At the conclusion of each author talk or multi-media presentation, I open the floor to audience questions. And there are always a few surprises. After giving a presentation for the Falmouth Historical Society on The Haunting of Cape Cod and the Islands, a rather tall woman standing at the back of the room asked in a blunt no-nonsense voice:
How do you get to be a ghost.?
I was ill-prepared to give advice on how to return from the dead.
After what felt like a black hole of tick-tocking minutes with all eyes on me, I smiled. Fortunately, in my head I heard the voices of two women who had shared their life-after-death plans with me. I offered their stories as a ghostly guidepost on how to make your way back if you are so inclined.
Jeanette Feltus greets her circle of family ghost as warmly as the human guests who come to stay with her at Linden, a circa 1790 bed and breakfast plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. Jeanette is the sixth generation of Connors to reside in the house. She is adamant that she will also be among the sixth generation of the Connor-Feltus clan to return post-mortem. She has it all worked out. “I don’t really care about having to be put in a casket and stuck under ground. First of all you run out of places to bury people in a cemetery; our family plot at the Natchez Cemetery is so full that I want to be cremated.” Jeanette informed her daughters that she wants her ashes put in an urn and the urn placed between the graves of her husband and father-in-law, but if her daughters really want to “stay in touch” with her then they just need to remain at the family homestead. “I know when I die, I will haunt Linden too. I really believe my spirit will come back here.”
Ruth Manchester is an award-winning chef, who, along with her husband, owns the Bramble Inn in the charming town of Brewster on Cape Cod. She also has a thriving paranormal following. Like the Pied Piper of old, ghosts seem to follow her wherever she goes. Ruth is nonchalant about it all. “I think it is like people who end up with stray cats: if there is a presence that is lost, and if you are at all receptive to them, they will find you . . . they need to find you.” Ruth has had a great deal of success as a chef. The prestigious Zagat Guide voted the Bramble Inn the “Best Restaurant on Cape Cod.” Ruth has no intentions of ever giving it up. “We decided we really love what we are doing, and we’ll just keep doing it until we can’t anymore. I’ll be the ghost haunting this place.” This dedicated woman added, “They will take me out of here feet first, but I’ll be back in spirit form and torture the new owners.” She laughs and amends her remarks. “No, I’ll be the good ghost. I’ll just point out what they need to do.”
So good ghost or troublesome ghost, it would seem that the first step on the way to returning in the afterlife is to announce your intentions when you are alive. Step two, be specific and make plans to haunt your locale. Step three, well, I’ve thought about that a lot since the question was first thrown at me. I have three daughters. I have told them (and I genuinely believe this will happen) that whenever they are together and think of me, I will be there.
I believe that when we are remembered by those who love us, we live on in their hearts. Whether we manifest ourselves in spirit form, speak, or are able to reach out and touch our loved ones again may be dependent on how strong the need for affirmation that we linger on.
For more about Jeanette’s story go to Chapter 7 of The Haunting of Mississippi; to learn more at Ruth Manchester, you’ll find her tale in Chapter 14 of The Haunting of Cape Cod and the Islands.
The Haunted Linden Plantation in Natchez, MS
The Bramble Inn on Cape Cod
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