A Ghost In Visalia

Before I signed the rental contract, the landlady told me that an eighty-six-year-old man had died in the first bedroom. She said she needed to disclose it before I moved in so I wouldn’t quit suddenly without a thirty-day notice.

At the time I didn’t pay any attention and disregarded the comment as useless and unimportant. Later on, through the neighbors, I learned that the old man had lived there for fifteen years. After that, three new tenants moved in and out in rapid succession. 

The house was old and unattractive, with a garage attached to the kitchen and living room. The family room was next to the dining room with a narrow hallway and three bedrooms. The floor plan was terrible. It had dark brown paint, dark brown carpet, a dark brown vinyl floor in the kitchen and dining room. This could be the ugliest house on the block. I just couldn’t find anything attractive or pleasant about that house, but I’ve never been a person with many demands. Therefore, I signed the contract.

After a few weeks, the house was finally home, I didn’t care about how ugly it was.

One time, I was alone in the house watching TV in the living room. The volume on the TV was low; it was early at night when suddenly I heard the radio go on in one of the back rooms.

I heard a male voice for a couple of seconds. I turned the lights on and went to investigate. I checked in my bedroom where I have an alarm clock, but it was off. I had another radio, but it was unplugged. I thought it was very strange but I returned to watch the television.

As the days passed, my wife and I kept hearing noises, normal house noises like wood shrinking and swelling, or wind slamming doors.

Another day, I was reading in bed around 2:00 am when I heard the patio sliding door vibrating for a few seconds. I thought it was an earthquake, but nothing else shook. I convinced myself that it was my dog Diego pushing the glass door. I didn’t want to go across the hallway and pass the old man’s room at 2:00 am. 

One morning, my wife was cooking in the kitchen and listening to music on the radio. I was in my room when suddenly the music got too loud. I jumped and ran straight to the living room. I was ready to scream at her, but she was paralyzed with a look of terror. I could see from the kitchen the stereo system volume knob turning up by itself as far as it could go.

***

When my daughter and my ten-month-old grandson Damian came to visit for a week, I put them in the old man’s bedroom. At first, she said it was warm and comfortable, no complaints. They were happy, and I was happy. My grandson was handsome and smart, like his grandpa.

On her last night, my daughter came into our room carrying her son. 

“Dad, somebody’s moving our bed, even Damian woke up. We’re staying in your room now.” then, she asked me to get the portable mattress we had in the living room for Damian to play on. I stood up very brave and self-confident, but when I went past that ‘room’, my knees were shaking.

The following day, I knew I had to confront the old man. He needed to know I wasn’t afraid of him. And I wouldn’t be running away like the other tenants. After all, he wasn’t the one paying the rent. I moved my computer from the garage to ‘his room’. That way I had to spend a lot of time in that room. 

After my wife left for work, I asked him why he was still in the house. I kept talking to him for a few more days, sometimes even in Spanish, but it appeared he was gone. Or maybe I scared him off, or maybe he never existed.

Just when I was feeling relaxed and comfortable I saw him.

There was a mirror hanging on the bathroom door, when it was shut, I could see that mirror and the one above the cabinet sink. So I could see my body, front and back at the same time.

That’s when I saw him. I was in shock, but not terribly afraid. Of course, it took me by surprise; I jumped back, and in a blink of an eye he wasn’t there anymore. I saw him, but I wasn’t sure whether he was inside the mirror or behind me. He was wearing a light blue suit and a tie. He looked harmless.

“So you’re here after all,” I said, “I hope you’re not shy. What’s your name? Come on man, I know you know my name already, tell me yours.”

“My name’s Peter Shelby,” he answered in a soft, cavernous voice. Instead of getting scared, I got genuinely excited. 

“Tell me, are you with God, have you seen Him?” I asked him.

“Ha! I was eighty-six when I died. I was baptized and had my first communion. I gave the church a small fortune in donations. But God was nowhere to be seen. I tried all my life not to break the Ten Commandments. And it was all for nothing, I still hope he shows up.”

