Two components of Halloween/Samhain celebrations, from both a pagan and a non-pagan perspective, are ancestors, and ghosts. So I thought I would combine the two in this post with three stories from my own family, two of them passed down, one of them recounted to me personally.
For any serious paranormal investigators out there, you can file them under the headings of Death Bed Visitation, Ghost Sighting, and Near Death Experience respectively. I am not claiming them to be true, supernatural experiences beyond all rational explanation, but neither am I dismissing them as anecdotal events that are grounded in purely biological and physical laws as we know them. I’m just passing them onto you as I received them. Make up your own mind on the cause. And the effect.
Death Bed Visitation
My Gran had a sister named Margaret who, being eleven years old, was three years younger than my Gran. One day, around 1924, the sister was in Queen’s Park, which is a public park in Harpurhey, Manchester. In a built up area, this was one of the few green spaces that families could visit to escape the bleak, polluted streets of the industrial, run down city suburbs of the time. While she was there, like so many others, Margaret drank water from one of the water taps. Who could have foreseen that such a casual act was to cost her her life, as in doing so she caught diptheria.
She soon became very ill, and her family gathered around her bed as her condition worsened. In those days it seemed that so many people died at home, as opposed to the modern custom of removing the act of death to hospices and hospitals. As she became weaker, and her end drew near, she suddenly reached out, her arms spread before her, and exclaimed “I’m coming, Mama!” looking into the empty air above her bed. With those final words, Margaret died.
On the day of her funeral, in the manner of how so often life’s occurrences can be perverse, a letter arrived informing everybody that poor Margaret had passed her eleven plus at school. While other young scholars throughout the country were being congratulated on their achievements, Margaret was buried in the same grave as her parents.
One day, sometime after 1927, my teenage great aunt came flying recklessly down the stairs of her home, in such a speed as to risk life and limb. Her stepfather, (who had married her mother, now deceased, after her real father was killed in the First World War), was sat at a table downstairs and startled by the girl’s sudden, breakneck flight.
“Whatever’s to do?” he asked the frightened girl.
“I’ve just seen my Mam!” she exclaimed.
Her stepfather said “Don’t ever be scared of your mother. She loved you and would never harm you. What was she doing?”
My great aunt went on to tell him that she had saw her mother just standing there, looking at her, while shaking her head. She never spoke, nor attempted to speak. Perhaps she would have done if the girl had not bolted in fear.
Not long after this episode my my great aunt’s stepfather died. My great aunt, as so often happened in those days, abandoned her education to become a mother figure to her siblings. She always said afterwards, when recounting her extraordinary occurrence, that she thought that the reason her mother’s apparition was shaking her head was because she was aware that her widowed husband would soon be joining her, and could foresee the life of struggle that lay in store for her eldest daughter, having such responsibility and struggle thrust upon her at such a young age.
Near Death Experience
Around a year before my Dad’s death in 2003, he was sat watching the tv at home in the lounge. The video player on the shelf beneath the tv was connected to another television in the bedroom upstairs, and my brother had put a football cassette in the video player and then gone up to watch it.
After a while my Dad began to struggle with his breathing, in pain (it transpired later that he had had a heart attack), he reached for his inhaler to try and find relief, but on taking a few puffs found it did not work. Barely able to move and desperately wondering what to do next to summon help, he thought that his only hope lay in if he could manage to turn the video player off so my brother would come downstairs to see why his viewing had been interrupted.
He reached for the remote control, struggling to breathe, then suddenly-he was gone.
He said that he was no longer in the room, but ‘somewhere else’. Surrounded by pink-tinged cloud, he was aware of people being around him though he couldn’t see them. Then, up ahead, he saw the figure of a man. He told me “I’m not saying it was Jesus. But it was a man with a beard, and his skin looked like he was Mediterranean. My language was terrible-if God would have been there he would have struck me down. I was saying ‘You can **** right off! I’m not ******* coming! you ****!’ “
All the while that my Dad railed at him, the man just faced him, smiling silently, until the figure moved his head at an angle to look behind my Dad, looking beyond him, a puzzled expression on his face. My Dad then ‘shot backwards’ and found himself back in his armchair before the tv. But stood beside him now was his father, my granddad, who had died ten years previously. His father said “Don’t worry, I will see you again one day, son.” To which, still in fate-fighting character, my Dad replied “Not for a ******* long time you won’t!”
At that point my Mum walked in through the front door, took one look at my Dad’s ashen, stricken face, and remarked “Have you had a wash today?”
There you go: all families have their stories, and these are just three of ours.
Happy Halloween to you all. Keep the light on.
Wow, Andy!!! Your dad was a character. 🙂 He was not going down without a fight, was he?
And your great-aunt’s experience–my goodness! How frightening.
I have a great-aunt, but I don’t really know much about her. But you seem to know the stories of your family well.
I know. My Mum sent for me because he wanted to talk to me about it, he wouldn’t divulge it to anyone else at the time. The following year he finally succumbed and passed, I’m sure his language was blue for a while then too 🙂
I often think of the poignancy concerning Margaret-the letter that arrived on the day of her funeral. And yes-I gather the stories together to pass on, and uncover more doing my family history. I now have a greater sense of where I come from.
Great stories. My sister always saw ghosts as a kid. We lived in a very old house built in 1590. But i never saw or felt a thing. Very glad! Where I live now my first night here, the bedroom door flung itself open. Wierdly I was so tired I just went to sleep anyway! Another time i woke up because the chest of drawers in my bedroom was rocking. Turned out my cat had fallen asleep inside the top drawer. 🙂
My wife would have been terrified. Not of a ghost though-she’s scared of cats!
“Do not go gentle into that good night . . .”
I guess your father really took that idea to heart. Great stories. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Thank you for reading. It’s also my way of documenting them, before they get lost.
Great stories! I like the one best about the Mom appearing to your great aunt. I think she was offering comfort for the struggles ahead. And so sad that the drinking water caused your young aunt’s death! Death truly is around us all the time. No wonder we have traditions such as Halloween and Samhain to help us manage.
Yes-and I do love this time of year, when we begin to turn inward and the nights grow long.
Reblogged this on City Jackdaw and commented:
All families have their stories, and these are three of ours. Happy Halloween.
Marvelous! We did not have many such stories. I wonder why.
In my experience, most people can relate at least one story from a family member. Perhaps your family were not inclined to share such things?