A Dreamless Summer Night


Just to be blunt: I’m not a teacher. Unlike my goombahs here at TKZ most of what I offer every other Saturday is not going to help you to write your best seller or even your mid-list seller.  I’m still struggling with that myself. I will offer advice from time to time, but today isn’t one of those times. I have another unusual story for you today, and I hope that at the least you enjoy it and at the most it burrows under your brainstem for a few days and maybe inspires you to delve back into your own respective histories and spin some random thread from your past into gold.

A bit of housekeeping first: I have heard nothing further from the person who sent me the cryptic text two weeks ago, warning me not to play with their grandchild. I’ll advise if something occurs but for the moment it appears to be a case of mistexting or mistaken identity.

Onward. I was blessed mightily with a childhood in which I lived in an upper middle class suburban neighborhood. It was quiet, peaceful, and the police were primarily used to fill a few float spots in the annual Fourth of July parade. Cue the music to The Andy Griffith Show, move the show up north and triple the average household income, and you’ll get an idea of what it was like. Nothing ever happened. It was 1960, I was nine years old, and the only times my pulse really quickened was when the new comic books came out on Tuesday and Thursday. I happened to awaken very late on a warm and perfect summer night. I sat up in bed, listened to the sound of the attic fan — this was before air conditioning was as common as it is now — and got out of bed. Lassie, our collie — if you had a collie back then it was named Lassie — half-heartedly wagged its tail in the hallway  but otherwise didn’t stir as I walked past my parents’ room on the one side and my sister’s on the other. We had a spare bedroom that my dad used as sort of a half-assed office that had a back yard window and for some reason I headed back there to look out the window, but not for any particular reason that I can remember now.

There were three men standing at the far corner of our yard, looking at our house. They each wore coats, ties, and, for some odd reason, overcoats. I couldn’t hear them but they were gesturing at each other and toward the house. I could see them clearly in the moonlight and they frightened me like I have never been frightened before or since. The villain featured in the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip at the time was a character named Rhodent (sic) and one of the men looked almost exactly like him. I was frozen in place; I would probably still be sitting there, but one of the men suddenly looked directly up at the window where I was watching. I turned around and ran back to my room, jumped into bed and laid there awake for the rest of the night.

The following morning brought what seemed to be clarification. I thought that maybe I had just dreamed what had happened, the result of a little too much Dick Tracy. The main thing was that Lassie, whose territorial domain consisted of a three block radius and which required that she bark at everything, never made a sound. I accordingly didn’t say anything to my parents. Later that day, however, I happened to run into a kid in the neighborhood who was what we would now call a backdoor neighbor. The kid, who we will call “B” and was my age, came up to me with uncharacteristic somberness. He said that during the night he had looked out of his bedroom window, which was in the back of his house, and had seen three men standing and gesturing in our backyard. B said he watched them for a few minutes until one of them pointed at one of our upstairs windows, at which point the three of them turned and walked away in between B’s house and his next door neighbors. B thought he was dreaming, too, but thought the dream was interesting. He never told his parents either. For my part, I didn’t look out of that back window for the remainder of the time that we lived in that house.

I hadn’t thought of that story until last night, when I happened to wake up at 2 AM and for some reason thought of it, and also thought of B, with whom I hadn’t seen or spoken in over fifty years. I wondered about it and fell back to sleep. This morning, I saw B’s obituary in the morning paper. He died early yesterday, unexpectedly.

If you have an odd story like this and would like to share it I would love to hear it. I don’t know how to describe how I feel. I’m wondering who those three men were and why they were standing in my backyard and what happened to B and how people drift apart for no good or bad reason. Talk to me.

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

38 thoughts on “A Dreamless Summer Night

  1. Put my experience in the context of someone who is an ‘agnostic’ about many things, e.g., ghosts are possible but not proven.

    Except that I was 12 and living in Germany (my dad was in the Canadian Armed Forces), and I awoke in the middle of the night, scared for some reason, but when I saw my grandfather in a rocking chair at the foot of my bed, I calmed down and went back to sleep.

    The next day, we got a call from Ottawa, Canada… my grandfather had died in the night.

