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‘There’s no such thing as ghosts’

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 11:30 a.m. CDT

October has favorite-month potential. I love the chill in the air, the smell of fireplaces and getting to wear hoodies and a few extra pounds. But one thing tarnishes the lovely month of October: Halloween decorations.

I’m afraid of ghosts. There, I said it. Ghosts freak me out. I don’t care how groovy Shaggy’s van is; I could never join Scooby and the gang. Casper, in all his “world’s friendliest ghost” glory, could come knocking with a bucket of homemade fudge, a carafe of riesling and my favorite Bon Jovi album, and I still would have to pepper spray him. Then, of course, the pepper spray would go right through him because he is, ya know, a ghost, and I’d find myself huddled in the closet, pepper spraying myself so I wouldn’t have to see the apparition before me. Not that I’ve thought about it before or anything.

My preschool teachers did the best they could. In addition to teaching us our ABCs and the difference between turquoise and aquamarine, they taught us not to fear those who go “Boo!” in the night.

“When you kids get scared, just chant, ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts.’”

It worked. And just to double up the anti-ghost power, I never gave a ghost a reason to haunt me. I avoided seances; my parents were the original owners of my home; and I kept my dying scorned lovers to a minimum. Outside of the month of October, my illogical fear of ghosts rarely reared its see-through head.

That all changed a few years ago when I packed up my Jeep and drove cross-country. By the time I paid for gas, food and my first and last month’s rent, I had $186 in my bank account. There was no money left to furnish my apartment. As fate would have it, the weekend I arrived, there was an estate sale happening in my apartment complex. An old lady named Fran had died, and her friends were selling off her life.

I spoke with the ladies running the sale and mentioned how I had just moved in. They waived the fees, saying Fran would’ve wanted me to have her furniture. I walked away with a bed frame, a bedside table, dressers, a couch, a rocking chair, a television stand, a dining room table and four chairs.

My newly furnished apartment was starting to feel like a home, when Fran’s friends knocked on my door.

“We have one more thing for you, honey.” They handed me a sign that once hung outside Fran’s shop. It read:

“Fran Robins. Psychic. Tarot Card Reader. Talks to the Dead.”

Hello, worst nightmare.

“She talked to the dead?”

“Daily!” one of Fran’s friends said. “And now she will be the dead talking to us. All we have to do is listen.”

“What if I don’t want to listen?” I asked, wondering whether my Mickey Mouse headphones could combat ghost whispers.

“You’re adorable. Fran will be so happy to meet you!”

“Oh, please, no. Keep the sign,” I pleaded, not wanting the sign to be misinterpreted by Fran as an invitation.

“Here,” another one of Fran’s friends said, handing me a bag of salt crystals. “Put some in the corners of your apartment. It will keep the bad spirits away.”

I lined every wall with salt. When I ran out, I went to the store and bought more. When I ran out again, I lined the walls with pepper. Fran’s sign was stored in my closet.

That night, sleeping alone in my new apartment, I said aloud: “Hi, Fran. I appreciate your stuff and all, but if you could not visit, I’d be super-grateful. Thanks.”

Over the years, I slowly replaced Fran’s furniture. When I moved out of my old apartment, I left Fran’s sign in the closet for the new owners. Something about that just felt right. Today the only thing I have left from Fran is her dining room table. She never did visit. Not yet, anyway.

A few nights ago, I was driving home. Through the fog, I could just make out some shadowy figures on my neighbors’ lawn. My heart skipped a beat. Fran? As I drove closer, the shadowy figures turned into ghost Halloween decorations. I hate October.

I walked into my house, looked at Fran’s dining room table and chanted, “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

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