I'm on a book tour right now for my current novel, The Fate of Mercy Alban, a story of family secrets and scandals that bubble to the surface in a big, old haunted house on Lake Superior. Because I write the type of books that I do, one of the questions I always get from readers is: "Do you believe in ghosts?"
I'll tell you something. I do. It's not because my life consists of spotting ghosts on every street corner, although I have had a couple of spooky experiences of my own. No, I believe in ghosts now because, at every reading I've done, no matter where in the country I am, people tell me about the otherworldly experiences they've had. At some point in the night, when I'm finished reading my favorite passages and answering questions, somebody tells a ghostly tale of their own.
There was the sad-eyed man at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, MI, who told of the terrible night he left his fiance at their college library and went back to his dorm room to get some sleep before an early class the next morning. He woke up during the middle of the night to find her standing at the side of his bed. He spoke to her, but she just faded away. He shook his head, thinking it was a particularly vivid dream, and went back to sleep. The next morning, there was a knock at his door. It was the campus police, wondering about the last time he had seen his fiance. She hadn't returned to her dorm that night and her roommate was worried. They found her body 18 months later, the victim of a serial killer. She had come to him for one last goodbye.
And then there was the woman at The Reader's Loft in Green Bay, WI, who confided to me, after everyone else had left the reading, that after her husband passed away suddenly, she was visited by a certain type of butterfly she hadn't ever seen before. It would come to her when she was alone and grieving, alighting on her arm. She felt it was sent by her husband to comfort her.
A woman at Horizon Books in Traverse City, MI told me about moving into an old house in the area and hearing all kinds of ghostly sounds -- footsteps coming up the back stairs, pounding in the attic. But it wasn't until her toddler picked up an old book and walked to the archway between the living and dining rooms with her hand outstretched and said: "This is yours," to nothing but thin air, that she realized the house's previous occupant hadn't yet moved on.
When I was reading at Books & Company in Oconomowoc, WI, someone in the crowd asked where I was staying. When I told them in was an old inn in the area, the entire crowd started to chuckle. Apparently, there's well-known story about a returning soldier from the WWI, who threw himself down the inn's stairs one morning. The neighbors were alerted that something was wrong by his dog, who was barking incessantly. Guests hear the soldier's footsteps, and the dog's anguished bark, to this day. I think the crowd liked the idea of the ghost-story writer staying in the haunted inn.
And my favorite, at The Bookstore at Fitger's in Duluth, MN, where the bookstore itself is haunted. Booksellers have seen ghostly figures among the shelves and felt the classic cold breeze waft through the store, but the real trouble comes when the ghost actually turns the books on the shelves from spine-out to spine-in. It makes a lot of extra work for the booksellers, who don't appreciate it.
Those are just a few of the ghostly tales I've heard in my travels this winter. I look forward to hearing more on my continuing tour.