We hear an awful lot about ghost towns in the West, but maybe not so much about ghosts themselves. Have you ever seen a ghost? My own, personal encounter with a ghost was actually in Hampton Court, King Henry VIII’s favored residence outside of London. I was walking down the long corridor (known as the Haunted Gallery) and, just at the very moment a tour guide was saying it was haunted and some folks might feel a chill, I got such a chill I nearly jumped out of my skin. Let me make it clear: this was not a chill like one might get on a cold day; this was a true spine-tingler! Even my daughter, who was with me, looked at me and asked what was wrong.
On a ranch down in Texas a few years back, having attended a writer’s retreat, I decided to stay a few extra days before going onto a conference. The ranch was now empty and out of season, but the owners wouldn’t let me stay alone in the guest house—because it was haunted. They had to have someone stay in the building with me. A man had been hung somewhere on the ranch and his ghost walked the guestrooms. I was rather disappointed not to see the cowboy, actually, though I’m not sure what I would have felt if I had.
And that’s the thing—I think we like to hear ghost stories, and the idea of an afterlife certainly is appealing, but whether anyone truly wants to come face to face with the dead is quite another matter. The road I live on is said to be haunted—Whooping Hollow is named for a Native American killed nearby. I’ve never had the pleasure of encountering him, however…thank goodness…and I’m not sure what I’d do if he appeared. Living in a village founded in the 1600s, however, certainly makes one aware of the lives that have passed down these roads.
With Halloween just around the corner, as the catalogs coming through my mail seem to indicate from around July onwards (!), you may feel like settling down with some good ghost stories to get you in that seasonal mood. You’ll be encountering the ghosts only on the page, I promise. The Good, The Bad and The Ghostly brings together my favorite setting of the Old West with something very new and different for me—ghosts, or the paranormal, and, of course, there’s romance. Our anthology contains eight very individual stories, some from authors who normally write western romance, and some from authors who normally write paranormal. I thought that was an exciting idea, and I hope you do, too. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing the authors individually to tell you about their stories.
For now, keep both the Halloween costume and Stetson to hand, and a bowl of corn candy. And if you’ve ever seen a ghost, please comment below. We love ghost stories!
My own story is LONG A GHOST, AND FAR AWAY Here’s the blurb:
When Lizzie Adams returns as a ghost to a life she led in the 1800s, she is surprised to find herself on a ranch in Wyoming, but delighted to learn she was married to a handsome and loving man. The reasons for her return become clear when she discovers how she died, yet the unresolved issues surrounding her death leave her unable to either live in the 1800s or return to her present life.
Colby Gates misses the wife he loved, yet a ghost is a poor substitute. Re-married to a woman he doesn’t care for, and with outlaws searching for buried gold on his ranch, the spirit of his wife is a further complication.
But perhaps if the questions surrounding Lizzie’s death can be answered, the two can be together.
For all time.
And an excerpt for you:
“OH! I do beg your pardon. What year are we pretending this to be now?”
Colby raised a brow in what looked like slight irritation. “It’s 1897.”
“Ah! Of course! 1897. That would explain a whole raft of things. No cell phones. In fact, no phones—”
“Well, there are phones, but not here.”
“I see.” Lizzie shook her head as if she would go along with this whole pretense. “And so I can’t phone a friend to collect me in their car because, of course, there are no cars.”
“Well.” Colby hesitated. “I’m afraid I have no idea what a ‘car’ is other than the car of a railroad train but, yes, there aren’t any. Or do you mean automobiles? We have them—”
“But not here,” Lizzie finished for him. Unable to help herself, she burst out laughing. Jason had really done a good job, and this Colby fellow was a really good actor. He stayed in his part throughout, gave nothing away. “Okay, listen….” She tried to take in a breath but the corset was really biting into her now. “Is there someplace we can go, is there someplace I can go and get the hell out of this corset or whatever the heck you call it, and then perhaps you can give me a cup of tea or something, and we can sort this out?”
“Elizabeth, there is something you should know.” His voice was strained, hesitant.
“There’s a lot I should know, Colby Gates, but what specific item have you got in mind?”
“I’m married. I re-married.”
Lizzie covered her eyes with her hands and sighed with the weight of the universe on her shoulders. “Okay, listen. Really. I don’t want to intrude on you and your wife, I don’t want to be part of this ridiculous farce any more, and I sure as hell don’t want anything more to do with Jason Beeme. Just let me go home, all right? Let me go home? Please? Pretty please?”
Colby blew out a breath and shook his head. “Elizabeth. Lizzie. I have no idea who Jason Beeme is, and this ‘farce’ as you call it, it puzzles me as well. I don’t know how you are here; I only know what I’ve told you. We were married, happily married—very happily married and then….”
“And then? What?”
“I died. I’m dead. I see.” Hysteria was now setting in, and Lizzie couldn’t help the small giggle that escaped. “I’m dead, but I’m here, is that it?”
“Soooo, like, if I’m dead, but I’m here, I’m a ghost?” This made her laugh out loud.
