A Very Personal Ghost Story

This is a completely true personal experience.

This is from 2014. I have re-posted it before, so this is only for the benefit of my new followers, seeing as it is Halloween.

I have never really believed in the supernatural. Ghosts, apparitions, reincarnation, life after death, and all things associated with these. Not that I wouldn’t have liked to, it just didn’t seem plausible. Psychics can often appear to be very accurate. They claim to know things about you, even to be communicating with a family member, long since dead. Unfortunately, their ‘gifts’ are very easily debunked, and like most of these things, it has to come down to simple belief. And I don’t believe it.

My paternal grandmother was a great character. She had a very dark complexion, black hair, and a gravelly voice. Mother to three sons and two daughters, she had to fend for herself for much of her adult life, as my grandfather deserted the family home when I was a small child. When she was still a young mother, before the second world war, she was run over and seriously injured. Trapped under the vehicle, her leg had to be amputated at the scene.

I remember being somewhat fascinated by her false leg when I was a child. It often stood in a corner of a room, as she was able to get around surprisingly well without it. Once she was going out, she would always wear this prosthesis, and other than a stiffness to her gait, you would be unaware that she had only one leg. She was a houseproud lady, and her home was usually neat and tidy. The step outside her front door was dark red, and she would clean this with a red polish, called ‘Cardinal’. This had a very distinctive smell, and on occasion, it would stain her fingers red, as she did not wear rubber gloves. We would often visit her on a Sunday, and she would accompany us on family holidays to the seaside, where we would go in a large group. On one of these holidays, she once showed me the stump of her thigh, and I remember feeling most uncomfortable having to look at it.

Much later on, after my Mum and Dad split up in the 1970s, I lost touch with my grandmother. Family differences made it very hard to keep in contact, and visiting her had to be arranged in advance, so as not to bump into my Dad, with his new ‘lady friend’. We made the trip a couple of times, and I was pleased to see that she hadn’t changed a bit, though she was no longer in good health. She was always happy to see us, and we tried as much as possible not to waste time discussing the problems we faced, as a result of the unexpected separation.

By the late 1980s, other than exchanging Christmas and birthday cards, I hadn’t seen her for a long time. I was living in a small house in Surrey Docks, with my then girlfriend. I got a telephone call from my uncle, my Dad’s youngest brother. He informed me that my grandmother was in hospital. She had serious liver problems, and was not expected to live. I told my Mum, and we arranged to make the trip almost into Kent to see her. We checked that it would not clash with a visit from my Dad, to avoid any nastiness. On the agreed date, we struggled through the rush-hour traffic to the suburbs on the border with Kent. Caught up in delays, we arrived after the official end of visiting time. When we explained the situation to the nurse in charge, she was more than happy to allow us to spend some time.

It was a sad visit. We tried to look upbeat and casual, as we gazed down on this frail lady, yellow with jaundice, trying for her part to be cheerful, and obviously delighted to see us. We talked over old times, and about other members of our extended family, never once mentioning the advanced state of her illness, or her gloomy prognosis. After a while, she finally raised the subject of my Dad leaving us, and told my Mum how much she had missed seeing us both. She asked after my wife too, and I decided not to mention that we had split up, and that I had since met someone else. I wanted her to die thinking that all was well in my world. We said our final farewells, avoiding comments such as ‘see you again soon.’ We all knew that this was the last time we would see her.

I dropped my Mum off on the way home, and went back to tell my girlfriend, who had never met her, about the last visit to my beloved Nan. There were no tears, just fond memories; and frustration about the years lost, due to petty squabbles. We went to bed quite late, and I went straight off to sleep.

