As a child, I loved ghost stories. I still do, but I particularly appreciate those that turn out to be explicable. One of my favorites is of the Fire Dog of Asu, which was related in George Plimpton’s outstanding edited collection of narratives by members of the Explorer’s Club.
The story of the Fire Dog is related by an exploration team who investigated the legend among some Pacific Islanders of a terrifying, bloodthirsty gigantic dog that roamed through the jungle and glowed in the dark. Shortly before the arrival of the team on the island, a man died of a heart attack, apparently due to terror caused by the fire dog. (Yes, this all sounds eerily like The Hound of the Baskervilles, but the Fire Dog of Asu is a non-fiction story).
The team of explorers investigates the part of the jungle where the beast is rumored to live. As night is falling they arrive at a beach. Here they find a cave in which they hear the snuffling and growling of a large animal. They feel paralyzed with fear as a glowing beast emerges from the gloom, charging straight at them.
The narrator of the story is too frozen with fear to fire his gun; other members of the team fire wildly and miss. But one fellow with ice water in his veins shoots accurately several times and the monster falls.
It turns out to be an enormous feral wild boar. The ocean side cave in which it lives is regularly saturated by a tide full of phosphorescent algae which has soaked into the beast’s fur and made it glow in the dark.
My own true ghost story is less dramatic. On a wintry day I put on my overcoat and walked out on to my narrow front stoop to wait for the bus. I then heard three ghostly raps on my front door, directly behind me. I turned and saw nothing. I went inside to see if my roommate was playing a trick on me, but he was gone.
I went back outside and resumed my position. The ghostly raps came again, not 6 inches behind my back. I turned again and searched. Nothing was touching the door. There was no stick, bird, rock, piece of porch furniture or anything else that could have made the noise.
I resumed my post and the ghostly raps came again. But then a thought occurred. I took off my overcoat and found that its heavy hanger had fallen off as I pulled it out the closet, becoming lodged in the hem at the back. When my back was to the door, the wind had blown the wooden hanger back and forth, causing the ghostly raps on the door. But when I had turned to look for what was causing the knocking, of course I found nothing because the hanger was behind me on the tail of my coat.
Ever had a true ghost story experience? Would love to hear it if so.