"No," I answered. "I don't believe in ghosts."
I don't, although as an adult I have encountered them twice. The first time, I awakened in the night to music. Someone was playing the piano downstairs. A delicate melody threaded through the silent house, yet every room was dark, and everyone else was asleep. I felt a wave of fear as I understood that this beautiful web was being spun by supernatural fingers. Some years later I was awakened again. This time I saw someone softly glowing white, as ghosts are said to do, standing at the foot of the bed. The figure looking at me was male and resembled the young Ernest Hemingway. I decided that's who he was, because I have written about Hemingway, so he might have had a reason to pay me a nocturnal visit, if he could.
But he couldn't. He was a fragment of a dream, just like the haunting music. I know this because on both occasions I woke up again--that is, I really woke up--and there was nothing to hear, nothing to see. But had I instead drifted back to sleep, well, I might be telling a different story. I did wake up, though, and my experiences caused me to think about other people's tales of meeting the departed and to see how they were alike. The visitations tended to happen at night, when the person was tired, in bed, or already asleep; and, significantly, no one else saw the ghost. These sightings had to be dreams as well.
I even had to discount the eeriest ghost story I ever heard. It was related by my brother, who was the only family member not to attend our grandmother's out-of-town funeral. He had to work, or couldn't miss a class; I don't remember which. He was alone in the house and had gone to bed, when he heard someone mounting the stairs. Then he heard our grandmother's voice, saying, "David, dear," as was her way. "Go away," David called out. "I love you, but please go away!" And he was awake, and she was not there. Of course, only in a dream would a ghost climb the stairs.
Maybe if it were the middle of the day, and I were out shopping with my husband or having lunch with friends, and a ghost appeared, and more than one person saw it--but it never happens this way. A new friend has suggested that maybe it does, that maybe such an occurrence is so foreign to our belief system that our brains refuse to acknowledge it. Ghosts could be all around us, he said; we're just not seeing them. It's an intriguing thought...but I doubt it.