“You might be in Purgatory, and God could be undecided on what to do with you. Maybe you’re paying for some pending sins. Who knows?” I said.

“I hope you’re right because it’s boring here. That’s why I was making noises and trying to manifest my disappointment, I wasn’t satisfied with this situation.”

“But why did you have to scare my daughter?” 

“You were not paying attention, and that was frustrating. Being alone, bored, and ignored, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Tell her I’m sorry.”

“No, you tell her yourself. No, wait, just leave her alone, never mind. But answer me this, what’s your purpose in life? I mean, in death?”

“I have no idea, I think I need to do something but I don’t know what. My wife died three years before me. We were happy in this house. We spent our best years here.”

“And where do you think your wife is?”

“She must be in heaven; I guess. She was a much better person than I was. I wish I could communicate with her, be with her, and then maybe, I can ‘die’ in peace.”

“Okay, next question, do you eat, sleep, take showers, brush your teeth or go to the bathroom?”

“No, no, no, no, and no.”

“Can you cross walls or doors? Can you touch me or hit me? Do you touch the floor when you walk?”

“Yes, I can cross anything. No, I cannot hit you, although I tried a few times, ha, ha. I just float a couple of inches above the surface; I don’t need to sit or rest because I don’t need any energy. I’m dead.”

“I just need to tell you something; you cannot appear or manifest yourself in any way while my wife is here. Otherwise, she’ll bring the priest with his holy water and won’t rest until she makes you disappear for good.”

“But she seems to be such a nice lady.”

“Well, just consider yourself, warned. Oh, one more thing, how should I call you, Peter, Mr. Shelby, Poltergeist, Mr. Ghost, or what?”

“I don’t care; it’s not like I’m going to get mad and hit you, let’s just be friends and make the best of it, okay?”

“Okay, Peter. Oh, one last thing, is there anything I can do for you? You know; to help you do something, find something. This is so weird man, talking to a ghost, no one would believe me.”

“If you start telling everybody that you can talk to a ghost, they’ll put you in a mental hospital. Oh, and yes, you can do something for me, I’d like to go to the cemetery and see what kind of grave my family bought for me.”

“Okay, it’s a done deal; we’ll go tomorrow morning. What time you want me to wake you up?”

“No need for that, I’ll be ready anytime.”

“Alright, see you tomorrow Peter.”

“Yeah, good luck with that.”

In the morning when I went out of the front door, I left it open for a few seconds, then, I softly whispered, “Are you out, Peter?” 

Then, I opened the passenger door and after a few seconds I asked, “Are you in Peter?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you.”

“Okay, now, shut the door,” I said.

“How?” he replied.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” Then, I went around and closed the passenger door.

“Okay, Peter, put your seat belt on.” 

“Oh, you’re funny!” 

“Peter, you want to drive?”

Then, ignoring my last question, he said, “Man, you need to replace this old piece of junk.”

“Do you want to walk? Do you want me to call you a taxicab, or you want a limousine or . . . ?”

“Sorry, sorry, can we just go, already?”

As I started to drive I asked him, “Hey Peter, do you go out of the house, to walk or float around town?”

“I tried a couple of times, but I think the dogs can see me. They bark at me and I can’t stand it, it’s very annoying. They want to bite me and I want to kick them. Your little dog, what’s her name? Yes, Frida, when I go to the backyard she won’t leave me alone. She follows me around and barks and barks, it’s so fastidious. I just don’t go to the patio anymore, but Diego, the other dog, he doesn’t know I exist. And he’s right.”

***

At the cemetery, we had to look for his grave because he couldn’t remember where they buried him. When we found it, he said, “Those cheap bastards! Look at my wife’s grave! I bought her a top of the line tomb, now look at mine, the headstone looks second hand, so small and ordinary. But at least someone brought me flowers, and they look fresh. There’s a note in them, can you please read it for me?”

“Yes, Peter. It says, ‘I miss you, Uncle Peter. I hope you’re happy wherever you are. I will always love you.'” signed by Nancy Shelby. 

“Oh, my dear Nancy. My favorite niece.”

Back at the house, he asked me to write a letter addressed to her.

