Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Ghost Sighting or Something Else?

Let me begin by saying I am not necessarily a believer in ghosts or any other supernatural elements. I'm not a disbeliever, but I've not witnessed too many things that couldn't be explained away logically somehow. One of the few things I've yet to be able to explain is outlined below.

My wife and I moved to my old hometown, the city where I had grown up but had not lived in for more than 15 years. The origins of the city go back to the mid-to-late 1700s, and parts of downtown are at least 200 years old, some parts older.

We had moved into one of those older districts. Metal historical signs could be seen every block or two, saying that such-and-such a person had lived there or had gone to college there. Some of the houses had markers on them telling the year the house was built; most read from 1798 to about 1817.

I was out walking the dog one afternoon, well before sundown. Our dog is a beagle, named Lily, and she's always on the go, her little legs carrying her faster and faster. She loves her walks.

Lily was leading me down a street of the older houses. We were passing an alleyway between two houses across the street when I glanced in that direction. Along the left side of the alley, almost up against one of the houses, ran a long, black iron fence that stretched into the backyard. Vines were growing all over this fence and producing pink flowers with long petals.

A woman stood there picking the flowers. She was young, in her early twenties. She was pale, though healthy looking and wore her light brown hair up beneath a flat white hat that was tied around her chin with a light pink ribbon. Her dress was also white, with light pink frills at the hem and at the end of her short sleeves. She looked like someone from the late 1700s up to about the mid-1800s. Her clothing was nice, but it was nothing quite so fine as to have been worn to a ball.

For some reason, I didn't think anything about seeing this woman dressed this way. It struck me as perfectly natural.

I looked away. My beagle, Lily, had come to a halt, which is unlike her while we're walking. I glanced down and she was just standing there, her legs planted, her face with unblinking eyes staring toward the woman I had just seen. Lily wasn't growling, nor was the hair on her back standing up. It was as if she had caught sight of something very, very interesting. Which normally includes bacon, but didn't this time.

I looked back to the woman.

She was gone. As was the black fence and the vines and the flowers. I blinked several times. Now there was just a gravel driveway going up between the two older homes.

I looked back down at Lily. She was looking up at me, her tail now wagging.

Then she was trotting on down the street. I gave the alley another quick glance, saw nothing untoward, and could do no more than walk on after my beagle. She was tugging at the end of the leash by then.

I don't know what I saw on that walk. My wife has always said it was a ghost. But I'm a skeptic. Maybe I did see a ghost, or maybe not. I'm not sure.

But a couple of things have always struck me. One, to this day, more than a year later, I can still quite vividly remember that young woman, how she was dressed and what she was doing. My memory normally isn't that good. Two, my immediate acceptance of seeing this woman in historical clothing has always kind of bugged me. Wouldn't you think I'd be immediately surprised at seeing such? But I wasn't. At first I put it down to my former working in a Renaissance fair, where it was common to see people in period clothing. But that doesn't feel right, and I hadn't worked at the fair in nearly a dozen years.

So, what did I see? I still don't know. A ghost? A slip in time? Just a woman who liked to dress in period clothing, and I mis-imagined the fence and flowers?

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