Inspiration! Or, Do You Believe in . . . Ghosts?

“What in the world do ghosts have to do with mysteries?” you asked.

ghost 1Okay, maybe you didn’t, but someone out there in the vast world of readers and writers has surely asked that very question sometime in the past. And yes, the question is relevant. Currently there are several mystery series—mostly cozies—featuring a ghost or two from the other side (the spirit world) helping the sleuth on this side (the world of the living as we know it) solve cases.

Or, you could ask Mac McClellan, whose latest case introduces him to the mysterious world of the paranormal: “Mac, do you believe in ghosts?” Mac scratches his beard, hems and haws, looks away. “Earth to Mac—do you believe in ghosts, especially after what you experienced in Deadly Spirits?” Mac sighs and looks up as though the answer might be written on the ceiling. “I don’t know. Maybe. . . .” This mumbled response coming from a bad-ass retired US Marine with several combat tours under his belt. Is something amiss in Mac’s world?

Featured Image -- 1806Which brings us to the point of this post—INSPIRATION! It is somewhat fitting that the word “spirit” can be formed from those letters. One definition of inspiration is: “to breathe; or to draw air into the lungs.” Are “spirits” really dead, or do they continue somehow to draw life from the earth’s sources? The other, more common meaning is: “a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something.” The latter usage is at the heart of today’s missive: a ghost—or rather, two—were the inspiration for my fourth Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Spirits. C’mon, I’m serious here! Read on.

For the past few years I’ve been a fan of those “ghost hunter”-type shows on cable or satellite TV. One show in particular features the paranormal group’s fearless leader often using what’s called a “spirit” or “ghost” box. It’s a small device that scans radio frequencies back and forth at a given speed. The theory is the spirit box allows the user(s) to communicate in real time with any willing ghost or spirit who’s in the neighborhood. The spirit draws power from the radio waves and projects his or her “voice” which can be heard through the spirit box’s speakers.

Please, don’t laugh. And if you’re still with us, read on.

ghost hunting 1One evening while my wife was away visiting family in California, I hosted a cookout for my younger daughter, her husband, and our two grandsons (then ages 8 and 6). Those rambunctious boys are also fans of the aforementioned shows, and I’d bought a ghost-hunting “kit” mainly to keep them entertained with “chasing ghosts” around the house while visiting. This particular night, after enjoying a BBQ supper of pork ribs, smoked sausage, and all the fixings, we gathered around the dining room table. Announcing I had a surprise for my ghost-hunting pards (the grandsons), I opened the ghost-hunting equipment case and pulled-out my brand new spirit box. Their response was greater than I’d anticipated.

After fifteen minutes or so of adulation and instruction, the boys and I got down to business. I turned the device on and set the tuner to the recommended FM mode and speed. Then, the questions began. We started by introducing ourselves one by one. David, my son-in-law, received a clear vocal response to his “hello” message. That got our hackles up. I also received a clear response, two in fact, one male and one female, telling me “hi” and “hello.” My daughter sat at the table with a mixture of boredom and bulls*** spread across her pretty face.

hi_hello_100Jump ahead fifteen-twenty minutes. We’ve had some very entertaining “hi’s” and “hello’s” and a few other words from several different voices: male, female, and juvenile. My older grandson, Liam, seems to be the person the majority of the ghosts or spirits are drawn to. He’s received some very interesting and detailed responses to his questions, albeit in minimal words from our ephemeral guests. And then (insert drum roll here), son-in-law David takes the lead. Turning the ghost box’s built-in microphone his way, he asks: “Can anyone present tell me my wife’s nickname?” I’m surprised at the question. I can’t remember my daughter’s long-time nickname because it has been a decade or longer since I’ve heard it. It has never been uttered in this house for the entire eleven (now fourteen) years my wife and I have lived here. I’m trying to remember, chastising myself for my poor memory. A few seconds of silence prevails the room . . . and then:

“Hello, Puma!” a male voice says. A couple seconds later, “Hi, Puma!” says an exuberant, very distinct female voice.

ghost 2Around the table, jaws drop, eyes grow wide, and heart-rates soar. My daughter’s face drains of color. “Puma,” my younger, cat-loving daughter’s nickname for over two decades, has sounded forth from the spirit box by two totally, distinctive voices. How could “they” have known? No distrust existed among the occupants (the “live” occupants, that is) of the room. No trickery was involved. I had received the “spirit box” only a few days before our cookout get-together. Hell, I hadn’t thought of my daughter’s nickname in nearly a quarter century! I’m convinced something supernatural happened that night. Or, did it? Who’s to say communicating with those who have “passed on” is out of the realm of possibility? Technology continues to rush forward at an astounding rate.

