The Very Real Ghost Book of Christina Rose

The Very Real Ghost Book of Christina Rose.Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Dell paperback edition, 1998.

Excerpt 1

From Chapter One:

Very Real Ghost Book of Christina Rose

 

My name is Christina Rose and I believe in ghosts. Not all those fake scary movie ghosts or book ghosts with cleavers and chainsaws and waxy dead eyes, but regular REAL ghosts. The kind that just watch you from the corners of your room. The kind that wait until you catch a glimpse of them. The kind that are lonely and miss you and just want to be loved.

Please don't start thinking that I'm crazy or weird. I never would have written any of this three weeks ago because I didn't think that ghosts were anybody's business--except my own. It's just that we moved, and a few things happened in our new house in our new town. A few things that got me to change my mind.

Professor Barrymore said to write it all down, so everyone could know about my very own poltergeist. But I can't just start with that story. Ghosts are much more complicated than that. I have to start at the beginning, a long time ago, with another ghost story.

real ghost story.

~~~~~~

My Very First Ghost Story

Two people from New York City fall in love and get married. They have two children, and the woman quits her job and devotes all her time to her young family. She loves her children very much and, for three years, spends every day with them.

One day her college roommate who lives in Maine calls and asks her to visit for a long weekend. At first the woman says no, but her husband convinces her that a short vacation would be fun. Reluctantly, she agrees.

At LaGuardia Airport, on the day of her flight, the woman wants to change her mind. She looks at the faces of her children and thinks she will miss them too much. But her husband has planned a special surprise. He gives the children a small box wrapped in shiny paper and tells them to hand it to their mother. In it she finds a silver heart-shaped locket with a picture of each child inside as a goodbye present. Engraved twice, once on the front and once on the back, are the words "Remember Me."

"Wear this so you won't feel lonely," her husband tells her.

"This is so sweet," the mother says, putting it around her neck. She is crying, but she is happy. "But you make me feel so thoughtless. I should have bought the kids a present, too."

"Don't worry," he says, "I can get them something. And they'll have me if they start to miss you. Have a great time."

She kisses everyone goodbye and gets on board. On the way, a terrible thunderstorm surrounds the plane. Lightning hits the cockpit and the controls are damaged. The plane begins to lose too much altitude and crashes in the woods outside Bangor. The woman and all the passengers die.

The father hears about the crash after his children are asleep that night. He is sick with grief, but he decides not to wake them. In the morning, when he enters their room, the children are already awake. They are talking to each other and playing with their dog.

"Momma came home last night," the girl says.

"No, she didn't," the father replies, his heart breaking.

"She did, too," the girl says. Then she holds up the Remember Me locket in her hand.

"Where did you get that?" the father asks, taking the locket.

"Momma gave it to me," she says. "Can I wear it when I grow up?"

"Your mother wasn't here," the father says, putting it in his pocket. "She was in an airplane." Then he tells them about the crash.

The children begin to cry.

That day, friends and relatives crowd the house. The boy and girl eat chocolate cake and sugar cookies and drink a lot of soda, like they're at a party. Only it doesn't feel like a party. The girl hears everyone talk about her mother's death. She tries to say that her mother visited her the night before and brought her the Remember Me locket, but no one pays any attention.

At bedtime the father tells them they will bury their mother soon. "Where is Momma?" the girl asks.

"Where the plane crashed," the father says.

"Why can't she come here?" she asks.

"She can't, honey."

"Why not?"

"Because she's dead." Then the father kisses them goodnight and starts to leave the room.

"But I saw Momma," the girl tries to explain. "She left her locket for me."

"You had a dream about your mother," the father says. "And you got confused. The locket must have fallen off your mom's neck when she hugged you goodbye," he tells her. "Remember? You were wearing your raincoat and it has such big pockets. I bet it dropped into your pocket, and that's where you found it. Stranger things have happened, you know, so please don't go making anything scary out of this. There are no such things as ghosts."

"Ghosts?" the brother says. The word startles him. Only now does he realize that his sister must have seen their mother's ghost.

The girl reacts differently.

Ghost? (she thinks) My mother didn't look like a ghost. She wasn't scary. But she didn't look like a dream. She looked real. And she gave me her locket.

None of them knew or understood what had happened. And they never discussed it again--at least for a long time.