    Then there’s the time I’m sure I saw a UFO… but that’s another story.

  2. Thank you Sheryl for sharing a…I almost said “a great story” but it’s bittersweet. It’s sad for the loss of your grandfather but sweet that you were comforted by his presence. I have heard very similar stories which almost always involve younger people and a familiar, loved person who has gone ahead. I’ve also heard — and seen — people close to death who in their final hours see a much beloved person or pet who has predeceased them. I’m not on the fence about spirits anymore; we don’t know everything. Thanks again. And yeah, maybe we’ll do UFO stories sometime.

  3. Joe:

    Could you have had a Men-In-Black experience? Had there been any UFO sightings or experiences around the time the three men appeared?

    I am a Christian. My great-grandfather was the first ordained minister, a Baptist, in our tribe. His father was the last Sun Dance priest of our tribe, then he became a Christian. My great-great-grandfather had decreed that our tribe should give up the Sun Dance because it brought too many bad things to our people. (Many young men were killed by the U.S. Army in the days following each Sun Dance because they were whipped up into a fighting spirit. Those were some of the bad things my great-great-grandfather was talking about.) The Sun Dance has never been started again among our people, despite the pressures from traditionalists to do so.

    My other grandfather was a Baptist lay preacher. Some preachers–I don’t know about my grandfather–practiced tribal medicine and healing.

    In my life, new-agers, nuts, and people of uncontrolled, unteachable spirits have thought I should take up the old Indian practices. I don’t think those practices were spiritually or mentally healthy, so I refuse to do so.

    However, one of the beliefs of my father’s tribe is that, three days before you die, your soul walks around in the night near the house(s) of your friends and/or relatives. I happened to be staying with my aunt because I was in the process of moving back to my hometown. About 2 a.m. early Tuesday morning, my aunt came and got me, saying there was someone outside walking around in the yard. (My hometown was about 300,000 or so at the time.) I got up, put on my pants and shoes and went outside, searching all corners of the backyard. There was no one there. It happened one more time that morning.

    At 5 a.m. Friday morning, a doctor called to tell me that my parents and sister had been involved in a car wreck. My sister was all right, my mother was badly hurt–my father had been killed. Friday morning is three days after Tuesday morning.

  4. Jim, that’s quite an experience. Thank you for sharing a difficult story from your past. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck go up reading your last sentence.

    There weren’t any UFO sightings at the time of my experience that I can recall. I do have a quick MIB story, however. When was a teenager, living in a a different city, a couple that my parents were friends with had a strange experience. They had come home late from dinner and a movie when they saw a UFO hovering over their home. The husband ran into the house and got his Bell & Howell handheld and shot what he hoped was footage (this was back in the day when film had to be developed)..

    The couple told a few people about it at church the next morning. When they got home, a car was in front of their house. Three guys with government IDs demanded the camera in no uncertain terms and got it. My parents’ friends, btw, were not given to flights of fancy; they were about as early 1960s suburban casper as you could get. This was totally outside of their experience.

    I was deeply into Frank Edwards at the time and he had written about MIBs, which were not in the public awareness at that point. When I asked if the agents were dressed in black, the couple looked stunned. Yes, indeed. Black suits with white shirts.

    Thanks again, Jim. That was an interesting tie-in between MIBs and those three guys in the yard. Never thought of that.

  5. The Questions That Plague Me

    When I was about 40—a few decades ago—I had an experience I’ve never been able to rationalize. I was on my way to Springfield from my home near Brighton, MO, that morning when I was first on the scene of an accident. My route required me to first take the north-bound lanes of highway 13 to highway 215, then go west for a few hundred yards to get on the south-bound lanes. The highways intersected at the top of a hill, shortly after 13—which was the major highway—came out of a long curve. In other words, it was just short of being a blind intersection, especially for people unfamiliar with it.

    When I topped the hill in the left lane, I saw a car facing east on the shoulder on the northwest corner of the intersection, and a big pickup truck in the ditch on the east side of 13 about 50 yards north of it. The dust and debris from the impact had not yet settled.

