The Mom Ghost

I’ve linked to this story around Halloween before but I’m going to post the entire story here. I’ve written about this experience on a couple of online venues but recent events in my life (trying to collect all the stories I’ve had published online and realizing not even the Wayback Machine could help me) have shown me that having all my content in one place under my control is a good thing.

So if you haven’t read my account of the Mom Ghost, you’ll find it under the cut. If you have, tune in tomorrow. I’ll have fresh creepiness up then.

This is not a scary haunting, though I guess some may find it creepy, but this haunting, if that is what it was, made me feel happy and at peace in the Universe. In a way, this is like my Mark Ryden entry – it seems creepy until I actually write about it. This was a very happy paranormal experience. As potential hauntings go, it made me feel like the world is a lovely place and that maybe life doesn’t always end up a mindless hell-slog through misery and pain.

In 2002, Mr OTC and I went on a geocache hunt on Memorial Day. It was a historical crawl through cemeteries to find the graves of famous people. In the Texas State Cemetery, we were searching for a grave and we put our backpacks down on a concrete curb-like structure in the center of the cemetery, part of a decorative area in front of the Stephen F. Austin memorial statue. I recall it being within sight of Barbara Jordan’s grave but can no longer be certain of that until I revisit the site.  Mr OTC found the grave he needed for his hunt and came back to the curb, where I was waiting. He stood there, trying to get the coordinates for our next destination, but his GPS unit went dead. We had brought extra batteries, brand new in the package, and he changed the batteries. No dice, it was still dead. I looked at my watch and it too had stopped working. Our phones were dead. His watch was dead. His Palm Pilot was also dead (wow, this is an old story – Palm Pilots are like telegraphs now).

We went home to get more batteries and recharged our phones. My watch never worked again. It was an expensive watch my mother had given me when I graduated from college and the man at the repair shop commented on the fact that he seldom saw watches of that brand die. I finally just had to relegate it to my jewelry box. Of course, we both knew about the whole device/battery/energy drain that accompanies ghostly presences but we were in a graveyard in the bright sun in the middle of the day. It hardly seemed supernatural, even as we were among the dead. We just figured that something, maybe the heat, caused a battery drain. Upon later reflection, it seemed very unlikely that our watches, phones, Mr OTC’s GPS and Palm Pilot, as well as extra batteries, all went dead at once.

Shortly after Memorial Day, I was in our bedroom working on the computer. We lived in an old arts and craft house that had been carved into apartments. Mr OTC had a small study at the other end of the apartment. The place was arranged like a capital I, with the study at one end, the bedroom at the other end, and the kitchen and the living space in a long, narrow room in the center. I had a desk and a computer in the bedroom, next to our bed. As I was working that evening, several cats were on the bed behind me and I felt someone come up and kiss me on the back of the head. I felt it and I heard it, a muted kissy sound.

As it happened, one of our more spooky cats, a former feral, all black cat, rushed out of the room, fur fuzzed out, but none of the other cats reacted. Throughout all that happened, only our wild black girl ever reacted. The rest of the cats never seemed to notice anything. But back to the kiss. I turned, expecting to see Mr OTC behind me, but he was not there. Suddenly the hair on my arms raised. My rational brain may have been going a mile a minute but I think my intuition told me something strange was happening. I called out his name but he didn’t hear me. He was on the other side of the house in his study. I walked across the apartment, trying to figure out how he kissed me on the back of the head and rushed back to his study without me hearing or seeing him. I turned around so quickly he could not have rushed out without me seeing him, and even had he managed to run out of there that quickly, we had hardwood floors and I would have heard him.

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The semi-feral, wild, suspicious cat in question. She was the scariest fucking cat I have ever known, and one of the sweetest and most loyal cats ever.

Though I understood on a sensible level that there was no way Mr OTC could have dashed into the room, kissed me and made it back to his study without me seeing him or hearing him, I kept searching for a way to explain it. And just about when I decided I had entered some sort of mild hypnogogic state as I surfed the web and imagined it all, I remembered the reaction of our wild, black, very suspicious cat. She had rushed out of the room, fully fuzzed out, and completely freaked out. She had noticed something, too. But I put it in the back of my head.

