The Cemetery Man: A Child's True Ghost Sighting
Can the Dead Greet the Living?
This is a true story that happened in the fall of 1991. At that time, my eldest daughter. age 4, was just starting her second year of pre-school. The pre-school she attended was held in the parish house of an old New England church. There was a small playground area with slide, climbing apparatus and swings, but it was located on the opposite side of the church from the parish house. In order to use the playground, the teachers would line the children up, and they'd all hold on to a loop on a long rope to keep them together. Then the teacher would walk behind the line of little ones, along the narrow lanes of the churchyard cemetery, behind the church, to reach the play area at the other side.
This church was founded in the early 1700's and many of the graves date back to that time. It is a pretty cemetery, with a low stone wall, large shade trees, and scattered rows of ancient grave markers.
A Paranormal Event
One day, I arrived, as usual, to pick my daughter up from pre-school, She had stayed later, in the day care that day, so I could get some errands done before picking her up. There were only a few children at the pre-school when I arrived. I walked into the classroom, where my daughter was busily creating an imaginary meal with some miniature pots and pans on a child's toy stove. Another child was napping on a pallet on the other side of the room.
I was about to greet Mrs. Landow, one of the pre-school's teachers, when I stopped short in surprise. Mrs. Landow, normally a vivacious and talkative woman, was sitting, quite still, at her desk, hands clasped tightly in front of her on the blotter. She was watching my daughter play, but her eyes seemed almost glazed over, as if she wasn't really seeing my daughter, but was lost in thought. She did not look up and greet me, as she normally would, when I walked in, but continued to stare, rather wide-eyed, in the direction of my daughter.
"Mrs. Landow?" I said, and she jumped as though prodded by a jolt of electricity.
"Oh, you scared me!" she said, pressing one hand against her chest and swallowing hard. Her face was as white as a sheet, and she appeared to me to be quite upset about something.
"Is there something wrong?" I asked.
"Oh, no!" she answered in a breathy voice, "You just startled me!"
I hesitated, noting her almost panicked expression and the paleness of her face.
"Are you sure you're okay?" I asked.
Mrs. Landow glanced over at the children and back at me and let her breath out slowly.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said, "just had a very odd experience, and I'm afraid it has really spooked me", and she laughed nervously.
"Really? What happened?"
Mrs. Landow stood and leaned back, placing a hand behind her on the desk, and stared at the floor, as if deciding whether or not to tell me.
"Mrs. Landow? What happened?"
She looked up with a slight smile and met my gaze for a moment before responding.
"Well," she said, "I don't know if you believe in.... ghosts and such, but what just happened a little while ago has got me really shaken up." She hesitated a moment longer before going on.
"I was taking the children to the playground, like we always do" she said, "and I lined them up and each child took a loop on the rope... there were, I think, ten kids today.... anyway - we walked through the cemetery to the play area and we stayed there for about 20 minutes while they played. The church bell struck the half hour, and I gathered the kids together and lined them up again with the rope to take them back to the classroom."
"We had just started out along the cemetery lane, and were passing by a plot of very old gravestones. All of a sudden, the children all looked toward the stones on the right hand side, and began to smile and wave. A few of them called out "Hi!" as we walked along. But there was nobody there! I asked the children - 'who are you waving at?' - And Carly Wilkins piped up, "That man! He's waving at us!"
"I'm telling you, there was NO ONE THERE! I scanned the whole area as we kept walking, I mean, it was bright sunlight! Trust me, there was no one in that cemetery but me and the children. Needless to say, I picked up the pace a bit and got back to the classroom as fast as I could. When I told Mrs. Heath" (another of the pre-school's teachers) "about it, she was alarmed. She thought it might have been some guy lurking around, watching the children, who shouldn't be there. She asked several of them to describe who they had seen. They each answered the same way.... there was a "nice man" they said, standing there, among the headstones and wearing a tall hat, who was smiling and waving at them. So they just waved back!"