    I pulled onto the shoulder of 215 behind the car and ran to see if I could help. At first, I thought there was more than one person in the car because a woman with snow white hair was leaning against the partially open window on the front passenger side door. Then I saw the steering wheel in front of her, and realized that she was the driver, and had been headed west across the intersection. The impact had not only reversed her direction, it had squashed the car to half it’s normal width.

    I didn’t recognize her face, which was very pale, but the thick white head of hair reminded me of an elderly cook when I’d been in elementary school—a few decades previous to the accident. I talked to the victim, although I was pretty sure she couldn’t hear me. I wanted to reassure her in case she could. I knew she was either dead or dying. Her eyes were open and staring, but they weren’t focused on anything.

    Another car stopped and the driver said he’d call an ambulance (no cell phones in those days). By then a car had stopped to help the driver of the pickup, who was out walking around. I recognized Mr. C and his truck. He was notorious for driving too fast. I realized his granddaughter was at cheerleading camp at Drury in Springfield with my two youngest daughters.

    I stayed with her for the 30 minutes or so it took an ambulance to arrive from Springfield. By then, I knew she was gone, but I couldn’t leave her there alone. And although she looked familiar, I still hadn’t figured out who she was.

    Her identity plagued me all day. I knew I should know her, but there was something about her that just wouldn’t register. On the way home that afternoon, I heard on the news that Mrs. A had been killed in a car accident at that intersection that morning.

    I was dumbfounded by the news. We weren’t close friends, but I knew Mrs. A pretty well. I would have recognized her. She was about my age. Her daughter was also at the cheerleading camp at Drury with my daughters. Why hadn’t I recognized her? It made no sense to me.

    My confusion was only partially cleared up a few days later at the funeral. Mrs. A looked very natural and peaceful in her final state—although seeing her that way came as a shock to me. Her hair was brown like it had been the whole time I’d known her.

    There were cartoons when I was a kid, where one of the characters would get so scared his hair would turn white momentarily. I always thought it was a joke. Now, I have to wonder—can that really happen?

    Did Mrs. A see that pickup coming and get so frightened her hair turned white? Did the trauma to her body turn it white? Did it turn back to brown on its own sometime after the ambulance picked her up? Did the family have it dyed before the funeral?

    Those aren’t questions you ask a teenage girl who’s just lost her mother. I wouldn’t even ask them of her now, all these years later. Best she never questions whether her mother saw death barreling toward her at a high rate of speed. Hopefully, she never knew her mother’s hair was white at the scene of the accident.

    Best we let the questions rest in peace.

  6. Karen, first, last, and in between, bless you and thank you for coming to the aid of someone in their final moments in the suck. As you know, it’s not required or a duty. It’s a privilege. That woman’s passing at that time and place, bad as it was, was made easier thanks to you.

    Your story, so darkly and wonderfully told, points out why multiple eyewitness accounts often vary so widely. As Yogi Berra so eloquently put it, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” True, but there are a number of other factors involved at different times in different places. This is true even when passively watching a pre-recorded event. There have been entire books written about the Zapruder film and what it does and doesn’t show. I’ve also heard stories from people who see someone regularly in one place or setting but don’t recognize them at all if they suddenly encounter them in other settings or circumstances. Your experience may fall into or nudge up to that category. Or it may be something else. But I’m glad you shared it. Thank you.

  7. Joe,

    In these stories, I hear Rod Serling’s voice :

    “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

    During World War II, my husband’s grandmother woke up in the middle of the night screaming. My husband’s mother Dolly went running to see what was wrong. Grammy had a dream that her son Rich was on the deck of a ship in his underwear and a huge wave swept him overboard. Dolly tried to console Grammy, saying that wasn’t possible because Rich was a pilot so he wouldn’t be on a ship and certainly not in his underwear. But Grammy would not be dissuaded.

    Sure enough, they learned later that Rich’s plane had been shot down in the Pacific. He survived alone in the ocean for a couple of days before a Navy ship rescued him. Because his uniform was in tatters, he was issued skivvies and a bathrobe in sick bay. Dressed that way, he went to pay his respects to the captain. A typhoon was raging and, from the bridge, they watched a sailor, tethered by a line, trying to secure a hatch on deck. A wave swept the man overboard and in heavy seas he was crashing against the side of the ship like a clapper of a bell. Rich threw off his bathrobe, ran out on deck and pulled the unconscious sailor to safety. But, unlike the sailor, Rich did not have a safety tether, so the next big wave swept him overboard.

