Growing up, ghost stories were just another name for scary stories that were either told around a campfire or on Halloween.
Then I moved to New Orleans.
The presences, or at least suggestions, of ghosts were everywhere. The ghost tours and “not haunted” for-rent signs in the Quarter made me quickly realize that costuming wasn’t the only thing that made every day in New Orleans feel like Halloween.
Then there were the storytellers.
Everyone in New Orleans has a story, and everyone in New Orleans wants to share his story. As a writer I could relate; I just couldn’t believe the stories they were telling.
Personal stories of loved ones paying visits from the grave, meeting uninvited visitors in those “not haunted” apartments, and of course the famous stories about Marie Laveau.
I thought everyone in this town was crazy (for reasons other than living below sea level), and in a lot of ways I still do … but not for telling ghost stories. Not anymore.
Less than a year after I settled into town, one of my best friends from home passed away. Needless to say, I was devastated, and being at a new job with little time off, I was unable to make it home to say goodbye.
There were many times after his death I recalled the ghost stories I had heard and wondered why (if New Orleans was really the land of the living dead) he hadn’t come here to say goodbye to me.
And then he did.
About five months later, on April Fool’s Day (which was significant to our friendship because of the pranks we used to play on each other), he nearly knocked me off my feet when the notorious sound of his cackling laughter echoed from nowhere. It was one last prank of his, for old time’s sake.
He has paid me a visit several times thereafter, each time leaving me more and more certain that they exist, they don’t always come when you want them to, and they do come at some very inopportune times (like when you are taking a shower).
Not all ghost stories are scary — some bring comfort in times of sorrow. And those are the ones most worth sharing.