I think I saw a ghost. The problem is that I don’t believe in ghosts. At least, I don’t think I do… So I’m going to tell the story and then let you decide in a vote:
As I was driving back home to Los Angeles, CA from visiting my parents in Florida I stopped for a night in Mobile, AL. For those that haven’t been to Mobile or read the wikipedia page, Mobile, Alabama is one of the oldest European settlements in what is now the United States. French colonists built a settlement in 1702, and as you’re wandering around the city it has that feeling of “history” that many southern and east coast American places have that is so lacking on the west coast.
For me is was a convenient stop between Florida and Texas, especially since so much of Louisiana was still recovering from Hurricane Ida. I was looking for a hotel and honestly nothing looked especially great. While traveling on the shareholder roadshow with Kathryn we had been staying at nicer boutique hotels, preferring ones that were architecturally interesting in some way (usually converted from some other use). The one place I found had some bad reviews about noise and so I ended up booking a room at a bed & breakfast, The Kate Shepard House.
It was fantastic. I met Wendy (and Beaux, their wonderful dog) when I first arrived and got a tour and was made to feel right at home. I stayed in the Barber Room, which was roomy and had a terrific bathroom with a huge tub. I went on a long bike ride around Mobile and then had a bit of sherry and port in the main room and chatted with Wendy’s husband Bill for a bit before bed. This was my first bed & breakfast experience and I loved it!
I went to bed early, tired from a long ride and driving all day. I sleep with my noise-cancelling headphones in listening to ambient sounds and a sleep mask, dead to the outside world. At some point in the night I woke up… initially I thought because my headphones at fallen out. Usually I just grab them and put them on the nightstand and go back to sleep. But as I fished my hands around looking for them I lifted my eye mask and thought I saw…
A person in the room.
It appeared to be a woman in some kind of dress, long hair, hands folded at her waist. She was standing in the hallway of the bathroom, far enough away that I was sure it was just a trick of the light. There was a window in the bathroom that I hadn’t drawn the shades on and a bit of streetlight was shining in, backlighting her.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a “face” or something that looked like a person in the dark when waking up. I know we are pattern identifying machines, and every other time in my life this has happened I have either investigated and found it to be a pile of dirty laundry, or waited until the morning and found it to be a pile of dirty laundry. My assumption was this was not a person, but a pile of dirty laundry.
As I found my headphones and placed them on the nightstand I turned my head away and thought to myself, “When I look back, it will no longer look like a person, but I’ll see it’s my towel I hung up or something.” And as I rolled back over expecting that my slight new perspective from shifting in the bed would reveal the truth instead I was the tiniest bit alarmed to see it still looked like a woman, and in fact I felt like from my new perspective I could see a bit more of her face.
I leaned forward a bit, not quite propping myself up. It did seem like a person. It seemed to be standing still, but didn’t seem still like a statue would (or a pile of dirty clothes). I leaned back and closed my eyes. I could feel a bit of fear in my body… I don’t believe in ghosts, but it was even less likely a fully dressed woman snuck into my room in the middle of the night and was standing in the hallway. I peeked again, and she was still there. The feeling of fear grew a little and my mind started to race a little.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “Here’s the deal… it’s either a ghost or it’s not a ghost. If it’s not a ghost, then everything is fine, and it’s just a trick of the light. If it is a ghost, then that is potentially very, very scary. Right now I’m a little bit scared, but rationally I know it’s just dirty laundry. It’s just dirty laundry. It’s always just dirty laundry.”
I decided that I could take two actions. I could get up and investigate, proving to myself it was not a ghost. Or I could go back to sleep, chuckling to myself about the dirty laundry I would find in the morning. I thought of a kind of Eisenhower Matrix… with Investigate and Leave It Alone at the top and Ghost and Dirty Laundry on the side.
Assuming it was dirty laundry it didn’t really matter. But if it was a ghost, which I don’t believe in, then the options were pretty different. Clearly the right call was just to leave it alone. And assuming it was a ghost, I wasn’t feeling like it was out to bother me in any way, and as someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts, it seems like if I did investigate, and it was actually a ghost, the fact that I didn’t believe in it would be kind of antagonizing.
So I closed my eyes and slipped my eye mask on and then rolled to my side and pledged to myself I wouldn’t look until the morning and I assured myself I’d see the dirty laundry or hanging towel from my bath, or whatever it was and could go on not believing in ghosts.
When I woke up, from a pretty sound sleep, I pushed my eye mask off and looked again in the morning light. There was no woman, so that that was great, but unfortunately there was no hanging towel, no dirty laundry. Just a smooth wall extending down the hallway into the bathroom where the window was.
I told a few people this story, always emphasizing that I don’t believe in ghosts, but in each telling realizing that I really did see something. I was fully awake, and yes, it was dark, but in the morning there was nothing there. No easy explanation like every other time my imagination had filled in the folds and lumps and dirty laundry to make a weird shape or a face in the dim light.
One friend of mine asked if I looked up if the house was haunted, and I chuckled and said no, thinking to myself, of course not, I don’t believe in ghosts. But we looked up and found that yes, this old house in Mobile is on many lists of haunted places.
- “Visitors say they have seen the apparition of an elderly woman inside the historic building, and others have felt a strange presence while there.” –Alabama Haunted Houses
- “This 122 Year-Old Bed And Breakfast Is One Of The Most Haunted Places In Alabama…” –Only In Your State
- “Alabama’s Most haunted: Episode 6 – Kate Shepard House Bed and Breakfast” I didn’t watch this hour long YouTube because it’s boring, but Wendy the owner is in it.
Ghost hunting youtube shows and user submitted “haunted” lists aren’t especially reputable, but it was interesting that the description was an elderly woman. At this point I’m not sure what to think, so I’m putting it up for vote.