    Rich was lost in the typhoon, but somehow survived several more days in the ocean without even a life vest until a different ship rescued him a second time. He was either the luckiest or the unluckiest pilot in the war.

    How did Grammy see the exact details of her son’s bizarre experience? What connected mother and son across thousands of miles of ocean?

    What we don’t understand is infinitely greater than what we do understand.

    • Debbie, your first and last sentences say it all, and as for what comes in between…your husband’s Uncle Rich was/is possessed of the Right Stuff. And what a story. I am convinced that there is no stronger mental connection than that of a mother and a child, forged in solitary within the womb and enduring forever, through better and worse. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Joe, what an interesting (and to a child, terrifying) story! I had a similar one, but with a paranormal twist. It was the tenth grade, and I had a home setting most unlike yours (except for the upscale suburban surround). My Homefront at the time could best be described as Southern Gothic with dramatic arcs fueled by substance abuse, violence, guns on standby at the top of the attic stairs–you name it, it was going on at the Tudor style brick house on Palmetto Street. (No one at my school knew about any of this, of course. One didn’t talk about such things back then). Against this dramatic backdrop, a kitten of mine fell ill with distemper. The kitten’s illness pushed me out of my usual state of denial about the happenings in my life, and into an intense feeling of despair. One day, just as I was approaching a new milestone of despondency, a history teacher invited a local psychic to talk to our class. I don’t recall what the woman actually said to the class, because I was too caught up in worry to listen. At one point, the woman stopped speaking abruptly and said, “Is there a Kathy in this room?” My classmates turned around to look at me. I had misheard her and thought she’d said, ” Is there a CATHOLIC in this room,” so I turned around to look at the only Catholic girl in the class. I was still feeling confused as she asked me to see her when the class was finished. Which I did, very warily. I remember that she started off by asking me if I had a pet that was sick. Then she (very tactfully) asked me about my family. She reassured me that both my kitten and my relative would be okay. (Which they were, in the end). I’m not sure about this part, but she may have asked me to follow up with her later. Which I did not, of course. That episode of apparent thought-transference, or whatever it WAS, simply blended into The storm clouds that defined life in those days. It left me slightly more open minded about psychic phenomena than I might have been otherwise. There are all types of light and energy that we do not normally discern as humans. I figure there might be a few brain energy wavelengths that have yet to be revealed, as well.

    p.s. Regarding your childhood night visitors: Here’s a link to a fascinating NYT article about something called “gang stalking”. These are people (thousands of people who have connected to form a movement) who call themselves Targeted Individuals. They are convinced that they are being followed by strangers wearing sunglasses. Books and entire websites have been created about the phenomena, mostly by believers in the syndrome. Thank goodness your night visitors never returned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a link to your story turns up on one of the TI websites. 😎


    • Let’s see, Kathryn, where do I start?! I hope that you have turned your adolescence experience into the opening of a novel…I’d buy it right now! And not that its important, but the “behind closed doors” type of childhood which you experienced came a bit later for me, but is something we have in common. We should talk. Thank you for sharing, as always, and for all you do, but thank you and a tip of the fedora for the link you shared. There goes the weekend!!! I would strongly recommend that EVERYONE who reads our blog today check out that article. Thanks again.

      • Yes, I was gratified for the heads up about the licensed anesthesiologist who is a member of the group, just in case I ever stumble into that hospital someday.

  9. Quite simply, I ran goose flesh.

    Our my family mythology, when I was born, my mother heard the locked outer door open, then two more, including ours. Felt a chill, and then saw my crib rock. Found out the next morning, her grandmother had died that night. A woman who was living to see the new child.

    • Morgyn, that’s a story to pass down from generation to generation. Thank you for sharing. And it reminds me of something somewhat similar that happened to me.

