Several years back I awoke in the middle of the night with an uneasy feeling. The items in my bedroom were shaded with black or dark shades of gray. It was hard to determine where furniture ended and walls began. All was deathly quiet, even Linda's breathing was hardly noticeable. I struggled to hear any possible noise that could have disturbed my sleep. After a few minutes I gave up and was about to attempt to go back to sleep when I heard the soft popping sound. It sounded similar to when you blow softly through a straw into a glass of milk. The sound was coming from the darkest corner of my bedroom. I tried to focus my eyes on the source of the noise without any luck. The noise stopped suddenly. I eventually went back to sleep and by morning had all but forgotten about it. I would not think about this event again until a week or two later when it reoccurred. This time with more detail.
There is a show on the Biography channel called "Celebrity Ghost Stories." It would be more appropriately named "Celebrities Trying to Regain the Spotlight Ghost Stories." I have never actually watched an episode. I have only seen the previews. If you ever wondered what happened to Ralph Malph from Happy Days, or Brian Wilson's daughter Carnie, or Elizabeth Rohm who portrayed the blond D.A. on Law and Order from 2001 to 2004, then this is the place for you. The reason I never watched an episode is because I do not believe in ghosts. Yet I have a ghost story of my very own.
Two weeks after first hearing the popping noise it happened again. Just like the first time, I was awakened in the middle of the night. The noise was coming from the same corner of my room. When I stared at the dark space, this time I was able to see a faint shape. It was spherical about a foot in diameter. I could see through it more easily than focus on it. If not for the noise, I would have just dismissed this as shadow play, a mere nighttime optical illusion. I turned to Linda and shook her awake. "What is that?" I said as I pointed to the corner.
Linda never appreciates being awaken from a sound sleep to be frantically grilled. Especially if the subject is about something of which she has no idea. By the time she could wipe the sleep from her eyes and look to where I pointed, it was gone. I slapped on the light switch. This further aggravated Linda. The corner of the room which I indicated held only a wooden chair with my prior day's pants and shirt laying on the seat. The place where I had seen the sphere would have been about two feet over the seat. I could not determine what in the bedroom could have caused the noise and shape. Linda was yelling at me to turn off the light and go back to sleep. I shut off the light, Linda returned to her slumber, but I sat up for the rest of the night waiting for the sphere to return. It did not show up again for another two weeks.
The third time I saw the apparition, I was able to make out what it was. I awoke to the bubble popping noise again. Linda stayed undisturbed in her dreamland as I sat up in bed and looked to the corner. The blurry sphere shape was there again. This time it was glowing ever so slightly. As I stared at it, I saw that there was something inside the sphere. Three quarter of the sphere seemed to be holding water and floating at the top of the water was a goldfish. Although there was a transparency to this ghostly image, I could still see the gills of the fish emitting the last of its oxygen bubbles as it died. Then the fish and its bowl disappeared. It would be another two weeks before returning.
The next morning I told Linda about the goldfish specter. She insisted I was dreaming. I couldn't convince her otherwise. I was alone in this haunting. I never had a goldfish. Neither did Linda. So why would the ghost of a goldfish show itself to me? Then I thought about the people whom owned this house before me. My house use to belong to a family named Smithers; Harvey and Joy, and their little girl, Pauline. I wondered if they could have once owned a goldfish.
It was another two weeks before the fourth appearance. This time, as I alone stared at the ghostly fish, it righted itself in its bowl and stared with its dead eyes directly at me. I grabbed a paperback book off my nightstand and threw it. The book passed through the phantom causing it to ripple like a rock tossed in a stream. The rippling image dissipated into thin air. Linda's sleep stayed undisturbed. The following morning I decided on a course of action.
I knew the Smithers had moved to Lansing, Michigan. I called information and got their phone number. Although it had been twenty years, Harvey Smithers remembered who I was right off. We talked pleasantries for several minutes before I brought up the subject about pets. Why yes, Harvey said, his little girl did once have a goldfish. It was her responsibility, but being only 8 at the time, she neglected to feed it and it starved to death. I asked how his daughter was nowadays. He told me that Pauline had just got married a couple months earlier. She and her husband were living back in my area, they bought a place in Warren. I talked for a few more minutes with Harvey before ending the call.
Thinking over what I had learned, it seemed that Pauline's wedding and relocation to Warren coincided with the appearance of the ethereal goldfish. Now I would have to find a way to redirect the dead pet to its former owner. I needed some type of goldfish whisperer exorcist. This all happened in the last millennium before Google existed. So my main sources of research was to scour the Yellow Pages or visit the local library. The Yellow Pages were useless, so off to the library I went.
The Center Line Public Library is not the biggest library in world. The only book I could find for getting rid of evil spirits was "The Exorcist" by William Peter Blatty. There were no books on goldfish whispering. I did not think I could talk a Catholic priest to come over my house and perform an exorcism for a goldfish. So my trip to the library was also fruitless. It wasn't until days later, when I passed a certain restaurant, did I come up with a solution.
On the fifth and final appearance of the goldfish, once more I was awaken by its bubbling sound. The bowl was shining more brightly than ever before. The fish scowled its dead eye glare at me. It even appeared bigger in size than previously. I was not going to let this creature intimidate me. I reached to my nightstand and grabbed the bag I had placed there for this occasion. Showing it to the fish, I watched the ghost mouth the word "No" and tremble as it disappeared forever from my bedroom. Satisfied that this episode of my life had ended, I opened the bag and enjoyed the crispy potato chips within. No self respecting sea creature wants to end up as fish and chips. Thank you Long John Silver for the solution.