Ella set us the coolest prompt at Real Toads for this All Hallow's Eve: to tell a ghostly tale. As you may know, I have no shortage of material, being Irish and ghost-prone. I will try to be as brief as I can. But every word of this is true. We are to use a line from a ghostly poem in our writing. I selected Longfellow's "All houses where men have lived and died........." Here we go.
"All houses where men have lived and died"........are peopled by ghosts. When we found the abandoned Selma Park General Store, on the ocean just outside of Sechelt, it had been sitting empty for years, and the older couple was anxious to sell. It was going cheap, even for those days (1976), at $42,000. The store had everything it needed to open, coolers, refrigerated cases, even an antique cash register, which worked. It had living quarters downstairs, looking out on the ocean, and there were bedrooms upstairs from the store as well. We began to dream, and then, excitedly, to plan. I sold my townhouse, used the profit as a down payment, we managed to secure financing from the Federal Business Development Bank, and we moved in.
People began to come by, as we readied it for our grand opening, and we began to hear about the store being haunted by an old woman who had been highly unsociable, when she operated the store years ago. She had died in the store, and her presence had been felt by everyone who came after.
She did not like us moving in at all. We were young, and we turned one part of the store into an arcade for the local kids, which increased our business, but meant there was considerable noise.
I got up at six a.m. to be ready for store opening, and to get the kids looked after, and I closed at 11 p.m. After I finished washing the floors, I would go downstairs and Tom (who is a frightening story all by himself, for another day) and I would have a cup of tea. So many nights, we would hear footsteps walking across the floor upstairs. We would look at each other, and Tom would go up and check things out. No one was ever there.
One night, when we heard the footsteps, I said "I'll go up". I was standing at the end of one of the aisles, when a chill went up my spine and I felt her right behind me. I went back down. She was there, she was not happy with us, but there was little we could do, we lived on a shoestring and this was our chance to make a living. We werent going anywhere. I had to hope we could uneasily cohabit, that she would let us stay.
I would notice things moved around on the shelves - something from aisle one would be placed on aisle three. This happened so often I knew it was the ghost. Customers would have no interest in moving things around.
And we kept hearing the footsteps. Tom would joke with the customers about the place being haunted. Things went from bad to worse. One day a supporting beam cracked from top to bottom when we were standing beside it. Tom convinced me the store was going to slide down the sandy hill it was built on. It seemed feasible.
One night, I woke to feel a tremor shake the building. "Tom, it's an earthquake." "Go back to sleep," he said, and rolled over. The store stayed standing.
We were buying supplies for the store in Vancouver once, and I was drawn to a plant that I really liked the look of. Then I saw the name of the plant: a wandering jew. My grandma had always told me that those plants brought bad luck, and she would recount instances she knew of where the plant had brought misfortune to a family that only reversed once they got rid of it. I told Tom this, and he scoffed and insisted we buy it.
I hung it in an archway between the dining room and kitchen. One day I had run downstairs to get something and found the plant swinging wildly - no one was there, and no doors or windows were open. I told Tom, he scoffed again, and said that was ridiculous.
One night after closing the store, one of the kids who hung around the arcade came downstairs with us after we closed. Tom was talking about the footsteps we would hear so often at midnight crossing the floor upstairs. The kid's eyes got rounder and rounder.
All of a sudden I said, "Look at the plant!" All of its branches had moved from one side of the plant to the other - they were all pointing at the door.
"I'm getting out of here!" the kid said, terrified.
I knew I had to get rid of the plant.
Next night, it was dark and windy, pretty spooky actually. I took down the plant and went out the door. The plant was wrapping its vines around my arm. "It's just the wind," I told myself, but I was freaked out. I walked a ways down where there was an empty hillside with no houses around, tried to peel the branches off my arm to toss it. But it was hard to make them let go. Finally, I hurled it down the cliff, and went back home.
There is more of a story here than I will tell right now. It did not end well. Let's just say the store burned down mysteriously, under suspicious circumstances. So the insurance company refused to pay, and I lost everything I had. At the time of the fire, I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child. By the time she was seven months old, I was on my own, to start my life over, as a single mom with four kids.
I know the store was haunted. But the kids and I often say how different our lives would have been had Tom left while we still had the store, to earn our living. Our lives would have been very different from the difficult years that followed.
I could have more easily lived with an angry ghost than with him. No problem!
Watch those footsteps after midnight, kids. And dont trust a plant that wraps its arms around you and wont let go!!