I have a story to tell. It’s not mine, though perhaps I knew of this when I was much younger. It was given to me by my mother, about her father and a house we all shared.
My grandfather was a pragmatic man, often seen with a cigar in his mouth and a drink in his hand. His were not the ways of whimsy.
He had fought in World War II, running away to join the military when he was fifteen. He saw things, though I never knew what, and that made him tough, unflappable. When he returned Stateside, he met my grandmother and the two of them later married. They lived a nomadic life, running a restaurant in one town for a few years, a farm in another. My grandfather was always on the move, even after ensconcing his family in some house or another throughout the midwest. That was just his nature, I suppose, always trailing the Next Big Thing. That’s what brought him to Colorado.
When his first two grandchildren came along, my grandfather became “Poppop” and he settled a bit. By that time, he and ZZ lived in a yellow brick rancher with my aunt and a pair of Siamese cats in Colorado Springs. My mom and I lived with them. As far as I remember, it was wonderful. I was close to my mom, my aunt and especially my grandmother and I sure did love my Poppop. I still remember his smell, even after all this time. Nonetheless, I intrinsically understood that Poppop, though a jokester, was not prone to flights of fancy. Nothing rattled him. He showed anger, but never fear, never worry. He had an explanation and a plan for everything. He was a solid, down-to-earth man.
Many Colorado towns are built over old mines. Miners would stake their claims, dig their holes, and once prosperity hit, a town would grow up, buildings rising from the rocky ground like weeds. As time passed, the mines shut down but the towns continued to grow and spread until they were over the top of these abandoned man-made tunnels in the earth. There are some years, especially in wet springs, when sidewalks, houses, entire streets will sink suddenly down a collapsed mineshaft.
And there are also nights when the souls of miners who perished under the earth, away from the sun, far from loved ones, resurface to find their ways home. Poppop met one of these miners.
After ZZ & PopPop moved into the little yellow brick house, the women-folk of the family started feeling things: a malevolent presence, something bad. Poppop laughed at his wife and daughters, made fun of them, did not believe them, yet, still, they warned him: there was something not right in the house.
He was a land salesman at the time and early one morning, he was getting ready to go to work. He finished his bathroom ablations, smacking aftershave on his newly-smoothed cheeks, then he crossed the hallway and walked into the living room, no doubt thinking of the day before him. As he turned toward the kitchen where the coffee waited, he happened to glance to his right and saw someone sitting on the couch. Not someone who lived in his house, though. There was an old miner, sitting, waiting. He looked at my grandfather…and then he faded away.
The man who felt no fear, who mocked his family for their otherworld sensitivities, who never ran away with his imagination had just seen a ghost and it freaked him out. He was so alarmed, he rushed to tell ZZ what had happened, admitting she’d been right, the house was haunted. He was still visibly shaken or, as he may have put it, “scared shitless,” by the time my mom heard his tale. I imagine she felt rather smug seeing her father in a tizzy over a ghost when the rest of the family had been living with it all along.
After enough time passed, he stopped talking about his experience. In fact, he never spoke of it again. But he also never tried to convince anyone that ghosts don’t exist again, either.
As it turns out, the ghost of the miner was just passing through. It wasn’t the source of the hateful feeling found in the house. No, that one stayed and you’ll hear more about it next week.