And so, dear reader, if you’ve stuck around this long you now know the Inspiration behind the story that resulted in my current Mac McClellan Mystery adventure, Deadly Spirits. You know my story—I’d sure like to know yours! Please share your experiences of the paranormal that might have had some/any influence on your life experience! Thank you, and . . . pleasant dreams!

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29 thoughts on “Inspiration! Or, Do You Believe in . . . Ghosts?

    • It was spooky to say the least. A couple of months ago a penny I’d found was sitting on the “island” separating the kitchen from the living room. As I walked by one afternoon, the penny flew about four feet and hit the lower kitchen cabinets hard. I was a good two or three feet from where it had rested. Another time a license plate renewal sticker went missing. We searched to no avail. I happened to open the kitchen garbage can and there it was, peeled off and stuck to the inside of the garbage bag lining the can. I could go on, but you get my drift! 🙂

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  1. Cool story about “Puma” family experience, Michael, as inspiration for “Deadly Spirits” (A great read I might add).
    Personally, I think that all life is forever, and it just changes form or energy. That’s right, we’re all around eternally.

    My diminutive Irish grandmother (not to be confused with my German grandmother who resembled the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel) was a real terror with her blazing blue eyes and hot temper. Her nick name was “Hot Stuff”. She was known and dreaded for her outspoken blunt comments on all topics. I don’t think the word “lie” was in her vocabulary, not even for kindness sake. So it was a big surprise to me when she told me that a man had knocked on the door the night before when she was alone and when she went to the door she heard an audible voice say “Don’t let him in.” She did open the door but after speaking with him she refused to let him in. Not sure what would have happened if he had pushed his way in, but he didn’t. On another occasion when she was worried about my mother’s obsessive interest in her Bible (Nany was alone at this time too) she felt a touch on her shoulder and saw an ivory hand like a stone carving with long tapering fingers, a hand so beautiful it was like an angel’s touch, a hand so reassuring that she talked about the experience many times….I am always amazed when I remember these things since she didn’t have it in her to make up anything.
    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” Hamlet. Yes, I believe it.
    –MJ

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  2. You bet, MJ! When my maternal grandparents were newlyweds, they were sharecropping on a farm up near Marianna, FL. They lived in an old (even then) log cabin. Cabinet doors would be found open again and again, and dishes would rattle during the night. Sometimes things would be moved around. And often the old rocker (which came with the cabin) would creak and rock gently back and forth during the night. No wonder they moved out as soon as they could afford to. 🙂

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  3. I hear that! I also had an odd experience when I was coming in the door of our house from the car. My mom had recently passed away and I was still pretty upset. I was carrying in groceries and I heard her call out “Michal” to me from the couch in the living room and for a moment I forgot she was “gone” and ran in to see her. Empty couch. But she always did that when I came home. 🙂 You know, she called to me. Always. It was a good experience. 🙂

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  4. Great post, Mike! I love learning where the inspiration came from for various novels, characters, and plots. We can’t help but write about the things that impact us, and “Deadly Spirits” reaped the benefits of yours. As for ghosts… I’m on the fence about that, but mostly feel as though there’s so much energy (as MJ says — everything is energy… just changes form) in the world, all of it interacting with us in ways we don’t fully understand.

    Plus our minds are amazing creations, too — I read once we only use a tiny portion of what our minds are capable of, so I suppose it’s possible your brother-in-law could have projected his own knowledge of the nickname into the ether.
    I guess I’m all about possibilities, which are sometimes more fun than knowing something for certain….

    Does this mean there’s a new Mac adventure coming our way soon??? I hope so!

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  5. Thanks Ellen. I’m working on number five for Mac now. I’ve been in a writing rut for a while. Could be a lot of those brain cells we don’t use at fault. 🙂 My two-book Civil War/Reconstruction novel is supposed to be re-released (someday) by my current publisher. I’ve also updated and turned in “Dinger, P.I.” collection of short stories for a possible novella-size book.
    Hope you two are doing well. Where are you, and where you are you two planning to go now that the weather is warming? Oh, hope you’re nowhere near that blizzard in the plains!

    Happy Trails!

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    • We’re still in the sunny southwest (expected high today is 99-degrees; but it was over ninety before noon, so….) but will be leaving in a few days, headed north. Hopefully the winter weather has passed, but we have to renew our drivers’ licenses in SD, so…..!
      I’ve never believed in writer’s block, but I sure got stuck on my third Rollin RV Mystery…. seems to have broken open though (of course it would… right before a week of probably not having time to get much writing done)! Like MJ, I’m looking forward to the Dinger collection — so please announce far and wide when it’s available!

