This evening I went next door to ask our neighbors – the identical twins – if they could watch Noah and feed our cats for two nights while we’re out of town. I mentioned that we had gotten the cover for the new synchro book about afterlife communication and suddenly, the twins were telling me one of the best ghost stories I’ve heard in years. While they were relating the story, I was taking mental notes, then got home and started telling Rob about it and realized I needed more details. So I called next door and Annette answered the phone and I plied her for more details.
It happened, Annette said, about five years ago. She and Janette were on a Royal Caribbean cruise – five nights – and had a cabin on the fourth level deck. “As soon as we opened the door to the cabin, Janette said she felt we weren’t alone, that there was a presence. Janette thought it was male.”
They didn’t think any more about it at the time and went about their business, doing whatever it is people do on these cruises – eat and drink, dance and socialize. The twins have been taking these cruises every summer, around their birthdays, and always pack to the hilt – fancy clothes, multiples pairs of shoes, jewelry, the whole nine yards. On this cruise, they had spread their jewelry out on the top of the dressers – necklaces, matching earrings. So that first night, after they had turned in, Janette suddenly heard a swooshing sound. “It was like someone was sweeping their hands through the jewelry and the necklaces and earrings were falling through the person’s fingers,” Janette said.
She immediately turned on the light and sat up. The jewelry was undisturbed, just where she and Annette had left it. She was a bit freaked out, but turned off the light again and lay back. She heard the noise again, turned on the light once more, but the jewelry was undisturbed. Annette also heard the noise.
“We only heard that sound in the dark,” Annette said. “We both heard it. We both identified it as the same thing, hands sweeping through the jewelry.”
Later that night, Janette was sound asleep when she suddenly felt something grab her ankle – where she recently had been tattooed – and was jerked to the floor. “Annette, what the hell are you doing?” she shouted angrily.
Annette turned on the light and saw her sister on the floor. She swore she hadn’t grabbed Janette by the ankle.
The next morning, Janette went to the captain, told him their cabin was haunted, and that she and her sister wanted to different cabin. “You should’ve seen the way he looked at me,” Janette said. “Like I was a total nutcase.” The captain told them to check with the cabin attendant about finding another cabin, so Janette went to him and told him what had happened.
“He sort of laughed and said the ghost was a blonde woman who had died in our cabin of a heart attack. He said she roams the fourth level deck and has been seen by other people who have stayed in our cabin. And oh, he added, there were no other cabins available, so we would just have to stick it out.”
Janette says she was the blonder of the twins at the time and felt certain that was why the female ghost, who was blonde, had picked on her. But Annette has a different take. “I’m the alpha twin, stronger and more stable. I’ve been the caretaker all my life. That’s why the ghost didn’t mess with me.”
On their third night in the cabin, while Janette and Annette were asleep, Janette woke suddenly, certain she was suffocating. “I couldn’t breathe, something was pressed over my face, and I panicked.” She bolted upright, hurled off whatever was on her face, groped for the light. Next to her bed on the floor was a pile of towels that hadn’t been there earlier.
“It was a stack of towels like what they leave at the foot of your bed after your room has been cleaned,” Annette explained.
“And it had been pressed down over my face,” Janette went on.
“So what’d you do?” I asked.
Annette says she brought out her new testament, flipped it open – and the pages fluttered and the book shut. On its own. So Annette opened it again, to Ethesians, 6:10-6:18, and put a shoe on either side of the book so the ghost couldn’t shut the book again.
The Ethesians passage, Annette says, is about “the armor of God.” Then she recited it.
Out of curiosity, I looked it up on Google. That passage reads:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
After Annette read the passage aloud, the twins pushed their beds together and they slept undisturbed that night and the last night of their trip.
This story led to the type of discussion I try to avoid about God, the universe and everything. But some statements are so personally offensive that to say nothing implies tacit agreement.
Annette: There are demons, Trish, who fell out of heaven when Satan became jealous of God. If you don’t believe in Christ as your personal savior, then you’re headed for hell. The world is going to end and then God will create paradise on earth.”
Me: I can’t buy into the Satan/demon thing, Annette. I can’t buy into the angry God thing, either. Heaven and hell, satan and demons: it’s too simplistic.
Annette: I’ll be praying for you , girl. Because you’re wrong.
Me: Suppose you’re wrong?
Annette: I’m not wrong. I’ve been touched by the holy spirit. And if I’m wrong, at least I’ll be going to heaven.
Me: And others have different names for those kinds of experiences. And I don’t believe in hell.
And so it went, one of those looped conversations, no one giving an inch. I reminded Annette that after the earthquake in Haiti, she or someone else in the room had said that the quake happened because the Haitians practiced voodoo. To me, that’s the epitome of religious hubris. Why would God do that to a country that is the poorest in the western hemisphere? What kind of God is that?
I finally went home and wondered how to write this up. In the end, I think it boils down to beliefs. Annette believes so deeply in the bible, in its literal translation, her belief was powerful enough to keep the female ghost away from herself and her sister.
Janette seems less convinced of the religious stuff, is more intuitively receptive to alternate explanations. It’s not about who is the alpha twin; if anything, the law of attraction seems to be dominant. Which brings around another loop: in search a good ghost story, why did I attract what essentially became a discussion about religion?
And what about the spirit of that poor woman on the fourth level floor of the Royal Caribbean? Is she doomed to forever wander through that strange netherworld?