      A couple of weeks after my mother passed away my brother called me to tell me that she was haunting the house. He said that he had been visiting with our father and as they were sitting in the kitchen he repeatedly heard the sliding doors of the upstairs hall closet opening and closing. I of course filled his ears with all sorts of good- natured invective about his intelligence level, pedigree, etc. I drove to Akron to visit my dad a week later and, as we sitting in the kitchen, I heard the doors as well. Repeatedly. I didn’t go upstairs. However, at one point my dad and I went into the family room to look for something. When we came back into the kitchen there was a photo of my youngest daughter — one that I had never seen before — on the seat where I had been sitting.

      Thanks again, Morgyn!

  10. I am prone to vivid, wild, strange, realistic and lengthy dreams.

    When I was 18 I went to Europe for around three months or so. I flew standby (this used to be the cheap way to fly to Europe on Pan Am), so there was no set time on my itinerary or length of stay. While in Athens I discovered that it was dirt cheap to fly to Cairo. How could I resist? I bought a ticket on Egyptair flight 648 Athens – Cairo. I was so excited. The night before I was due to go I had a dream that the flight was hijacked. It was vivid, it was realistic, the flight ended badly. When I woke up I was so disturbed I didn’t know if I could, or should, go through with it. I REALLY wanted to go, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom. I called my mother back in Seattle, many time zones back, and in the days when international calls weren’t cheap. Her opinion was if I was that nervous after that dream, then don’t go. Tossing away the price of the ticket was nothing if I was that concerned. After that call I went and bought a Swissair ticket to Zurich (free chocolate bars!) and was there a few hours later.

    Nothing happened to that Egyptair flight. It landed safely. So was I wrong? On 23 November Egyptair 648 was hijacked by members of Abu Nidal. In the end 58 of 89 passengers were killed. I turned to rubber when this happened. Was my dream a premonition? Or just built out of the ether of my own psyche?

    I have never forgotten this. And I will not fly Egyptair to this day, or ever.

    BTW I eventually wound up with a refund for the ticket.

  11. Catfriend, that is amazing. I’ve heard of folks skipping flights for similar reasons, far too many to chalk it up to coincidence. I live for the day when science identifies what in the brain causes such things to occur and — hopefully — enables us to harness it. Thank for you sharing.

    ….Free chocolate bars? Swiss chocolate? Seriously?

    • Swissair wasn’t supporting Hershey’s. They passed out hot towels and chocolate bars right after boarding. I asked for more chocolate bars – more than once, and the FA brought them to me, no questions asked. I must have had 4 or 5 on that flight. That was the only time I ever flew the long since defunct Swissair, but I did enjoy the service.

      • I think that if I had access to that deal they would have had to charge me for a second seat by the time we landed.

    • Thank you, Larry! Unfortunately, B just passed on, contemporaneous with my remembering the story. I learned that his brother passed a few years ago as well (I don’t know if B ever told him about it so it’s just going to be one of those weird things that never quite get explained. Maybe. Thanks for the suggestion, however.

  12. Oh, how haunting to recall that right before getting word about B’s death. And those of you replying in the comments–gives me chills thinking about it.

    I don’t have any strange stories like that but when I was very young, like 4-5 years old, and my family lived at Pearson’s Corner, I to this day swear I saw Tyrannosaurus Rex rearing up behind the small country store across the street from our house. Not in a dream, but like actually during the day when I was standing on the front porch looking over.

    Of course ask anyone and they’ll tell you I’ve always had a wild imagination. But I’ve always thought that memory was interesting because I’ve never been particularly interested in dinosaurs–never had a dinosaur phase of curiosity in life, so that always made that memory seem like an anomaly to me.

    Life…and death, are strange things and I doubt we’ll ever fully understand the depths of the universe, no matter how we rationalize or believe things occur.

