It’s October, the time of year when spirits walk and magic tweaks at our senses. The perfect time for a ghost story.
I wish I could start this one out with “It was a dark and stormy night,” but it was actually a bright sunny day in August and I had just finished getting a healing from my friend, Heather.
“So tell me what you saw,” I said. Heather sees dead people and lots of other strange things. Although I am careful to keep things both psychically and physically clear, several clients have told me that when I work the massage room sometimes turns into a spiritual Grand Central Station. So I always ask Heather what’s going on.
“It was pretty quiet this time,” she replied. “But I did see this short, dapper man in a bowler hat and a three piece suit walk to the top of the stairs to this floor, check his pocket watch, look over at us, smirk, and walk into the library. He looked perfectly solid and real, but right behind him was a woman in a long white dress with a high lace collar. She was all blurry and she floated instead of walking—not nearly as clear as the man.”
The massage room door had been open and Heather would have had a perfect view of the top of the stairs and the library door. Our house is over a century old and we decided that the two visitors were probably people who had once lived here. But just before my next healing session, Heather and I got to talking. If they were previous owners of the house, why hadn’t anyone seen them before? We’ve lived here twenty-three years and Heather has been in and out of the house for at least six of them. I also have several other friends that are perfectly capable of spotting spirits. Maybe the visitors had stopped by with a message for me. The stairs that they walked up are lined on both sides with pictures of our parents and grandparents—Craig’s on one side and mine on the other. As I headed up to get on the table I asked Heather to check and see if any of the pictures on the stairway might be them.
Bingo! As soon as Heather looked at the picture of Grandpa Mellinger she got chills.
And the woman was definitely Grandma Mellinger because she held her head just like the ghost did.
“If Grandpa shows up again,” I said as Heather started the healing, “ask him about the skull.”
“Skull?” Skulls are high on the list of Heather’s favorite things. Right up there with zombies and horror flicks. I had her undivided attention.
Yes, a skull. It is one of the unsolved mysteries of my childhood. Every year my family would drive from Cincinnati to Johnstown, Pennsylvania to spend Easter weekend with my Grandma Mellinger. She lived in a three-story brick house with a red concrete front stoop. All the Mellinger family would gather there for Easter dinner. The grown-ups sat at a formal dining room table and we sat in the breakfast nook. Grandma always got out her set of square, ruby-red glass plates and glasses for us. I inherited those dishes, and they hold many fond memories for me. Grandpa’s study was on the third floor. There was a roll-top desk and a huge buffalo skin rug (my older brother says it was a bearskin). A cavalry saber hung on the wall above the rug. The smell of pipe tobacco and books still clung softly to everything even though Grandpa had been dead for years and his brothers from the Masons had come in and taken most of his library soon after his death. But the most wonderful thing in the room was the human skull that sat on the back-left-hand corner of the desk. When Grandma died and Aunt Katherine cleared out the house I asked her what she did with the skull.
“What skull?” she asked, looking faintly horrified.
“You know, the one on Grandpa’s desk.” How could she have not seen it?
“Your grandfather never had a skull on his desk.”
I got the same answer from Daddy and everyone else I asked. Why were they lying to me?
“So ask him if there was a skull on his desk. If he says ‘No’ I’m just gonna give up.”
“He’s here!” Heather said. “And he says ‘No, there wasn’t a skull on his desk’.”
I groaned. I had seen the blasted thing as plain as day.
“But he doesn’t want you to give up. He’s winking at me and grinning. He says the skull was on another plane.”
That would explain it. And best of all, the rest of my family hadn’t been lying to me. But that answer just made more questions. “So whose skull was it? Where did he get it? What was he doing with it?”
“He says it doesn’t belong to anyone. It never existed on the physical plane.”
“Is it a construct?”
“Yes, he made it and several other things. He uses them in his work.”
“Did he use it before he died too?”
Wow! To be able to construct something on the ethereal plane in such detail and imbue it with so much energy that a six-year-old thinks it’s real requires a high level of magical skill and discipline. This is the sort of stuff the advanced members of the early 20th century occult lodges were doing. My grandpa wasn’t just a Mason; he was a magician!*
In just a few short moments my picture of the Mellinger side of the family shattered and began reforming into a new image that I’m still trying to make sense of.
I called my older brother and told him this story. When I finished there was a busy silence on the end of the line and then Louis said, “I saw the skull too. It was brownish and fake looking, but it was there.”
“Did you actually touch it?”
“I don’t remember touching it.”
Louis likes to pretend he’s normal, but he’s as strange as I am.
Thank you, Grandpa, for your precious gift. And thank you Heather.
*Contrary to popular belief, few Masons, even those belonging to the higher levels of The Scottish Rite, are magic users.