Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Celebrity Ghost Stories (Television Show, 2008)

I stumbled across this series while on an impromptu solo vacation not too long ago to a little island in Puget Sound. I like to do that from time to time - just run off at the last minute to some little snug hidden from the city to blend with the locals and day dream for days.

On this particular exploration, I walked off the ferry on a cold and drizzly November day with an absurdly heavy leather bag over my shoulder and a cigarette hanging from my lips. I knew the name of where I was heading but unlike most of my explorations I didn't exactly prepare on how to get there except to take the ferry across the monster-riddled waters and walk to the island's village square. I figured, it's a small island, how lost could I get?

It was a larger island than I had anticipated (on foot), and I will no longer be carrying my laptop AND some books in one bag. There were bruises...for days.

So after giving myself the walking tour I had intended on taking sans heavy bags, I finally located where I would be staying, a little cottage structure tucked away in the woods. The desk clerk was pleasant and quite curious why I choose their place to stay in for the weekend. I hesitated before saying "smoking rooms are a luxury these days" and instead smiled, wiped some sweat from my face and told her that I simply wanted to get away to see some sights and do a little writing. Also true. She smiled back. I'd like to think she thought I was famous. I often like to walk around thinking I'm giving the famous air.

The room was neat, cozy, and perfect. I lit a cigarette, plopped on the bed, and turned on the TV. Sweet indulgent heaven. While trying to figure out the remote I noticed a television show called Celebrity Ghost Stories. I snorted. Surely that type of television cheese would be awful. I made a point of being back in the room by the time it started (8:00 PM).

I walked out of the room and went in search of food. The sky was already growing quite dark and the rain picked up. No one was around, the forest was reaching out into the lonely wet street and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take a route I hadn't yet explored. I could see the village lights up in the distance and was thankful, just 5 minutes into fairly aimless wandering and I was ready for some faces and light.

Just then a tumble of wet leaves blew across my face. I stopped, looked to my left and noticed a large number of suspiciously non-forest looking bushes and  a piece of what appeared to be at one point a mowed lawn yet my surroundings didn't feel habituated by people - for a while.

Like a genius I followed the strip of lawn through the bushes and found myself staring at a completely dark Victorian house. I mean dark empty. The porch was falling apart and the windows and siding hadn't seen a kind hand for decades.

The smarts kept coming. I walked closer, to examine. I nearly stumbled across the For Sale sign that had fallen over and I couldn't keep my footing. The place was almost dizzying. Not because of the size (it was a smaller house), but it seemed so lost and yet right at home at the same time. I felt like I was trespassing but I kept telling myself that the For Sale sign world keep me safe. There was another sense of trespassing, however. A surreal sense, but I kept on walking.

I made it to the porch, cupped my hands to the window and peered inside. At first I saw a huge kitchen which opened into an even larger dinning room. Indecipherable items were scattered about. The place was certainly empty, for a long time, but it still felt like life was just trying to make it's way through the cracked floorboards and disheveled wallpaper.

I followed the porch to the side of the house. I could see what once was probably a lovely little garden, a toppled-over storage shed hid partly in the dark forest. A rocking chair sat idle on the porch overlooking what was probably a gardeners paradise. I looked inside another window and saw stairs, a little pantry, and something else - something that moved. Some sort of shadow darted into another corner of the house. What was that? It was gone as quickly as it caught the corner of my eye.

Suddenly I had an overwhelming sense of intrusion. It was time to head out. Then I heard it. Or at least I thought I had heard something. Noise, life, a busy home, lively home, an old man's hearty chuckle - jokingly shouting to someone. To me? There was life after all? The house was still bustling. I couldn't see it, but someone or something could see me - and it was having a good time.This place WAS a good time. Was.

I quickly jumped off the porch and walked away shaken but intrigued. This place spooked me and yet, something about the experience felt very personal.

I finally found a place to eat and wandered home via the safe-non-haunted house route. I also made it back in time for Celebrity Ghost Stories. I was enamored. I sat through several episodes and by the end I was jumping at the slightest sound. I was so engrossed that I had to step outside for a while and take a breather. I had never experienced a TV show quite like this one. It was a lot of fun.

The  next day I woke up and decided to go to the local museum. Small local museums are the best. To my great surprise I met an elderly man who spent his childhood living near the very house I stumbled across the night prior. He was childhood friends with their grandchildren. He was frail yet sprightly and said with fondness, "They always had food, always, and took care of anyone who passed through town, especially school teachers. They let the teachers live there with them. Good people - one of the original founders of the island."

If you even remotely enjoyed a bit of the story I just relayed then I highly suspect you will like this series. The stories these celebrities tell are told camp fire style yet more personal, more moving. These are stories from the heart. Ultimately, the stories told here are of a caliber I tip my hat to.

Celebrity Ghost Stories, the stories and how they are told, is like my little adventure. No huge spooky moments or monsters - just a little snip-it in time where something has chosen to laugh, scare, and perhaps love you for no reason except you were in the right place at the right time. Something that gives you a story to share and makes you wonder. This series is a reminder that no matter who you are, adventures are always right there with you, you just have to peek in a little bit. Happy New Year.

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