Although most of the lore and tales of ghosts deal with poltergeists and other scary phenomena, my experience with the spirit realm has been quite different. Most of the spirits I’ve encountered - or have been told about by credible witnesses whom I knew well - were helpful spirits, boisterous and adventurous spirits, or downright jolly ones.
That same description also fits the person who first introduced me to the spirit realm, my maternal grandma, Winnie Nelson Brannon McCune. She lived in Denver and worked as a nurse. Her red curly hair flared out like fire, and she was rather voluptuously shapely and proud of it. She was a big flirt, but Grandpa Mac didn’t care, for they were devoted to each other. Anyway, if she loved any man other than him, that was William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and he was long dead.
For Grandma, spirits were in the here-and-now and they were as real as she was. They were never quiet or grim either. Her spirits were always loud and fun loving, and the spirit world was thrilling and full of excitement for her. She insisted that spirits should be referred to as “spirits” because they find the term “ghost” insulting. She told many stories about spirits, and I always loved to hear them.
She and my Grandpa Mac, Elmer Joseph McCune, who was not my natural grandfather but was Grandma’s third husband, loved to travel the Rocky Mountains and chase down tales of the wild west. Grandma was particularly fond of the Buffalo Bill memorial and museum on Lookout Mountain in Colorado. That was because Buffalo Bill was her spirit guide, or at least she insisted he was.
When they weren’t traveling the Rockies, Grandma and Grandpa liked to have picnics in the beautiful parks of Denver. Grandma wore little shorts with halters in the style of movie stars back then, and Grandpa took many photos of her posing in her shorts like the glamorous Rita Hayworth.
Whenever they drove down to visit us in Louisiana in their old Dodge with the fake leopard skin seat covers, I felt like two high adventurers were in the house. They told tales of the spirits and of their travels in the Rocky Mountains and sat up late into the nights chain smoking and laughing and talking. Those were thrilling times for me.
My Grandma Winnie was my favorite relative. She may have been a little bit nuts, and at times she was a “bitch on wheels,” as the saying goes, but she had a grand love for life, a strong faith, and a lot of courage.
One of her favorite stories was how Buffalo Bill’s spirit thundered up on his big white stallion to save her and a friend from two malevolent men in the night. Even though I loved hearing the tale, I wasn’t sure I believed it as a child. Yet, after some of the things that have happened in my life, it no longer seems so farfetched to me.
As Grandma told it, when she was younger, one night she and a friend decided to walk the few miles from their country homes to the small nearby town. As they were walking down the gravel road far from all the houses, a car with two men in it stopped, and the men tried to force them to get into the car. She and her friend became very frightened. Suddenly they heard the thunder of horses’ hooves and looked up the road where they saw the spirits of Buffalo Bill and another cowboy storming toward them.
“We could hear the hooves and see the men and horses as well as you and I see and hear each other right now,” she told me. “Buffalo Bill’s silver hair under his big white Stetson flew in the wind like his horse’s mane. It was a beautiful and powerful sight. He road up fast and nearly knocked the men over. The two men got so scared they jumped into their car and drove off without looking back. Then Buffalo Bill whirled around with his horse and rode toward the car. As we watched, he disappeared right in front of our eyes! He saved our lives.”
That was the story, and every time Grandma told it to me it was like the first time, totally thrilling. She firmly believed and insisted that she had seen Buffalo Bill’s spirit many times because, as her spirit guide, he was always guarding her. She and Buffalo Bill were a great match, for they were two of a kind, flamboyant, full of excitement, and definitely dancing to their very own music.
Grandpa Mac died and was buried in the big veteran’s cemetery in Denver when I was eleven years old. That brought on some dark times for Grandma. She came back and spent several years in Louisiana in our neighborhood. Not long after her return, she and my Aunt Florence, who was the widow of Grandma’s only brother, started having seances. I’ll tell you about those in my next article. Those were some fascinating seances. My mother told me not to go to the seances with Grandma. . .but. . .well. . .I was a kid and I wasn’t perfect.
G. W. Lupo is retired from social work and newspaper reporting/editing and now writes about the supernatural, mostly her own experiences. She also writes spec scripts and fiction for children and lives just north of New Orleans. Her blog can be found at http://www.supernaturaltraveler.blogspot.com.