When I used to run my own marketing/public relations company, I did a lot of work for funeral homes. (Right, who would have guessed it? ) But part of representing funeral homes was learning about death, dying, and grief. One of the terms in grief counseling is a “grief burst,” which is a sudden onslaught of grief brought about by a remembrance. Often that remembrance is tied to scents. The smell of sugar cookies baking as you walk past a bakery reminds you of your mother, the scent of pipe smoke brings a recollection of your grandfather, or the fragrance of flowery perfume reminds you of your grandmother. Grief bursts.
I wonder if ghosts know that certain scents remind us of them, or, perhaps instead, those scents are attached to them in some mysterious way.
My husband will often smell the fragrance of a strong perfume when he’s sitting in our living room. The scent is so strong, that he can actually taste it. It generally happens late at night in the fall. I wonder who is drifting through during that time of the year.
I have a friend who would occasionally smell the woodsy scent of her grandfather’s pipe tobacco. She remembers the earthy scent well from when she would sit next to him and he would read to her. When she suddenly smells it, she knows he’s paying her a visit.
I’d like to share a couple of my favorite scent-sible ghost stories.
It’s always comforting to have someone else experience some of the out-of-this-world happenings at the Taylor House. Unfortunately for the former director of the Stephenson County Historical Society, these happenings occurred with quite a bit of regularity.
The first occurrence happened in the library. Many mornings when the director opened the museum, she would be met with a very distinct, but unfamiliar, smell emanating from the library. She would walk around the room, trying to locate the origin of the scent – but it would elusively evade her.
Months later, the society decided to sell some of the Rawleigh products in the museum gift shop. The Rawleighs are an important part of Freeport history and, in the old days, Rawleigh salesmen used to travel from house to house in bright yellow horse-drawn wagons, selling their wares.
The director received the large box of products, unpacked each item and placed it on display. Then she opened a container of Rawleigh Salve and sniffed. She was surprised when she realized she recognized the smell as the one that occurred occasionally in the library.
After doing some research, she found that Malvina Taylor was ill in her later years. Because the staircase would have been too much for Malvina to climb every day, the library had been refurbished to hold Malvina’s bedroom. It stood to reason, the director surmised, that Malvina would have used that Rawleigh product to ease away the aches and pains of her old bones.
Quite a living testimony to the lasting strength of Rawleigh products, or, er, perhaps not.
The Taylor House also has a wonderful collection of old fireplaces – all charming and ornate, but unused. Well, at least they’re unused by the living occupants of the house.
Cold rain had just begun to beat down on the windshield as the director pulled into the driveway behind the museum. The wind had blown most of the leaves from the trees and they lay in a sodden mass of yellow, gold and brown on the driveway.
She rushed to the house and let herself in.
“This would be a great day to have a warm fire,” she said to herself, as she hurried upstairs to her office.
About halfway through the morning, she looked up from her work and became aware of a terrifying scent in the air. Wood burning! She rushed through the rooms to see if there was any visible smoke and, upon finding nothing, hurried down to the boiler room to see if the problem had begun there.
But, when she reached the boiler room, everything was fine. In fact, as she walked slowly through the house again, the only place she could smell the wood was in the parlor. She went outside to see the scent of a neighbor’s fireplace had carried to the house, but there was no such smell in the air.
Walking back into the house, she went back in to the parlor and was once again greeted by the cozy, warm smell of a burning fire. She felt the ornate, marble fireplace. It was cold to the touch. The hearth was immaculate and the flue had been closed decades ago. An hour later, the smell was gone.
The former director shared that she had enjoyed the scent of the cozy, warm fire a couple more times after the first occurrence. I suppose that this ultimately means that on cold, rainy autumn days – everyone, even the ghosts, enjoys a nice crackling fire.