What follows won a contest and was published in an anthology of real-life ghost stories last year. So you don’t have to buy the book, I thought I’d post it here. Since I wrote this for a contest, it lacks the “flava” that I normally bring to my stories, but it is 100% true.
Groggy with sleep, I shuffled to the kitchen where my sister was already making herself breakfast. Our mother left the day before for a business trip, but I was in my mid-teens and my sister in her early twenties, so fending for ourselves was not a problem. I sat down at the counter and tried to clear the lasting images from a very vivid dream from my mind.
I was contemplating breakfast when my sister sat down next to me and said, “I had the weirdest dream last night.”
I turned to her, surprised. “Really? So did I.” Breakfast forgotten, I asked, “What was your dream about?”
She told me she dreamed she wore a dark green sweater. It was thick and warm and, although she had never seen it before, she instantly loved it. As she walked through our house, sections of the sweater began to glow. Looking down she saw sparks jump from the fabric. Frightened, she pulled the sweater off and threw it into the fireplace where it became engulfed in bright white flames. She shielded her face from the heat and when the fire burned out, the sweater was gone. The dream was unusual, but the striking realness of it all was what made it memorable.
“Your turn,” she said.
I told her that in my dream I was dressed as a 1920’s flapper. My short, green dress was covered in rows of silky fringe that swayed as I walked through my bedroom. Already late to the costume party, I stopped to check my hair in the dresser mirror and adjusted my sequined headband. Finally ready, I grabbed my green wool cloak from the bed and wrapped it around my shoulders. Just then, in the mirror, I caught a glimpse of a face superimposed over my own. It was gone in a moment, but that was all the time I needed to recognize my grandfather who died when my sister and I were very young. The sudden appearance of his gray, wrinkled face should have startled me, but instead I was comforted. I stood in front of the mirror hoping that he would show himself again.
It was common for my sister and I to have realistic dreams, so even though we noted the appearance of the color green in both of them, we did not feel there was any meaningful significance. However, when our mother arrived home later that day, the dreams were still fresh in our minds. We felt compelled to tell her about them.
As we described our dreams to our mother, she was silent, her eyes wide. After we finished, she said in almost a whisper, “Did I not ever tell you the story of your grandfather’s sweater?” Our confused looks told her that she had not.
When our grandfather was young, during the early 1920’s, he was basically a vagabond. He traveled the rails with only a satchel on his shoulder and the clothes on his back. His green wool sweater, more than just an article of clothing, was a beloved possession. One cold night, he stopped at a hobo camp to warm himself by a barrel fire. Chilled and weary, he did not realize just how close he stood to the flames. Sparks landed on his sweater and the fabric ignited. He yanked the burning garment from his body and threw it to the ground, stomping on it to extinguish the flames. The sweater, one of the few things of value he owned, was ruined.
“Your grandfather was trying to contact you, connect with you both in some way,” our mother said, eyes welling with tears.
My sister’s dream with the color green, the sweater and fire, and mine with the 1920’s era and grandfather’s face were just details, a skeleton. Our mother’s recollection, a story passed down, added flesh to the frame and made it come alive.
We all turned to look at the brass cube on the fireplace hearth that contained grandfather’s ashes. Many times over the years we had touched that cube and thought of him. On that night, he reached out and touched us back.
If you have a real-life ghost story, I would love to hear it!