~~~~~~

That is where this story ends. It is the saddest ghost story I know, because it is real.

VERY REAL.

Okay, the woman is my mom, Judith Rose. She died in a plane crash when my brother Dante (call him Danny, if you value your life) and I were three. At first I thought I really saw her the night she died. I thought I was awake when I saw her come into the room. She walked to Danny's bed and looked at him. That night he was sleeping with Sparky, our West Highland white terrier, because Danny missed Mom so much.

A second later, my mother glanced at me and saw me watching her. She came to my bed and smiled and put her finger to her lips and then patted my covers. I closed my eyes and fell asleep. In the morning I found the locket on my bed and my dad took it. Super-smart computer software writer that he is, he was determined to make me believe that it was just a dream. He made his speech, trying to convince me, but inside I knew he was wrong. Inside, I knew I was not supposed to talk about it. Danny was another story.

The next year, when we got separate bedrooms, he started thinking that every looming shadow and every strange noise after sundown was a ghost coming to get him. He must have thought they were blood-dripping, night-creeping, life-sucking monsters or something. He checked under his bed and in his closet every night. And he slept with his light on until fourth grade. He would never say it (Danny isn't the talkative type), but I knew what he was thinking: What if Mom misses us too much? What if she comes back for us? What if she wants to take us with her?

Danny went crazy about ghosts (and I mean CRAZY) for a long time. Then the second part happened.

That is where this story ends. It is the saddest ghost story I know, because it is real.

VERY REAL.

Okay, the woman is my mom, Judith Rose. She died in a plane crash when my brother Dante (call him Danny, if you value your life) and I were three. At first I thought I really saw her the night she died. I thought I was awake when I saw her come into the room. She walked to Danny's bed and looked at him. That night he was sleeping with Sparky, our West Highland white terrier, because Danny missed Mom so much.

A second later, my mother glanced at me and saw me watching her. She came to my bed and smiled and put her finger to her lips and then patted my covers. I closed my eyes and fell asleep. In the morning I found the locket on my bed and my dad took it. Super-smart computer software writer that he is, he was determined to make me believe that it was just a dream. He made his speech, trying to convince me, but inside I knew he was wrong. Inside, I knew I was not supposed to talk about it. Danny was another story.

The next year, when we got separate bedrooms, he started thinking that every looming shadow and every strange noise after sundown was a ghost coming to get him. He must have thought they were blood-dripping, night-creeping, life-sucking monsters or something. He checked under his bed and in his closet every night. And he slept with his light on until fourth grade. He would never say it (Danny isn't the talkative type), but I knew what he was thinking: What if Mom misses us too much? What if she comes back for us? What if she wants to take us with her?

Danny went crazy about ghosts (and I mean CRAZY) for a long time. Then the second part happened.

~~~~~~

My Very First Ghost Story (continued)

For a long time afterward, the girl wonders about ghosts. She wonders whether she will ever see her mother's ghost again, either in a dream or in real life. She wonders whether her father will give her the Remember Me locket one day, and she wonders how she got it in the first place.

Her father can tell she is wondering too much, so he tries to distract her. He gives her lots of girl toys-Barbies and blond baby dolls. But she dresses them in black and colors their hair with black (and sometimes blue) Magic Marker.

So her father gives her a computer with lots of fun software. The girl likes her computer and learns the alphabet and shapes from it, but still she wonders. Then her father teaches her to read and gives her books about ballerinas and ice skaters.

Nothing seems to work, until her sixth birthday when her father gives her a pet mouse. She calls it Mousie, and it becomes her best friend for almost one year. Then Mousie dies. The girl decides to bury him in the back yard. She dresses in black and cuts a pair of tights to use as a veil. She even dresses her dog in a black bow for the ceremony.

"What are you doing?" her father asks.

She is carrying a small box that holds Mousie.

"Let me see," her father says, lifting the lid and looking at Mousie's body. "What's this?"

"His locket," the girl answers. She has made a necklace with a heart-shaped pendant from aluminum foil and placed it around Mousie's neck.

She sees that her father is upset, so she hurries out the door. With her dog's help, she digs a hole under a lilac bush and buries the box.

That night, after she goes to bed, she gets a funny feeling. She gets up and looks out her back window. There, standing by Mousie's grave, is a shadowy figure. She watches a moment until the figure walks into the deeper darkness by the side of the house. She is certain that her mother's ghost has come to visit Mousie. But she doesn't tell anyone. She knows she cannot tell her brother because ghosts frighten him too much. And she knows that she cannot tell her father because he does not believe in ghosts.

Every night for a week (and after that as often as she can), the girl looks out the window in hopes of catching another glimpse of her mother's ghost. She hates to fall asleep, and so she tries to stay awake as long as she can.

Her father gives her another pet, this time a goldfish. She thinks that if the goldfish dies and is buried in the back yard her mother's ghost will come to visit again. She doesn't change the goldfish's water and forgets to feed it. But when the goldfish dies and she buries it next to Mousie, her mother's ghost never visits.

She finds dead insects and buries them as well. Soon a whole corner of the backyard is her special cemetery. But her mother's ghost never visits.

She grows up, loving to write on her computer. She writes a computer diary filled with her regular thoughts and her ghosty thoughts. She writes poems and stories and saves them on her disks. One day she finds a book of poetry that her mother liked. In it she discovers a special poem. She types it into her computer diary and then memorizes part of it and recites it to herself when she thinks about her mother:

I rose at the dead of night
And went to the lattice alone
To look for my Mother's ghost
Where the ghostly moonlight shone.

My Mother raised her eyes,
They were blank and could not see.
Yet they held me with their stare
While they seemed to look at me.

She opened her mouth and spoke,
I could not hear a word
While my flesh crept on my bones
And every hair was stirred.

I strained to catch her words
And she strained to make me hear,
But never a sound of words
Fell on my straining ear.

But no matter how many times she watches from her window in the middle of the night, whispering her poem like a prayer, nothing else happens . . . .

