While I was writing Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, my Uncle Bernie sent me more than 30 stories from throughout his life in the form of hand-written letters. After Maryland Ghosts was first published in 2012, and featured most of his Maryland stories, we turned his remaining letters into an unpublished collection to share with family and friends called The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life. Here is another one of my favorite stories from that collection:
Altoona, Pennsylvania (Blair County), 2010
It was December, the Christmas season of 2010, and I had returned from the grocery store, having shopped for all the gourmet items for our holiday feast.
When I grew up, one of the holiday treats on Mom and Dad’s dinner table relish tray was watermelon pickles. My father loved them, and he grew up in southern Virginia, where his family always made them from the thick skins of the "old day" watermelons.
I displayed all of my purchases on the kitchen counter for Debra to see, placing four jars of watermelon pickles on the far right end of the counter, near our cupboard.
I went to the refrigerator and as I opened, then closed, the door, I saw my father, Bernard Lee Masino, in that right corner by the counter, from the chest up only, a partial body formation.
Dad was looking down at the watermelon pickles, smiling, wearing his old wool orange and grey plaid shirt. He was visible for approximately ten seconds, then vanished into thin air.
What a nice spiritual visit to have for the holidays.
"Visit for the Holidays," copyright 2016 Bernard W. Masino and Amelia Cotter (first appeared in The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life, 2013)
While I was writing Maryland Ghosts: Paranormal Encounters in the Free State, my Uncle Bernie sent me more than 30 stories from throughout his life in the form of hand-written letters. After Maryland Ghosts
was first published in 2012, and featured most of his Maryland stories,
we turned his remaining letters into an unpublished collection to share
with family and friends called The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life. Here is one of my favorite stories from that collection:
Chatham, Virginia (Pittsylvania County), 1996
story took place at our family’s plantation home inherited by my
cousin, Taylor Lee Meadows. It was July 1996, and Debra and I had been
dating since May 6, 1995. I wanted my Chatham family to meet her. This
is the home of your grandfather’s sister, Aunt Dorothy (Aunt Dot), who
will be 95 in November 2011!
This old tobacco farm is
400 acres in size, and the last tobacco crop was in 1985, and was also
the best crop in the history of the Meadows Farm. The plantation was
built by Hunt Meadows, Sr. and his wife, Sarah, in 1900.
visited there often as a young boy and hunted the farm with my cousin
Taylor as a teenager. I had also visited there in April 1969 on my way
home from being discharged from active duty in the Marine Corps. I
remember that Ma Ma Sarah, as Hunt Meadows’ wife was always called, made
a nice family picnic for me on that visit, with southern cured ham,
homemade apple pie from her apple tree, homemade peach ice cream from
her peach trees, all of the fixings from her large garden (watermelon,
onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peas, corn on the cob), homemade
biscuits with churned butter, sweet potato pie, black eyed peas, mashed
potatoes with "red eye" gravy, deviled eggs, homemade jams and jellies,
and watermelon pickles.
What a feast! We all ate like
kings and queens. She had also made homemade iced tea for us, with
crystal clear spring water from their spring—which had originally been
used by the Shawnee Indians and is still in use today!
Debra and I arrived in Chatham in July 1996, the entire family—all of
my Meadows cousins, Taylor, Richard, Frankie, Bill, Sarah, and Aunt
Dot—had a wonderful picnic again in Ma Ma Sarah’s honor. Hunt Meadows,
Sr. had died in 1957, which was my first funeral, and Sarah died in
Debra and I also had the honor of staying in the
plantation home with Taylor on that visit. We actually slept in Ma Ma
Sarah and Hunt, Sr.’s bed, in their original bedroom.
was approximately 5:15 a.m. the next morning, as the sun began to rise
and shine through the drapes of the bedroom window. Debra was asleep, to
my right, between me and the bedroom wall. As I looked at the sun
coming through the bedroom window, I noticed a white figure of a woman
to the left of the window, in the corner, beside the dresser.
We both stared at one another for a minute or so, Debra still asleep beside me. I did not want to startle her, or our visitor.
form slowly drifted toward the windows and I could see "Ma Ma Sarah" as
plain as day. She merged with the sunlight coming in through the window
and was gone in an instant.
I felt good, not unnerved, about seeing her.
could hear Taylor in the kitchen, so I rose from bed to greet him good
morning. I shared with him what I had seen (well, who I had seen) only
minutes earlier. He was pleased and noted that even though no one had
seen a ghost in the old plantation home, several relatives had heard
footsteps upstairs or felt the presence of someone touch or caress them.
and I then left to feed his cattle and stopped to drink from the old
spring house, using an old dried gourd as our cup. The delicious water
was crystal clear, so refreshing, and ice cold!
not share the news with Debra about the spirit until after she had fixed
us a wonderful breakfast. After the breakfast dishes were washed and
dried and put away, we sat her down in Taylor’s living room and told her
about my experience. Debra was not at all upset about what had
occurred. It had been 20 years since Ma Ma Sarah had passed away. I told
Debra that I felt Sarah was curious about who was sleeping in her room,
especially who the man was that was sleeping on her long-deceased
husband’s side of the bed. And, when she recognized me, and knew I
recognized her, she was at peace and left us to enjoy her lovely home.
Amelia, I have been back to that home countless times since that trip in 1996, and I have never had that experience again.
"Ma Ma Sarah," copyright 2016 Bernard W. Masino and Amelia Cotter (first appeared in The Haunted Letters: True Tales from a Ghost-Storied Life, 2013)
Here's a little flash fiction to help get the day off to a spooky start:
I stepped off the
bus, the door squealing
shut behind me as it took off. My feet touched the concrete and I was struck by the smell of crisp fall air, awed by the
sight of red leaves falling all around me.
I ran. I
didn't dare look around. I knew that if I could make it home to my apartment before I saw him, I would
be safe. If I glimpsed him, even briefly or by accident, I would not be able to
escape him. If I could see him, then he could see me.
I ran through the glorious trees, trees that were spewing red leaves into the
wind and covering the earth in crunchy, slippery, matted redness. Each step brought me nearer to the verge of hope and panic.
I came to a hill and could see the parking lot and my apartment building just beyond.
I dropped to the ground on my back, rolling and sliding down that great
red-leafed fountain—the leaves, the red leaves falling around me, racing me. I
slid much faster on them.
I slammed hard onto the pavement, next to a row of plain cars—for someone somewhere, today was just a
regular day. I bounded to my feet, so frightened, so close, and could feel the
warmth of home and safety just a couple of yards away.
I glanced up into the stairwell of my building. There was
nobody there. I was relieved, but didn’t dare slow down. I threw the door
open and ran up the stairs—one flight gone, two flights gone, the taste of
my heart in my mouth, the smell of red leaves and earth on my stained jeans. No
sight of him.
I stumbled up the final flight with my hands desperately slapping the
steps ahead of me. I could see my front door.I
collapsed into it and grasped the knob. It swung
open easily. I fell onto cold white tile. I had made it. I had made
But I had left the door locked.
the periphery of my vision I could see two black-booted feet. His feet. I
looked up slowly and into his face. He looked familiar, almost like a
friend. But as I squeezed my
eyes shut and flexed my hands over the hard tile below, I knew that when
I looked again, his face would be very different.