In the early hours before dawn, I was awakened by an unusual noise. It seemed to be coming up the staircase from the room downstairs, as if someone was dragging something up, one step at a time. As my eyes opened, I was overwhelmed by an all-pervading smell. I recognised it immediately, it was Cardinal polish. Still sitting up in bed, I watched as my Nan’s head appeared at the top of the stairs, level with the bedroom door. She looked at me and smiled, continuing the difficult process of walking upstairs with a heavy false leg. She was dressed as I remembered her, and wearing an apron over her clothes. She walked into the bedroom, and sat down heavily on the bed, right next to me. Street lighting outside was enough to provide sufficient illumination, so I could see her clearly. She reached for my hand, and held it in both of hers, high up, near her shoulder. I could feel the roughness of her palms. She said one thing, ‘It will be alright’, and she was gone.

The next thing I was aware of was my girlfriend talking to me. She seemed confused. ‘Who were you talking to?’ She asked me. ‘Why are you holding your arm up, does it hurt?’ She continued. Then finally, ‘And what is that smell?’ (She was too young to recognise Cardinal polish) The following day, my uncle rang me, to tell me that my grandmother had died during the night.

‘I know’, I replied.

I still don’t believe in ghosts. I suspect that it was a vivid dream, having just had the emotional experience of going to see my Nan, and knowing that she was dying. I can rationalise most of it to my satisfaction, but one thing has always been a mystery, and remains unexplained to this day.

Why did my girlfriend smell the polish?

84 thoughts on “A Very Personal Ghost Story

    1. Thanks very much for reading and leaving a comment. I also respect your right to have your opinion. My wife is a dedicated believer in the afterlife, and all things spiritual. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for sharing your story. There is surely life after death. I can sense and see them. I can feel them touch me. I take pictures and record videos of them. Spirits are around all of us. They have the ability to come back to visit too. I am thankful to be experiencing paranormal behavior since 2006. I created a website.


      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for sharing my website to your wife. Spirits can also visit us in dreams. We are closest to the Spirit World when we are sleeping. Best wishes to you. Lori

          Liked by 1 person

  1. She sounds like an amazing woman. Thank you for letting us remember her with you. Although I also don’t believe in the supernatural, I think there are just many things we don’t understand… yet. I once lived in a flat where lots of weird, inexplicable things happened. There is probably a rational explanation for all of it but we never got to the bottom of any of the odd noises, things turning themselves on and off, doors opening, apparitions that more than one of us saw… who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating 🙂 Why, indeed, did your girlfriend smell the polish, if it was purely an emotional experience on your part? And, if ghosts are real, what then? I assume, for example, that your grandmother didn’t take any into hospital with her? So where did the smell come from? How and why did it become part of her “ghost”?

    Either way, we are faced with something totally inexplicable!

    For myself, I’m not at all convinced that true psychic experiences can be as easily debunked as you seem to assume. Why? Because, often, they don’t lend themselves to scientific study. No-one, for example, could have predicted what was going to happen to you that night, so no-one could have been there to try and test whether what you saw was “really” there, even supposing they knew how or what to test for…

    Similarly, during the war, one of my great-grandmothers had a premonition that the air raid shelter would be hit by a bomb that night and hence that the family should stay in the house. Subsequent events proved that her premonition was correct. But, again, this was an experience that came totally “out of the blue”. She wasn’t trying to see the future… and hence no scientific investigation of her “psychic” experience was possible.

    If such experiences could be summoned at will and hence used productively, then, perhaps, science would start to investigate them more thoroughly? As it is, in my opnion, all the so-called researchers have managed to show so far is that “at will” is not sufficiently reliable to be profitable. No surprises there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ros. I doubt my grandmother had used that polish for at least ten years, as she had been ill since her late seventies. That smell was something I always associated with her though, and I can still conjure it up now, as I sit here.
      One thing about that night, it stopped me being a hard-line cynic about such things.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Much earlier in my life I had a similar experience. I had to decide what had to go, my ideas about nonexistence of the supernatural or my actual experience. I chose to expand my understanding of the world and thought of Hamlet at the time. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I thought of that quote yesterday when I first read the account. It is so much better (and wiser!) to keep an open mind about all things. I’ve never seen a live elephant myself so should I deny their existence? I don’t think that denial is ever a positive step. If evolution practiced denial… there would be nothing in existence seems to me. What then is the “force” that allows evolution to come up with stuff that has never existed before? Is evolution made up of imagination? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think it’s quite a common experience for someone close who just died to want to reassure the one left behind. My mom came to me after she died – she committed suicide at 46 and being raised Catholic she knew I was worried about her, but all was fine she assured me. I learned a long time ago that if you keep an open mind your brain doesn’t actually fall out!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Like” doesn’t do this justice. Profound respect & awe, more likely. I was visited by a banshee, of sorts; poltergeist activity before a death, generated by my own emotions, perhaps. In those moments, we experience the unconscious. Best wishes to you and Ollie, by the way! X