~~~~~~

Okay, my father always said I had a flair for the dramatic, but that doesn't mean I'm making any of this up. Mousie was real, but so was what I saw from my bedroom window.

Maybe you'd think that way too if you were named for your mother's favorite poet: Christina G-word Rossetti. Her middle name and mine are the same, but you'll never catch me writing it here (and if you think you're so smart and go look it up somewhere, don't make any jokes about it, please!). My mother loved her poetry so much, too much probably, if you think about her giving me that particular G-word for a middle name. Christina G-word Rossetti thought a lot about ghosts and wrote ghosty poems, and so do 1, Christina G-word Rose. Only I never wrote anything for anyone to read until now.

If I was a ghost story writer, I could make up really interesting and scary endings to my stories. I mean, my first two ghost stories just kind of stop. Nothing happens. I mean, nothing happens! They don't have scary endings that make your skin crawl. But give my stories to some stupid ghost story writers and they'd change them all around.

They'd make my mother's ghost all burned and bloody with her skull showing through. And she'd hold out her bony skeleton arms with tattered clothes and flesh hanging from them, calling to her children.

DAAAAANNNNNNNY, CHRIIIIISTIIIIINA!

COME WITH MEEEEEEEEE!

WOOO!WOOO!WOOOOOOO!

And the room would be dark and the windows would be open and the wind would be howling and long filmy curtains would be blowing. The ghost, with a wild gleam in its eyes, would float toward the window, beckoning to the children, and suddenly their father would come into the room and watch in horror as they stood on the windowsill--ready to die--and he would grab them by their nightclothes and save them one split second from certain death in the fish pond three stories below.

Gross! Now, do you understand why ghosts never scared me? Ghosts didn't act like that-they acted like my mother's ghost, if she was a ghost. They were quiet. They were shy. You couldn't really tell if they were ghosts or dreams. They never ever came back even if you really wanted them to. And you didn't talk about them with anybody--especially your dad--because nobody would believe you.

~~~~~~

But that was three weeks ago. It's funny how much life can change in such a short time. If you had told me then that I would now be the president of Ghost Hunters I.N.K. ("We Investigate All Hauntings"), I would have said "You're crazy." And if you had said that I would wrestle with my very own poltergeist, I would have said, "You're seriously crazy!"

Now I have more stories to tell. Some are my ghost stories, some are other people's. When I'm done, you'll know what happened. When I'm done, you'll know what's real. And when you're done, you'll have one book of very real ghosts staring you dead in the face.

And believe me, you won't be dreaming either.

 

Copyright © James M. Deem. This excerpt is taken from The Very Real Ghost Book of Christina Rose (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996). All rights reserved.