By Ken Bruen
If you’re Irish, you grow up with all kinds of superstitions, ghosts, bogie men and of course………..the inevitable banshee
First off, I want to congratulate Alex for her wondrous nom………The Harrowing is one of the finest supernatural thrillers I’ve ever read, equaled only by Sara Gran’s Move Closer…….
And the hugely ignored chiller, Anne Siddon’s The House Next Door
Do I believe in Ghosts and all that………..am stuff?
When my mother was dying, , minutes before she passed, she grabbed my hand and said
“Can you smell the roses?”
OK, I’m as suggestive as anyone but I swear to God, excuse the pun, the whole room was infused with the aroma of roses
On her first anniversary, we had the mass, I was coming out of the church, keeping me mind blank which is how I muddle through most emotion and stopped to dip me hand in the Holy water font and I tell you, floating in it there, was one perfect red rose
I dunno about the USA but here they say, if a feather floats into your path, your Guardian Angel is at hand
You can imagine my response to that
Recently, some hard times were coming down the pike and I was spitting iron, means enraged in Ireland, and glad I wasn’t driving, as me car was in for the tune up. I’d come out of a coffee shop, the rain was about to come down, and turning up me collar, a single pure white feather came floating by, landed right by my foot
An elderly woman, standing behind me, muttered
“Sweet Jesus, did you ever see such a feather?”
I picked it up and it was indeed quite remarkable, I handed it to her and she shuddered,
“But it’s for you.”
“So, now it’s for you.”
She was still staring at it when I looked back
Now it’s move it up a notch time
As we say here, make of it what you will and simply put it down to……………….fook, how much Jameson are you guys putting away ……………..or
I mentioned in another blog how my best friend killed himself, it’s five years ago now and I think I finally forgive him………………yeah, I know, how decent of me, but I was fookin angry, I’d been with him the night before and never saw him in better form, my books were just beginning to take off after years in the wilderness and no one, no one was happier than him. His big passion, indeed his only passion was Harleys…………and our shared joke was…………if I ever won one award………..he’d buy me a Harley
The chances seemed as outlandish as that
Then …….well, the phone call came the next day and I thought
“Fook you and your Harley.”
Fast track, against all the odds, The Guards won The Shamus in Toronto, Reed Coleman said he never saw anyone happier in their whole life
Well, I’d lost the Edgar, The Macavity, The Barry, you get the picture and yes I do know, I was delighted to be nominated but even my editor was dreading sitting beside me as he whispered
“Here we go again, one more loss”
When I got home to Galway, outside my door was a tiny, made of wire, Harley Davidson
Probably a friend……………right
The 2nd story is less, how will I put it………..colorful
When I was starting out as a teacher, I lived in Greece for nigh on 2 years, and used to spend all me weekends on Santorini, sit on the balcony, sip some Ouzo, dream of being a writer, I had a wondrous lady in my life then, the mother of my late daughter and I loved her to bits, I was twenty, thought I knew it all, god forgive me, I wanted to be a poet, blame the Ouzo and the Greek weather
Every morning, I’d be up at the crack, do a run along the cliffs of Santorini, fit and lean as ……………..as a Galway hound who never heard of Frances Thompson
A greyhound and with the same mad energy
There’d she’d be…………this tiny girl,
Staring out at that stunning seascape and after months of passing her, just nodding and
She never answered, seem entranced by the sea, I related to that.
Once, she looked at me, briefly, turned back to the sea
She had those
Greek brown eyes, all sorrow and wailing, beautiful long brown hair to her waist and she might have been all of five years old
She never answered me
My last morning on Santorini, my last morning really in Greece as I had this amazing job waiting in South America, awaiting in an envelope in Athens in our apartment, I said my usual Kalimera
And she answered me.
“This is your home, don’t leave”
“What a terrible pity”
I bent down to tie me shoe lace and she was gone
Out of curiosity, I asked the locals I knew who she might be and they all gave me strange looks, there was no such girl, and certainly never would be out alone at that hour
After South America, and other………………stuff, I was in the British Museum, you’re thinking………………just the place for a Mick……………..and looking up angels for a piece on the doctorate I was planning…………….hold the phones………….trick of the light……………………too much rage in me life, too much cynicism…………..but there she was…………….The little Archangel ……………..yeah, you guessed it……………of
What do you do
I went for a pint
The British Museum………………the fook do they know?
Man, it’s already 85 degrees here, on the way to 100, and I still got chills.
Another great post. Haunting and powerful.
Ken,I’ve lived too long to ignore those moments of inexplicable grace. Who cares if they’re ghosts or something else? They’re beautiful and to be cherished.
