Real Life Ghost Stories | End of the Trail
By J. L. Thurston
What if some hauntings aren’t the spooktastic, skin-crawling nightmare some claim them to be? What if, instead of the nightmare angle, we approach a tale of ghost activity with understanding? Even love?
This story was brought to me by Judith, a very cool, sweet lady, who shared with me the tragic love story of her and Leon. I met her while at work. She’s a trim woman, with hints of makeup completely outshone by layers of jewelry bedazzling her arms, neck, and ears.
I make polite small-talk, choosing to compliment her on the jewelry. As soon as I bring it up, her fingers move to touch them all. Broad gold hoop earrings dripping with diamonds, bracelets of gold and glittering gems, rings upon rings. Even her Fitbit has a gold wristband. She is plated. It’s like she personally knows King Midas.
“My late husband, Leon, bought every last one of these,” she tells me, her eyes flicking downward to the Bulova watch glimmering with sapphires and diamonds. “He had a thing for expensive jewelry. Bought me something new for every occasion.”
We are at work, so we move on to matters at hand. Throughout our conversation her fingers continue to work their way to each piece of shining metal on her body. Even though she has very different things to concentrate on, her mind is never far from her husband. Whether she realizes it or not, a part of her always remembers him with each brushing of gold.
It is no surprise our conversation goes back to Leon.
Her eyes take on a dewy glow. “You know, Leon was a big fan of the End of the Trail.”
I’ve heard of it. What American over the age of 12 hasn’t? The famous statue in Wisconsin has been on stamps, History Channel documentaries (the ones that don’t have to do with aliens), and even on the Travel Channel. It depicts a Native American on horseback, bowed in weariness as he reaches the shore. It was made to depict the transition of the battered race of people into the next century. It’s tragic and beautiful, kind of like the marriage of Judith and Leon.
The Native American is handsomely sculpted, his hair blowing forward from the winds of the sea. Though he’s bent over in what I can only describe as defeat, he’s still strong, and retains his pride. It breaks my heart.
“Leon was very spiritual,” Judith continues. “We both are, in many ways. We believe in reincarnation, and especially spirits.”
Though I’m not sure how those two believes can coincide, I smile politely. I don’t know Judith very well and I’m not one to challenge anyone’s beliefs. I’m pleased to talk to a woman her age who isn’t terrifyingly Catholic. She’s in her 70s, but so unlike most women of her demographic. She’s not stuck in her own time, embittered by too many disappointments, and disdainful of the young. She’s fresh, ready for new adventures, and holding on to her memories with fondness. I like her.
“When he passed, I put him in an urn that was painted like the End of the Trail,” she says. “He would have liked that. I see it everyday and I remember everything he loved. But I get so lonely, sometimes, too.” She sighs.
I shift on my feet. I always get uncomfortable when people get to talking about their dead loved ones. I feel sorry for them, I wish they didn’t feel any pain, but I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry just feels weak. I’ve learned that most people don’t want to hear how sorry others are, they just want to be heard when they chose to speak of the ones they’ve lost. So, I listen.
“One night,” she begins, her voice lowering to a conspiring hush, “I’m doing the dishes, and I’m talking to Leon, like I always do. I’m overcome with my loneliness and I say, ‘Leon, if you’re still with me, please, I really need to know.’ And just then, all the lights in the kitchen go out. But it wasn’t the power, oh no, because the microwave was still on, the screen on the icemaker was still lit, my oven clock was still on. It was just the lights. I know most people would be frightened, but I’ve already told you I’m pretty spiritual, so I said, ‘Leon? Is that you?’ and all the lights came back on!”
She is so excited by her own story she laughs and claps her hands. I can picture her in her 20s. I can see her as that friend with unlimited energy, who takes joy in many things and lets go of the things that bring her down. She’s the kind of person everyone flocks to be around, and she knows nothing of rejection.
“If that’s not enough for you,” she goes on to say. “Not long after that, I lost something very important. See, Leon loved to travel, we traveled the world. Before we got married, he had gone to Japan and brought back a little Geisha sake cup. It was his favorite thing in the world. I kept it on the shelf next to his ashes, but one morning I noticed it was missing. I looked everywhere for it. I was so frantic I called the entire family over and we spent the day tearing the house apart to look for that cup.” She leans forward and lowers her voice. “We never found it.”
Judith and I parted ways that day and only time will tell if I’ll ever see her again. But I’ll never forget her or the story she shared. The light in her eyes, the way the memories are truly alive inside her. If Leon is still apart of this world, somehow, I find no surprise in his reluctance to leave Judith’s side. And I hope, when she comes to the end of her own trail, Leon is at the shore to greet her.