This week’s guest/ghost writer is my dear friend and one of my favorite authors, Ophelia Julien, the author of the “Bridgeton Park Cemetery Books.” She JUST released the fourth book in the series, “These Living Eyes.” If you haven’t tried her Bridgeton Park Cemetery, you really should!
I heard this story from the wife of a Chicago firefighter. Maybe it’s because firefighters do such dangerous work; they can die while on the job, or shortly afterward, of injuries. At the same time, they are dedicated to saving lives and are involved in their community. Maybe that’s why there are so many stories of haunted firehouses and of ghostly firemen.
The woman who told me this story had moved into a house on the far South side of Chicago, with her fire-fighting husband and her seven-year old son. She said that shortly after they moved in, she would smell smoke. The smell was never strong enough to make her think that her house or anything in it was on fire, but it was definitely there. Her husband never smelled anything, and blamed it on her overactive imagination. “It’s just because you’re married to me,” he would joke. Nevertheless, she continued to smell smoke from time to time, in various places in the house.
One day soon after they had settled in, she was cleaning upstairs when she heard the front door open and then her son’s voice as he talked to someone. Thinking that a neighbor had come calling on the new family, she started down the steps. “Who is it, honey?” she called.
Her son didn’t answer her; he was too busy conversing. She reached the first floor and saw her little boy standing at the front door talking to no one. “Come on in,” he was saying. “It’s okay. And it’s raining. You can come in where it’s dry.”
She walked up to the door. “Who are you talking to, sweetie?”
“Him,” her son answered. But there was no one there.
“Whoever it was, he’s gone now,” she said. She told her son to shut the door, and he did, reluctantly.
After that, she would hear him talking to someone she couldn’t see. He never seemed afraid or disturbed; he just had conversations with what looked to her to be empty space. And she continued to smell smoke in various places in the house, even though her husband insisted she had to be imagining it.
The story didn’t come together for her until about a year later, when she had made friends with her neighbors and they would drop in on each other for a chat. During one of those conversations, she learned more about the past owner of her house. She and her husband had purchased the place knowing that it had belonged to another Chicago firefighter.
“A nice man,” her neighbor said. “He loved kids. And he sure loved that house.”
“Really?” she asked. “And what happened to him? Did he retire and move away?”
“Honey, he died at your front door,” the neighbor answered. “He had a heart attack and just never made it all the way into the house.”
Firefighter. Loved kids. Never made it past the front door. She thought of her son standing at that open front door, inviting someone to come in where he could be dry and out of the rain. All the pieces clicked together for her, and she realized who her son had been conversing with.
When I heard the story from her, her son was quite a bit older and no longer talking to a man no one else could see. She told me that she was relieved that the spirit in her house was benevolent and friendly. And while she has never been able to see him, she does say that she still can smell a wisp of smoke in the house from time to time.