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      • Spring has sprung here in the Upstate of South Carolina. It gets hot up here during the summer, but you wouldn’t believe how the low humidity helps. I suppose it’s because where in the foothills south of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some days our humidity will drop into the teens. I always thought that those kind of numbers were reserved for the arid west.
        Speaking of getting stuck. I’ve hardly touched the latest Mac book in a year. Life gets distracting, and my get up and go seems to have got up and gone. I’ll be sure to holler loud and clear when (if) Dinger is going to appear in print.
        You two take care, and as always ….. HAPPY TRAILS! 🙂

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      • I guess “Get out!” means move on until you can move back. This post is about inspiration. If you felt inspired at this time by Mac you would finish it. It is possible that the readers who feel the energy in the “Dinger, P.I.” character and stories feel a nice big jolt when they read it. I admit that I do feel this and that the writing is fresh and unusual and really very sexy. Sorry, but people always tell me I am too direct. I guess that is true.
        As far as anyone’s get up and go being gone, that is a problem human beings have. If you don’t follow where your energy is leading you – dare I say it? A writer like you is going to be drained. Very simply.
        You write books with huge depth and range and doing that is exhausting. Sometimes you want a break and you write things for fun and entertainment. Sometimes life is so hard that it is almost unbearable. The mysteries are really smooth and full of humor and action and fun. I like to relax and enjoy them or I would not read them.
        A writer who is capable of writing “The Proud Bastards” “The Private War of Corporal Henson” and the Civil War historical fiction books “Of Blood and Brothers” one and two is liable to get bored in limiting himself.
        I do feel you are in a place to do some more writing that may be different and I think you already have, we just don’t yet see it but we will. I write what I feel and comment the same way and don’t really care what anyone thinks of it. I have found that people want to limit themselves by saying that time changes their talent or limits it. I don’t believe it. If you choose to believe that then you are not the same writer who has kindly and with great care commented on my own writing and I do not believe you are different. You are who you always were. You just know a lot more. 🙂

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  6. Really looking forward to “Dinger, P.I.” releases as I enjoyed the short pieces you published on MMO with “Dinger”. I think they are a very special read and I loved the “noir” voice – it is some of the best new writing I’ve read in years. 🙂
    Naturally I’m interested in the new “Mac McClellan” mystery when you get around to it since I’ve read all the others 🙂

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    • Aw, shucks (again). 🙂 Mac is about (still) halfway finished. Gotta get my mojo muse in gear for a big push. Got my fingers crossed for Dinger, since Coffeetown/Camel Press was absorbed by Epicenter. Still have my same editor working there, so I’m semi hopeful. 🙂

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  7. I imagine that when you are in the mood the next Mac will get written. At some point the muse will visit and whish, it will be done. No point in forcing it. For you writing half a book is not a big deal but you do need to feel like doing it. As for Dinger, it would be exceptionally nice to have it available since it IS already written. I am more than semi hopeful that it will be out in some form. Of course, you could write another Dinger while we wait…………….another edgy, moody noir for a lovely fireside read……….but of course if you’re not in the mood all bets are off. Possibly a diary – “Notes from a Moody Marine”. I’m sorry I should not kid you but it is a lot of fun to do it…..:-)

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  8. Pingback: Inspiration! Or, Do You Believe in . . . Ghosts? – INCEST CENTRAL

  9. I am convinced that I lived in a “haunted” house as a child. I put the quotation marks around haunted because while I do not believe in ghosts, I do believe in demons (which is actually more terrifying in my opinion). I believe that when we die, we either go to Heaven or Hell, therefore there are no ghosts, per say, that stick around. However, I completely believe that demons would roleplay as ghosts of dead people in order to draw people away from God. What a creepy experience you had!

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      • Very true. Interesting post Kayla Ann. Anyone who has been the brunt of unspeakable acts of evil and also surprising acts of kindness will have questions about good and evil, and life itself is filled with questions about eternity and karma and what happens to people who are irredeemably evil.
        This topic may lead this posting in a direction that sort of deserves a post of its own. Many books deal with the subject matter, like “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis So I’ll just throw the ball over there. 🙂

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  10. Michael, I love this post! That ghost box must have freaked you out! Well, I do believe there is more to life than what we see with the naked eye. I could tell you some tales that would raise your hairs. After reading your wonderful book, it’s great to know where you got the inspiration. Any more paranormal tales coming to the press soon? I hope so! 🙂

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  11. I see that comment from thelonelyauthorblog is new, like today. Hi there and hoping you are enjoying the chocolate and green tea that fuels you!

    Michael you might send up a flare and let us know how everything is. Pretty please? 🙂

    –MJ

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