Then a few days later, Mr OTC heard something. He heard a woman say, “Hi there.” I was at work, but, initially, he just thought I had come home early. He was feeding the cats and when he stood back up, he realized he was alone. Mr OTC served on a guided missile cruiser during the Gulf War and has mild deafness as a result. I can be shouting at him at times and he does not hear me, so it is unlikely he heard neighbors in another apartment. The TV was off and he was not listening to music.

And despite the batteries, the kiss and the female murmur, we just said it was all our imaginations, that there was some explanation. Until the toast. It was the toast that convinced us that something odd was happening. I woke one day and found the counter tops in our tiny kitchen covered in toast. I called Mr OTC at work and asked him why he made enough toast for an army and then left it out on the counters. He had no idea what I was talking about.

We lived in an area that had a high homeless population. Our apartment had been broken into before by people looking for food and money, and I immediately began searching for signs of entry. But the front door was locked and bolted. The back door was locked, and had a bolt that could be locked from the outside. That bolt was engaged, meaning Mr OTC had locked the door behind him when he left. All of our windows were locked. There was no sign that anyone had come inside. And if someone had come inside, why would they make toast and leave?

I asked myself if Mr OTC, after nine years of not being a practical joker, had decided to play a strange joke on me. He is an amiable man but he is not a prankster or a joker. I had half convinced myself he had made the toast as a joke… Until I realized it was white bread on the counter. We ate wheat bread and it was in the bag, still in the refrigerator. For whatever reason, that settled it for me. I had no idea where the toast came from but it was not bread we had brought into our house and Mr OTC didn’t do it. I’m a very rational person but at this point, I just had to ask myself how likely it was that someone broke into the house without leaving any sign, brought their own bread, toasted it, spread it all over the counter and then left without leaving a trace.

At that point, even though I never stopped trying to figure it all out, I relaxed and sort of enjoyed the experience.

Later we experienced smells and cold spots. In our old apartment, there was a window unit in Mr OTC’s study, in the front of the living room and in the bedroom. We routinely felt cold spots in places the window units could not have possibly affected. More interesting, we realized we could walk into the cold spots and out of them. They were static, defined and strangely pleasant to walk through.

The smells were of sugar cookies (well, a strong, sugary vanilla – I call it sugar cookies) and lavender. The spots of the smells usually came with cold spots and were almost as distinct. You could walk into a pocket of scent and walk out of it. We both experienced the spots and the scents and, given how I am, I did my best to determine if the smells could have come from somewhere else. Our next door neighbor was a bachelor who never made anything that did not involve bacon or whiskey. Above us were two male students who were seldom home and never used candles of any sort. I can no longer recall who our other neighbors were but at the time I also knew they were unlikely to be baking or burning scented candles. And even so, we did not share any sort of fan or cooling system that could have sucked the odor into our apartment and leave it in such a concentrated manner.

When the flowery smells happened, I did not know they were lavender. I was in a Bath and Body Works and smelled some lavender lotion and it was stunning, identifying the odor. I called Mr OTC over, had him smell it and we just knew – we had identified the flowery smell.

So we had an unseen presence that kissed the back of my head, gently spoke to Mr OTC, made toast, and left smells of cookies and an old-fashioned flowery perfume. We started calling her the Mom Ghost because her presence was so overwhelmingly female and strangely maternal. Had she followed us home from the cemetery? Unsure. I can tell you I was so interested in a rational explanation that I checked our gas lines, tested for sounds and exhausted all avenues of other explanations.

The Mom Ghost began to leave little flower gifts. Tiny, dried, purple flowers that I have never been able to identify. Some had stems woven together, but mostly she would leave one sprig, and she left them in strange places. Tops of door jambs, in between door jambs and doors, in the microwave. Sometimes they were in my car or in the mailbox. They were never obviously or ostentatiously placed. I would sit on them in car seats, would have them fall on me as I dusted, and similar. The flowers were clearly for me. Mr OTC never found them but he did see them when I would discover them. I scoured the neighborhood trying to see if there was an obvious source because they looked like some sort of wild flower. No dice. I spent hours online trying to find the flowers and couldn’t (they were not lavender – the flower buds along the stem were too small and a florist told me that lavender doesn’t remain that purple when dried). It was bizarre, but comforting. I even found a sprig pressed in a favorite book I had not read in years (Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, for those who care about such details). It fell to dust when I touched it.

