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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Dingwell

A ghost story

The ghost did not want to be seen.

She peeked in through the opening of my bedroom door, which stood slightly ajar. Here’s the thing, though: I do not sleep with the door ajar. As a kid, I left the door fully open. I wanted a clear view of anything that might come down the hallway. These days, I close my bedroom door. If something’s out there, I would rather not know.

The ghost who appeared to me in my childhood dreams had long hair and she wore a dress or nightgown. She was completely translucent and white, stark against the darkness. The dream was always the same: like a timid animal, the ghost stealthily looked around the door at me. I’d notice her right away, but she appeared not to realize. She would shrink back towards the hall for just a moment before peering around again. The ghost repeated this dance until she saw that I could see her. Her apprehensive demeanour fell away and my door swung fully open. She flew across the bedroom and was above me in an instant, wrapping her pale hands around my neck. When I tried to scream, the sound died in my throat. This ghost wanted to strangle me until I joined her among the dead.

When I woke up, I would still be trying to scream, but the screams just came out as breathy croaks. I stopped. It was only me. Me and my pink walls, stuffed animals, night light and my open door.

How many times did I dream her? Twice? Ten times? Every week? I don’t remember. All I know is I never dreamed about her after we moved out of that house when I was twelve. I didn’t totally forget her, though. Once I was well into my twenties, I finally told my mother about my dreams.

“How come you never told me about this?” she asked. No doubt she recalled how difficult it was to get me to sleep through the night in my own bed throughout my childhood. At least a few times, I refused to “go to my room” after misbehaving. My mom dragged me up the stairs while I dug my heels in and shrieked. What looked like defiance was actually fear.

“I guess I didn’t think you would believe me,” I said. Only a half-truth. In ghost stories and horror movies, engaging with the ghost tends to make them more active. In my young mind, talking about her could have made things worse.

So, my ghost was a closely guarded secret. I only shared her long after the nightmares ceased. Even since, I’ve described her to just a handful of people. For a long time, my ghost remained mine alone. But ghosts in general—local tales, alleged hauntings—became a fascination. I wonder if I sought to understand my own experience through stories like Nova Scotia’s Great Amherst Mystery or, across the pond, the Enfield Poltergeist.

Such stories have broadly been labelled as hoaxes, and yet, I’m still inclined to believe the women and girls at the centre of them. To some degree, I know what it means to be haunted. My ghost may have been a nightmare, a hallucination, a figment. Perhaps she was a metaphor.

She was also real.

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