Yes, it's that time of year where spooks and goblins, witches and Jack-o-lanterns are ever-present. In a couple of days, however, when youngsters go from door to door donned in the scariest costume they can conjure it will be in good fun; yet, once Halloween comes to an end, most of us will close our door, sneak in some leftover candy and go on about our business, while forgetting about those lame attempts to frighten us. However, there are some people who find that, Halloween or not, ghosts are not costumed children shouting "trick or treat," but very real spirits living in their homes. Just ask Gordie Little, author of Ghosts of Clinton County (North Country Books).
Full disclosure: I happen to be friends with Gordie. We first met when he interviewed me for his weekly television show, "Our Little Corner" when Without Grace was first published, and we went on to become fast friends. Beside the fact that I know the author, I was looking forward to reading his collection of ghost stories because they take place in Upstate New York, a region where I grew up.
I cannot say that I have had any first-hand, concrete experiences on the subject, but I do wonder what inspired Gordie, when I was having dinner with him and his beautiful wife, Kaye, to tell me that when someone hears a doorbell ring and no one is there, it can mean that a loved one has died. My mouth dropped open because my mother, who was alive then, just told me that day she'd been awakened two nights in a row by the ringing of the doorbell. She got up each night to find no one there. As it happens, we found out the following day that my father's cousin had died. I've also heard that clocks often stop at the time when someone dies. As it happens, a cuckoo clock that has been in my family for years, even surviving a serious home fire, stopped at 2:55 one Sunday afternoon without explanation--except for the fact that, sadly, my Mom died at 2:55 that very afternoon. Coincidence? Perhaps, but after reading Ghosts of Clinton County, there are just too many similar coincidences that leave the living to wonder if the spirit world doesn't want to be forgotten.
There are those who think these ghost sightings are nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of the living wanting to stay connected with a loved one who has died. Without a doubt, Gordie has experienced loss that no parent should live through, but most of the stories in his book are from the point of view of many locals and most who would prefer to be left alone instead of having their television or stereo blast on in the middle of the night without explanation or seeing a spirit standing in their bedroom doorway.
Gordie has been collecting ghost stories for years and even before his book was published he was invited to share them as a speaker at a number of venues. I suppose once people hear Gordie's stories, including many from personal experience, the flood gates open and they are less hesitant to give a voice to what they, too, experienced. Gordie recounts a memory from when he shared some stories at his local Borders bookstore in charming detail where a large portion of the audience was children. That particular story shows that the younger set are not only open to the possibilities of the spirit world, but don't question the phenomenon to the degree that many adults do.
Without a doubt, this is the season to buy books that deal with frightening topics, where we allow our imaginations to believe in ghosts, but for those who are featured in Ghosts of Clinton County, Halloween may feel like a welcoming reprieve.