Category Archives: Fire

Homeless Ghosts(?)

135520_10150114519566757_5094801_oCan ghosts be homeless? Never mind the daunting question that they exist. For the sake of this blog, let’s assume they’re as real as huckleberry pie. If you’re an unbeliever and have made it this far, I have a feeling you’ll bear with me. I have never given the question of homeless ghosts any thought, until now.  By a homeless ghost, I’m not talking about the ghost of a homeless person that may haunt any given street corner – I’m talking about one that haunts a house, or a bar, or a hotel, and suddenly the building goes away. The building I’m talking about didn’t vanish in any otherworldly sense, it burned down.  During the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning a fire ripped through the Ghost Rails Inn,  a ‘spirited’ bed and breakfast in our little Montana town.

With each passing day, the reality of the loss hits home. The building is… was a landmark; it’s lore a beacon. Some would say its tales were tall, others who’ve experienced them may argue that

The Band Acid Lords of the Temple latest release "Ghost Rails Inn"
The band Acid Mother’s Temple latest release “Ghost Rails Inn”

they’re definitely non-fiction.  Whatever ones opinion, all agree the place was as quirky as our town, so much so that a Japanese Acid Rock Band released an album entitled Ghost Rails Inn. And yes, it’s our Ghost Rails Inn…  the pictures prove it. The saloon girls hanging out on the balcony in the picture to the left will have to find another place to hang their petticoats.

Ghosts of the future hanging out at a haunted house of the past.
Ghosts of the future hanging out at a haunted house of the past.

Onto the subject of homeless ghosts, and I am going to tread lightly, because someday dear reader, you may be enjoying a ghost story written by Thom, one of the owners. Extra care has been taken not to steal his thunder. So, enough of my babbling, lets explore what happens to a ghost when its haunt burns down.

My wife and I had the conversation as soon as we heard the news.  Thom and his wife, Grace, admitted to having a like conversation as they watched the fire consume their dreams. Amazingly, or maybe not,  the separate conversations arrived  at similar conclusions.

Our conversation takes for granted that ghosts exist in the traditional sense and went something like this:

“What do you think happened to Bertha?” I asked.  Bertha is Thom and Grace’s name for one of the ghosts.

“She’s going to go on doing her thing, like the fire never happened… ’cause where she’s at, the fire never happened,” my wife assured me in her confident tone.

“I don’t know, maybe, but, maybe the building held her prisoner. Maybe she wanted to be set free and somehow couldn’t escape. Maybe the fire set her free,” I added.  What I was thinking is that maybe the now homeless ghost would stroll down the street and take residence in the bar with our resident tricksters. Which really meant that I was thinking of a reason to hold a theme party – like a ghost welcoming party.  I know,  it’s sick, twisted…  How could I think like that when friends lives are thrown into flux?  My answer, I’m being honest.

I really don’t believe in the latter explanation.  I’m more inclined to believe the first. But, of course, it’s never that easy. Because of Thom and Grace’s experiences,  I have given thought to the very essence of what is a ghost. With the advent of String Theory and the possibility of extra dimensions and parallel universes and such, I’m of mind that a ghost isn’t really a ghost as much as a product of a dimension slip. What do I mean? The best way to describe it is to share one of Grace’s experiences.

39060_452005486756_285535_nIt was a warm afternoon, the sun was shinning, the sky was a deep cobalt blue. Music was playing in the Ghost Rail’s kitchen. Grace had stepped out for a moment and when she returned, there was a woman standing behind the butcher’s block dicing vegetables. Grace claimed she was real, flesh and blood – corporeal – not the ‘apparition’ that everybody associates with ghosts.  The woman looked up in horror, as if she herself had seen a ghost. And in a snap of a finger, she faded away. Creepy, I got gooseflesh writing it. I get gooseflesh every time I tell the story.

“B.F.D,”  I can hear you say.  “Maybe Grace didn’t take her meds or something like that. I mean, really… John you’re basing a theory on one person’s experience? Get a life, okay.”

I would agree, if that was the only story. Or if Grace was the only person to experience the woo-woo stuff that happens in our town. Many of us have experienced things that go bump in the

Our haunted town
Our haunted town

night. For more of these stories, check out my post Haunted Town.

I can’t list everybody’s experiences, but I can tell you that sightings and encounters in the old Hotel became the norm, so much so that Thom and Grace stopped telling people about the ghosts and when a guest reported something spooky, a log book was handed to the guest and they were ask to detail the experiences.  A pattern soon developed.

