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Grandparents' Tales of the Paranormal

Grandpa was born in Finland and entered the Finnish merchant marine around the start of World War II. Life changed for him when his ship sailed to Cuba and the entire crew, including Grandpa, were thrown in prison and then rescued by the Americans. He earned his American citizenship by serving as a cook in the U.S. Navy during the second half of the war.



Grandpa’s ship sailed two oceans and he had many adventures, but this particular incident occurred in the Atlantic. He claims the ship was in the midst of the Bermuda Triangle at the time, though whether this is true or just a Grandpa embellishment I will never know. All I do know is that everyone was on alert for an enemy threat at the time.


According to Grandpa, a young ensign came to the bridge to take his post. Suddenly he looked out over the ocean, pointed, and gasped. Whatever he had seen, it was too much for the kid and he promptly passed out. He woke up in the infirmary with no memory of the incident. To this day no one knows exactly what he saw out on those mysterious waters.


Grandma had her own ideas as to the cause of the young man’s behavior. She was certain he was dehydrated and exhausted, and I wouldn’t doubt it. Lack of sleep, in particular, can make us see strange things, especially if everyone is already on alert for some sort of threat. It could be the young man hallucinated the whole thing. Or maybe he saw something that nobody else could. With eight decades having gone by since the incident, we’ll never know for sure.


Less easily explained away was an incident that occurred many years later, after Grandma and Grandpa were older. Grandpa was working in his office/bedroom and Grandma was cleaning up in the living room. All of a sudden she sensed a presence in the room and looked up. A young man bolted down the corridor, past the living room, past Grandpa’s bedroom, and into the bathroom at the end of the hall, where he quickly slammed the door.


For some reason Grandma wasn’t frightened, likely because she recognized the man as an acquaintance of Grandpa’s in the construction business. When she opened the bathroom door, the room was deserted, and there was no other exit that he could’ve fled through.


Grandma mentioned seeing the man to Grandpa and remembered that they owed him a substantial amount of money for a construction job. Grandpa decided to call and see about settling his debt. That’s when he learned that the young man had been killed in a car accident and his wife and children were in dire financial need. Grandpa paid back the money and they never saw the ghost again.


Grandma is convinced that the young man came to help his family. I have no other explanation for the incident, as they were not thinking of the man when he appeared so suddenly in the house. Perhaps it was Grandma’s subconscious way of remembering the debt, but that doesn’t explain the slamming bathroom door when there were no drafts in the house. It remains a mystery.


When Grandma was a child, she was punished for something naughty she’d done. She was mad at her mother as she sat in the corner and sulked about what she had done. Across the room was a shelf full of dishes and teacups. Grandma thought about breaking one of the cups just to show her mother.


As she was sitting there swinging her legs in her chair, her child’s brain took over. She imagined herself shrinking down and becoming very little. Then she was on the shelf beside one of the teacups just on the edge. The cup was giant but she was still strong enough to push it.


Grandma was startled out of her daydream when the very same teacup flew off the shelf and crashed to the floor for real. Of course her mother came in to investigate and asked Grandma what happened to the teacup. When Grandma was honest about what she was doing when the cup fell, her mother took it surprisingly well. She explained to Grandma about poltergeists and that they often manifested around children, especially children who are distressed.


But was it a poltergeist? I don’t know. The cup falling could’ve been a coincidence. Perhaps a big truck rumbled by and shook it loose, or maybe it was one of the many earthquakes that shake California every day. Or maybe, just maybe, Grandma really was able to move that cup from across the room. Whatever really happened that day, she took the answers to her grave.


A famous parapsychologist once said that ninety-nine percent of paranormal incidents can be explained with existing scientific knowledge. Of the one percent left, ninety-nine percent can be explained by science we haven’t yet discovered. But there is always that one percent of the one percent.


I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to the paranormal, I just enjoy trying to explain things rationally. In most cases I’m able to find a possibility of some kind to explain the strange things going on, as in the cases of my grandparents, but there have always been a few that I come up blank on. Join me next week as I continue my family’s weird paranormal journey with a real stumper, a one percenter of the one percenters.

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