And, regarding your friend who killed himself . . . it’s been eight years since my godfather did the same thing.
For a long time, there was the anger. Now, it’s this incredible sadness that he was alone when he ended his life. I wish I could have offered him solace at that moment, let him know he was truly loved.
Ken, wow. In the interview I just did with you at TIRBD, you mentioned that these blog posts were a dress rehearsal for a memoir. At this rate, it’s gonna be one hell of a book.
Oh, I do like the notion of a memoir from Ken! Thanks for the heads-up, John.
I, too, believe in ghosts. I was standing at the kitchen sink — in broad daylight, mind you — and saw my father pull into the driveway in his 1957 DeSoto. The day after we’d buried him, of course.
We cheat ourselves by scoffing at the spiritual, the unexplained. Intellectual arrogance closes the door to so much wonder and joy.
Ken, your words often are a key to re-opening many of those doors. Thanks for turning that key on our behalf.
Thank you, Mr. Bruen. You are truly amazing. One of a kind, more’s the pity.
Whenever I’ve struggled with a decision, then settle on a course that I can live with, my Grandmother, Gigi, comes to me in my dreams. Just to let me know I’ve chosen well. And I had a feather last week…
God, thanks Ken. I didn’t know what to make of it. Now I know.
The feather is something I’ve never heard, either – I love that!
But Pity… wow.
Serious chills. And that could happen to all of us every day, if we just let it.
All the personal ghost stories related here are the ones I believe in – it just happens too often, for too many people, for it not to be true.
I went to a haunted high school and I also had a ghost in my first house in LA – there was a cold spot in the front room and an angry feminine energy that made me afraid to go in the room after dark.
When I got my cats, the ghost disappeared. Instantly and completely.
My grandmother visits me, too, JT.
(And can I just say how thrilling it is not only to have Ken Bruen reading me, but comparing me to Sara Gran and Anne Rivers Siddons – whose HOUSE NEXT DOOR is one of my all-time favorites)
Ken, there’s no way I could compete with your stories (or your writing style) but I do feel like sharing a similar experience of mine. My daughter and I were living by ourselves, and she wanted a dog. I found the best possible dog for the two of us, a combination of friend, guardian, playmate, confidant. My daughter and I loved the dog, and she loved us. About 12 years later, I knew the dog was very ill and would not survive. The vet patched her up and we had her at home for a few days. I had sneaky hard hearted coworkers at the time, and regularly took a walk at lunchtime to burn off some energy and get some fresh air. That day I was weeping buckets as I walked along, with nothing available to dry my eyes, blow my nose and clean my face. I was dreading facing my coworkers when I looked down and on the grass at my feet was one of those purse sized packages of tissues, never opened. I cleaned myself up and went back to work.
A loving grace surrounds us all. I’m not interested in debating the source of the grace. I know it’s real.
Ken, born and raised Irish Catholic in Boston and it seems legends and myths cross the waters often. With my grandparents and partents, I might as well have been born in Cork! What memories your short stories today brought back. I guess we fool ourselves when we think we’ve out grown the old ways and beliefs. Love your books and look forward to reading more. It took me years to forgive my son, my best friend, but life got better after I did. Keep the faith, brother.
Wonderful post – and such poignant examples.
Woodstock, I love the way you put it – a loving grace surrounds us all. Wow.
Ghosts do walk with us all.
For many years it was my Grandmother Murray. After her death I always knew all was well as long as the flowers were blooming on her grave. For 20 years they did. Even in the coldest months of January and February! Just look under the leaves or the snow and you would find a bloom.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited with Nana. I should go see if her flowers are still blooming.
When I was in fifth or sixth grade a 12-year-old girl was left dead in a dumpster outside an apartment complex after God knows what had been done to her. I’m sure this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened in Tempe, but it was the first time it got such press. The city was crushed and has never been the same since.
Flash forward more than a decade and I’m living in my first apartment. It didn’t dawn on me for months that it was the same place.
I always felt uneasy there. Bad energy hung in the air and my wife—more open to the world than I—claimed to hear voices.
If you ask if I believe in ghosts, I might just answer no. But I was glad to get out of that place.
Thinking it was something of a joke, I accompanied my mom and sister to a psychic fair when they came to visit us in Boulder about 12 years ago.
The local psychic academy had just had it’s graduation ceremony, and you could get a reading with a newbie for cheap. My guy was probably about 20 years old. He sat down with me and shortly burst into tears and ran from the room, yelling “I need help! Somebody please come ground me!”
At the time I thought he was an idiot. Given the scary sadness of the next year of my life, I now believe the poor man was rather talented.
Lapidary post, dear Ken.