Robert is not your normal ghost. A normal ghost scares the willies out of you, is a filmy wraith on a moonlit night, makes steps creak on a vacant stairway, and breathes on your face while you sleep. Robert has never really frightened anyone. He seems to be a mischievous ghost delighting in making people scratch their heads and wonder what happened. Robert makes things disappear. He has, even, on one or two occasions made items show up in very odd places.
My sister, Suzanne, her husband Bill and their four children, son Oaky, twin daughters Fairlight and Rebecca, and youngest son Neil have all been nonplussed by the antics of Robert the Ghost. When Suzanne and Bill first got married they lived in a cozy little cabin up the hollow from their present large log house. During the time they lived in the cabin by the stream and until the birth of the twins there were no strange disappearances. When they moved to their new log house, however, they began experiencing some very puzzling situations, not every day, just on occasion.
The first thing that happened was the disappearance of a watermelon that was cooling in the enclosed spring. There were no signs of juicy watermelon hunks or shreds of peeling when Bill went to get it. He stood looking at the undisturbed water, then looking around under the trees, behind rocks, but there was nothing. The family decided that surely the cow must have eaten the watermelon, though it seemed impossible. It was after the cookie dough disappearance that they began to think they must have a ghost. After research, they concluded that the ghost had to be Robert.
Robert lived in the house on Gobbler’s Knob where Bill later grew up. The story is that as a young man he was diagnosed with an incurable condition and the family knew he wouldn’t live to be very old. When Robert was nineteen he went out to go for a bike ride and simply fell over dead beside his bike. Could he be the culprit who flits about amongst the trees and by the streams and even in that new house down the cove? Is he the one who just takes a notion every now and then to do something funny?
Oaky was four years old and the twins were two when the cookie dough disappeared. All settled into their new house, Suzanne one day was preparing a special dinner in their open kitchen/living area. Bill sat in his chair entertaining the children as Suzanne cooked. She made some cookie dough, covered it in an airtight container and put it in the refrigerator. When the biscuits were almost done, Suzanne went to the refrigerator to get the cookie dough. The bowl was strangely light as she picked it up. In this case, the bowl didn’t disappear, just every smidgen of cookie dough from the inside. All that was left were spoon scrapings. No one else was in the house, the small children were with Bill the whole time. Suzanne was left with a cookie sheet ready for baking but no dough.
The family was at dinner one afternoon, sunshine still lighting the valley below. All at once water poured out of the ceiling making a distinct puddle in the middle of the table. The children thought it was funny; Suzanne was bound to skin whatever cat had broken the rules. She tore up the stairs only to find nothing, no sign of water, no cats. In fact, the cats were accounted for outdoors. There are no plumbing connections above the table.
On another occasion Suzanne was looking forward to preparing bacon for her family, a special treat. The children were still asleep and Bill was in his chair having just stoked the fire in the wood cookstove. Suzanne set the unopened package of bacon beside the sink and turned to grab her favorite iron skillet. When she turned back around the bacon in its package was gone. Did she just think she pulled it out of the refrigerator? But the bacon wasn’t in the refrigerator. It wasn’t anywhere. There were no signs at all of bits and pieces of bacon or of the wrapper, not in the kitchen, not anywhere.
The next instance is one the family can’t even talk about without becoming amused. Suzanne went on a casual walk up through their woods about 11:00 one morning. Morning work was over and lunch was simmering. She wanted to see if a certain wildflower, a lady slipper or a trillium, were in bloom yet. She was passing the garbage barrel when something caught her eye. There, propped invitingly against the barrel, was a hefty unopened package of sausage and biscuits. She picked it up and examined it. It was dated the day before. Everyone has tried to explain how those biscuits got there but no one’s theory has stuck. Did Suzanne use the biscuits? They smelled so good. But, after all, they were there beside the garbage so after showing them to all the curious family members, she gave them to the pig.
Bill and Suzanne have a milk cow. The poor cow has been blamed several times, as have the dogs and the children, for strange disappearances. But in every instance the possibility of any of them being the culprit is totally as unbelievable as that Robert the Ghost strikes again. Remember that watermelon I mentioned floating in an enclosed spring? They blamed the cow until much later when, considering how in the world a cow would get hold of a watermelon floating free and then eat it without leaving one pink bite of evidence is bizarre. And what about the time Bill set an empty glass half gallon milk jug in a tub of water to soak? The milk had soured too badly for Suzanne to use it in her churning and so Bill had taken it to give the pig, then set the jar to soak while he milked the cow. The jug was gone when he came back. What animal, cow or dog or racoon could have grabbed that milk jug in its mouth? As to the children, they were all accounted for.
For the most part, Robert only strikes on Bill and Suzanne’s place, Timbrook. But he has been known to follow them elsewhere. Rebecca and her husband lived in St. Mary’s for a spell and there, too, unexplainable disappearances began to occur. During that period of time, there were no strange happenings at Timbrook.
Maybe you don’t believe in ghosts. I’m not saying I do. But there are some mighty quirky things that happen. When we see Bill and Suzanne, especially at their place, one of the catch-up questions we ask is what has Robert done lately? It’s a good thing he’s just mischievous and funny. And he’s even helpful sometimes. Suzanne was hoeing corn one morning with no one to help her. Usually, if two are hoeing, one starts at each end of a row and the two meet in the middle. That morning she was hoeing along, knowing she’d have the whole row to herself, when suddenly she came upon very fresh hoeing, nicely done all the way to the other end and there were no tracks. I can just picture her there staring down the row, leaning over to check the soil, then taking a deep breath and scratching her head.
Robert the Ghost strikes again! You can almost hear him laughing up the hill somewhere.