Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ghost story

Bear with me as I share 7 years of history. Actually 100+ years of history.

My restaurant is housed in a building built in 1876. We call it the White house, but really its the Benton house that later sold to Senator White. Senator White is the great, great, great grandfather of Robert 'Moose' White from whom we bought the building. The building wasn't always in the White possession. From around the turn of the last century until the mid-1970s the house of was owned by other entities, at different points being a homeless shanty, a boy's boarding house and rental property.

The boarding house existed in 1914 and employed a young woman who cooked for the boys.

Fast forward to my time in the building. We bought the house about 8 years ago to move our gourmet grocery into a larger space, and to ultimately open a restaurant. Very  early on we (meaning more than just me) started seeing something out of the corner of our eye, and sometimes not out of the corner, but directly. No one talked about it, and we had a lot of staff turnover in those early days. But about two years in one of my staff mentioned it, and I shared what I had seen too. Over the years, numerous previous staff have confirmed what they saw as well. Now its more common that if one of us sees her, the others see her that same day.

For me the sightings are almost exclusively from the kitchen (which make sense since 90% of time is in there). I see her out of my back doorway into a back storage room. The interesting thing about that is I see her peering around a corner, looking into the kitchen. The wall she is peering around didn't exist until I had it built when we did that storage room addition four years ago. From the movies I would believe that a modern wall wouldn't exist in her universe. I don't have anything more to add about that because it doesn't really make sense to me.

So who is this ghost? Well, we've all seen the same thing - a young woman, dressed in a flowing aged, cotton dress. Longer dark hair. Probably Hispanic or Mexican. Maybe 18-24ish. Pretty and average height. I'm not fashion expert (understatement of the year), but I'd place the clothing style at 1900-1920 based on pictures I've seen. Everyone agrees that this is an accurate description. She comes off as a 20% opacity for you computer geeks. So, we see her but she's see through...not a cloud, not a sheet, not a light. A real body but see through as opaque. She has felt benevolent to every single one of us even though many of us are freaked out by her.

Last year a woman called me and said she was researching ghosts in town (we're an Old West town with lots of history including Geronimo's birthplace, Billy the Kid's first crime, etc), and asked me to tell her what I knew. I did. She asked if I would be willing to see  a psychic. I'm not wild about such things but I took my pastor spouse with me and we went. Short version - without me saying a word, she described the ghost exactly in look and age. She said her name was Maria, and that she had cooked at the old boarding house (I've never known anyone to know the building as a boarding house. I found out by researching the title on the property when I bought it.) She said that Maria watched me because she was so fascinated by the difference in how I cook versus how she did. The psychic went on to say that we had a second ghost - whom I've never seen - who is a young girl who hangs out in the front lawn. The young girl (4-6 yrs) died of dyptheria or TB around the same time 1915ish, and was lost and didn't know how to cross over. Maria was watching over her. I don't know what to say about all of that, but since the psychic, we've had a couple of people unsolicitedly tell me about a little girl in the front lawn. But that's not the story.

Fast forward to one year ago. This is before we knew we were moving or selling, but had an inkling that a move might be coming. I had already had the wheels in motion to install a couple of greenhouses on the property. To prepare the property we had to remove a large elm that my tree guy said was probably 110 years old. I can only imagine what it might have been like in 1915 but it was a monstrous shade tree for us, and in feng shui terms, it was our green turtle at the back of the house. Starting the day we brought the tree down ghost, activity went wild. Everyone on staff was feeling something brush past them, seeing Maria multiple times a day, and just feeling uneasy. Taking the advice of my spouse and the psychic I talked to her (no, she did not talk back). I explained why I was doing what I was doing and focused on the new life that was coming in the greenhouse, and all the people we were going to feed. After a few weeks things calmed.

And that's how it remained - a sighting maybe once a month - until yesterday.

This is when I start to get creeped out.

I was raised Catholic during the era of The Exorcist and The Omen. Few things scare the bejeebers out of me more than seeing 666. As I understand it, that's a construct of The Omen, not anything Biblical. [Being Catholic I wouldn't know either way :)]. Yesterday in the morning I walked past my souvide and the thermometer showed 66.6º. Yeah, whatever, right? It has to pass that number to get to its ultimate temp as it warms up. I noted it as I would whenever I see a 666 but not pay too much attention to it. Much later in the day I walked past my scale. Nothing was on on the scale, so it was showing the zero out weight (meaning I had added stuff but didn't zero out, and when the item was removed this was what the scale thought was the baseline), and you guessed it - 666g. I noted this more intently, but still am grounded enough to know that this stuff happens. Throughout yesterday I saw Maria I think 5 times, but I always doubt it when I do. Then my night server came in. I told her about all of this and she told me to grab yesterday's sales sheet and look at her sales. $666! WTH!

I called my pastor-exorcist-most high holy reverend-spouse and asked what he thought. He's very matter of fact about this kind of thing because he's done many house blessings, clearings, etc. He worked for hospice for a number of years so that concept of an afterlife is not a ghost story like it is to me. He said it was probably Maria sensing a major change (like with the greenhouse) and she was trying to communicate with me. I've told Maria many times to not scare me by trying to communicate with me. My response to Tyler was, "But why would she use 666 if its not a real concept?" And even before he answered I realized, "Because she knew it would get my attention." Which it did.

He told me to talk to her and reassure her that the new owner would be okay. So as I left last night I spoke into the nothingness and tried to reassure Maria (or my subconscious) that everything would be okay. I used a trick that the psychic suggested, to put a paper and marker out for her to respond. And I left for the night. This morning when I came in I saw something on the paper, but the marker had not moved. The paper was lightly ripped or scratched in the center. Yes my pulse was jumping. But despite what you might be thinking at this point, I am a very pragmatic, concrete person. I don't trust anything unless I experience it myself. I'm mentioning the scratch, but also know that I didn't pay enough attention last night to know if the scratch was there or not when I put it down. Was it? I have no way of knowing. I do know that I pulled it off of a stack of papers that were a mis-print from my printer and none of the other pages had a scratch or tear. So who knows.

That's it. That's my kitchen ghost story. Tyler thinks something big is about to come with the building. I guess we'll see.

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