FIRE AND GHOSTS
This article was originally published in the fall of 2005 for Insidious Reflections’ 4th print magazine. That seems like a really long time ago, so why am I posting this article here, now, after almost fifteen years since it was first published? For starters, I like to think I’ve gotten a wee bit better at this writing thing in all that time. The article needed some cleaning up, and I hope my edits make for a smoother read for your enjoyment.
The main reason you’re reading this now? It was an article that always fascinated me. I’ve always been intrigued by a good ghost story, and this article happens to consist of a few good ones.
You know, I’ve been asked a few times whether I believe these stories. Whether I was being told the full story, the truth. I thought about it and always it didn’t matter so much if I believe them, it maters that I’m convinced the story tellers telling me their stories believed them, and I was and still am.
I didn’t alter anything they told me for the sake of this piece and instead tried to capture what they told me as concisely as they told it to me. Your mileage may vary and your opinions will be yours, but whatever your take of these stories are, I hope they managed to entertain you as thoroughly as they did me on that night around the campfire.
The article will be posted in episodes every other day, with the fourth and final episode posted on October 28th. For those preferring to read the article in its entirety, that will be posted October 30th.
Now sit back, dim the lights and I hope you enjoy a good ghost story.
A Twist Of Fate
Ever consider how the simplest ideas and actions can sometimes lead to the most significant of events? Well, one hot afternoon during my town’s summer sidewalk sale, that’s exactly what happened to me. And no, it wasn’t because I got the Speedos I always wanted at half price. It was a hot day in July, and it started out with me wanting to walk down to the local Dairy Queen to grab one of those Blizzards that aren’t supposed to melt all over you, but always do. Since the streets were closed that day to accommodate the gaggle of people, I walked the center of the street, checking out the bustling scene of vendors and people, and the classic cars that lined the curb. Along the way, a Scottish bagpiper blasted out some haunting tunes in front of the downtown Scottish bakery shop. A couple blocks from my beloved blizzard, I saw something which grabbed my curiosity and drew me in.
I stood by a historical stand abuzz with curious folks of young and old. I squeezed through the crowd to get a better look. Checking out the many black and white pictures of my old town that were posted up on the felt boards as well as piled across the tables, I found what my subconscious must have known about. It was an old picture of the Preston Springs Hotel from a time when the entire section of this street was lined with hotels and pubs. Why did this picture draw me in? I had conducted some research on this magnificent building about a week earlier in preparation for an investigative article I wanted to write about the place. The building was allegedly haunted by the spirit of a young girl who had died there several years ago.
Curious for more information, I located the historian responsible for the stand and mentioned I was a curious writer of ghost stories for a new horror magazine. The man I met that day was Ray Ruddy. A historian by hobby and gracious by nature, he was as enthusiastic to educate me on the building as I was to learn from him. Not only did he inform me of the founders and origins of the building but, with my nudging curiosity, he went on to explain that there was in fact a ghost there. At some point during the building’s stint as a natural sulfur spring spa, a young girl suffered a drowning death in one of the sulfur baths. To this day she is the only thing constant about the abandoned place which has failed to be restored despite attempts from would be investors.
We talked a few minutes more about some of the other rumored haunting’s in town as we were continuously interrupted by other people that had their own historical questions. I inquired further about some of the various ghost mysteries in town, but he explained he was only an expert on the historical aspects. If I wanted to know more about the local hauntings and of ghosts in general than I was better off talking to his sisters, Kim and Kathy. Ray explained his sisters were quite sensitive to ghostly encounters and he introduced me to his sister, Kim, who happened to be on hand. Her brother was whisked away by an elderly man who wanted to know the names of some sports figures from one of the pictures, leaving me to chat briefly with Kim until she had to leave for another engagement.
When Ray returned, I thanked him for his time, letting him know that I had to be on my way. Ray in turn, offered me his business card so I could contact him in the future. Then he invited me out to his sister’s where they held weekly campfires behind her riverside home. Ray assured me that both his sisters would be there and would be happy to discuss the many strange encounters they’ve endured. I, of course accepted the invitation before parting ways.
Little did I know, I was about to get much more than I had bargained for.
A Fire Awaits
The sky was already stark black as my girlfriend and I enjoyed the short warm walk to the house on the river. We walked up a driveway, unsure whether we even had the right place, when Ray came out from the side door as if on cue and greeted us with a smile and a handshake. In courteous Ray style, he apologized that the gathering had gotten bigger than he had previously anticipated. Turned out his uncle and aunt from Ireland along with a nephew and a couple of cousins had shown up for the campfire. I was eager to meet them all, I said, and so we followed Ray to the back of the house where everyone was seated around the fire.
With quick introductions all around, Ray led me from the circle to the edge of the back lawn so that I could appreciate the view of the bluffs on the other side of a small island. “Over there, in the woods,” Ray explained, pointing to a thick forest on the other side, “is an old Native burial ground. It isn’t marked and not many know of it, but I do because that’s the kind of stuff I study.” Ray researched the facts after his then five year old boy found a spearhead on top of a mound of dirt from what was presumably part of a native chief’s cache. The spearhead was estimated to be about 10,000 years old. Then Ray explained that a deer resided on the island and could often be seen drinking from the calm river water. He also pointed to a perch on the lawn. On many days, his sister, Kim, would lay out some bird feed and stand back watching as a hawk flew down to feed. It seemed the hawk was a frequent visitor to the home.
Motioning further down the river, Ray pointed to where Kim saw the U.F.O. a couple of years ago. He reminisced how Kim had stood out here looking at the evening sky when she saw a small light flying just below the clouds. She casually chalked it up to a plane, but became curious as the thing seemed to not move at all, but instead just sort of floated there, unblinking so that it couldn’t have been a plane or even a star. For a few hours this light just floated until it cruised across the sky to an area over the river. When it lowered, and a very strange thing began to happen.
Ray stopped talking and looked over at the fire where the rest of the large group sat. I wanted to hear more, but he said it was best if his sister explained it to me. He called to Kim and Kathy as my girlfriend and I looked at each other with quizzical expressions. We both had faith in such things as ghosts but …. a U.F.O.? The sisters, Kathy and Kim, came over and we listened to what they had to say.
Confirming what Ray had just told us, Kim continued the story of how this strange flying thing had floated all the way down until it appeared to be just a few meters above the level of the river. It stayed there for long enough for her to call out to her sister, Kathy, to come witness it with her. The sisters watched as three small, bright orbs came from beneath the flying object and lowered to the river, as if on a mission of exploration. After another half hour or so of this, the orbs returned to where they came from and together the flying objects flew up and out of sight. Kim tried to be logical about the whole scene and call all the local airports to ask if any of them knew about any air crafts that were supposed to be in her area that night. She was told there were none.
After this ice breaker of sorts, I told Kim and Kathy that I understood this isn’t the only unusual experience they’ve had. They told me indeed it wasn’t although the flying thing over the river was the only experience they’ve ever had with a U.F.O. As for the supernatural, their first ghostly encounters happened when they were quite young and living in their birth home of Ireland, which they offered to share with me that night.
NEXT UP: EPISODE TWO: Luck Of The Irish | Biscayne Haunt