Colby didn’t answer. It was as if he hadn’t thought that at all, just been confused as much as she by the situation. He seemed to mull this over now.
“Am I now a ghost as far as you are concerned?”
His “yes” came out almost as a breath.
“Hmm. Well, I’m not a ghost, you’re not a cowboy, and this, for sure, isn’t 1887.”
“Ninety-seven,” he corrected her.
She looked him in the eye, nose to nose. “I don’t give a good flying…you-know-what, what year you think it is. I want to go home, and I want to go home now, so just let’s stop playing around with this shit and—”
“You never used to use such language.”
“Mister! Colby! Please stop! The year is 2016 and I can say whatever the hell I please. Women are liberated. We’re free.”
“But…it isn’t lady-like.”
“Well, excuse me! ‘Lady-like’! Okay, I’ve had enough now. Take me home, please.” She rubbed her face with exasperation; this whole sham was un-be-lieve-able.
“Elizabeth…Lizzie…you are home, you know that. Only now…now—”
“Well, good for you. I’m glad. I hope you’ll both be very happy. So, just take me to my apartment on Washington Avenue in St. Louis.”
She thought he was gagging as he rubbed his forehead.
“Lizzie: you’re in Wyoming. We’re on a ranch near Buffalo, Wyoming. You’re miles from St. Louis.”
Lizzie could feel her eyes grow big; she thought they might pop out of her head. “Wyoming? Boy, Jason really did a job on me. Brother, how long was I out?”
Colby shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. As I said, I don’t know a Jason, I can only tell you it’s 1897, you’re in Wyoming, you’re my wife—or were my wife—before you…you…died.”
Lizzie felt the breath was being pressed out of her, and if she didn’t get out of this barn, and out of the corset soon, she would, indeed, die for real. “Okay,” she said giving in, “I’m dead. But this corset is killing me, so can we go some place and let me take it off. Maybe your wife could help?”
“Sylvia is visiting her aunt over in Kelly. She won’t be back for a few days.”
“How convenient!” Ha! One less actor to deal with.
“I’ll take you in the house and we can sort things out there.” He offered her his hand, which she took, looking up into his pale eyes, and let him lead her out of the barn into chill air. The sun was laying its colors on the horizon and she figured it must be late afternoon, wherever she was.
“So, I’m dead,” she said conversationally.
“Well, you were. You seem very much alive at the moment, I have to say, but that’s quite impossible.” He stopped.
Lizzie glanced over at what was no doubt the house, a log structure of good proportion, with a lantern lit and glowing through a window. The last rays of the sun elongated their shadows, and for a moment, she tried to breathe in the cool air deeply.
“Impossible,” she whispered. “To be here like this.” She turned to him, the attraction so great suddenly she wished this wasn’t all some huge act laid on to fool her. “So, I’m dead,” she repeated once more.
“Yes. I think so.” There was a depth of sadness in his voice she couldn’t fathom.
“And how did I die, may I ask?”
Colby Gates stood stock still beside her and let her hand go. He turned to her in the fading light, and Lizzie could see him swallow hard as he removed his Stetson and brushed an invisible speck from its brim before replacing it on his head. Then he looked her in the eye.
“I shot you.”
I *saw* a ghost once and it still makes my teeth chatter. I grew up in a house that was built in the early twentieth century. It had a detached garage where I often played school or set up my own dry cleaning business. (It had a window and I made all the neighborhood mom’s “pick up orders” and pay with Monopoly money.) When I was about seven, I was playing in there and an older man walked in and asked me the usual questions: age, school, favorite games. I asked him to come inside and meet my mom. I didn’t feel afraid or creeped out. He was kind and sweet and had that grandfather who helps you build a doll-house vibe. Dressed in a suit and tie, his clothes were odd but I was a kid and already pretty eccentric myself. He agreed to come into the house and followed me inside and I introduced him. My mom couldn’t see him. I was convinced she was joking. He was REAL. She was terrified and from that day forward, she kept her purse and small bag with shoes and socks and the like by the door. Years later she told me that a man lived there in the twenties and he hanged himself in that garage because of the stock market crash. The family who lived there before had seen him and even found a vintage hat that didn’t belong to him. All these decades later, I still know he was REAL.
Wow what a story, Blaire! Sounds a little like the friendly start of a Stephen King novel before it gets creepy. LOL. Thanks for stopping by. It was great working with you.
Hi Andi, love the post and I shared on Twitter! How many of you have a ghost story for us? Order The Good, The Bad and The Ghostly today and hear about our ghosts.
Happy reading, ~Keta~
I know you have a few to talk about so will be hoping to hear about those one day soon
Enjoyed reading your ghost story, Andi. Maybe I’ll write an experience of mine on my blog.
We’ll look forward to reading it Char. Great working with you
Great article. So excited about the Good, the Bad and the Ghostly. We have some wonderful authors in it.
