The first time I met a spirit, ghost, or whatever you choose to call them was in about 1975.
I was house sitting for friends about ten miles east of Bisbee (Arizona.) I stayed for a week in the little house that sat right off the highway.
I’d had several experiences of car lights flashing into the kitchen. Each time, I thought someone had pulled into the drive because it was the only way lights could have lit up the kitchen that way.
But there was never a car in the driveway. This happened every night, sometimes more than once, but there was never anyone there.
I slept on a sofa, and about six feet from it was a large open beam that ran the width of the house. The beam sat several feet below the ceiling.
Near the end of my stay, I awoke suddenly one night. Sitting on that beam was a round, oversized orange head. It was like a cartoon image—perfectly round with simple features.
The eyes of that orange face stared directly into mine.
Suddenly it hovered and moved in closer to me. It just hung there in the air for a bit and then faded away.
And no, I wasn’t dreaming.
My second encounter was in the summer of 1977.
I was on a road trip, gently roaming my way to Montana, and stopped for a night at Canyon de Chelley.
The first afternoon, I hiked some and spent time gazing into the canyon. The second day, I visited the White House Overlook.
I felt a stirring. A past. I couldn’t identify it, but I swear I felt spirits of the dead around me.
I was standing next to an older Diné man. We were both staring at a cave in the rock face high above the canyon floor.
He spoke softly. “My mother died there.”
My head spun his direction as he continued. “The army was attacking and she was carrying me up the ladder to the cave. When she got there, she handed me to my grandmother. My grandmother took me and right then, my mother was shot in the back and fell into the canyon. My grandmother pulled up the ladder, and those of us in in the cave were safe.”
I don’t remember what I said to him, but tears streamed down my face for the next ten minutes or so while we stood there side by side.
No wonder I’d felt the ghosts of the past.
The third time was in 1982 when I lived out west of Bisbee at a place called Banning Creek Ranch, about halfway down Highway 92 from the tunnel on the south side.
The house was a delight. I loved every inch of it. Almost. There was one spot in the living room that was cold. Always cold, even on a hot summer day. The sofa sat right at the cold spot facing a beautiful fireplace.
I couldn’t enjoy the sofa because of that cold. But I was the only one who noticed it.
About a dozen years later I was in a writing group, and we met one evening in the home of a woman who lived maybe half a mile from the Banning Creek house. I told her where I’d once lived and she looked shocked.
“Did you know a cowboy was murdered there? He was shot and killed right in front of that big fireplace.”
Ah. The cold spot.
The fourth time was in 1989 in Guatemala. I was taking a boat across Lago Atitlán on a day trip from Panajachel to Santiago de Atitlán.
Lago Atitlán is stunningly beautiful but infamous because of the way it was used during the wars of the 70s and 80s.
The indigenous population had many members working as or working with the guerilla, fighting Guatemala’s dictatorship.
Soldiers would come into a village and take a suspected leader away. A short time later, villagers were herded to the lake. A helicopter would appear, its side door open. The kidnapped villager, hands tied behind his or her back, was pushed out the door into the lake where he either died on impact or drown.
It was one of numerous repressive actions the government used to stifle revolution. Over a decade or so, hundreds were dropped into the deep waters of Lago Atitlán.
On the day I was crossing the lake, I was gazing out across the still waters. Suddenly, clear as anything, about sixty or seventy people rose from the lake. All wore indigenous clothing.
A man near the front moved forward a bit and held out a large turtle to me.
I gaped. I gasped. Then I heard voices close behind me and looked around. Others on the boat were looking at me oddly.
When I swiveled my head back to the people of the lake, of course they were gone.
That is the day I became a Turtle Person.
The next time was late in 2006, about ten months after my father died. I awoke in the night and saw his face across the bedroom under the window. His face zoomed toward me and he looked at me closely. Then, just like the big orange face that had done the same thing, Dad disappeared.
I’m guessing he was there to check up on me and say goodbye.
And now I have a new visitor. Or at least I did.
For about three weeks I had a visitor, a man. I’d see him out the side of my eye, usually my right eye. I’d see him all through the house and once outside.
He’d be standing at a slight angle to me, as if I could turn slightly and we’d be looking straight at each other. He stood somewhat slouched, dressed in browns and tans, and he wore a hat. I never saw him clearly because when I’d look, he’d be gone.
I got the sense he was youngish, maybe in his thirties. But it was hard to tell since I could never really see him.
He’d just stand there, maybe six feet away. He looked like he should be holding a cup of coffee. And maybe he was.
I got the sense he could be a cowboy, but again, since I never got a real look, I can’t be sure.
A few weeks ago, I may have made a mistake. I told others about him. And he hasn’t been back since then.
I wish he’d come again. I’d like to find out who he is and why he’s here.
Each of my ghostly encounters is still so real, so clear. I can see every one and envision the setting perfectly.
I once assumed folks lucky enough to be visited by a spirit had that connection with just one person in one location unless they were some kind of medium. I had no idea I’d be one of the lucky ones, let alone have several experiences.
I love knowing I can, on occasion, be visited by spirits, even those to whom I have no special connection. I look forward to my next encounter.