A Personal “Ghost” Story

An unexpected consequence of reading and posting about The Red Badge of Courage was that I was reminded of the only time in my life when I definitely, maybe, possibly saw a ghost.

I am, by nature, a skeptic and have not often experienced anything remotely resembling the supernatural. The following story is the main exception:

My first “Place of my own” was an apartment in Irvington (an historic neighborhood on the eastside of Indianapolis). It was the coolest place, on the third floor of the center building of several which together approximated the shape of the letter “U.” Looking out my living room window, I could survey the entire ‘complex’ (maybe the place was too small to be called a complex, but hopefully you get the idea).

Beneath my big, wide living room window I had my favorite couch ever.  Not because it was especially comfortable, but because it was long.  Long enough that it could accommodate my tall frame lying (laying?) down on it.  I often would lay (lie? – help me, someone!) on the couch in the wee hours of the evening, watching television in a semi-conscious state, enjoying the western breeze wafting in that big window.  Many a night I ended up sleeping there the whole night without ever retiring to my bedroom.  The breeze would often gently lift the relatively heavy curtains a bit, extending them above where I was laying  (The window sill was about waist-height).  Anyway, on one such night I was awakened, “sensing a presence” (as I’ve heard it put before -I am getting goose-bumps even today as I type this!) in my half-sleeping/half-waking state, I looked up to see a spectre float in the room as if bourne by the gentle breeze that also moved my curtains.  Focusing my eyes – or trying to – I beheld an ‘apparition’ of a civil war soldier moving (not really walking, more like gliding) from west to east across my living room.  All I can remember noting about his appearance was that he was wearing a blue uniform, was very tall, and looked totally emaciated and exhausted.  In fact, I even remember thinking to myself “I didn’t think people in that era grew to be very tall…” (why I focused on this and not the fact that I was ‘seeing a ghost’ I have no idea).  He continued to move/float directly east through the living room, past a short hall, through my bathroom’s open door until he ‘disappeared’ when he reached the outside wall of the bathroom.

Later I decided that I had seen a ghost of a soldier returning home after the war (this apartment was located about 100 yards from US 40, or “the National Road” as it used to be called, so perhaps this was a ‘replay’ of a weary journey of long ago).  Now, why the ghost would’ve been ‘walking’ on the 3rd floor instead of the ground floor … that’s a tough one.

Anyway, that’s how I always tell the story when anyone ever asks me if I’ve ever seen a ghost.  In reality, however, I do not believe I saw a ghost.  I believe my semi-conscious mind blended together a few un-processed stimuli from the previous day or days and had a little fun with me.  (I don’t think it was a Scrooge-esque “undigested piece of meat” from my last meal – as the Dickens character famously dismissed his spectral visitor).  Perhaps my retelling of this story over the years has also made it seem more real to me now, as each retelling reinforces the ‘memory’ and makes it more enduring.

Just thought I’d share that on a day for which I have no new reading to report.  I’ve reopened Guy Mannering, however, and am determined to make a diligent effort to complete it this month.

Oh! I almost forgot why I was reminded of this!  When I was adding the picture of the book cover for The Red Badge of Courage to my post yesterday, I initially loaded it as “large” which looked too big, and in my efforts to edit the post and re-size the photograph, at one point, I ‘stretched it’ too long vertically and was left with a union solider: tall, lanky and of proportions which I have “seen” before…

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