    • BK, that is interesting, for sure. If time doesn’t really exist other than as a method by which we attempt to understand our existence, it’s possible that you did. Not the same thing…but while driving west on 40 through New Mexico I saw cowboys on horseback riding back and forth across the highway. I chalked it up to highway whine and being neck high in my own b.s. but you never know. That’s quite a story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  13. Someone mentioned hair turning gray or white suddenly. Reminded me of my grandmother. My dad’s older brother was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. He was a glider pilot who was shot down and they never recovered his body. My dad told me that Grandma refused to believe my uncle was killed and waited for him to come home from then on. As a boy I remember looking at a huge picture of my uncle on the wall, framed with big brass eagles, and Grandma telling me that he’ll be home soon. But Dad also told me that Grandma’s hair turned pure white within a few days of her getting the news. I’ve been working on the genealogy of my family and have photos of her before that December and soon after, and her haid is black in the earlier pictures and white in the later ones. There are none of her with graying hair.

    I did use part of that memory in a short story some time ago. Alas, I never published it.

    • Dave, that’s a sad story. I shared office space at one point with an attorney who was there. He had photos of himself and a couple of other guys. None of them remotely resembled Rambo. They were just guys who, like your uncle, helped to save civilization as we know it. Your poor grandmother. I’m not a huge believer in closure but…there just aren’t any words. Thanks for sharing, Dave.

  14. Hmm…I’ve had this happen numerous times, but don’t usually share the stories. For you, Joe, I will. From an early age I dreamed of several deaths at the exact moment they happened. Not deaths, really, more of the deceased visiting me in my dreams. The first one happened in the fourth grade when I jolted awake, crying. When my mother sat on my bedside, I told her that Marla (the pudgy kid in class who kept to herself) was going to be sad the next morning because her father died. My mother wrote it off to the overactive imagination of a creative child, until the next morning at homeroom when my teacher announced the news. He did indeed pass at the exact moment he came to me.

    Through the years it’s happened over and over. It’s gotten to the point where I view it as a gift…the sort of gift that you keep to yourself so people don’t call you crazy.

    My husband is reading the true crime story, “Who Killed My Daughter?” by Lois Duncan. Lois is an extremely spiritual person. There’s a passage in the book where she says creative people are more open to intuition, and I agree. So, don’t fear your intuition, Joe. Embrace it. That said, I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Sue, and especially for sharing your own story. I don’t blame you a bit for generally keeping it to yourself.

      Richard Pryor used to do an extremely off-color but nonetheless hilarious bit about the manner in which his father died and the shunning of the woman who was present at his demise. I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone — or anyone, actually — but it’s strange how we react to people who are involved with death as innocent bystanders, or who seem to have pre-knowledge. I would like to know when the bullet is coming. I think. Anyway, thanks again.

  15. Very quickly…
    When my mom was dying, I spent a lot of time at her bedside in hospice and she would wake and talk about floating above her body and “going traveling.” Well, of course it was the medications, which were powerful by then. When she finally went into a coma, I was exhausted and made the decision to go home. During the cross-country flight, I felt a very sudden, very distinct and very odd sensation, like something was passing through my chest, but a strange but exceedingly gently pressure…like someone was embracing me from inside. So hard to describe this.

    When I got home, I fell asleep on the sofa. The phone call came after an hour later that my mom had died. I am convinced she came to say goodbye. It comforts me to this day.

    Your own story is amazing. It reads like a good short story.

    • I have no doubt you felt your mother embracing you. A similar thing happened to me after I lost mine. It’s truly a gift to know, to really feel it deep in your gut, that our loved ones are safe and happy and in a place where sickness and hatred don’t exist, and one day, we’ll all be reunited.

      Okay, hopping off this particular soapbox now.

    • Thank you for your kind words Kris. Certainly your mom’s love transcended time and distance, and her final thoughts were of you. Thanks so much for sharing.

  16. Joe, thanks for your post.

    Lots to think about. I’ve thought all day and don’t have any stories to tell. But there have certainly been multiple times in my life where I did something stupid and would probably have been killed if it were not for an angel watching and protecting me. I didn’t see one, but I’m convinced the good Lord was watching. He must have something more for me to do before he calls me home.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Steve, thank you for your comments and for stopping by. I’ll match you every one of your something stupids and raise you a couple of dozen reckless. My angel could probably retire at this point for all the double overtime earned. And considering where you’re placed and what you do each day for so many, there’s no doubt you’re doing God’s work. Thanks again.