According to the logs, the room in which a person stayed foretold of their experience.  Room 5, Bertha’s primary haunt. People lying in bed would report someone sitting on the bed, or even the feel of someone touching them.  Nothing ever sinister, to the contrary, it was often reported as soothing.  (I am being vague because Thom’s story delves into Room 5.)   Room 8,  personal belongings such as clothes and linens were being tossed around. This especially happened when guests were in the shower.  Towels and clothes often ended up scattered across the floor.  In the last couple of years, there was the man yelling: “Washington! Washington did it!”  The speculation is that its the voice is the victim486526_494347723913501_1405849531_n of an old, unsolved crime.

18310_409746012428749_1687388339_nSo what does all this mean?  Can ghosts be left homeless? I haven’t a clue. But I’m certain of one thing. The lady who looked up and saw Grace walk into her reality, will never, ever have that haunting again. It was the last time she’ll ever see the ghost we know as Grace. I wonder if she’ll long for Grace’s apparition to appear like those who have experienced Bertha’s? Who knows? But, it’s fun to think about.   I do know, when the building is razed and an empty lot remains, the apparition of the old Hotel will loom on foggy mornings or shimmer on moonlit nights, haunting all of us who left part of our souls inside its walls.

The Rights of Spring… Laying Down Fire

There’s nothing like the smell of…

“There’s nothing like the smell of napalm in the morning…” It’s one of the most famous movie lines of all time.  Around my neighborhood the line would go:  “There’s nothing like the smell of smoke in the springtime, it’s the smell of  impending warm weather.”

That’s  enough to get this hillbilly stirred up, especially after our ridiculously short summer last year – somewhere in the area of five to six weeks. It must have done something to my psyche, because I had a dream last week that summer was already over and we were headed into fall. But I digress. The moral of this story is springtime, and more importantly, what I do to celebrate warm weather. As you may have guessed, it involves playing with fire.

It didn’t take me long after moving in to a home in a  forest that fire plays an important part in the cycle of life. Three and half months after moving from suburban Philly, I spent two weeks evacuated because of nearby forest fires. It was an eye opening experience. Living in the forest during fire season is akin to living on the southeast coast during hurricane season or on the plains during tornado season.  Unlike the former examples, when you live in the woods, there is something you can do about mitigating the risks.

I have it on good info the log in the foreground no longer exists.

After a several year fuel reduction project, we’re now into maintain mode, and a part of maintenance  is reintroducing what human’s have so successfully removed from Eco-system – fire.

Over the last couple of weeks, with the help of a friend from the forest service, we’ve been laying down a carpet of fire. And it’s a kick in the pants. After years of burning slash piles (slash is logging waste) we’ve begun the process of  broadcast burning the hillside. Thankfully my neighbors are use to seeing smoke, but I doubt if they’ve seen as much as last week.

I can hear the city slickers ask: “Why would you want to burn your land?”

What Smokey the Bear would do to me.

The   answer to that question is long and would essentially try to overcome years of classic conditioning by a fellow named Smokey the Bear.  Smokey has his good points, but one thing he neglects to mention is that not all fire is bad fire.  The short answer is, the forest needs to burn. It’s part of the natural cycle of life.

There is something cathartic in witnessing wildland fire do its work.

Dancing up the hill

I won’t argue that the immediate aftermath is ugly. Blackened soil, scorched trees, and charred trunks aren’t pretty, but what happens as nature gets to work is beautiful.  Deadfall in the form of limbs, duff, and blow-overs are replaced by native grasses, wildflowers and regenerated trees.  If I can remember, I’ll post some pictures of wildflowers as they come into bloom in previously burnt areas. The old time trees have thanked me for cleaning up their neighborhood and making it easier for them to grab a drink. Okay, they haven’t, but I watched Disney movies as a kid. I too imagine an anthropomorphized forest.

Oz’s talking trees terrorized me as a kid.

There’s something rewarding in helping nature do it’s work in my little piece of paradise. Ah, who am I kidding, it’s just an adrenaline rush to lay down the fire. As the days grow longer, I wax philosophical like Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, Only instead of saying: “Someday this war is going to end,”  my take on the matter is: “Someday burning season is going end.”  Then it’s fire season, and fire does become the enemy.