Ghosts I’ve Known

       The ghosts I’ve known have not appeared to me in person, just the evidence of their presence.  Not all ghosts are malevolent, but they can be scary.  I lived in a hundred-year-old big house in Helena with a fine complement of spirit beings.  When we’d climb the stairs to the second story, always, at the same place, everyone would turn to the side, as if to allow another person to pass.  We did this without thought, without conscious acknowledgement.  When I finally realized what was happening, I began rushing past that spot, but still, turning sideways.

My daughter had ghosts that stood at the end of her bed, terrifying her.  Must have been the same one that turned on our bedroom TV in the middle of the night one time.  I took the TV out the next day.  When they were teenagers, my son, daughter, and Jerry, a friend, were sitting on bar stools in the kitchen, home alone and being silly.  It was night, dark out, and they’d been eating pizza.  With no warning, something grabbed Jerry’s T-shirt from behind and yanked him backwards off the stool.  All three kids screamed and ran to the neighbors to call me. 

When we were searching for a house to buy just before settling in Helena, I wandered alone into an empty hallway in an old upstairs.  Was slightly interested in the house, but certainly wasn’t after I felt the cold emptiness that filled that dark space.  It seemed as if something horrible wanted me, wanted me to come further in and find it.  I grabbed my family and ran away.

   A few years ago, I was alone in the old Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Alberta, measuring for window coverings.  It was about ten below outside, about the same inside, and the wind was whistling through ill-fitting windows, blowing snow and fine dust in around the frames.  I’d almost finished, was glad about that, but had rooms in one more fourth floor wing to go.  As I stepped into the hallway, that same wicked cold enveloped me, the familiar feeling from the old house in Helena.  It was like a wall, keeping me out.  There was no electricity, and my flashlight barely made a dent in the dark.  A weak sun watched through the bad windows, but gave little light.  I was tired and cranky, and yelled into the darkness, “Leave me alone!  I won’t hurt you, but I have to do this!”  I sidled backwards, stopped, then tried again.  And again.  I finally forced myself into the black, the horrendous cold, and measured, Very Quickly, ran out.

 A friend had told me that one cute tiny room on the hotel’s sixth floor has a ghost named Judy, and when Valerie stayed there, she always requested that room because Judy was funny.  If someone were to loll in the old-fashioned claw- foot tub too long, the cold water would turn on and run them out.  Sometimes, the bathroom light went out, just click.  Happened to my friend more than once.  I told her about the dark cold, and she said, “Fourth floor hallway, right?” before I could tell her where.

 Ghosts are poor lost souls who have not yet found their way to the other side, but I can be spooked and shivery when I feel them.  My former husband was visited one night while he was waiting for me to return from work.  Someone gently took his hands and was looking at him with great love and acceptance when he woke.  The entity was wavery, but he had the impression it was a woman, one who looked like an angel.  She looked into his eyes for a long time, the light around her head making the bedroom brighter, then slowly faded away.  He felt loss, yet great love and kindness, and was elated to tell me about it.

   Pumpkin pie and fallen leaves underfoot remind me of my ghost stories.  They make my life interesting, exciting.      

                Nan McKenzie

The Ghost and the Candelabra

By Leslie Budewitz

Assault and Pepperin my new mystery series, the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries — debuting in March 2015 from Berkley Prime Crime, with ASSAULT & PEPPER — questions of ghosts flit around the plot and characters like a mist off Puget Sound. In writing ASSAULT & PEPPER and its sequel, tentatively titled GUILTY AS CINNAMON, I’ve been recalling real life ghost stories I’ve heard over the years.

My favorite is this: My friend Cath suffered from several health conditions that at times put her on crutches or in a wheel chair. During a time when she had good mobility, she bought an older home on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and set about remodeling it. Flanking the fireplace in the living room were sconces with detachable electric “candles.” Cath noticed that one or both were regularly turned upside down. During an extended health challenge, she was on crutches. Several times, she dragged herself over to the fireplace and righted the sconces, only to find them turned upside down again. After a few weeks of this, she finally decided she had a ghost, and it was time for a talk. “Look,” she said, “I’m on crutches.The lights don’t work when you mess with them, and fixing them is a real pain. A real pain. You don’t have to leave — just stop messing with the sconces.”

ghosts2She never did figure out who her ghost was — but the lights never went out again.


LESLIE BUDEWITZ is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Death al Dente, winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and Crime Rib, July 2014) and the forthcoming Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, starting with Assault & Pepper in March 2015, both published by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Random House. Visit her online at, on Facebook as Leslie Budewitz Author, or on Twitter, @LeslieBudewitz.

My Favorite Month


October is my favorite month of the year. The air is crisp. The leaves are dressed in their beautiful autumn attire. There’s a rush to get those last summer projects completed and get everything “winterized.” It’s time to pull out that favorite oversized sweater or hoodie—the one you live in all winter long. You overhear the terms “witch” or “old hag” and assume it’s a reference to costumes and not a monstrous comment on some poor soul’s personality. Costco puts sinfully delicious pumpkin pies on sale and like the wicked witch calling to Dorothy, the pies beckon you, “Come here, my pretty.”

There are also those “aw-shucks” moments when realizations of projects left undone haunt our psyche. We never made that trip to Glacier, those fishing rods we bought in June have never touched the water, and the new fire pit doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance of getting finished this year.

But just wait until next spring, we promise ourselves. In the meantime, we console ourselves with the knowledge that October brings Halloween and Halloween brings both the best chocolate sales of the year and the first dusting of snow. Sipping a cup of hot chocolate as you watch the first snow of the new season fall softly outside your window is a combination that will sooth the souls of even the most frightful little ghouls and goblins.

Happy haunting and thanks for stopping by,