“My dearest Anais Neess: 

I miss you more than you can imagine, please don’t disregard this note thinking it’s just a joke, and please don’t be afraid. I’m still at the house. I don’t know why, but I’m taking advantage of it to let you know that I left some money for you. You’re the only beneficiary. I found my last friend in the person who’s writing this note. He will give you more details on how to get this money. I didn’t put this in my will because I didn’t want the rest of the family to know about it. 

I will keep you in my heart forever. I love you, Nancy.  

Peter Shelby.”

After I searched for a few minutes on my computer, I found a government site for unclaimed money. A Savings account under the name of Peter Shelby, $45,000,00 I wrote down some account numbers and other details and put a separate note along with the letter, and sent it to an address Peter gave me.

He said Nancy was a nice girl and that she might give me a commission for helping her get this money. I said I didn’t care. Then, I asked if he could show himself again like he did in the bathroom mirror and he said, “I have no idea how that happened, but one time when I was watching the TV with your wife I saw my reflection on the TV screen.” 

“You watch TV with my wife?”

“Yes, all the time. I sit right next to her all morning, but when she changes the channel to her Mexican soap operas, I just disappear from there. I like it when she listens to her music while cooking. We like the same kind of music except for her mariachi songs.”

“And how can you move things around, or make noises? I mean if you say you can’t touch anything.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I guess when I get too desperate or frustrated, I might have telekinetic powers, but I don’t know.”

I wanted to try another experiment with Peter, and I asked him to come out with me to the backyard. 

“Okay Peter, with your permission, I’m going to paint your body, soul, or ghost or whatever it is. You just stand right here in the middle of the patio; I’ll bring my spray paint gun and some white paint and see what happens, okay?”

“Okay, that sounds like fun,” he answered.

After I got all the stuff I needed, I asked if he wanted a mask and he said, “What for?” and then I said, okay, close your eyes, and then he said, “What for?” 

“Okay, okay, just standstill,” I said and started painting him. Then my little dog Frida came and started barking around him. We couldn’t stop laughing out loud. That’s when my neighbor’s head appeared above the fence and asked, “Hey, why are you painting your dog for? Are you crazy or something?” Then, I realized he was right, Frida was painted all white. I didn’t know where Peter was and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Before my wife came home from work I asked Peter if he wanted to do something the next day. “Yes, if you don’t mind I’d like to go to church and have a talk with God because I don’t think he’s in this house.”

The following morning, after many years of absence I went to church again. I guess, I had been busy doing nothing. But the truth was I didn’t need intermediaries, or priests, or churches to talk to God.

When Peter finished with God, he whispered in my ear “Let’s go, I’m ready.”

On our way home he said, “I have a feeling that pretty soon we won’t be able to be together or communicate anymore. I want to tell you that I appreciate your friendship and your companionship very much. I hope someday I can see you in ‘my house’.”

When we went back home, we found a woman knocking at the front door.

“Hi, I live in this house, what can I do for you?” I asked. She seemed to be in her thirties; she had a quiet and tender beauty. She appeared to be a little shy.

“Hi, my name is Nancy Shelby, I believe I received a letter from you. At first, I thought it was a tasteless joke, so absurd and incredible. But when I checked the account, I knew that it was true. I wanted to tell you how fortunate you are to be able to communicate with my uncle Peter. He was such a good person. At his funeral, my mother told me that my uncle Peter paid for all my college tuition. I knew my mom didn’t have the means to afford it.”

“But who’s Anais Neess?” I asked her.

She answered with a smile, “It’s a game of words, Anais Neess, or ‘a nice niece’ I always loved it when he called me that.” 

After that day, Peter disappeared from the house. I went crazy talking to him in every room, to no avail. No signs or signals from him. I missed him a lot. Then one day, I received a letter from Nancy, a note with a few words, a check for $5,000.00 under my name, and the most important thing, a picture of Peter. 

Now I keep that photograph on my desk, next to my computer. In his room. 

Edmundo Barraza 

Visalia, Ca. 11-29-2010

8 thoughts on “A Ghost In Visalia

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