Sportsmen, for some reason, seem to like ghost
stories. It might be a throwback to the
superstitions and myths of our hunting and
gathering ancestors, or it might just bring
back fond childhood memories of those scary
stories told around the campfire. Fishing
writer John Geirach writes of an old rod he
purchased that, unbeknownst to him, came complete
with the former owner's ghost. If John neglected
to store the rod properly, or forgot to dry out
the old silk line to prevent its rotting, he would
awaken the next day to find the rod out of its case
and the line wound loosely around a chair, drying
as it should. Creepy, yes, but if you have to
have a ghost, one that does chores is the kind
Hunter Jim Fergus tells a bleaker tale of camping
at Nebraska's Fort Robinson. It was here in 1879
that 149 Cheyenne men, women and children were
slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry while trying to
escape in the night. Fergus claims that during
the night of his stay he could hear the muffled
sounds of running feet and whispers in a language
he didn't understand. Even his dog, Sweetz, seemed
to hear it too.
These stories are easy to discount; not enough sleep,
too much alcohol, an overactive imagination. I have
my own ghost story which you can believe or not, and
there's no hard feelings if you don't, as all of the
reasons above for not believing a ghost story apply.
You see, I once owned a haunted house.
In retrospect, I don't know why we bought it. It
was on the water, but the negatives definitely
outweighed the positives, and it needed "everything
from a new roof right down to a new foundation" as
the building inspector pointed out. Plus it was
only 800 square feet and we were a family of four.
But we really didn't look at the house, just out
the window at the water view. We conferred with
our boys, who were five and three, and they agreed
we should buy it. The three year old also volunteered,
"and I'm not afraid of the man who lives here," which
was odd, but we didn't ask him to elaborate.
The house was nearly 100 years old when we bought
it. House is a misnomer; it turned out to have
been a fishing shack, consisting of one main room,
with three other rooms added on. To say it was
shoddy construction gives shoddy construction a
bad name. I heard that the owners of these shacks
would wait until there was a big storm and then
gather the debris that washed up and build
additions to their houses. And while that
sounds unlikely, our house was empirical
evidence that is was a distinct possibility.
When we moved in strange things began to occur.
Nothing malevolent, but simple things, like being
awakened by knocking on the walls at 3:30 in the
morning, or the volume on the stereo suddenly
increasing, though no one was near the amp. We
would shrug it off, because it's easier not to
believe. But then I came home late to find every
light in the house on and the wife, looking quite
terrified, wrapped in a blanket on the living
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I heard someone in acute respiratory distress,
unable to breathe. I heard it plain as day." The
bride is a registered nurse, and we knew the former
occupant died of emphysema, and after that incident
we both stopped drinking anything past 8pm to curtail
those late night trips to the bathroom. We just
didn't want to confront something we couldn't deny.
I met the late owner's son when he was touring
old haunts, pardon the pun, with his wife on their
50th anniversary. He explained to me that his dad
bought the fishing shack on December 7, 1941, the
day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. His dad and
his dad's cronies used the shack as a retreat,
fishing all day and playing poker and drinking
all night. I suspect that he's the one that loved
the house so much he couldn't leave it, and who
could blame him? Fishing all day, drinking all
night-heaven would be a disappointment.
Soon after I awoke because I sensed that someone
was on our bed. I thought it was my youngest son,
who would occasionally awaken in the middle of the
night and make his way to our room, so I was careful
as I rolled over so as not to knock him out of the
bed and onto the floor. I opened my eyes and there
he was, a kindly looking old man sitting on the edge
of the bed, dressed in the green pants and shirt,
Dickeys, that was the uniform of that generation.
He didn't look at me, but continued gazing out of the
window at the water, probably for feeding striped bass.
And then he just seemed to vaporize.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, suggests
Hunter Thompson, and now I had to do something, as I
couldn't have a poltergeist joining me in bed, at
least not one that wasn't a succubus. I knew someone
at work who claimed to be a psychic (but I had my doubts
as he had never won the lottery), and I asked his advice.
He told me what you'd expect, that the former owner was
attached to this house and didn't want to leave, and
sometimes spirits just can't let go, but then he shared
information that came as a pleasant surprise. To rid
a house of spirits, he advised, I only had to sand all
of the floors. He assured me that this would release
the hold that the house had on the ghost.
We were in the process of renovating anyway and had
planned to sand the floors, so we moved that chore
up in the construction schedule. I couldn't see how
this could help, but my only other option was an
exorcism, and the neighbors really frown on that
sort of thing. The paranormal activity ceased once
we had the floors refinished, lending a little more
credibility to my friend's psychic claims (though he
still hasn't won the lottery).
That was twelve years ago. Two years ago we had the
fishing shack torn down and a new house built in its
place. The new house is bigger, more solidly
constructed, and has no skeletons in its closets.
As a writer, I know it would be a nice literary touch
to end this story on a nostalgic note and say that I
kind of miss the fishing shack and the ghost that
But I really don't. ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.