Introduction to my book Stalked by Spirits:  True Tales from a Ghost Magnet, which is available in all major book stores and on Nook and Kindle formats from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com:

SEPTEMBER, 2003

“So you think there’s nothing wrong with this house!”

The stylish young gent from the turn of the century turned his head at an impossible angle and sneered.  Lurking by his side, a massive wolf shook its matted gray coat to emphasize its master’s words, then sat silently on its haunches.  Slowly turning its head, the beast fixed its glowing eyes, white hot with hatred, straight into my husband, Jack.

Frozen with horror, Jack managed one slow step backward under the open door frame which barely separated him from the demonic pair.  Just moments before, he had been snoozing in his comfy, sky blue Laz-E-Boy chair while another infinite episode of I Love Lucy droned from the television in front of his outstretched feet.  Suddenly, Jack’s brain screamed with pain as dozens of grizzled hands smashed into his shoulders, crushing and squeezing like razors slicing through bread dough.  His torso was wildly flung back and forth; his sleepy head flopped like a shaken newborn.  Jack’s terrified eyes popped wide open; his flailing hands wiped and clutched frantically at seemingly empty air.  Where were the sadistic crowds who were beating him like a wet rag doll?

Adrenaline finally kicked in.  Jack sprang from his chair of torture and staggered into the nearby door frame that adjoined the dining and front rooms.   His nails dug into the dark woodwork as he weakly leaned against the opened door.  His right wrist throbbed.  Faint reddish marks glowed from his damp skin, as if his hand had been roughly twisted in a vise.  “Some dream!” he mumbled.

Then the wolf walked in.

The monster stood at least three feet high at the shoulder: one great muscle covered with thick, iridescent gray fur.  He strolled straight through our massive front door and into the dead center of our living room.  On his canine heals followed a dapper, young man, impeccably dressed in a turn-of-the-century brown pinstripe suit, with a shiny black walking cane in hand and a fashionable derby perched on his slick, brown hair.  Turning toward Jack, his bony white lips curled into a menacing smirk.

“So you think there’s nothing wrong with this house!”

The demonic wolf’s gleaming white eyes bored straight into Jack, daring him to draw even one breath.  Mustering his most threatening grimace, Jack took one brave, deliberate step toward the intruders.  No doubt the wolf would answer his bluff with one, powerful leap, slamming him down with its jagged, yellow teeth while the snide man slid his long, spectral fingers around Jack’s   . . .

To his astonishment, the pair promptly vanished!  Almost.  The man’s seething grin still pierced the musty air; the wolf’s alabaster eyes gleamed faintly, straining to leave a final scar of doubt on Jack’s waning bravado.   Without waiting for an encore, Jack bolted straight into the kitchen for a calming glass of water . . . or maybe something stronger from the Remy Martin bottle.

As Jack, trembling, reached for a glass, four-year-old Elise innocently toddled down the stairs and wandered up to her pale-faced father.

“What’s the matter, Daddy?  Did you see another one of our ghosts?”

ANOTHER SHORT STORY FROM STALKED BY SPIRITS . . .

Any pet dog will tell you that every person has their own distinct scent.  Sometimes those scents have a name: my best friend’s mom always smelled of vanilla and my next door neighbor, the lost animal caregiver, smelled of dog food.  I reek of coffee.  But, sometimes there is no word to describe an individual’s scent.  You just know that smell.   Sometimes it waltzes around their house or sticks to their favorite sweater.  It can pop out of their open pocketbook or drift out of their pillow, but, when you smell it, you see their face.

One Fourth of July, my grandfather came back on the summer breeze.

“Mommy!  I wanna face paint!”  Four year old Erin’s tiny hand grabbed mine and pulled me toward a mile-long line of hyperactive preschoolers and sunburned parents.  We would be stuck there for an hour.

“Erin, wouldn’t you rather play in the bounce house again?  Or maybe have another piece of watermelon?  Those lines are shorter …”

Erin gave me “the look.”  Every parent knows “the look.”  Sometimes it can, and should, be ignored, but never, ever in the middle of a Fourth of July celebration surrounded by free hot dogs and laughing families and everyone singing “You’re A Grand Old Flag” as they wave to the Amtrack train rumbling by.   I sighed and obediently took my place behind the fifty second child who was patriotically waiting to have his face decorated.

While Erin made new friends in the endless line, I turned my head upward toward the clouds.  Maxfield Parish wished for a sky so blue.  I needed a Fourth of July like this.  One year ago, on this very day, my beloved grandfather had passed away quietly in a darkened room at the end of a hall in a nursing home.  He was fourth months’ short of his ninety-ninth birthday and three months short of the birth of his second great-grandchild.   He was one of my very favorite people in the world.  I missed him more than chocolate.

I smiled, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath of warm summer air.

The smell of hot dogs and face paint vanished.  I smelled Grandaddy.   There was no mistaking it.  That was his scent, sort of woodsy and musty.  I knew that as long as I breathed in, that smell would stay with me, but the minute that I released this one breath, my grandfather would be gone.  My eyes popped open.  I stared, unblinking, at a single cloud.  The summer sky had frozen.  The heavens held its breath with me.

I could feel him.  Not standing beside me; I was still surrounded by giggling, paint-spattered kids and empty potato chip bags.  Grandaddy was way, way above me, somewhere in that amazing blue sky, smiling down and enveloping me with all of the love that we had shared in our three decades together.   We were joined by one breath.

“I’m so proud of you, Viv.”  My heart heard his words as distinctly as if he whispering in my ear.  “Don’t cry.  I’m in ultimate joy.  Keep living your life just like you are.  I love you so, so much.”

I continued to inhale, slowly, slowly, pulling my grandfather closer.  My overstuffed lungs were ready to pop.  They screamed for relief, but I wouldn’t budge.  This breath was my last earthly link with my Grandaddy.   Nothing else mattered.

“Just one more second,” I pleaded with my lungs.  “I can’t let him leave.  Not just yet.”

The time had come to say good-bye.  I had to let my Grandaddy go.  I wasn’t releasing him like a dove into Heaven; he had made that trip a year ago all by himself.   No, it was my grief that he was taking, and replacing it with his deep, unending love for me.  That was far easier to carry for the rest of my life.

Slowly, slowly, I breathed out, releasing that magical breath back into the atmosphere.  I could feel my grandfather fading upwards.  My eyes filled with tears.  The woman standing next to me assumed that I had been staring at the sun for too long.

“Good-bye, Grandaddy.  I love you.”

I turned my head back to earth and gazed at my little daughter, who was still bubbling with excitement toward the face painting booth.  “Mommy, we’ve taken a big step forward!”

I smiled.  “Yes, we have, sweetie.  More than you know.”

I glanced upwards one more time.  The clouds floated by.