Thanks Anita. And it was good working with you
Great post, Andi! You and I share similar English ghost stories–as you know. I was in the tower of London when I put my hand on the staircase wall in the White tower I was overcome with a tingling sensation and a great feeling of sadness. I knew something bad had happened there. Later found out this was the tower the princes disappeared from in Richard III time. In modern times when renovating the stairs, the skeletons of two boys were found buried under it. It’s been fun working with you.
Wow Patti. Scary! And it’s been a delight working with you and getting to know you better.
Andi, I love ghost stories as long as they aren’t gory. My experiences have been more of putting something somewhere and it being gone, when I go to get it only to find it in another place, I never would have put it. Also, my mother’s, Lily of the Valley and grandmother’s, Lilac perfume will waft in and out of my house occasionally. They both have been gone for a very long time. Sometimes for no apparent reason in a variety of places, I’ll get goosebumps and a shiver up my spine or a bad feeling. I usually hightail it out of where ever I am. Every happen to you?
Nothing gory on our anthology Tena. Promise! And yes, I did once drive up to an old mansion a friend was thinking of developing into apts in Englsnd. I didn’t even get out of the car it was so spooky!
I love Halloween. Floating over to Amazon to check out your anthology. Plenty of time from Sept 1st to read it by Halloween. LOL
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Funny Tena, I love it when I get a reminder of the world of spirits around us. I was at the Winchester house in San Jose not long ago and my hand really started hurt for no reason. Somehow, I just knew it was a spirit telling me that they were glad I came for a visit. I wasn’t afraid, I just want to talk to them and let them know I felt their presence but seeing as I was in a group of tourists I remain quiet and simply smiled and rubbed my hand. May good spirits be with you.
Oh I loved the Winchester house! Though it was a bit unnerving, windows in the floors, stairs that went no where, the gardens were beautiful. At least when we were there several years ago.
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Wow, that sounds creepy. I’ll put it on my list of places to avoid, errrr, I mean go…. 😉
What a fascinating subject, Andi! I’ll have to put The Good, The Bad and the Ghostly on my TBR list because I love to read ghost stories. (Will this book be available at the WWW Conference?) Your blurb clinched it for me 🙂 While I have not actually seen a ghost, I’ve seen a bit of the havoc that some ghosts can leave behind. While growing up in Upstate New York, every weekend my family and I would visit my aunt and uncle and their seven kids who lived off Route 7. My uncle ran a dairy farm, and for a city girl to help bring the cows to the barn for milking and to ride the hay wagon during baling season, it was exhiliarating, fun and so much the epitome of the grass is always greener on the side. But the fact that they had lived in a brick house built during the Revolutionary War always lent to my imagination. My cousins would tell me stories about the sounds they had heard in the house at night, and a few times I heard those same noises. Other times, when the moon was high and shadows crossed the dirt driveway, we’d “see” the aftermath of something that had pilfered the garbage cans alongside the back door, or “see” the chicken coop door open and then close in the middle of the night. But no way was I going to go anywhere near the supposed tunnels underneath the house; for sure there were ghosts living there! Today the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but my cousins, and now their kids, continue to tell stories of their haunting experiences. They truly believe that ghosts live there and that the house is still haunted. So do I!
Wow, that’s quite a yarn. Reminds me of a pre-revolutionary farmhouse my daughter stayed in with an old boyfriend in New Jersey. The room she was put in was haunted by a woman who prayed at the foot of the bed. Luckily for Cristal, she didn’t come for prayers that night!
My eldest daughter once lived at Old Fort Omaha in what is called the officers row where General George Crook in 1879 was stationed. A woman ghost lived in her house. She heard her and sometimes felt her presence, but never saw her. She did not find her a bit scary. When we visited our daughter there, I hoped to see the resident ghost, but she laid low. I have seen my mother and brother, among others who are deceased, some clearly, like my mom and brother, others not so clearly, some for just seconds, others for what seems a long time, but seems to have no relation to time as we know it. Once it was just the sudden smell of pine, as in pine trees, but I knew immediately who it was. However I have never seen a ghost. The excerpt from your story has piqued my interest, Andi, so am sure I’ll enjoy it and likely the other stories as well.
Fascinating, Eunie. The bit about the pine reminded me that in one house I lived in–alone–I came home one night and on the stairway was a very strong smell of man’s perspiration. It was in a very old village, Chalfont St. Giles, in Buckinghamshire, when John Milton had lived. Strange.
Now, that is strange. A stinky ghost???
a working man?? Or someone from Milton’s time when bathing was yearly…
Great excerpt. Very intriguing. I will definitely be reading the Anthology.
I hope you’ll enjoy it, Charlotte. thanks!
Oh my, what a web you’ve woven. On order. For myself, ghost or apparitions I’ve have a couple of encounters,but…
On a lighter note, the show Ghost Hunters has been to this area of Colorado, for we do have a number of places that say they are haunted. Still have yet to meet them. Maybe they know how I feel and have to need to prove to me they exists. **Smile** Doris
Yup, I would think CO would have a number of ghosts, as does WY. I visited the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park last year and I know they have a ghost or two. Not keen in staying in haunted rooms…we stayed elsewhere!