Ghost Stories

gus 0519When we were little, pre-school, Terri and I got our first lunchboxes. The choices must have been limited, because our parents came home with Casper the Friendly Ghost and — this is true — Soupy Sales. As the oldest, I thoughtfully and considerately reviewed the choices — yeah right. I went straight for Casper.

I don’t think we had any idea who Soupy Sales was, and if pressed now, I couldn’t tell you much about the man. I remember a rather creepy drawing of a man with an enormous grin. Casper, no question about it.

I wasn’t particularly a Casper fan, though. I may not have, pre-lunchbox, had any Casper awareness at all, and I probably watched post-lunchbox out of a sense of obligation. This will sound incongruous from a SpongeBob fan, but Casper’s voice was awfully high and squeaky and hard to listen to.

On the ghost front, I much preferred Gus, star of the book Gus Was a Friendly Ghost. Jane Thayer wrote a series of books about Gus, but I was only familiar with the one where Gus lost the house he had haunted and went looking for a new place where he could “bang clank” his chains.

So those were my early ghosts, both of them friendly — it said so right in the titles. In college I ran into unfriendly ghosts in a movie from Japan called Kwaidan. These ghosts I barely remember (something about a lot of ink swirling in water — it was a very lyric, visual movie) except for the oddness of the origin: the movie was a series of four vignettes based on the work of Lafcadio Hearn — a name that didn’t sound Japanese at all.

Mr. Hearn turns out to have had a very cosmopolitan life, starting in 1850 on an island off Greece. As a youth he moved to Ireland, where he was abandoned in turn by his Greek mother, his British father and his aunt. He ended up at 19 in the United States, ultimately spending 10 years in New Orleans before heading to the French West Indies and at last Japan, where he married a native and fathered four children while showcasing Japanese legends and ghost stories.

His ghosts weren’t nearly as friendly as Casper and Gus, but they were of the same ilk. It was not until just a couple of years ago that I learned of a ghost of an entirely different sort.

I have read advice columns since I graduated past just the comics in the Denver Post, starting with Ann Landers. Then Dear Abby in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. When I got a subscription to the Washington Post as part of my Denver Post subscription three years ago, I found Carolyn Hax, who introduced me to an entirely new sort of ghost.

I didn’t consult any urban dictionary, but through many encounters with the term, I have determined that “ghosting” in modern parlance is when someone just stops communicating with you, with no explanation. While not familiar with the term, I was already aware of the bewildering practice.

My friend Matt and I had a mutual friend, Ken. Ken had been my co-worker at the newspaper and also a roommate in my house. Ken, Matt and I seemed like we all got along great. Ken, who had come to Gunnison to study at Western Then State, got a job with a newspaper in Houston, but he maintained a correspondence with us and came back to visit.

When his newspaper abruptly closed one day, putting him out of work, he moved to Denver and found another writing job. We saw him in Denver — Matt even spent an entire day with him — and we met the woman he planned to marry. I even moved my then-annual birthday party to a different weekend, anticipating that I would be invited to their wedding.

But I wasn’t, and neither was Matt, and we haven’t heard from Ken since. Matt has made a couple of efforts — he called Ken’s dad to try to track him down, and in this era of Facebook he tried to connect that way, without success. Every once in awhile Ken’s name will come up, and all these years later Matt and I still can’t figure out what happened. We’ve been ghosted. And there’s nothing Gus or Casperish about it.

It seems like this a completely acceptable approach to modern life, whether I like it or not.

I am still trying to figure out the etiquette, if there is any, of texting, but what I have learned lately is that apparently if one’s answer to a query is “no,” you don’t have to bother with a reply. This seems to extend to e-mail as well, and I am feeling quite ghosted these days.

When I bought my “new” truck, it came with a set of carpet-covered plywood pieces in the back for use as a camping set-up. It’s just in my way, and my mechanic told me to sell it for $50.

So Kara posted it on the Gunnison Marketplace Facebook page for me, and in this age of instant communication, nothing happened for a week. Then two men wanted it on the same day. The one who asked first came to look at it with cash in hand — but it was too narrow for the back of his truck. I texted Guy #2 to tell him what had happened with Guy #1 — and never heard a peep from this man who had sounded so excited about it when he initially called. How hard would a “no thanks” have been to send in a text?

So I let Guy #1, who said he had friends who might be interested, know it was still available, and he said he would spread the word. When I didn’t hear from anyone in a week, and decided the space in the truck was more important than $50, I texted him to see if he at least wanted the two side pieces, which did fit in his truck, for free. And nothing.

Even Tia. My own sister never bothered to reply to my last text question for her. So I’m guessing the answer was no. I guess.

Earlier this year we got a resume at work from a college woman. We didn’t anticipate a job opening, but her resume seemed so appropriate for our shop that I contacted her anyhow, telling her I didn’t have a job but that I would be interested in buying her a coffee to talk with her. She replied favorably, but we couldn’t find a day that worked for both of us. She let us know she was going out of town but would be back on the 26th. On the 24th I e-mailed her to say we did now have a summer position available, was she interested in talking to us about it. And what do you suppose I have heard? Only a ghostly silence.

I can’t even invoke a response from my book group peeps. I am supposed to be hosting the group Monday, so three days ago I sent out an e-mail letting them know which house to come to (the current one, sadly), and that there might be a time conflict. I also confessed that I am only 80 pages along in the book — did we maybe want to push the date back?

That message went to seven people on Monday. It’s Thursday now, and how many do you suppose have offered their input? Not Gus, not Casper, not even the loquacious Lafcadio Hearn. (Isn’t that a fun name to say?) I have no idea if we’re meeting Monday or not.

Damn ghosts. I’m over them already.

This is a very Kwaidan-esque video — bonus for us all!

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