We moved, and if we were on the fence about the phenomena, we weren’t after we were settled into our new place. She followed us to our new home. The sugar cookie and lavender odors and the cold spots came to a new, free-standing house that had central air and heat and a wholly different set up. And the purple flowers came, too. She continued to speak to Mr OTC, but he often could not hear her and usually thought it was just me murmuring until he realized I was out/asleep/on the other side of the house, etc. He cannot tell me what she said to him, but it was always a soft, feminine, whispery voice, pleasant and sweet. I assume she sounded a little like me since he so often thought it was me, and I have a very girly voice.

I never heard her. I don’t know why she left me flowers and talked to Mr OTC in a sweet, pleasant voice, but we have never experienced the way the other interacted with the spirit. She chose specific ways to communicate with us. I wish I knew what she told Mr OTC, but there was never any urgency to any of her interactions. It was like living with an invisible mother who wore lavender scent, baked cookies, gathered flowers and spoke lightly. I never felt any sort of desperation or fear from her. She was peaceful. She was content. If she was a she, that is…

Without realizing it, we began to take the phenomena for granted and one day I realized it had been a while since we felt her presence. A few days later, I had a strong urge to check my front porch in the middle of the night. No idea why but something told me to check the porch and there it was, a reddish purple flower, different from the others she had left. But it was her. I could tell in that strange way that I had come to know all of her activities. We smelled her and felt her off and on, but mostly she has moved on and I think that large, last flower was her way of saying goodbye. It was the only one I ever photographed. The rest became so brittle that they would fall to dust when I handled them. We didn’t have a proper camera until about 2005 so it was my first chance to really photograph anything. But even so, what does a picture prove (though perhaps someone would have been able to identify the little purple flowers).

Again, there was no local, logical source for the flower she left, but later I did find this one online. It is bush flower of some sort. I don’t remember the name.

I haven’t had a flower in many years, but there have been interesting moments when I think I felt her, but mostly she is gone. We have since bought a new home and I have not felt her here. Mr OTC could hear her murmuring from time to time after we moved into our new and final home, but after a while he stopped hearing her. I think she has moved on for good, but I would not discount her returning if she wanted.

I have no real idea why she latched on to us, and to this day, even though I want to believe there is some larger, rational explanation, I can’t find it. All I know is that a peaceful, calm, spirit or presence latched on to us for a few years and lived with us. We had lived in that old house for four years before she manifested and all signs point to her finding us in that cemetery.

I am an atheist but, at the same time, I have to say I think a spirit lived with us for a while. Can people be haunted on a personal level? Can ghosts or spirits choose whom they want to live with? Was there an undiscovered gas leak in our old apartment that addled our brains for a while and the phenomena ceased when our minds cleared? I don’t think I will ever have answers. For a while I convinced myself it was my maternal grandmother. Her name was Iris Rose and I found all sort of strange parallels between the lavender scent and the flowers. My mother told me my grandmother made lovely sugar cookies. But my grandmother had been dead for over 20 years at that point, and had never, to my knowledge, visited Austin. She was buried hundreds of miles away. I think I assigned to the phenomena characteristics that would help me to understand it. But my grandmother did not die with unfinished work to do, and, even if she did not rest in peace, there was no sense in her taking up residence with me in places where she had never lived.

And then I laugh at myself because if I think we were specifically haunted by a spirit that wanted to live with us, then I suspect that I can just kiss reasonable and rational experiences goodbye. But instinct tells me it was not my grandmother. If the spirit really was that of a dead woman, I don’t know who she was or why she chose us.

As much as I search for an explanation, all I can really know is that something I do not understand happened and that it was a comfort to us and that if it was real then it was proof that there are kind, benevolent forces at work in the world.

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