As far as I know, I’ve had four. Of course, I’ve been scared more times than that, but we’re talking here about ghostly visitors. So, four. The first occurred in November 1978 in Farnam Castle, Surry, England. Now old British castles are known for their ghosts. My late wife and I were there for a smallish week-long gathering on Educating for the Future, organized by Dr. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the first polio vaccine. The castle was genuinely old, the first part built around 1100 by the grandson of William the Conqueror...
Simone and I were staying in the newest part, built in the 17th century by the Anglican bishop then housed there. It was of course around midnight. We were just falling asleep after a full first day when I felt a cool breeze even though the window was closed. Then the lights went out. I tried to turn them back on, but the switches were all dead. The loo was in the hallway, and I’ll admit to being scared to go there all by myself. Still, we managed to make it through the night. The next morning the lights all worked again. I told our British host what had happened and offered that a fuse must have blown. “Oh no,” he replied, “the Bishop has simply paid you a welcoming visit.” Well, on our final night, the same thing happened. This time I wasn’t scared, and in my head I thanked Bishop Morley for his hospitality, then fell asleep right away.
The second ghostly encounter took place in a restored Shaker village, “Shakertown,” about an hour’s drive outside Lexington, Kentucky. For several years I had been attending a small annual conference of some 15 postsecondary educators from around the country to discuss issues relating to collegiate general-education programs. We were all housed in one of the former Shaker dormitories, where the brothers and sisters lived on different sides of the building and accessed their modestly furnished rooms by separate entries. (Shakers, members of an offshoot of the Quakers, were celibate and lived in communities in the Eastern U.S. from around 1790. The last members, in Maine, died some years ago.) Having arrived this particular year a few hours early, I decided to take a rest. In the middle of my nap, I felt a strong pressure on my chest. Thinking I was having a heart attack, I tried to relax and see what would happen next. Then a male voice, not mine, said inside my head, “I didn’t mean to startle you, but that was the only way I could get your attention.” (The pressure had suddenly ceased.) “You see, I once lived in this room and have been stuck here ever since. To go where I need to, someone still in the body has to pray for me.” Wondering why he had been stuck here for what must have been many years—the community had closed down generations before—, he read my thoughts and said, “Just as you can’t see us, we can’t see you. But in your case, I saw a glow around your body and knew where you were. Would you please pray for me?” I did. “Thank you. I feel lighter now. I’m going. Oh, and I can see that you will have a good future. Blessings to you. Goodbye.” Stay tuned for two more ghost stories, from Borneo, next time.