Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

March 15, 2014

You’re by yourself, but not really alone

Whatever it is — or whoever — it has an affinity for doors, stairways and electronic gadgets that act up for no apparent reason.

One of the most common mysteries experienced by ghost hunters who have TV shows involves a door opening or closing by itself.

Before you ask me if I believe in ghosts, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who asks: I believe in the phenomenon. I just have no idea what causes it, and it might be a variety of things — including some nobody has considered, like a previously unknown, but perfectly natural life-form.

Captain Gary and I were reminiscing the other day about our most recent visit to Gettysburg, when he said the sound of his bathroom door opening and closing woke him several times in the night.

I was in the toilet, minding my own business, when the door was pushed (or pulled) shut by some unseen force. The outside door and windows were closed, so that rules out the wind, and I was the only one present.

We always try to debunk these events. Is there a possible explanation? If so, regardless of how improbable, we accept that and go on. If there is none, we file it as unexplainable.

I don’t say my home is haunted. Nothing happened there while I was growing up to make me believe it was, and my parents never told me about anything spooky happening to them.

There was one exception, and it’s a “maybe.”

Both of my grandmothers lived upstairs in our house — at different times, of course.

After Grandmother Goldsworthy died, we were getting ready to go to her funeral. My parents and everyone else had left. For whatever reason, I was lagging behind and said I would catch up with them. The funeral home was a short walking distance away.

I was 31 at the time, a fully grown man who wasn’t prone to being unsettled.

As I was walking past the stairwell that leads to the upstairs apartment where Grandmother had lived, I heard what sounded like the footsteps of someone walking slowly, but deliberately, down the wooden stairs.

“I love you,” I remember saying, “but I don’t think I’m going to stick around to see what happens next,” and made haste for the door. Today, I might not be in such a hurry.

A possible explanation — and the most likely: It’s an old house. Old houses, like old people, are prone to making odd noises. (You get to the point where standing up and sitting down invariably are accompanied by some type of vocalization.) I still hear those steps creak now and then, but not like they did the day of my grandmother’s funeral.

The entrance to the second-floor stairwell is next to the steps that go down to the cellar.

The cellar entrance is guarded by a closed wooden door — a good idea, because it prevents people from falling down the steps (particularly when it’s Little Jimmy) — and one day when I was walking past it, it rattled briefly, but vigorously, at me.

A random gust of wind sneaking in from somewhere? Possibly. But it’s happened only once.

And I was sitting in what used to be my father’s easy chair watching television on a summer night with the front door wide open nearby and the screen door closed and locked — a practice Dad started the time a wayward drunk walked in on his bridge club.

As I watched, the front door swung slowly closed; gently, but with enough oomph to make the latch on the lock click into place.

That door is right in line with the window that was open in my old bedroom about 30 feet down the hall. To reach the door from that window, any wind would have blown past places where I had papers stacked up. None of them had been disturbed.

A wooden door with a big glass window is heavier than paper and therefore considerably more difficult to move. I just shrugged and said, “OK, I guess I’m supposed to keep it closed,” and thought no more about it.

I did feel the wind blowing through my living room another time, strongly enough to ruffle what’s left of my hair. No windows were open anywhere in the house. Gary and I both have felt the wind in our most definitely haunted motel rooms in Gettysburg.

Such things usually happen only once. I interpret this to mean that while my house isn’t haunted, there are times when I might not be alone.

Some of it, I have a hard time believing — even though I saw it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears and felt it with my own ... whatever I felt it with. I even have been swatted playfully across the back of my head (I have a suspect; he’s played tricks on my computer). On occasion, because of the timing and circumstances, I had a good idea of who else was there. Here’s one instance:

Hanging on the wall behind my TV is a paint-by-numbers version of The Last Supper. I used to sit quietly and watch, fascinated as only a youngster can be by such things, while Grandfather Goldsworthy was crafting it almost six decades ago.

The History Channel aired a show about a computer graphics guru who used the Shroud of Turin to generate a 3-D image of what Jesus would have looked like if — as many believe — that is His image on the Shroud.

What this fellow produced was an amazingly lifelike representation of a bloodstained, anguished and utterly exhausted face that gave me the chills when I saw it ... chills that grew stronger and went clear through me when I looked up at my Last Supper painting.

From the distance I was viewing them, the face of Jesus on my TV screen was the same face my grandfather had painted so many years ago. The shape of the head and the eyes, hairline, nose, mouth and beard were identical.

Then at about 3 a.m. — the time of night such things usually happen — I saw in the hallway outside my old bedroom, not more than 10 feet away, a man-shaped shadow about the size of my grandfather as I remember him. It was foglike and indistinct, but definitely there.

It lingered, then vanished. Make of that whatever you like. I know what I think. Maybe it was my granddad ... or maybe someone else, someone Grandmother said came to her in my old bedroom the night Granddad died, to tell her he was all right. Someone she recognized, even though she’d never seen Him before.

My father and I talked about that night years later. She was shock when we took her in and put her on my bed, but when she came out, she was — in Dad’s words — transfigured.

To stand and look at Jesus’ face in my grandfather’s painting still gives me a feeling that’s hard to describe. It speaks to me of many things, including what St. Paul told the Corinthians: Love never ends.

******

Just as I finished writing the above, the printer that makes our page proofs quit working. Its display said the door we access to feed paper into it was open ... except that it wasn’t. It was closed as tightly as Scrooge McDuck’s purse.

It’s never done that before.

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

  • He made a big splash by asking this question

    “I don’t know who you were talking to last night,” said Capt. Gary, “but you were talking and moaning in your sleep. Never heard you do that before.” Neither has anyone else, I said. Besides, I had told him not to be surprised if we had visitors. I wasn’t at the top of my game for a couple of days, and he said some of our friends asked him if I was all right. It’s not the first time for this, so now I’ll know to watch out for it. It can affect you and is not something to play around with — as our friend Cathy found out.

    May 18, 2014

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