Coming here right before Christmas started me thinking about my favorite Christmas movies. What would the holidays be like without A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life? My all-time favorite holiday movie (and story) is A Christmas Carol. I love all the incarnations, from Bill Murray’s Scrooged to the terrifying Alistair Sim version to A Muppet Christmas Carol. After wondering why I can watch them again and again and never get tired of the story, I came up with the answer. Jacob Marley’s ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and my favorite, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
See a pattern? A hint at what makes this story so fascinating? One word. Ghosts.
I love ghosts. From the time I almost died of fright in Girl Scouts during the ghost tales around the campfire, I’ve been hooked. I’ve always been fascinated by spirits and apparitions from beyond the grave, and here’s a confession—I’m in front of the television for every episode of Ghost Hunters.
I’m also interested in the concepts of ghosts and haunting, from the literal sense—spirits who appear to people—to haunting of a different kind: when you just can’t forget someone or something. When you have regrets, maybe something you didn’t say or do before it was too late. Memories that follow you, urge you to remember, contemplate, and feel. Deeply.
A haunting—whether literal or figurative—forges a connection with the past. Tales of people and the lives they lived flourish throughout time. Ghosts keep stories alive.
When I decided to set my newest book in a mining town in Colorado in the 1870s, I started researching. Guess what I found? Yep! Enough ghosts to make even me happy! From Cripple Creek, Colorado to Jerome, Arizona I discovered haunted places filled with stories and legends that still resonate today. I went on every ghost tour imaginable, and each story I heard transported me to the past.
I even had my own personal ghost experience. I woke up in the middle of the night at the Bed and Breakfast where I was staying. The building used to be a miners’ hospital. I clearly heard heavily-booted footsteps on wooden stairs. The next morning I was surprised to find all the steps in the place carpeted. When I asked about a wooden staircase, the desk clerk said very calmly, “Oh yes, all the steps are carpeted, but you heard our ghost. He’s actually disembodied legs and boots of a miner who died here back in the 1800s. The steps were wood back then. We often hear him, and some guests have even seen him.” Wow, was I sorry I didn’t get up to check that out!
I heard and read hundreds of mining ghost tales. Many towns I visited sold “Haunted” books in their stores. The stories are so woven into the fabric of the history of these towns and mines, I became inspired to “haunt” my own book and characters.
Fascinated by her culture, beliefs, and of course, her psychic abilities, I was excited when her story began emerging. Like all Romani, she is at heart a traveler, and as I followed her, Jasper Mountain began to take shape.
The Romani are mysterious people who reveal little to nothing about themselves or their culture. Often persecuted and hunted, they keep moving and stay distant from outsiders as a safety precaution. As Milena battles to survive life in an 1870s mining town, she has more than a few challenges. She is a woman alone in the Old West, her cultural upbringing makes her suspicious of everyone and ironically, everyone suspicious of her. Plus she is psychic—sensitive to Jasper’s inhabitants, and aware of the ancient spirit of the mountain. She connects to those who have passed into the Otherworld of death. In other words…she sees dead people!
Milena meets Jack Buchanan, an ex-rancher and miner whose recent tragic past has destroyed his faith. He only believes in things he can see, but the memories of his ranch burning down and his inability to save the life of his twin sister follow him to Jasper. He’s haunted by regret and pain, and when Milena meets him she sees his sister standing beside him. At first he thinks Milena is pulling a “fortune teller’s trick” until she reveals specifics she couldn’t possibly know. When miners begin disappearing, he needs Milena’s wisdom to help him discover why the inhabitants of Jasper are vanishing.
So those are my ghost stories, heard, experienced, and told. Does anyone have any of their own? Ever been “haunted” by a story, or actually seen or heard a ghost? Or researched and found a heartbreaking or fascinating story behind a haunting? Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe in things you can’t see or prove? Do you love a good ghost tale? Have you been anywhere that is haunted? Do you love a good ghost movie? Which stories are your favorites? Who is your favorite ghost in A Christmas Carol?
I’ll be giving away a two-book pre-Christmas gift—autographed copies of my debut novel, First, There is a River and my current release, Jasper Mountain. I’ll draw two winners from the names of those who post a comment and send both books. So ghost-post away! Good luck! And happy holidays to everyone!