One of my favorite ways to spend a summer evening as a child was to gather with the neighborhood kids on our front steps to listen to ghost stories. The storyteller was often my sister who seemed to enjoy scaring the daylights out of us as much as we liked her hair-raising tales. Of all the stories told over the years, the one I recall most vividly is the one about the man with the hook. Variations of this story have existed for decades – here is the version told to me.
Back in the 1950s young couples coined the phrase “going to watch the submarine races” which referred to parking in lover’s lane with your best guy or gal. Rumor had it that a phantom ghost had been stalking couples parked in cars, a man with a hook for his missing right hand. Cool guys like Eddy pooh-poohed the idea as something dreamed up by parents to keep the kids on the straight and narrow. One balmy evening in July, Eddy took his girl to “the races” after an evening of dancing. He parked the car in a secluded spot, rolled down the windows to let in some night air and tuned the radio to the Platters singing Only You.
Eddy was about to make his move when the girl suddenly screamed like a banshee. “Someone’s at the window!” Seeing nothing, Eddy shrugged it off. “It’s just your imagination playing tricks.” The girl reached past Eddy to roll up his window. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” she urged as she slid over to roll up the passenger window also. Annoyed, Eddy started the car and peeled out of there. As they traveled the dark road, Eddy heard a thumping noise and wanted to pull over, but his date insisted they go straight home. As soon as the car rolled to a stop in her driveway, the girl jumped out of the car. Another blood curdling scream pierced the air. Eddy hurried around to her side and his face drained of color. Hanging from the rolled up window was a bloodied hook!
A Ghost Orders A Hat (condensed version)
This story confirms that female ghosts don’t lose their fondness for shopping.
A woman of about 70 years, stylishly dressed in black, entered Mrs. Smith’s store and introduced herself as Mrs. M, a recent newcomer to Dublin. She wanted to order a bonnet. While chatting, Mrs. Smith learned that Mrs. M was the sister of Mrs. Rhoda Scotton of Brownsville, Ind., who was well known to her, and that Mrs. M also knew many of her people. Before leaving the store, Mrs. M said she felt as if she had always known Mrs. Smith because her sister, Mrs. Scotton, had spoken of her often.
A few weeks later another lady arrived at Mrs. Smith’s store to order a bonnet. She, too, gave her name as Mrs. M and said that she had only recently moved to Dublin. This puzzled Mrs. Smith as both Mrs. Ms resembled one another. She determined they must be the same person and told the second Mrs. M that the bonnet had already been ordered and was waiting for her. Mrs. M was greatly surprised and told Mrs. Smith, “You must be mistaken, I am a stranger in the town, have not ordered any bonnet of you, and have never been in your place before.”
Mrs. Smith then told her customer about the previous visitor and described her. Mrs. M listened with great interest then told the astonished shopkeeper that she had described her sister who had died in Indianapolis in September 1900 and was buried in a cemetery in west Dublin. Mrs. M was satisfied that it was her sister who had ordered the hat, a small black tuscan straw trimmed with black chiffon. To this day the hat remains in Mrs. Smith’s possession and she claims she won’t sell it because “It’s the first bonnet I ever had ordered by a spirit!” The complete story appears in The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past by Chris Woodyard (release date fall of 2013).
The Ghostly Bride (condensed version)
My good friend George suffered terribly from his nerves during the Great War and was never the same afterwards. That all changed when he met Mary and they made plans to marry in June 1921. While waiting at the altar, a motor vehicle struck the horse and carriage carrying Mary and her father, killing them instantly. George never recovered from the shock and grief.
Extracts from George’s diary.
Monday 4th June 1928
It is one week until the seventh anniversary of what should have been the most joyous day of my life. Oh, Mary, I cannot bear life without you! I think of you every day and dream of you every night.
Friday 8th June 1928
Tonight I met William for a drink at our gentlemen’s club. He introduced me to Henry who began to speak of ancient myths surrounding the dead. William attempted to divert the topic of conversation while I found some of the things Henry mentioned to be fascinating and encouraged him to speak on the subject.
Sunday 10th June 1928
I have resolved to visit Mary’s grave at midnight on the anniversary of her death to attempt something suggested by Henry. I will not speak of my plans to anyone.
Monday 11th June/Tuesday 12th June 1928
Tonight I went to the churchyard. I circled Mary’s grave three times anti-clockwise and then waited, praying that Henry was right and the ritual would make my love return to me. I waited for thirty minutes, yet nothing happened. I returned home, alone and in despair.
I must have fallen asleep whilst writing this diary. The candle beside my bed has burned low and I can barely see to write. Something is there in the far corner of the room! A glimmer of white, a rustle of fabric! Can it be Mary?
Here the diary ends. George’s manservant found him the following morning, dead in his bed. Perhaps now he is at peace and with his beloved Mary.
I have heard on more than one occasion that the spirit of a deceased person came back to claim their spouse when the couple was especially close. Do you think this is possible? Have you experienced this in your family or circle of friends?