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A friend of mine lives in a “haunted” house. It’s a nice, white farmhouse in the country, surrounded with gardens, and every few weeks he’ll call in the middle of the night to say, “Someone is screaming in the basement. I’m going down with my gun, and if I don’t call you back in five minutes, send the police!”
It’s all very dramatic, but it’s the kind of complaint that smells like a boast. It’s the psychic equivalent of saying, “My diamond ring is so very heavy.” Or, “I wish I could wear this thong bikini without everyone lusting after me.”
My friend refers to his ghost as “the Lady,” and he complains about not getting any sleep because the Lady was up all night, rattling pictures on the walls and resetting the clocks and thumping around the living room. This is a practical man who’s never believed in ghosts. I’ll call him Patrick. Until he moved out to this farm, Patrick was like me: stable, practical, reasonable.
Now I think he’s full of it.
To prove this, I asked him to let me house-sit his farm while he was away on vacation. I needed the isolation and quiet to write, I told him. I promised to water the plants, and he went off and left me there for two weeks. Then I threw a little party.
This man, he’s not my only deluded friend. Another friend – I’ll call her Brenda – says she can see the future. Over dinner, she’ll ruin your best story by suddenly drawing a huge gasp, covering her mouth with her hand, and rearing back in her chair with a look of wide-eyed terror on her face. When you ask what’s wrong, she’ll say, “Oh… nothing, really.” Then close her eyes and try to shake the terrible vision from her mind.
When you persist, she’ll take your hand in hers and beg you, “Please, please. Just stay away from automobiles for the next six years.”
For the next six years!
Brenda and Patrick, they’re odd but they’re my friends, always hungry for attention. “My ghost is too loud…” “I hate being able to see the future…”
For my little house party, I planned to invite Brenda and her psychic friends out to the haunted farmhouse. I planned to invite another group of stupid, ordinary friends who aren’t troubled with any special extrasensory gifts. We’d drink red wine and watch the mediums flit around, lapsing into trances, channeling spirits, doing their automatic writing, levitating tables, while we laughed politely behind our hands.
So a dozen people arrived at the farmhouse. And Brenda brought two women I’d never met, Bonnie and Molly, both of them already swooning from the ghost energy they felt there. Okay, all my friends were swaying a little. But for the sane ones, it was the red wine. We all sat around the dining-room table, a couple of lighted candles in the center, and the psychics went to work.
First, they turned to my friend Ina. Ina’s German and sensible. Her idea of expressing emotion is to light another cigarette. These mediums, Bonnie and Molly, they’d never met Ina before, but they took turns telling her how a woman’s spirit was beside her. The woman was named Margaret and was showering Ina with tiny blue flowers. Forget-me-nots, they said. And suddenly, Ina put down her cigarette and started crying.
Ina’s mother had died of cancer several years earlier. Her mother’s name was Margaret, and every year Ina sprinkled forget-me-not seeds on her grave because they’d been her mother’s favorite flower.