When my grandma was living with us in Louisiana after Grandpa Mac’s death, she wanted to have seances at our house, but my mother said there absolutely would be no such goings-on in her home. She didn’t want her children frightened by a bunch of noisy ghosts. She also wanted us to remember Grandpa as a kindly old man here on earth and not as something spooky from the beyond. Grandma had other ideas.
So, Grandma moved her seances to the home of Aunt Florence, who was the widow of Grandma’s deceased brother Brant. As widows, both of them were fascinated by the spirit world. My Grandma was in her mid fifties then and was flighty, flirtatious, and totally modern.
Aunt Florence, on the other hand, was like someone who had just gotten down from her mule-drawn buggy. Heavy set and solemn, she thought it would be a sin to color her gray hair red like Grandma did. She parted her hair in the middle and pulled it straight back into a little knot on the back of her neck. Her huge dark eyes nearly always looked sad, but occasionally her lips turned up in a little smile and her eyes sparkled ever so briefly. She hardly ever said a word and almost never laughed. She wore big baggy dresses with hems just above her ankles and nearly always wore a full-length apron as if she were ready to cook a feast.
Grandma and Aunt Florence didn’t seem to be a very likely pair to become close friends, but both of them had known great hardship most of their lives, and I think that brought them together even more than their being sisters-in-law.
Aunt Florence lived in a very small four-room house with fake brick siding that looked nothing like real brick. The interior was plain and sparsely furnished with simple wood furniture that looked like it was made by local carpenters. Some of it probably had been made by her late husband. Even though it was very simple, Aunt Florence kept her home cozy and comfy and sparkling clean.
The kitchen was the largest room. It was furnished with an old-time sink with a faucet that looked like an outdoor faucet, a small second-hand refrigerator, a small second-hand gas range, a wood table and four wood chairs. There was a window above the sink, a door that led into the living room, and a door that opened to the exterior. There were few cabinets, so nearly all the pots and pans and cooking utensils hung on the walls. The seances were held in this kitchen.
Grandma thought the spirits would be stronger and the seances would be better if I and my fifteen-year-old brother Jesse and our distant cousin Jack, who was fourteen, would attend. She told us that the spirits love children. Jesse and Jack went to a few seances before I did, and they insisted there were real spirits there banging on the pots and pans and I should come and hear them. So, one night when my mother had to work, off I went with Grandma and Jesse and Jack to the séance at Aunt Florence’s house.
Grandma and Aunt Florence set some bowls of water on the counter to “help attract the spirits,” according to Grandma; and Aunt Florence brought another chair from the living room so all five of us could sit at the table in the kitchen. They sat Jesse and Jack on opposite sides of the table, and Grandma and Aunt Florence sat opposite each other. I sat between Grandma and Jesse. Aunt Florence turned the light out before she sat down.
“Why do you have to turn the light out?” I asked. I was not one who liked darkness.
“Spirits make their own light,” Grandma told me. “If we leave the light on, we won’t see the spirit light. First they’ll start bumping and knocking on the walls. Then the lights will come, and then maybe they’ll knock on the table to answer our questions.”
There was enough moonlight coming through the window for me to barely see everything in the kitchen, including the expressions on the faces of the four others.
Grandma told all of us to place our hands palms down on the table, so we did, and she started asking questions, such as: Are there any spirits here? Do you want to say anything? Is Mac here? If you’re here, then let us hear a knock. For awhile we didn’t hear a sound or see anything unusual, but still it seemed a little spooky to me.
Grandma stopped talking, and Aunt Florence asked questions: Is there a spirit here who wants to talk to us? Are you here, Brant?
Still, not a sound. Grandma asked more questions and then said, “Now we have to wait.”
So, we all sat quietly with our palms on the table and waited. To me it seemed like we sat there a long time, but it probably wasn’t more than about two to five minutes. Then we heard a loud pop on the bottom of one of the pans that hung on the wall, as if someone had slapped it. Next there was a bump on the wall near us.
“That’s just this old house creakin’ and poppin’,” Jesse said, as if he were trying to convince himself that nothing spooky was there with us. He wasn’t nearly so brave as he had been when he convinced me to come to the séance.
“Be quiet. It’s not the house,” Grandma said. “Is that you, Mac?”
That was followed by several bangs and pops on the pots and pans, then by so many it almost sounded like a kitchen band. Then all went quiet.
“Now the lights will come,” Grandma said. And again we waited.
“There’s a light,” Jack told us, and he pointed toward the corner.
And, surely enough, small lights started flashing on and off all over the kitchen.
“It’s lightning bugs,” I said.
“No, it’s not. Lightning bugs are sort of green and they fly around in the air,” Jack said.
He was right. These lights were a very bright pure white, not at all the color of lightning bugs, and none of them moved from their one spot as they flashed. At first tiny lights flashed close to the walls. Then more lights flashed on and off in the open spaces of the kitchen and in mid air right over our heads.
“Mac, are you here?” Grandma asked again, and there was a loud thump right in the middle of the table, so loud that Jesse and Jack and I jumped. It definitely sounded as if it came from above the table and not from below it, but there was nothing but vacant air above the middle of the table.
“That’s him. He’s here,” Grandma said. Two more very loud thumps came very quickly. “That means he’s happy,” she said.
At that point, with everyone’s hands still on the table, it rose very quickly, with no wobbling or tilting, straight up about a foot into the air. And it just sat there in the air like that.
I screamed, and the table fell back down. Jack jumped up and turned the light on, and he and Jesse looked as scared as I was. The three of us looked under the table but could find nothing unusual.
“There’s nothing under there,” Grandma said. “That was the spirits. They’re strong tonight. Now we have to calm down and start all over.”
But I wasn’t ready for tables that flew into the air. “I wanna go home,” I said, and I was out of there and bolting down the street toward home and furniture that stayed in its place.
I decided seances weren’t for me and didn’t go to anymore of them, and neither did Jesse or Jack. That was enough for us.
Jesse told our mother about the séance and the flying table, and she fussed at Grandma for “scaring the kids.” But I’m sure Grandma and Aunt Florence continued their seances without us.
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 in her home just north of New Orleans. Her blog can be found at http://www.supernaturaltraveler.blogspot.com.