New England Ghosts and Cemeteries
This was the premise of the movie The Sixth Sense, where a withdrawn child was under the care of a psychologist who learned the child's secret: he saw dead people!
"I See Dead People"
Do Children See Ghosts More Often Than Adults?
It has long been understood that children are particularly sensitive to the spirit world around them. For centuries it has been recorded that spirits and ghosts have appeared with much more frequency to children, particularly very young children, than to adults. Athena A. Drewes, child psychologist and licensed parapsychologist, explains that the reasons for this are really quite simple.
First, Drewes stresses that, in all her years of studying children's psychic experiences, she does not see any indication that children tend to "create" these experiences themselves for attention, as some skeptics have proposed. She also stresses, however, that parents must be aware that psychosis can sometimes be present when a child describes "seeing" spirits or ghosts or even so-called "imaginary friends". It is important for parents to be aware of any additional symptoms aside from these sightings that may indicate a mental health issue.
Why Are Children More Able to See Spirits?
Having said that, a child seeing spirits does not mean that there is anything wrong with the child. It is known that children are more perceptive and able to pick up on elements of their surroundings that adults may miss. One of the reasons for this is that the survival instincts of young children are in high gear. Because they are such vulnerable human beings, their "radar" is super sensitive, especially when it comes to human emotion and interaction.
Secondly, young children do not acquire social "filters" until they go to school, where they quickly learn to moderate what they say to fit in with their peers and avoid being ostracized. A child age 2 to 5 or 6 years of age is much more likely to simply express what they see without regard to what people are going to say about it. Once these filters kick in, about age 6 to 7, they quickly evolve to include self-filtering of thought as well as expression to others.
A Medium Discusses Childhood Ghost Sightings
In other words, the child begins to push thoughts and experiences to the back of his mind that he senses will not be acceptable or "normal" to his peers. He teaches himself not to "see" what he may have noticed earlier in his life.
This combination of extra sensitivity to the nuances of her surroundings and lack of social filters prior to school-age makes it much more likely that a young child will notice - and describe - a paranormal event.
Here a well-known Australian medium explains childhood "ghost" sightings and what parents should and should not do.
Are There Spirits Among Us?
Do You Believe in Ghosts?
Great Movie About A Psychic Child
This movie illustrates the social "filtering" that a psychic child may feel he must do. Wonderful film.
My Child's Ghost Sighting
I was fascinated by Mrs. Landow's story, and sorry that I hadn't gotten there earlier so I could have asked a few of the children about it myself. Some of my own family members from generations past were buried in that cemetery! And I believed every word Mrs. Landow had told me. She wasn't the kind of person who would embellish a story for effect, and she seemed genuinely unnerved by the event.
When I got my daughter in the car and started out toward home, I asked her about who she'd seen in the cemetery. This was her reply:
"Oh, there was a funny man there! He had a black suit on and a big tall hat and silly boots - and he was smiling at us and waving to us. We said hi and waved back at him."
I couldn't get her to accurately describe what she meant by "silly boots", but it could have been that he was wearing 19th century men's shoes, which were more like ankle boots than the shoes worn by men today. I asked her if he looked strange at all, if he was shiny, or if you could see through him or anything like that. She said no, he was just a regular man.
Who Was the Spectral Man in the Cemetery?
That church and its cemetery are not far from my home, and I often pass by it on my travels around town. I never fail to think of the story Mrs. Landow told me, and I still wonder who the man was, why was he waving at the children, and how could it be that all ten children saw him, but Mrs. Landow did not?
I guess I will never know the answer, but my daughter, now 24 years old, says she still remembers seeing the man, and that he just looked like a normal man in old fashioned clothes who was smiling and waving at the children passing by.
Another TRUE ghost story: The Specter of Captain Kelley
Did you know there are SIX TYPES of hauntings?
© 2011 Katharine L Sparrow