Hand to God, my father — my rational, mathematically-minded, hard science-loving, fiscally conservative Republican father — swears he saw a UFO.
He was 17, and on the tractor. He’d just made a turn when he looked up and saw something in the sky straight ahead of him. It was large, silver, oval-shaped, and perfectly smooth. It descended silently just behind the woods on the north line of the property. When my dad went back there later to check the area out, he found nothing.
My grandfather didn’t believe him. He likely accused him, in his particular parlance, of having been “smokin’ dat pots” before seeing the mysterious craft. But my dad is certain it was there.
There are other strange tales from the farm. My aunt tells of seeing unexplained lights in the woods and around the property. And my hardened, work-worn great-grandmother used to take a perverse delight in telling my dad and his sister stories about the ghosts of Native Americans who were killed as they huddled in a hole in a nearby field when the Great Fire of 1881 swept over the land.
Something tells me she embellished a bit.
Me, I love this type of stuff. I can’t stomach death and gore in television and movies — my inability to adequately separate dramatic fiction from horrifying reality ruins it for me. And suspense and thriller films just make me so nervous and agitated that I want to throw up and run away and hide. But give me a documentary about paranormal events, and I’m happy as a clam. UFOs, strange beasts, demonic possession — it’s all gravy. But ghost stories, in particular, are my bread and butter. They’re like candy. Hard drugs. They’re like if you put layers of candy on buttered bread and then sprinkled hard drugs over the top. Yeah — like that. I would be forever happy if I had a television set that aired only four channels: NHL hockey, college football, Mad Men, and ghost shows. Okay, maybe a fifth, and that would be a mixture of Portlandia and X-Files episodes, Kids In the Hall sketches, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000 movies.1
The beau would not be so happy about this. His ideal television set would likely feature nature and animal documentaries, Burn Notice episodes, unlimited airings of the Die Hard/Lethal Weapon/Terminator films, and one channel devoted solely to gun battles, explosions, cars driving over cliffs in slow motion, and cars driving over cliffs and exploding in slow motion.
But that is neither here nor there.
Sometimes the ghost shows I watch border on hokey. I don’t mind. These are like the Tabatha’s Salon Takeover of paranormal programming. A little overwrought, a little silly, a little too easy to make fun of. They’re palate cleansers. Mental floss to prepare me for the hard-hitting stuff. You know, like Ghost Hunters.2
I love Ghost Hunters. The original version is better than the international version, though I have to admit the international version is like the Vegas buffet of paranormal events. Hell, I mean, with all that torment and tragedy and sheer history that went on over there, you’re almost guaranteed to witness supernatural phenomena just by walking down the street. Every square millimeter of Europe and the U.K. is probably slathered in ghosts.
I’ve never had a paranormal experience, which is part of the reason I’m fascinated with these stories. When I watch shows about the unexplained, I wonder: what would I do if I ever moved into a place that exhibited unusual activity? What would I do if I saw a spirit roaming the halls of my home? Would I freeze up? Would I try to flee? Would I casually offer it some buttered bread?3
Which brings me to you, dear reader. Have you ever had an personal encounter of the bizarre kind? Do you know a ghost story lovingly passed down from a family member or friend? If so, share it here! I need to read it. I have needs, dear reader.
And I promise I won’t even accuse you of smokin’ dat pots.
1 Sigh. Most of the pop culture I love is woefully outdated. And so it begins.
2 You realize I’m tittering as I type this, right? Which means I’m 1) yukking it up for the larfs, 2) high on this buttered hard drug candy sandwich, or 3) simply bar none Looney Tunes-grade cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. You get to choose.
3 There is only so far I can run with this joke, and I should have dropped it and left it on the side of the track several miles ago.