Ghosts – Part One

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…” – Peter Straub Ghost Story

Growing up in the hillbilly neighborhood of New Richmond, an out-of-the-way corner of Fennville, Michigan, I was familiar with a rich lore of haunted houses and ghost stories. We lived in what is now known as “The New Richmond House.” It is part of the historical district of New Richmond. They even have a website: Apparently someone spruced it up since we lived in it (for those who care to know, it used to be blue without a wraparound deck up top…and a lot more hillbilly…). Here’s a pic of its current state.


It gives you some sense of the great old houses strewn about the area, waiting for a young child’s imagination to grab a hold of.  

There was, for example, the abandoned church next door to my friend’s house. It was a rundown Methodist building, unused long before I was born. Visiting my friend, we would play upstairs in the hallway. At the end of the hallway was a large window with no blinds that looked onto the church. We played in the hallway because it had the most space, but I never liked being close to the window; it looked right into the church and I always felt like someone was watching me.

One time I looked out the window and saw the back of a man wearing a brown trench coat with a wide brimmed hat. He was a ghost, and somehow I knew he was a ghost. I ran into my friend’s room. I didn’t play in the hallway anymore.

There was also the house on Haunted Hill. It was where we used to go sledding. It overlooked the Kalamazoo River, and though people sometimes rented it during the summer, it was mostly uninhabited. I never saw anyone in the house, unlike the man in the brown coat, but I had that same feeling of being watched. I never played around the house by myself, and even with friends around, the moment lost its frivolity. One of my friends swore he saw an old woman in the window once, but we mocked him till he recanted – We wanted a good place to sled, ghost or not. I suppose there were other places to sled, but none as good as that one.

And that was our problem: there were other places, but then there was that place. It was the best, but it was that place. That place was haunted. I never worried that the ghost woman was going to sneak out of her house and creep under my bed (for starters, most of my early life I had a waterbed with no room for her; and secondly, by the time I had a different bed with room underneath, it was already inhabited by other monsters, sorry ghost lady). When I was next to the church window, I was terrified. When I was sledding on the hill, terrified. When I was home, well, I had monsters in the closet to deal with, but no ghosts. The ghosts of the haunted places were very much out of sight out of mind.

I think this is a big part of the traditional ghost story, out of sight out of mind. Whether it is the old church, the old graveyard, the old house, or the old hospital (ad “old” infinitum), it is a place of fear, that spine-creeping reminder that something be amiss. Spinal radar, I call it. “Here there be monsters,” it says. And the “here” is important. It is that haunted place; that haunted room, house, graveyard, etc.

Ok, we get it! What’s the point?

If you will indulge me another story…



Published in: on January 29, 2008 at 4:51 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. My hospital isn’t old per se but we have people here who swear that it is haunted. I haven’t had any specific experiences besides code alarms going off on their own which could be attributed to an electrical problem.

    There IS the story of the clock flying off the wall which always freaks me out though…

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