Saturday, July 13, 2013

An Almost Ghost Experience

A ghost is featured in my next novel. It/she (Does a ghost have a gender? Hmmm) isn't the main character, but it/she does have a significant influence on the decisions my protagonist makes. That creates a small problem. Even in fiction, a riveting story needs to be believable. A popular example of this is Harry Potter. Magical trains really don't appear in stations and boys don't turn into wizards, but J.K. Rowling made millions imagine that these scenarios were possible, if only for a moment. What a wonderful magical escape!

Creating a realistic ghost character may not be too difficult. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of reports of actual sightings.

I'm not sure where this photo was taken, but I wouldn't want to see that image on my staircase when I wander into the kitchen at night for a glass of water. Are there actual facts about ghosts? Things they all have in common?

Almost as soon as I pondered that question, a friend told me about Lily Dale, NY, a place of pilgrimage for many Spiritualists and others interested in the paranormal. A large population of mediums and Spiritualist healers reside here and they host numerous events for visitors. I Googled it and saw that Lisa Williams was holding a two day workshop at Lily Dale. Here's her bio from the site, "Lisa  has been able to communicate with the dead from a very young age.  But it was Merv Griffin who launched her extraordinary career with her own show, Life Among the Dead.  Two hit series, Voices from the Other Side and Lisa Williams Live followed, and all three are now airing around the world. Lisa has enjoyed sell-out international tours of her live show.  She has also appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Lisa is the author of two bestselling books, Life Among the Dead and Survival of the Soul. Her workshop was entitled, Connecting Beyond.

From the HBO series 

I figured I could get some good material for my novel, and I love an adventure, so decided to go.  Like I always say, the joy is in the journey.

When I told my husband about it he said, "Don't go weird on me."

I said, "Too late."

When I told my girlfriends, they pleaded to come along. I would have loved the company, but it was the weekend after July 4th and most had plans. They sent me out as the guinea pig and made me promise that we'd all venture to this spiritual hot spot another time.

I've never even been to a psychic so was a bit nervous about making a trip to the unknown by myself, but my curiosity ruled. I rose at five o'clock the Friday morning of the event and was on the road by six. My GPS suggested a travel itinerary, but as usual I disagreed. I chose a slightly longer route, but with fewer traffic lights. Before I drove onto to the interstate, I stopped for a cup of coffee and selected a summer music playlist on my iPod. I was off to explore the world of ghosts.

The cruise control was set at sixty-five miles per hour and Kenny Chesney was singing about having a beer in Mexico when the unexpected happened. An adult deer leaped in front of my car. Before I had a chance to react, we collided.

No human was hurt, but the poor deer, and my car is in the body shop for at least two weeks. Instinctively, I pulled over to the side of the road and glanced at the dying animal. I thought I would be sick. I must have been in a bit of shock because I didn't even check the car. When I was on the road again, I realized that was a mistake. Fortunately, a rest area was only a mile away so I stopped, inspected the damage, and reported the incident to the state police.

I never made it to Lily Dale. Although my car was still drivable, the passenger door wouldn't open and the headlight was smashed. The obvious next step was to head home to deal with my grief and take care of business.

When a freak accident happens, it makes me wonder about time. How a mere thirty seconds can change everything. If I had made my coffee at home, if I had followed the GPS directions, if I had driven in silence instead of connecting my iPod, I would not have hit that deer. I would have gone to Lily Dale and who knows what would have happened. Something is telling me that my trip wasn't meant to be.

Will I try to go again?

Maybe with friends. It has the potential to be a fun trip. Then again, there are a lot of books written about ghosts, and really, can't a ghost be anything you want it to be. Like John Grisham said when he was questioned about inaccuracies in The Broker, "It's all fiction, folks."

Warning:    Motorists hit over 80,000 deer on New York roadways between last July 1 and June 30 2012, according to estimates from the nation’s leading automobile insurance company.
State Farm used its own claims data and state licensed driver figures to compile the statistics.
New York drivers struck an estimated 80,262 whitetails during that period – the third highest figure in the country, behind only Pennsylvania (115,571) and Michigan (97,856).

Be Careful Out There!
One of my all time favorites, Practical Magic by one of my favorite authors, Alice Hoffman. If you feel like a getaway into a magical world, this is the novel for you.

      “There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”
—Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic



  1. Nice one, Peggy. In your corner of the world it's deer, in mine kangaroos. Over a 60 km stretch that I travel to a job one day each week I almost always pass a dead 'roo beside the road. Never hit one yet, myself, but I know they can do big damage to your car. The most frequent time for such a collision is at dusk.

    Sudden story idea: What if the 'roo/deer is a ghost?

    1. Roo/deer—Terror on the road. I think you're onto something, Stephen. Those kangaroos and deer probably want to get back at us early morning drivers. I'm sure Stephen King could do somthing with that.

  2. I often think about what would have happened if I'd taken a different route, left home earlier, married someone else, etc. How would my life have been changed? I'm so glad you weren't hurt in the deer encounter.

    1. Thanks Sandra. I wasn't hurt at all, but was really shaken up. It all happened so fast. "A diiferent Route" sounds like a good title for a novel. You could have some fun creating the life that could have been, and no better person to write it then you.

  3. Peggy, I love that you are including a ghost in your next project. Since I discovered Stephen King at and early and impressionable age, I've been fairly obsessed with the paranormal for a long time and love a spooky story. I would have loved to hear about the workshop, but I'm glad you are safe after your accident with the deer. You might be interested in A History of Ghosts by Peter Ackroyd. I believe he goes into the history of the spiritualist movement that got it's start in Lily Dale. David Pitkin writes quite a bit on local ghosts, and his books are quite fun. With so much history in Saratoga county, there are endless stories of ghosts all over the county. I went to a ghost tour at Yaddo last fall, which is reported to be visited by not only the Trask's, but Edgar Allen Poe as well. (I blogged about it here:

    The picture, BTW, is of The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. It is thought to be Dorothy Townshend, who lived there with her husband Charles. I think ghosts only have a gender when there is some backstory, and people can connect the haunting to someone who may have died in the area.

    1. I'm with you. I love a spooky story and having a ghost as one of the characters in my next novel is a lot of fun. I've read the Pitkin book, and will check out the Ackroyd book. I'd also love to go on that ghost tour at Yaddo. Do they do it every year? I'll take a peek at your blog and find out. Thanks for stopping by!