking chair near my bed. He was there all night, benign, but still disconcerting. When I mentioned it to my friend the next morning, she said that had been her grandfather's room and he had died in his favorite rocking chair.

9:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

I missed this yesterday. Lovely, Beth... and touching.

I have had several ghosts touch my life. If I dream of someone I have not seen in a long while, it is a pretty good bet that they've passed. I've grown to hate these dreams. I think that somehow we tell each other when we've let go the mortal coil.

But I have seen two real haunts.

The little girl, sister to one of my school friends, who was struck down by a drunk driver in front of my childhood house, who shepherded me through a long illness and used to trick my parents into thinking that they had put me into different color pajamas-- and where had I gotten that teddy bear? (My parents "do not believe" in ghosts -- with fear in their voices.)

The flannel-clad, wearing-one-bedroom-slipper-and-one-bare-foot old man who used to step out in front of cars in Harlowe, NC was a particularly sad and alarming apparition. I had several passengers scream as we "ran into" his spectral form.

How lovely that you knew and loved Lucy, Beth.

12:11 PM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I realize this is late...
[My post got eaten, somehow !]

I was SO moved by your tale of truth and beauty.

What a lovely soul Lucy is.
It speaks reams about your own character and accessibility...

Thank you so much.
And, bless you !

6:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Abigail said...

What a lovely, and touching story. I've always been fascinated by stories of spirits.

Violets are a bitter sweet fragrance for me. When my grandfather passed it was during an October chilly spell. The one flower he'd always pick for my grandmother was violets. As my mother was taking one last walk around the property, since it was sold and my grandmother was moving away, she found violets growing along the path - blooming despite the frost. Of course she brought them in for my grandmother, and it made the move a little easier.

Now I just love violet fragrances. They're like a little portable/wearable proof that love is real.

10:06 PM EDT  

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