There was a news show on TV the other night that was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the newscasters were discussing some of the craziest stories they’d ever covered.
Their discussion made me think back to some of the wild stories I’d covered during my 20-something years as a newspaper correspondent.
Believe me, there were plenty of them…a cemetery tree that, according to legends, collected human souls; a mobile-home peeled open like a can of sardines by heaven only knows what kind of animal; and a guy who covered deer poop in acrylic sealer and then strung it like beads to make jewelry.
But the story that still stands out as the strangest to me is one about a ghost. I’ll never forget the day my editor called me.
“Seeing you were born on Halloween,” he said, “you’re the perfect one to cover this story. A woman called this morning to tell me that her house is being haunted by a ghost and she wants it photographed for the paper.”
I thought he was joking.
So on a sunny, early summer afternoon, I headed over to the woman’s house to photograph my very first ghost. Seeing I'd had no previous experience with ghost photography, I had to guess which speed of film I'd need for my trusty 35mm camera.
The house was a small ranch-style, not the big haunted-looking Addams Family mansion with bats circling it that I’d expected. The woman who answered the door was probably in her early 50s. She was wearing a long white nightgown.
“Quick! Come in!” she said in a hushed voice.
I followed her inside. The house was dark, mainly because all of the shades were pulled down. The ceilings were low and supported by big white posts. It was a claustrophobic kind of place. Still, I thought the darkness and limited space were to my advantage because the ghost would be more easy to spot when it appeared.
I sat down at the kitchen table, took out my pad of paper and pen, and asked the woman to tell me about the ghost.
“Well,” she said, “It was on the plane with me and followed me home.”
“Plane?” I asked.
“Yes. When I got back home two days ago from my vacation in Europe, I noticed that all of the clothes in my suitcase had been switched for identical clothes in a much smaller size! That’s how I knew that a ghost had been in my luggage!”
I just stared at her. I wanted to ask her if she might have indulged in a lot of rich, highly caloric European foods during her vacation and perhaps they were the reason why her clothes didn’t fit, but I held my tongue. “And this ghost from the plane is here now…in your house?”
She nodded. “As I said, it stowed away in my luggage.”
I secretly wondered what nationality the ghost might be, seeing it had hopped the plane in Europe.
Before I could ask another question, a young woman about 20 with wild-looking hair and even wilder-looking eyes, peered out at me from behind one of the posts. When I glanced at her, she ducked back behind it.
“Is that the ghost?” I asked, reaching for my camera.
“No,” the woman said, frowning. “That’s just my weird daughter.”
She then said, “Come with me. I want to show you something!”
I followed her into what looked like a den, where there were cardboard boxes everywhere and a stack of paintings lying on top of one of them.
The woman held up one of the paintings. It was of a headless woman. She then held up another one that featured a headless farmer standing next to a headless cow.
"Did you paint these?" I asked her.
“Why doesn’t anyone have a head?”
She whispered, “You’ll have to ask the ghost.”
At that point, the daughter appeared in the doorway and then disappeared just as quickly.
“So,” I said, feeling more and more uneasy. “Exactly what does your ghost look like?”
“I don’t know,” the woman said, shrugging. “It’s invisible.”
That did it. There was no way I was going to be able to photograph an invisible ghost. I thanked her for her time, put my camera back into its case and headed for the door.
The minute I got home, I called my editor and told him there would be no ghost story to print. When I gave him the details, he apologized for sending me over there.
“But you never know,” he said, “it could have been a great photo opportunity if a ghost really had appeared. I mean, that’s the chance we have to take just in case, right?”
Not long after that, I dug out some of my summer clothes and tried them on. Nothing fit.
There was only one logical explanation...the woman’s invisible, clothes-shrinking ghost must have followed me home.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org