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely story, Pete. I have my own beliefs about ‘what lies beyond’, which I won’t burden you with, and that isn’t influenced by the only supernatural experience I ever had: loud & unmistakable footsteps on bare wooden stairs outside a closed door, and there truly was no-one there (my now ex-wife also heard it). The building was over 200 years old, so must have absorbed some vibrations in its time 😉 Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. An excellent story with a subtle twist that makes the reader think. Consciousness in humans is still a great problem and Professor Penrose and Stuart Hameroff believe it has a quantum origin , contrary to the popular scientific belief that present day computers will become self – conscious.
    There is tremendous evidence in near death experiences and this is what drove Dr Hameroff to seek some sort of explanation , and it might well explain your experience in this account.
    I had a little search for Cardinal polish , yes , it’s still around for anyone who fancies a sniff. The Catholic Cardinal is a very important personage but these days you can buy a pair of Cardinal pyjamas especially useful if the only place you can feel important in is bed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe it was your granny who came to see you one last time. She loved you.
    I believe in ghosts because I have felt them many times in the various old houses where we lived due my father’s service. I know I wasn’t hallucinating because my stories were confirmed by others in the houses and neighbours who were otherwise too ashamed to admit that they believed in ghosts. And I have seen stuff move around the house once too often…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This story made me cry, Pete. I lost my grandfather. It was totally unexpected. I didn’t know what had happened. One morning in Africa at 7 am my uncle runs into the room to tell me his no more. I was in Africa and he was in India so I couldn’t get to see him one last time but I feel his presence even now. Sometimes my mom hears snoring just like my grandfather did. I feel like I am being watched. It makes me happy and sad too. Thank you for sharing such an incident now I can believe that ‘something’ is always there watching you. I wish I just had more time with him.
    We always miss someone after they leave us. It’s the rule of nature.😔✌✌

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for using the word ‘inexplicable’, Kim. That restored my faith in grammar! 🙂
      Every time I hear the word ‘unexplainable’ on TV, I scream at the screen.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I will just say I believe there is ‘something’. I try not to label it. I have had a number of experiences throughout my life and with many of them, familiar yet uncommon smells were prevalent. I always take it as a positive experience that does not necessarily require a name. Nicely articulated memory, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Your girlfriend could smell the polish because your grandmother was there. I’ve had proof many times over that there is an afterlife. Nobody can tell me otherwise, as I’ve had messages from mediums that only my relatives could have imparted, and I’ve seen ghosts too.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. She says she has. She videos places (including our front room) and shows me ‘orbs’. She also sees faces in clouds and patterns, and says she recognises them. She is the administrator of a spiritual healing group on Facebook, and they meet up in haunted places, using a ‘spirit box’, and other stuff. She has also been to numerous psychic shows, and had personal readings too. It is very much her ‘thing’.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. You will have to join her Facebook group first. The last time, it was in Hampton Court, near West London. They stayed in a hotel for two nights, and my wife arranged a good ‘group price’. I think it was all rather ‘raucous’, and they had fun along with the spiritual stuff. It’s not a stuffy crowd, far from it. If you want to investigate it, let me know your Facebook details, and I will tell her. Or I will ask for the group page details if you prefer. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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