  17. I’m sorry to be responding so late. I am 3 hours behind you and I’ve been researching all day. I can get lost in research. I hope you still see this. I have a story that relates to this discussion, especially with the parents. In 1971, one month prior to my 12th birthday, my mother had a heart attack and had to be taken to the hospital. I lived in a very small town in Nevada, (the setting of my WIP in fact), and the closest hospital was in Utah, about 90 minutes away. She developed a heart embolism and passed away. One night, soon after, I had just turned off my light to go to bed. I was halfway to my bed, and I saw my mother. She told me not to be afraid, and surprisingly, I wasn’t. She told me that I needed to spend as much time as possible with my father, because he would not be with me much longer. He died from a heart attack too, ten months later, the same year. Not too long after that, I saw them both together, they were smiling and happy. Neither spoke, and it was only a glimpse, but it happened. I will never doubt that. Yes, I do believe in ghosts. I never saw either again, but I have felt their presence, in times of stress and despair. I have had a lifelong interest in the supernatural all my life. I believe we are given a peek beyond the veil, to give us hope and keep us strong. Our loved ones are able to help us, even if they are no longer with us. Is it really true? Did it happen? I honestly believe it did, but all I know for a fact, is it gives me comfort to believe it did.

  18. Rebecca, it is always good to hear from you and you are NEVER too late because at TKZ WE. NEVER. CLOSE.

    Thank you for sharing that story. I believe you saw what you saw. I think the veil between life and death is nowhere near as thick as it seems to be and sometimes the curtain parts, however momentarily. Also, reading between the lines…losing both of your parents so closely in time, at such a young age, must have been a tough experience and gives us all a lesson in appreciating what and who we have, and when we have it. Thank you for sharing such a personal account.

  19. Thank you, Joe, and everyone for sharing your hair-raising stories of something that happened. I take weekend breaks from jthe internet, so I’m very late in telling my story.

    Montana had a strange and chilling start to its history, which is taught statewide in the eighth grade. The summer before I entered the eighth grade, my parents decided to take me to Alder Gulch in what is now southwest Montana, where much of the action was centered. Alder Gulch was the scene of one of the richest gold strikes in U.S. history. Between 1863-1866, $20,000,000 in gold (now $294,117,647) was taken out of Alder Creek.

    The region had neither codes of law, an organized legal system, nor adequate law enforcement. It was divided into mining districts, each one a separate fiefdom with different rules and officers from the others. Greed ran rampant among the 25,000 estimated gold seekers.

    People who tried to leave with their gold were robbed or simply disappeared as they traveled out of the Gulch.

    Ruffians ruled, and murder was tolerated.

    This situation led to the founding of a group of men bent on bring order out of chaos. Before they were done, they hanged 24 men whom they found to be members of an organized gang of crimingla, and held the peace for a year until a Constitutional court system could be established with the founding of Montana Territory.

    One of their most notorious acts was to hang five men at once from a beam in an unfinished building in Virginia City. The building is preserved, for a vital source of Virginia City’s income is from tourism.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the stay there, which turned out to be memorable for all the information I gathered for a report in school. But it had a larger meaning, which I didn’t quite grasp at the time.

    One evening after supper, I walked up the hill to the Hangman’s Building, and went in. It was twilight, and I went into the room where the exposed beam had (and has) a carved wooden sign with the names of the five men hanged there.

    As I read the names, I heard the ropes creak from the weight of the bodies moving on them.

    Which is why for the last couple of decades I’ve been studying that era of Montana history and writing historical fiction based on those events.

  20. Carol, thanks so much for sharing this bit of U.S. history as well as your own unique experience. You had cool parents, obviously. I was aware of Deadwood, but didn’t know of Montana’s violent history. There’s nothing like a hanging or two to clear the sinuses and put the landed gentry on the path of righteousness. Maybe that should be re-instituted down in New Orleans! Just kidding. Of course. I hope your parents got to see your success and realized how much of it stemmed from their family vacation with you and that haunting incident. For those of you who don’t read westerns — and you should — Carol is a highly regarded author of western fiction who has earned the Silver Spur Award. Carol, thanks again!

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