Isabel’s friend Pia, who lives in Chile, has always been a powerful force. I have met her several times and each time I felt…unnerved, maybe? I am not sure how to describe it. Maybe it was more a feeling of awe, since Isabel has told me years ago that Pia can see ghosts.
Here are a few ghost stories I got Isabel to repeat:
My grandmother was a crazy-crazy and beautiful and wonderful woman, who spent her life experimenting with the paranormal. She would, for example, train herself and her friends to use telepathy instead of the phone. It didn’t always work but at least they tried. They also had seances. So I grew up in a house where the idea of spirits visiting was familiar in a way. So when I use that in my books people think that it is a literary device. Or they think I really see ghosts. It is something different—it is the idea that I am open to the possibility of other dimensions of reality, as my grandmother would say, and I know that some people can see extraordinary things.
My friend Pia can see when someone is going to die; she feels it. It is a very strong feeling that almost never fails, so she is very scared of it. We keep in touch always and I adore her. Pia once told me that she was very worried about her husband Gerardo. She said, “He is going crazy, you know he says that at night these tall Africans come to visit. Masai warriors, two of them, and a child. The child always sits on the night table. I don’t know what he is talking about. I have not seen anybody like that. I only see the British ladies that walk through the walls.”
Pia lives in a very old farmhouse with very thick walls and she has a huge collection of beautiful old saints, life-size, carved in wood with wigs and clothes and glass eyes, very realistic and beautiful. She has one, Saint Anthony, and according to everyone, not just Pia, St. Anthony walks around the house at night. And so they have had to tie him to the wall with a chain. Houses all around get broken into but no one would dare break into Pia’s house because they all know there is a saint protecting it.
Once Pia and my mother were visiting us from Chile and we took them to a winery in Napa Valley as a treat. The drive was long and by the time we got to the vineyard we all needed to use the loo. The bathroom was located on the second floor of the estate but Pia would not go up the stairs. She would not go near the pool either. My mother and I, who were used to Pia’s idiosyncrasies, decided to go on with the day. Lunch was provided for us by the owner of the estate, who proceeded to tell us the story of how the place was haunted. According to the owner, a woman haunted the winery and wandered the estate at all hours. Although Pia does not speak any English, with my help she was able to make out a little of the story. Pia said it was a young woman in a pink dress haunting the estate, and the owner said yes, that is her! She was the daughter of the former owner and she committed suicide after her son drowned in the pool. And so Pia, who didn’t know anything about this story, had seen both ghosts. She told us that the woman was standing on the stairs and that is why she would not go up the stairs. As for the boy, Pia saw him outside by the pool.
So, do they exist? I don’t know. Maybe it is all in our minds but the possibility is nice—that there is a connection of some kind. I often feel, very vividly, my daughter. I don’t see her but I feel her presence.
The photo above is one I found of a wooden Saint Anthony that I imagine is similar to the one in Pia’s house. I briefly researched the winery in Napa Valley but could not find any story about a child’s drowning or his mother’s suicide. There are several wineries that claim to be haunted, however, and a few are linked to a suicide on the premises. You never know. I like hearing these tales, much like I enjoy reading a good Ray Bradbury story or even stories by Edith Wharton, who wrote some very spooky ghost tales. Hmmmm, Maybe Isabel should write a ghost story?