Inspired by true events
Some ghost stories frighten the reader with accounts of murders and hauntings. Others entrance the reader with tales of tragedies and eerie coincidences. Ours may merely perplex you with its testimony of mystery and Gatorades. Still, I feel this story must be told.
I live in a four bedroom apartment at a school in New Orleans, a city that delights in haunted history. In the three years I’ve lived there, the rooms, each one small and secluded, have had multiple occupants, some for over a year and some for only a matter of months. Generally, the roommates have all gotten along well, making the living room a frequented place for each resident. Last fall, however, one of the four at the time moved, leaving one room vacant. This was not a rare occurrence, and, though we were sad to see our friend move away, the three of us who remained naturally began to wonder if a new member would join our band of brothers. As fall turned to winter and the Louisiana air changed from “very hot and humid” to “slightly less hot and humid,” we received an email that the vacant room would indeed be filled by an incoming undergrad student. Thus began our relationship with the ghost.
He moved in silently, stealthily. We neither saw nor heard him arrive, but we noticed a change in the apartment. Things began to appear in the once bare room: a bedspread, some clothes. Assorted toiletries were seen near a sink. Most noticeable to us was a large number of Gatorades ready to be enjoyed. For weeks, the door to his room would be at varying degrees of openness, signaling that someone (or something) was there. Occasionally, noises could be heard through the walls. The signs all seemed to point to his habitation. Still, we never met him. He came and went as he pleased for weeks (or so we assumed). And yet, in spite of the three of us frequenting the living room, we never once saw more than shadows. This hiddenness led us to question his existence. Had an apparition assumed residence rather than a physical student? Had our apartment become a place of haunting? No one seemed to know him; in fact, no one seemed to have so much as seen him on campus. We began to feel a tinge of fear, our eyes and ears now newly tuned to the slightest sounds and faintest whispers. We looked for any evidence to disprove the growing notion that he was merely a specter, but none could be found. We feared the worst.
The first known sighting came as a chance encounter. One roommate (we’ll call him Nick) was discussing our unseen occupant with a classmate outside after a chapel service one day. As they contemplated the mystery, said classmate decided to ask a passing student if he happened to be the person in question. In what can only be the sovereign hand of God at work, the student did indeed claim to be our elusive fourth roommate. Nick recounted the encounter to me and our other roommate later on that day, and we were ecstatic. Till then, we had feared that he was an illusion, that we might be going crazy. But here, it seemed, was proof of his reality! And to confirm the find, the student appeared in bodily form in our apartment shortly thereafter!
You can imagine our excitement at this point. We looked forward to getting to know this new friend over the semester, certain that he would be more present now that we were all introduced. Surely his hiddenness was due to shyness, not to nonexistence. Surely he would join us in fellowship rather than keeping to the shadows. Sadly, we were mistaken. We would see him only a few more times during his stay.
In spite of his hiddenness, he, like Casper, was a friendly ghost. He never ate our leftovers when we weren’t looking, never caused the lights to flicker, never haunted or threatened as some ghosts are known to do. He even helped move a friend into another home at one point (which seemed to be, in itself, an argument that he was in fact a real person). And yet, were it not for the reminder his Gatorades gave us, we might have forgotten he was there.
Life carried on this way for many months. People would ask us about our new roommate, and we would respond in ignorance. We wanted to know something about him, to be able to give an answer, to speak of the hope within us that he was indeed living in our apartment, sharing our air conditioning, walking our halls. Simply put, we wanted to be able to say with certainty that he was real. But aside from occasional sightings on campus, the ghost was unseen. He was the great enigma of that spring, and we could only speculate about him.
Around the close of the semester, he appeared one last time. I remember it vividly. Early afternoon one day, he simply walked in and sat down in the living room like an old friend might do. We shared some small talk – nothing too deep – before he told me he was going to visit some family far away and would see us in a few weeks. This, of course, made me think that he might stay for the summer, that he might become one of our good friends. Hope began to grow as I glimpsed a future where we had answers to our questions! He then proceeded to move everything he owned, even the Gatorades, out of the apartment. I never saw him again.
It wasn’t until much later that I learned the rest of the story. When he arrived on campus that last day, our mysterious friend had no signs of being a student: no parking sticker on his car, no student ID in his wallet. Were it not for the confirmation of a friend of ours in the housing office (who had kept up with our quest for the truth all semester), he might not have been able to convince campus police that he was, in fact, attending the school. But the police were satisfied, so they let him through to the apartment. When he finished collecting his things, he apparently vanished, for the housing office never saw nor heard from him again. In spite of their numerous attempts, he could not be reached after that final encounter. He left as mysteriously as he arrived.
The Bible says that some men have entertained angels unknowingly. I don’t think this was anything like that. Even so, we still talk about him with wonder. We wonder whether or not he actually existed. We wonder if he’ll ever appear again. We wonder if he would have noticed if we’d drunk his Gatorades. Alas, these questions remain unanswered. It matters not all we hoped he would be, nor all he could have been. He is, and forever will be, a mystery, a ghost passing through the story of our lives. He, like all legends, will live on, endlessly shrouded in intrigue. Perhaps this is as it should be.