by Bente Gallagher (and Jennie Bentley)
Welcome to October, the spookiest month of the year! We'll be talking about spooky stuff this month, and I have the honor of starting us off.
I love a good ghost story. Always have. I love books about ghosts, ghost tours, places that claim to have ghosts, stories about ‘true’ ghosts. I’d love to actually see a ghost—at least I love the idea of it—but so far, I haven’t. And truth be told, I might not love it at all if I did.
I have had other slightly weird things happen to me. My mother used to have what we in Norway call a ‘vardøger’—a harbinger. Not of death; this was while she was alive and I was little. She worked part time, until 2 PM, when she’d take the trolley home from downtown. I was in school, and I would usually arrive home before she did. If I stayed downstairs, I’d always hear the front door open and close around 2:30, and then, about thirty minutes later, my mother would come in. After the door opened and closed again, I mean. The first time, nobody was there. Just my mother’s spirit, I guess, looking forward to getting home to her little girl.
To me, growing up, it was no big deal. I never thought twice about it. Until I told someone else about my mother’s ‘vardøger,’ and watched them turn pale, and that was when I realized that not everyone’s mother had a harbinger.
A few years later, I developed some sort of precognition. I was living in New York City at the time, and crushing on this guy named Michael. We met when I was nineteen—just a kid, really—and I didn’t like him much at first. In spite of that, I knew from the moment I set eyes on him that we’d end up getting married. And for the next two years I had this weird sixth sense about him. I’d wake up in the morning and know that I’d run into him that day. (Very convenient, since I could primp beforehand and make sure I looked my best.) And I never ran into him where you’d expect; I didn’t stalk his place of work waiting for him to show up or anything like that. No, this was on the street somewhere in Manhattan, where neither of us knew the other one would be; a pure and total coincidence in a city of 8 million people. And it didn’t just happen once, it happened over and over. Just with him, never with anyone else.
At one point, I had this certain question I wanted to ask him, but I didn’t want to just call and ask; I wanted it to sound coincidental and like it was no big deal. (I know, silly. But I was nineteen. What more can I say?) So I made this deal with my roommate, Myra, that if I hadn’t gotten ‘that feeling’ in the next week, and hadn’t run into him coincidentally on the street somewhere, I’d call him at 7 PM on Saturday night.
The week passed, of course, with none of ‘that feeling,’ and Saturday rolled around. It was getting close to 7 o’clock, and Myra was trying to talk me into picking up the phone and dialing when she phone rang. She was closer, so she answered, and I’ll never forget the look on her face when she turned to me and said, “It’s for you. It’s Mike.” It was three minutes to seven.
I did end up marrying him, by the way. It’s been 23 years.
So that’s the extent of my spookiness, which seems to have rubbed off over time, sort of like gilt. There’s nothing spooky about me now (although I did write a haunted house mystery last year). I’d love to have a nice long chat about my favorite spooky books, but it’ll have to be some other time. When you read this, I’m actually on the road, on my way up to Columbus, Ohio, for the Central Ohio Fiction Writers Conference, where I’ll be spending the weekend. And I'm not dragging the computer along!
If any of you are in the neighborhood, please come say hi. I’m not teaching, just soaking up a little learning of my own, but I will be participating in the author signing from 4 to 6 on Saturday night, if anyone wants to stop by and see me and maybe buy a few books.
I'll be back on the 26th to discuss favorite paranormal books. Until then!