Though most people seem afraid of beings outside of human experience, I’ve been drawn to the unknown since childhood. At a church picnic, I followed a chill thread of air that tugged at me amid the otherwise humid summer. The urging led me behind a clump of thorny bushes, where I discovered the carcass of a white-tailed deer.
Bone poked through the skin, and predators had worried the body, indicating that the doe had been dead for a long time. But before now, the deer’s body had lain undiscovered. If any human eyes had seen the deer before I had, the body would have been taken from the church picnic grounds.
The only explanation I could think of for why I’d been led to the carcass was that the deer’s spirit wanted someone to know. Somehow, the knowledge of the deer’s passing was important enough for its spirit to call out, hoping to lead someone to its hidden place of unrest.
Though I knew that a hit-and-run deer wouldn’t be treated with the same dignity as a human casualty, I hoped that, now that the body had been discovered, its spirit would find peace.
I believe that spirits call attention to themselves, to those who keep themselves open to listening for them. Instead of ignoring sudden drops in temperature or disregarding the abrupt certainty of being watched, I try to discover where the information is coming from. Following the gentle urging of spirits calling out the validity of their existence seemed like second nature to me.
When a neighbor’s cat was missing, I felt almost as sad as her owners did. Whenever I thought of Boots, a chill coursed down my spine. I didn’t want to alarm my neighbor with my foreboding, so I decided to look for the missing black and white cat. I pictured her in my mind, remembering the warmth I’d felt as she’d arched her back to meet my hand.
I focused my memories on our times together until I felt a pulse of warmth that tugged at my legs. I followed the warmth into the woods behind our house. Beneath a locust tree lay her body, where she’d dragged herself after being hit by a car.
The discovery of a favorite neighborhood pet may sound grisly, but I believe that the cat’s spirit was searching for a way to help her owners find her.
My neighbor had been searching for Boots for ten days. Perhaps her spirit had tried to reach her owner first. But my neighbor was determined that she would find her cat alive. Perhaps, if she’d been open to following her cat’s spirit, she would have been the one to discover what had happened to her beloved pet.
I didn’t expect an encounter with a spirit when a girlfriend, Jenna, from my middle school invited me to her house for dinner. As she showed me around, I felt a tug toward a closed door in the kitchen.
“Where does that door lead?” I asked.
“That’s goes to the basement,” Jenna explained. “We used to play games down there, but since Grandma died, no one goes down there any more.”
She shuddered, shaking her head.
“You don’t want to know.”
“Maybe not,” I replied, “but I feel a strong pull to go through that door.”
“Well, I guess I’d better tell you why we don’t go down there, then. After Grandma died, the basement felt cold, even when the wood stove was lit. Other things happened, too. The wind seemed to bang around inside the stovepipe, too, beside the rocking chair where Grandma liked to sit and crochet after dinner. My dad closed the stovepipe and stopped using the wood stove, but the thumping noises didn’t stop.”
“Maybe your grandma just wanted you to know she’s still with you,” I suggested.
I was trying to reduce her fear, partly because I still felt a strong pull to go down into the basement. The pull felt warm and inviting, not scary at all. I believed it came from something or someone good.
“Maybe,” Jenna answered. “But there’s one more reason we don’t like to go into the basement.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“I guess you’d better see.”
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door to the basement and flicked on the light. Halfway down the stairs, she stopped, pointing to a corner of the room.
“That’s Grandma’s chair,” she whispered.
A wooden rocking chair, painted green and decorated with painted flowers, sat beside a cast-iron stove.
“My mother said that once, after Grandma died, the chair moved by itself!”
Instead of scaring me, her words sent a thrill of excitement up my spine.
“Are you sure it really moved?” I whispered.
I knew there was no one around to hear, but I lowered my voice because when I’m drawn by a spirit, I sense a reverence that makes loud conversation seem out of place.
“I didn’t see it, my mother did,” she whispered back.
I squeezed past Jenna and climbed down the rest of the staircase, sitting on a dusty upholstered sofa with a floral pattern across from the rocker. I leaned toward the empty chair and smiled. Maybe Jenna’s Grandma just wanted to visit.
“Hello,” I said, addressing my words to the empty chair. “Is it cold down here?”
Jenna slipped onto the couch beside me. She sat stiffly, folding her arms around her ribs, and stared at Grandma’s rocking chair. Since Jenna’s grandmother seemed to be calling to us, I decided to talk with her as if we could see her sitting in her chair.
As I chatted about life in the seventh grade, the green rocking chair slowly leaned forward. Jenna gasped as the chair rocked back, as if someone was making it move.
“Tell her what you’ve been doing in school,” I urged.
She complied, hesitantly at first, then with growing confidence as the rocker picked up speed. As the chair settled into a smooth rhythm, a board beneath the rocker squeaked. Jenna smiled and leaned back on the couch, releasing a huge breath.
“I missed that squeak so much!” she sighed.
As we visited with Jenna’s Grandma, Jenna and I basked in the warmth of her spirit. A connection had been made, one that would never again be broken.